Projection

Projection means the expulsion of a subjective content into an object; it is the opposite of introjection. Accordingly, it is a process of dissimilation, by which a subjective content becomes alienated from the subject and is, so to speak, embodied in the object. The subject gets rid of painful, incompatible contents by projecting them.

While some traits peculiar to the shadow can be recognized without too much difficulty as one’s own personal qualities, in this case both insight and good will are unavailing because the cause of the emotion appears to lie, beyond all possibility of doubt, in the other person. No matter how obvious it may be to the neutral observer that it is a matter of projections, there is little hope that the subject will perceive this himself. He must be convinced that he throws a very long shadow before his is willing to withdraw his emotionally-toned projections from their object. AION 9

Let us suppose that a certain individual shows no inclination whatever to recognize his projections. The projection-making factor then has a free hand and can realize its object – if it has one – or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power. As we know, it is not the conscious subject but the unconscious which does the projecting. Hence one meets with projections, one does not make them. The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one. Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face. In the last analysis, therefore, they lead to an autoerotic or autistic condition in which one dreams a world whose reality remains forever unattainable. The resultant setiment d’incomplétude and still worse feeling of sterility are in their turn explained by projection as the malevolence of the environment, and by means of this vicious circle the isolation is intensified. The more projections are thrust in between the subject and the environment, the harder it is for the ego to see through its illusions. AION 9/10

It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going. Not consciously, of course – for consciously he is engaged in bewailing and cursing a faithless world that recedes further and further into the distance. Rather, it is an unconscious factor which spins the illusions that veil his world. And what is being spun is a cocoon, which in the end will completely envelop him.

One might assume that projections like these, which are so very difficult if not impossible to dissolve, would belong to the realm of the shadow – that is, to the negative side of the personality. This assumption becomes untenable after a certain point, because the symbols that then appear no longer refer to the same but to the opposite sex, in a man’s case to a woman and vice versa. The source of projections is no longer the shadow – which is always of the same sex as the subject – but a contrasexual figure. Here we meet the animus of a woman and the anima of a man, two corresponding archetypes whose autonomy and unconsciousness explain the stubbornness of their projections. AION 10

Though the shadow is a motif as well known to mythology as anima and animus, it represents first and foremost the personal unconscious, and its content can therefore be made conscious without too much difficulty. In this it differs from anima and animus, for whereas the shadow can be seen through and recognized fairly easily, the anima and animus are much further away from consciousness and in normal circumstances are seldom if ever realized. With a little self-criticism one can see through the shadow – so far as its nature is personal. But when it appears as an archetype, one encounters the same difficulties as with anima and animus. In other words, it is quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil. AION 10

One has, of course, to overcome certain moral obstacles, such as vanity, ambition, conceit, resentment, etc., but in the case of projections all sorts of purely intellectual difficulties are added, quite apart from the contents of the projection which one simply doesn’t know how to cope with. And on top of all this there arises a profound doubt as to whether one is not meddling too much with nature’s business by prodding into consciousness things which it would have been better to leave asleep. AION 17/18

One can imagine how desireable it would be in such cases to dissolve the projection. And there are always optimists who believe that the golden age can be ushered in simply by telling people the right way to go. But just let them try to explain to these people that they are acting like a dog chasing its own tail. (cont’d,) (AION 19)

The projection-making factor, for instance, has undeniable reality. Anyone who insists on denying it becomes identical with it, which is not only dubious in itself but a positive danger to the well-being of the individual. AION 24

Inflation magnifies the blind spot in the eye, and the more we are assimilated by the projection-making factor, the greater becomes the tendency to identify with it. A clear symptom of this is our growing disinclination to take note of the reactions of the environment and pay heed to them. AION 24

When a man resents the inferiority of his milieu and feels that he is too good for his surroundings, it is because the inferiority of the milieu in himself is projected into the outer milieu and therefore he begins to mind those things which he should mind in himself. When he says, ‘I mind my inferior milieu’, he ought to say, ‘I mind the fact that my own inner milieu is below the mark’. He has not right values, he is inferior in his feeling-life. That is his problem. AP 100

When meditation is concerned with the objective projects of the unconscious that reach consciousness spontaneously, it unites the conscious with contents that proceed not from a conscious causal chain but from an essentially unconscious process… Part of the unconscious contents is projected, but the projection as such is not recognized. Meditation or critical introspection and objective investigation of the object are needed in order to establish the existence of projections. If the individual is to take stock of himself it is essential that his projections should be recognized, because they falsify the nature of the object and besides this contain items which belong to his own personality and should be integrated with it.

