Archive for the ‘projection’ tag
A child, such as the type of child that I was who either adopted or was thrust into the role of mediator or go-between within the family, internalizes the idea of being the good child of the family, one who carries the shadow, the families secrets as a personal burden. I found out early that I was different from everyone else. Others could be messy, but my being special carried the responsibility of cleaning up the mess. Rather than going to a parent, siblings came to me with their problems for that is what my parents did. Not knowing any better, I took on that burden rather than shouting out, “But I’m just a kid!” That’s the problem with magical thinking. Powerless to avoid the burden, one comes to believe that this is the way it is supposed to be, that this is the kind of person one really is.
Typically, a child that takes on this role will engage in relationships with others in school and in play that reinforces the patterns.
“Thus the problem of powerlessness subtly works its way through the life of an individual. One may even go so far as to choose – if that is the right word, for it is surely and unconscious choice – to have relationships only with weak or wounded persons so that the template of care-giving is served.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 25]
When one becomes of an age, one finds that one is being attracted to some young women, but not others. As I reached that age in high school, I found that my female friends as well as my male friends were the obviously wounded souls, those who were rejected by their peers – consciously and unconsciously rejected. Of course, I didn’t understand what was going on within me and within them; all I knew was that with these friends, I was important. I held their trust, their pain, their secrets without divulging anything from my own past. All that existed was the fact that I was there for them as I was for my siblings and my mother.
As a male leaves childhood and youth, there is usually also a time for leaving the home and his mother. However, regardless of the distance travelled from home, and mother, a male can never leave his mother-complex. The complex buries itself deep into the psyche, into the unconscious where it lays dormant. And when does it show up? Typically, when one falls in love. One finally meets that one special person who allows all the self-beliefs, conscious and unconscious, to be held by her, held unconsciously. Jung calls this the dance of projection and hooks, a dance that goes in both directions at the same time. One doesn’t fall in love by accident. Somehow, the psyche senses the presence of a psyche with which it can mate, that is, have a hook which is prepared to catch certain kinds of projects. A man needing to be in control, finds a woman who needs to be fathered. A man needing to be nurtured, finds a woman who needs to mother. It isn’t as simple as all of that – but then again, it is really that simple if one could just set aside thinking and the illusion that one is really in control of the self.
“Many therapists will recognize this common pattern in a relationship, a ballet of approach and avoidance, where one partner needs reassuring closeness and the other is more comfortable with distance. One draws close, seeking assurance, while the other, feeling invaded, draws back, raising the anxiety level of both. In the latter’s need for protective space is the desire to do what the child could not do, that is, keep the intrusive Other at bay and preserve a fragile psychic integrity.” [pp 25-26]
It sounds kind of messy. And I know from living this dance, that it is very messy indeed. At some point, someone has to wake up and see what is going on in the relationship. And when that happens, the relationship as it was, is no more. I quickly must say that it isn’t the end of the relationship, necessarily, it is the end of the relationship as an unconscious ballet of approach and retreat.
When I woke up this morning I looked out the window and saw a new snowfall in the weak morning light and I saw this winterized head of some flowering plant gone to seed. I saw that the sky was cloudy and I worried that light would not be kind enough to catch the crystals that I knew were embedded in the cap of snow. After a morning coffee and checking of e-mails I noticed a break in the clouds and that sunshine was creating the scene I had imagined in my mind. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a number of photos from different perspectives until I thought I had the image that pre-existed in my mind, the image you see here. By the time I had finished eating my breakfast the sunshine was gone and cloud had returned. I was blessed by grace and for that am thankful to whatever gods were listening to my imaginal dream.
But now, back to the image itself, I wanted to catch the purity of new snow, the crystals gleaming like diamonds and at the same time, I wanted to catch the sense of darkness, of shadow. There is no contrast possible if light isn’t balanced by the presence of shadow. All white or all black renders the scene empty, lifeless. Yet even in winter when one finds contrast one knows that regardless of appearances, there is life within. I prayed for light and was rewarded with both light and shadow.
