Archive for December 29th, 2010


“The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relationship to it there is now only an illusory one.”

Jung (CW 9ii, par. 17)

You may have noticed that I am using this blog to explore some of Jung’s basic psychological concepts. More importantly, I am trying to relate these psychological concepts to everyday life. Recently, I have been reflecting on the concept of projection…

Imagine the last time you saw a really good film, so good that you forgot that you were actually watching the film. You became so absorbed in the moving image, story and acting that the film became reality. You were literally drawn into the projection… Over two thousand years ago, Plato  suggested that what we call reality is but a projection of ideal objects. He used the image of shadows projected on a cave wall to illustrate this idea.

The psychological concept of projection was first described by Freud in 1911. He discovered that we have a tendency to project onto others aspects or qualities that we hold within our unconscious. These qualities may be either positive or negative. If positive, then they can lead to our being strongly attracted to another. This attraction may even manifest as extreme adulation or worship. If the qualities projected are negative, then the other person appears to us as holding the very negative aspects that we are unaware of in ourselves. Freud saw this as a way for us to deny that part of ourselves that we cannot consciously accept. Thus, projection is a means to defend ourselves against parts of ourselves we cannot own.

Jung pointed out that a hook exists in the person receiving the projection. In other words, there has to be some small amount of the positive or negative aspect in the person being projected upon for the projected aspect to stick. We project unconscious aspects onto others. If they are positive aspects they pull us closer to the other. If they are negative aspects, then they repel us from the other. Either way – as Jung points out – the projection gets in the way of relating to the real other. We relate to the illusory projected aspects rather then the real person.  As Jung (and also Freud) noted, the “other” need not be a person, the “other” may be the surrounding environment.

The important question is: How do we know when we are seeing a projection? If you are beginning to feel like you are in the Matrix, welcome to the world of projections.

I will continue to explore the issue of projections in my next post, until then look out for those projections…

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