Say somebody has offended you, and you dream of that person and feel again the same anger in the dream.  Then I say, “That dream tells me just what the anger means, what it is in reality.”  But you contend that the person had said such-and-such a thing, so you are perfectly justified in feeling such anger and assuming such an attitude toward him.  Well, I must admit all that to be perfectly true, and then I humbly say, “Now, when you have had your anger and are reasonable again, let us consider this dream, for there is a subjective stage of interpretation.  You consider that man to be your specific bête noire, but he is really yourself.  You project yourself into him, your shadow appears in him, and that makes you angry.  Naturally one is not inclined to admit such a possibility, but after a while, when the process of analysis is effective, it dawns upon one that it is more probably true.  In other words, our worst enemy is perhaps within ourselves.   

It is a fact frequently observed that the archetypal images of the inner world project themselves on to the outer world and there become manifest.  In so far as they excite and attract the attention of the individual they enable or enforce his turning towards the outer world.  This is certainly one of the meaningful functions of the mechanism of projection.  Its purpose is not only to keep painful insights at a distance, while their contents are ascribed to others, but also to serve the opposite purpose of making things consciously perceptible and distinguishable, for they confront the ego with the non-ego.  TGL 48

Some people, when they notice that the other person is not what they assumed, are pulled by natural curiosity to find out more about the matter.  They think it odd that they were so attracted by a woman who ceased to attract when she proved to be quite different.  They try to find out what happened and why the attraction faded.  In that way there is a chance of realizing the projection.  But those who, as soon as they are disappointed, just finish, always remain in the projection.  If one is disappointed, that is just the time to follow the relationship, at least for a while, in order to find out what happened.  That is actually how Jung discovered, in himself, the anima.  Being again disappointed in a woman, he asked himself why on earth he had expected anything else – what had made him expect something different?   Through asking such questions and realizing an expectation which did not fit the outer figure, he discovered the image inside. TPoPA 195

It is therefore always helpful if a relationship – not only a heterosexual relationship – disappoints you, to ask yourself such questions: Why did I not see that before?  What did I expect?  Why did I have a different image of this person? – Where did the error come from?  For the error is something real too.  If one can do this, it indicates a desire to hold on to the human relationship and take back the illusion.  When one does that and makes an effort to establish the relationship on its own level, then the illusions must be investigated as something interesting.  But people with weak feeling tend to break off the relationship as soon as the other person disappoints them.  They just walk out because it is no longer interesting, and questions about why one had the wrong expectation and why one is hurt are not asked.  TPoPA 196

Question: But isn’t there something in the other person which formed the hook for the projection? 

Yes, but one can only discover that if one goes on after the disappointment.  Then one might find it.  At first one thinks one knows the other person, for when I project I have the strong feeling of intimate knowledge.  At the first meeting there is no need to talk: you know everything about each other – that is a complete projection – the wonderful feeling of being one and having known each other for many ages.  Then suddenly the other behaves in an unexpected way and there is disappointment.  One falls out of the clouds and feels that “this is not it.”  If you then go on, you must do two things, for now there is a double war: you must find out why you had such a n illusion and who the other person is if he or she is not what you expected.  Who is he or she in reality?  That is a long job, and when you have done that – have found the root of your own illusion and how the other person seems to be when looked at without projection – then you may ask why your illusion chose that person to fall upon?  And that is very difficult, for sometimes the hook is big, and sometimes very small, because the other person may have only few characteristics that fit the projection, so it may be more – or less – of an illusion.  There are all degrees.  

   The idea now is that if you could find the projecting factor that comes from within that personality, then there would be the chance of unification. 

I gave you the example of my naiveté in thinking for years that money problems had nothing to do with psychology but had to be solved by common sense, by the means of outer reality, since money was an outer problem (I thought).  However, even such a primitive, inferior extraverted part of an introverted personality can be looked at symbolically, by taking what happens in that area of life as a symbolic event; in this way it can be brought inward.  Thus for the introvert it is in a way especially difficult to see through certain of the projections he makes onto the outer world.  Only if he can bring them inward can he really get to the “one” of the Self, because his ego and that part of the personality can never unite except through the activation of the Self.  AAI 67

Experience shows that the carrier of the projection is not just any object but is always one that proves adequate to the nature of the content projected – that is to say, it must offer the content a “hook” to hang on.  TPotT 129