“The shadow represents that which is excluded from consciousness because it is threatening, painful, embarrassing or destabilizing. The shadow may be experienced individually or collectively; it represents a wider, richer range of energy that often operates autonomously and invades conscious life in disturbing ways, but which is ultimately necessary for the expansion and completion of consciousness. The shadow has too often been split off in Western thinking and we know, psychologically, that whatever is split off reinsinuates itself through behavioral eruptions or projections onto others.” (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, p. 33)
I have to admit that I have worked hard at excluding as much as possible, denying the shadow. And as a result, I have had to pay the price. Finally, at this stage of my life, I am admitting that I have a shadow that has depth and breadth, and that I have acted and related in the outer world under the unconscious influence of shadow. With that realisation, I can better see/sense/feel how our collective is in full denial of shadow, excluding any sense of responsibility as it projects that shadow on others such as climate scientists, environmentalists, other religions, other cultures, other skin colours, other ideologies and anything or anyone that gets in the way of the collective’s sense and belief in their entitlement to be the masters of the universe.
As most of my readers know, I take time in my life for meditation. A few of you also know that I am a naturist at heart. So, it is my preferred habit to combine both. Why did I choose this photo for today’s post? Well, for one thing, I want to share this excellent photo with you, a photo taken by my wife. She saw something in the way that the light was falling on me while I meditated and she tried to capture what she saw. She didn’t see nakedness, nor meditation. Rather, she saw a deeper meaning, one that said something about who I am in this modern world. She saw something and respected what she saw.
Relationships are difficult things. With two individuals who fall in love the initial image is one of projection. One sees an archetypal image that is bigger than any one person can ever hope to fill. As time passes and one begins to see this person without the archetype clouding vision, one must learn to respond to the reality of this person. Often we exclaim that this wasn’t the person we married. The truth is that this statement is a true statement. One marries a real person but one thinks one is marrying a different person, one that is created within one’s own psyche.
As the years pass, we begin the process of discovering the real person we have taken as a mate. As we note the reality and adjust, we change ourselves to fit with the other in an attempt to continue the relationship. Sometimes the changes are too much or go against the fundamental beliefs we hold of ourselves. When this happens the relationship enters stormy waters. We are forced to re-examine these fundamental beliefs and weigh them against the positives, and there are always positives, in the relationship.
If one is honest, then a relationship will always enter stormy waters. We must be honest with ourselves and with our partners. That honesty will point out the differences between each other and the differences we hold about the other than are causing personal discord. This honesty isn’t spoken with the intent of changing the other person as that can’t be realised and have the other person be true to their own nature. With honest there is an opportunity to see each other in a new light and consider how that resonates or complements what one honestly knows about oneself.
Attempts to change the other, demand change in the other, or force change on oneself for the other always ends in fracturing. Accepting the differences allows a relationship to continue and to grow. As the relationship grows, the strength of the individuals in the relationship also grows. The relationship becomes a sacred container within which both partners feel safe, the relationship becomes a holy marriage.
At the beginning of the month when I walked around Hong Mei Park, the flowers were in full bloom and the number of park visitors was significantly high with most of them busy using their cell phones as cameras to try and take in the scene. There is something about spring and the bursting forth of flowers that stirs the life forces within each of us. There is an innate desire to possess all of this beauty, this vitality, this visible image of life energy. It doesn’t matter if one has a DSLR, an SLR or the crappiest camera phone, the focus is the same, the intent to capture and hold the moment.
Humans replicate this in other aspects of their lives, especially in relationships. The moment we feel our inner spaces stirred to the point that life forces start to surge, when in the presence of another person, we want to possess that person, to take that person into our bodies or enter into their bodies and become one with them as though in doing so, we would be complete, full, ready for everything life could throw at us. It really doesn’t matter what the person looks like or who the person is – all that matters is that somehow energy within us has been activated. The feeling, the rush that results tells us that this is what life is all about, this is what we need. And when there is a reciprocal response, the result is a relationship that primal and archetypal. We call it love.
I am bringing another photo of roses here as I want to look at eros, love and relationship with the feminine as a continuation of the thread I have begun earlier. Humans are drawn to beauty and I am no exception. Wandering in a large garden area filled with roses I am pulled to capture as much of the beauty I see with my camera. There is a rush of feeling, of energy that courses through my veins and all is good. I remember being captivated in a similar manner when I was young, when I came into the presence of that which I perceived as beautiful. At different times as a youth, the pull was intense though rarely did I give in to the pull as I was filled with as much self-doubt as I was by desire and what I felt to be pure love for an other.
