Projection is the enemy of mutual understanding, but it’s so easily done and can take many forms. The most common type is the simple assumption that other people think the same way we do – that what they do and say means what it would mean if we did it or said it. And so we end up inferring intentions, slights and all manner of other things that were never intended. How we use language, our cultural backgrounds, our points of reference – these things are all unique to us. We all think differently and we communicate more effectively when we factor that in.
If a person is an introvert, or sensitive, autistic, or chronically ill then how they handle social situations is not going to be the same as how an uncompromised extrovert handles the same things. There may be no rejection going on. A person might really like you but just not have the resources to show up very often. Extroverts projecting onto introverts can entirely misunderstand what’s happening.
For the person with a terrible history, it can be difficult not to project fears onto current experiences. When a person is triggered into trauma flashbacks, it can be impossible in the short term to see what’s happening now as anything other than a replaying of what happened before.
Sometimes we project from the desire to believe that the other person is just like us, where that enables us to see the best in them. The kind person who projects that kindness onto others and insists on seeing everyone in the best possible light and as having the best possible motives can be lovely to deal with, but can also leave abusers unchallenged.
Sometimes we project because we want to believe that the other person is responsible for what’s happening. The anger we feel becomes something of their making. If we feel insecure, it’s because they’re doing it to us. It can be a way of having someone to blame without having to look too closely at what’s going on for you. That doesn’t make you a terrible person, but it can make you a dysfunctional one and it is the kind of behaviour that pushes people away.
For the Druid, self awareness and conscious choice are always important considerations. Recognising what we do and why, and what might be happening with other people and why, is worth investing in. Good communication depends on avoiding projections, and if all we’re doing is trying to interact with reflections of ourselves, we can never form true or deep relationships with others. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to cultivate the virtue of open hearted listening. It’s also important to be gentle with ourselves about how we may project things onto others, and this is as true when we’re seeking relationships with spirits or the divine, as it is in human interactions.