The Practice of Owning Your Projections is the second lesson in The Way of the Sage. The Way of the Sage, in turn, is one of four wisdom teachings known as The Four Insights—wisdom teachings long protected by secret societies of Earthkeepers. The ancient medicine men and women used their mastery of the insights to heal disease, eliminate emotional suffering, and grow new bodies that age and die differently. In earlier blog posts, we covered the practices of the First Insight: The Way of the Hero, the Second Insight: The Way of the Luminous Warrior, and the Third Insight: The Way of the Seer.
To own your projections, you must discover and acknowledge the parts of yourself that you’ve refused to look at. It turns out that everything you believe to be true about the people around you, or the situations you find yourself in, mirrors a story you hold about the way the universe works. Once you understand this, you can take a long, hard look at every difficult situation in your life and then change it within.
But to change it, you must first recognize that you’re seeing a reflection of your hidden self in others. The psychologist Carl Jung called these hidden parts the “shadow,” finding the metaphor valuable to help him understand the unseen aspects of humankind. Our shadow is always there, following us everywhere we go, yet we are seldom aware of it. When you own the parts of yourself that make you feel uncomfortable, you no longer hold anyone else responsible for your pain or happiness. Then you shine with your own light, like the sun, which is the only thing that casts no shadow.
Our shadows are those parts of ourselves that make us feel that we’re not good enough, that we’re unwanted, or that we’re a failure and will never be happy; and projection is the mechanism through which we cast these undesirable qualities onto others.
On the other hand, we also cast positive shadows. For example, many people who feel undesirable and have trouble embracing their own beauty project it onto movie stars. They’re enthralled by the exquisite creatures on Hollywood’s A-list and will even get plastic surgery to try to look as attractive as their idols do. But no amount of surgical cutting or implanting will ever be enough to make them feel beautiful.
You project every aspect of your shadow onto the world, be it positive or negative. And the universe is so fluid that it will arrange itself to accommodate your projections and prove you right every time. If you believe deep inside yourself that you’re powerless, talentless, and unattractive, then you’re going to be proven right. Similarly, if you know without a doubt that there is great poetry, grace, and kindness within you, then the universe will give you the opportunity to bring these attributes forth.
Unfortunately, with psychology, the more you own your shadow, the bigger the darkness can get, because you fall back into trying to rewrite the script instead of learning to make a new one. Practice owning your projections instead because when you do, the shadow becomes very small. You can start by turning a story like “My spouse is making me unhappy” into “I am making myself unhappy.” Your spouse is simply doing what he does, but he’s not making you unhappy―only you can do that. When you own the projection, you stop playing the victim. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to like behaviors that are unacceptable to you. Your partner still has to work on her communication skills, but your happiness no longer depends on whether or not she does.
Merely owning your projection is not enough, though. If you’re to dream the world differently, you have to turn your projection into a story of power and grace, which is called a journey statement. For example, you could say, “As I make myself happy, everyone around me mirrors that back to me.” In this way, you assert your power over your own happiness and can look within for the resources to do so. This will invite the ever-compliant universe to support you.
This insight tells you that you can either have what you want, or you can have the reasons why you can’t have what you want. You can dwell on the thoughts about what seems to be preventing you from feeling joy, peacefulness, and hope―and spend countless hours in therapy trying to understand this―or you can be joyful, peaceful, and hopeful. When you own the fact that you’re dreaming a landscape bereft of peace and joy, you get to choose your state of happiness. When you believe that your projection is real, you end up blaming your circumstances for why you don’t have what you want.
The Laika understand that projection is simply a low form of dreaming and that discovering the mechanism is what’s important, so we can employ it to dream in a high way.