Each time I was certain that this was it. The girl who sat several rows away in my classroom was the perfect woman for me even though we never talked. I was too shy, too aware that I was poor and didn’t fit into her social world. The girl who responded to my request for a dance once high school was over and I had begun working; a girl who was so damaged by her childhood that our brief moments of being in love, a pure unconsummated love that ended as I left her to the care of psychiatrists in a hospital, cured me of a belief in pure love, leaving me jaded and empty.
I didn’t realise that what I felt was not about these girls, these young women. Rather, this tumbling head over heels was more about my search for a magical other. James Hollis describes this search, this feeling:
“The other great false idea that drives mankind is the fantasy of the Magical Other, the notion that there is one person out there who is right for us, will make our lives work, a soul-mate who will repair the ravages of our personal history; one who will be there for us, who will read our minds, know what we want and meet those deepest needs; a good parent who will protect us from suffering and, if we are lucky, spare us the perilous journey of individuation.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 37)
I am no different, I believed in this Magical Other, and to tell the truth, that belief is still lurking in the background because of my good fortune to have stayed with the woman with whom I fell in love with when I was twenty-one, forty years ago – two strangers from different backgrounds, different cultures, different everything. Is there a truth to the Magical Otherness that captured my attention? I am not sure. I do know that time taught me that the stranger with whom I fell in love is a good person, a caring person, someone I continue to want filling my life. But in meeting the real person that was hidden by layer upon layer of projections, I discovered holes in my own psyche, my own sense of emptiness and darkness that no person could ever hope to fill or hear. My Magical Other could not protect me from suffering, could not read my mind or know my deepest needs, needs that are real but not definable even by myself. All that I wanted from a Magical Other, from my soul-mate, from the love of my life could only be given to me by myself.
Today we both still cling to each other as anchors in life in spite of our differences. A different love has emerged and it is no less problematic. Yet, it is gentler and kinder and more tolerant of differences.
This is one of the pontoon bridges that I crossed while on a motorbike tour of rural Vietnam near HoiAn. Like most areas of Vietnam, this area suffered destruction during the American War with basically all the bridges destroyed sometimes just leaving a small section of a bridge to indicate where the bridge had originally been located. The quickest solution is to use barrels to float a rough plank bridge. Looking at the scene, one doesn’t think of war. One is left with an idyllic scene that is all about countryside, water and perhaps poverty. It is only in digging deeper that we see that the scene is all about a relationship that was violent.
But even a historical awareness doesn’t really tell us enough about what it is that one sees in the image. As hard as I look, I can’t truly “see” the “thing-in-itself” as Immanuel Kant had once said “Ding-an-Sich”. James Hollis rephrases Kant’s idea to say that one can: “never know the essential character of an external reality, but only the subjective, phenomenological workings of one’s own psychic experience.” One is trapped by one’s container, by one’s body and limited sense of consciousness. What one does perceive is then all about projection, even concrete things such as this bridge. I can almost hear the denials even in this print space. But just think for a moment about our differentiated responses to “things.” Some of us have pleasurable responses to certain odours or textures while some have an almost non-response or a negative response. We accept these possibilities based on how life experience teaches us to associate these things with negative, neutral or positive experiences. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to see that all external reality then is “framed” by our experiences in context to external “things.” Simply restated, everything has an affect based on projection and thus ceases to be a “thing-in-itself.”
Projections – to have a sense of otherness, whether the otherness is an object, animate life, place, sensory evidence or people can must contain a projection. With time and repeated contact, the projections can be withdrawn to reveal some of the “thing-in-itself” but not completely. The same goes for our awareness of other people. To have a sense of otherness in terms of another human, is to engage in some sort of relationship to that other person whether the relationship is that of family member, colleague, neighbour, teammate, friend, enemy, fan, or lover. As Hollis states:
“All relationships, all relationships, begin in projection.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 36)
Just as we don’t, can’t know the “thing-in-itself,” we can’t ever know the “other-in-his/her-self.” We can claim to know, really know another person. But how true is this when one never does ever get to know the fullness that is one’s “self?”
