Projection theory: What hidden qualities do you have?
“You can only see in others what you already have within yourself” and Carl Jung said it in a different way “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
For me this has been such a profound concept and it’s dramatically changed the way I look at myself and others. So, what does it really mean?
In psychological terms, it’s projection theory, where people protect themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
Let me give you a few examples from my own life to help to demonstrate this. It’s was a few years ago and I was meeting with my new boss. I was so excited and inspired by him. He was smart, funny, inspiring, professional and he really knew his stuff. When we met one-on-one, he was caring, he could see qualities in me that I wasn’t able to see in myself, he pushed me to be a better version of me. At that point in my life, I was happy playing it small, flying under the radar, just doing my job, trying to make the organization better. I hated to be the center of attention and I tried to avoid speaking out in groups as much as I could. You know that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach when the teacher is asking people to answer a question, and nobody is and you know that they’re just going to pick someone! AHHHH! You try to avoid eye contact in fear of being picked. You sweat, your heart races. That was so me! I’m sure at least a few of you have been there with me.
But what I know now and what I would love for you to start to believe, is that you cannot see in someone else something that you don’t have within yourself; a potentially disowned part; something that you aren’t even aware of. When I started to reflect on all the people that I admired, or that I was perhaps envious or jealous of, I saw over and over again these similar qualities. I know now that they are parts of me too and I now choose to embrace them and not disown them.
Now, this concept has another side to consider – the DARK SIDE.
“When you look at the dark side, careful you must be… for the dark side looks back.” – Yoda
So now, going back a little bit further in my work life, I found that I was getting really frustrated by colleagues coming to me with their problems and complaining about them, but not being willing to take action on a solution. I found myself seeing it everywhere. Everyone complaining and no one taking action to make things better. It was driving me crazy and it was right at this time that I became aware that I can’t see in others what I don’t have within myself. So, I asked the question: “What am I complaining about in my life, and doing nothing about?”
Ouch! It’s tough to take full responsibility for your life. It’s way easier to continue complaining and judging others than to have to put the mirror up to your own face and recognize that all those things that are annoying you, frustrating you and irritating about someone else, are exactly the things you are doing in your own life. It was a tough pill to swallow, but it was true. I was wanting change, I wanted a different environment; a more positive and healthy one, but I was doing nothing about it but complaining. I was not happy where I was, but I wasn’t taking action toward a solution.
Great news! Awareness is the key. Once I became aware, I made a decision to change. Once you make that decision to do something differently, the rest becomes easier. Small steps each day to change my perspective, to own my feelings and emotions and to change the areas of my life that were no longer serving me.
If you are interested in going a little deeper into your own mind, click here and I’ll send you a free workbook to help you uncover your hidden talents & qualities so that you too can experience more joy & peace and less frustration and irritation.