This photo was taken in a village about an hour out of HaNoi, Vietnam. On just about every lane and street in the village, racks of paper-thin rice sheets were drying. Even the temples were being used for their surfaces as an aid to get the “rice paper” dried. But, of course, the reason for including this photograph here is not for the purpose of telling you about the village, but about relationship and connection. The playfulness of these children and their curiosity about the foreigner taking the photos, friendships as men walk down the road – these are also pictures of relationship.
As I teach here in China, though I am isolated from most communication by very poor Chinese language skills, it is easy to see that people here are as much into the pursuit of relationships as people in the western world. What is very interesting how this quest for relationship in built into almost every corner of one’s psyche. Even a withdrawal into a space away from people contact is about relationship, trying to make a different relationship happen. But the most overt instances I see here in China occurs on the campus where I teach and on the streets near the campus as well as in the upscale shopping areas where the young people congregate to window shop, be seen, see others and fantasize. It is spring in ChangZhou and the hormones are flowing. Eros is alive and well.
“. . . eros is the desire for connection. Surely sexuality may be subsumed under that motive, but eros is richly differentiated and may be found in many venues. … Eros is always present, at least implicitly, when connection is sought . . . music is erotic; prayer is erotic; violence is erotic; language is erotic . . . the permutations are infinite . . .
Eros is dynamic and shape-shifting. As energy, it is always going somewhere, seeking to connect, to fill in, to transcend. Just as Nature, we are told, abhors a vacuum, so our psyche is terrified by emptiness. Seeking to fill that emptiness, we all too often fill it with ourselves. Wheresoever space opens, into that hole flies projection.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 34)
I think this is an easier way to understand how even withdrawing away from an “other” is not really drawing away from connection, away from “eros.” We fill the space designated for “other” with “self.” And when this is done without consciousness, one is caught in an erotic narcissism. But when filling the empty space with “Self,” and consciousness expansion that in turns is inclusive of all others, then connection becomes whole or holy, a connection filled with love that is filled with eros as though one has engaged in the holiest of marriages.
I am going to do something a bit different here, today. I am am going to let a voice of the self talk to you without my commentary, both in this photo and in words written by Gao XingJian:
If you concentrate on looking at yourself, you will find that your self will gradually separate from the self you are familiar with and multiply into many startling forms. So if I have to make a summary of myself, it terrifies me. I don’t know which o f the many faces represents me more and the more closely I look the clearer the transformations become, and finally only bewilderment remains.
. . . it grows and grows but often not as you wish and moreover, mostly , contrary to what you wish. It is a monster child which you find impossible to accept, yet ultimately it was born of the self and has to be accepted.
. . . I went about observing other people, but whenever I observed other people, I found this detestable omniscient self of mine interfering, and to this day there is not one face it hasn’t interfered with. This is a serious problem, for when I am scrutinizing someone else, I am at the same time scrutinizing myself. I can’t find people with whom I can identify, I search without success, everywhere:
. . . When I am observing others I always treat the other person as a mirror for looking inwardly at myself. (Gao XingJian, Soul Mountain, pp150-151)
Today I have another rose photo, this time taken in Hong Mei Park yesterday. As I mentioned yesterday, the rose has a special significance to me because of my wife. While taking many rose photos yesterday, a good number of the photos had her in company with them. As much as I talk about the central relationship being with the self, it is impossible to come to grips with that primal and primary relationship without first engaging in relationship with an “other.” I don’t want to limit this “other” to a contrasexual definition as it isn’t so simple. Human psychology is never simple.
Each of us falls in love at some point. If we are lucky, the someone with whom we fall in love, reciprocates the same feeling thus allowing a relationship based on this initial impulse to love. In my case, it was love at first sight for both of us. If one only thinks about it for even a small moment, this doesn’t make any rational sense. How can two complete strangers fall in love simply by seeing the other person? What does one see in this circumstance? Certainly not the person. Jung calls it projection. Some others call it magic or fate. Regardless of what one calls it, the result is a marriage of two individuals. And by marriage, I mean a consensual agreement to live in a loving relationship with this significant other person, not necessarily legal arrangement. Whether or not the two lovers sign documents, the consensual agreement gives birth to a marriage.
It doesn’t take long to discover that this person with whom you have fallen in love and with whom you have engaged in marriage is a stranger, a mystery person. Reality has a way of forcing one to question who this “other” person really is. At that moment, a moment of psychic separation, one becomes a bit more conscious, not only of the other, but of one’s self. Interactions with this significant other leads to a constantly shifting sense of self, a deepening of self-awareness. Where this gaining of self-awareness is stalled, in situations where one remains entranced with the myth of the other not allowing the other to be human. Each gain is achieved only through the loss of an aspect of the original fiction – yet that loss doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of the other person, just a loss of a projection. A marriage can survive becoming conscious with the creation of a new relationship. Again, I want to bring a few words from James Hollis:
“the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves.” (Hollis, Eden Project, p. 13)
Know thyself and one can get to know the real person that one loves. It comes back to our desire to love, to be loved – especially for who we are, who we really are, warts and all. And when the passion dies, life seems to somehow shrivel and we shrivel within ourselves. And now, for a few final words for today’s post from Gao XingJian:
“you regret not chasing after her, you regret your lack of courage . . you regret losing the opportunity. . . You don’t even know how to go about starting a romance, you’re so weak you’ve lost your manliness, you’ve lost the ability to take the initiative. Afterwards, however, you decide to go to the riverside to try your luck.
. . .
Only you are left sitting in the pavilion, like an idiot, pretending to wait for an appointment which wasn’t made, with a woman who came and vanished, just as if you’re daydreaming. Could it be that you’re bored, that you’re fed up with your monotonous life devoid of passion and excitement and that you want to live again, to experience life itself again?” (Gao XingJian, Soul Mountain, p. 41)
I went looking for a photo in my archives, one that would suggest presence under the ego-self, and I found this one of fish swimming in one of the pools of one of the many parks in Changzhou. The idea I have in mind is one of “acknowledging” that there is energy beneath the conscious surface of our lives. I think that most of us “fear” that which is hidden in the murky darkness that lies beneath our conscious awareness of self. That fear prevents most of us from “connecting” with that inner shadow world. Many of us look to something to divert our attention from the shadow-land; television, exercise, sex, eating, travelling, work, drugs, alcohol – the list is endless. The objective is to hone in on the “real” world and hope that the shadows and the figures in the shadow-land disappear as if just a bad dream, a nightmare. Yet, a few dare to turn around and look back into the shadows and acknowledge the energy that lurks there.
“. . . the great god Fear, a god who holds sway over many a soul. Who cannot identify this god will end by being governed by it unconsciously. . . . To personify the god is to acknowledge that it is not only powerful but that one can come into some sort of conscious relationship to it. The god Fear, unacknowledged becomes a tyrannical murderer. To personify the god brings the possibility of assimilating the contents into consciousness and thereby removing their demonic power. When a person is in the grips of the demonic, and the crowd reinforces that energy, the ordinary individual has little purchase on consciousness.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 96)
Over the past two days a new story has come out of Arizona, or rather an old story that has taken on a new look. The god, Fear, erupted into presence as a number of people were killed and more injured in a politically charged arena. No one is listening as the rhetoric of polarity politics rages. The same god, Fear, is seen in the churches, in the government chambers, in the actions of nations “standing on guard” with weapons ready. The same god, Fear, has convinced people to give up freedom on thought and expression in schools in order to ensure that only the “right” words are spoken to our children, words that deny other ideas, other beliefs.
I have to admit that I am sorely tempted to join the activated and heated yelling in hopes that someone will listen and change their minds about the “right to bear arms” as those arms are used to kill, to punish, to threaten. But, I know that one can only hear when one is ready. To rail uselessly only provokes a demonic response. Read again the reports that came out of the medicare debates in the U.S.A. and you will see what I am talking about.
I see Fear working his magic here in China. This isn’t about one country, but about humans not acknowledging the shadow within and thus falling into the role of projecting the demon onto others. Mob mentality feeds on this. Watching the world, I am not the happiest of campers.