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Archive for January 9th, 2011

Projections (Part II)

“All the contents of our unconscious are constantly being projected into our surroundings … All human relationships swarm with these projections…”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 507)

In the last post, I discussed how we naturally project unconscious material onto our surrounding world. Everyone is constantly projecting unconscious material out onto the lived-world. Projections disturb our view of the world. They force us to look through a cloudy lens preventing us from seeing and relating to the world as it is.

Specifically, how do projections affect our relationship to Nature? If qualities projected arise from our unconscious, then we need to consider how the image of Nature may appear in the unconscious.

Nature can be perceived as fearful. Nature is unpredictable and destructive. Nature is wild and dark. Nature can be chaotic. All of these qualities describe aspects of Nature. These aspects of Nature are captured in Freud’s comment that “[Nature] destroys us – coldly, cruelly, relentlessly … The principle task of civilization … is to defend us against nature.” Imagine growing up surrounded by this fear of Nature. As a child you hear how threatening Nature is and that we must defend ourselves against it. It is possible to imagine that given these types of messages about Nature, a complex will develop within us, a complex of fear rooted in the archetype of destruction.

Nature can also be perceived as a source of wholeness and creativity. For many, Nature provides a sense of containment and safety. Nature can evoke within us a numinous sense of centeredness. Often people equate deep spiritual experiences to being in the presence of Nature. Nature can place us in the presence of Beauty. Nature is a source of creation and life. Imagine growing up surrounded with these images of Nature. You will view Nature as supportive and perhaps even sacred. For someone growing up surrounded by these messages, a positive complex of wholeness will develop that is rooted in the archetype of creation.

Those filled with fear of Nature will have a tendency to project the qualities of the negative unconscious complex out onto the environment. They will see Nature as threatening, something to be defended against. Their relationship to Nature will be one of overcoming or destroying Nature. They may even look at Nature as an inanimate resource to serve the needs of humanity.

Those filled with a love for Nature will have a tendency to project the qualities of the positive unconscious complex onto the environment. They will be attracted to Nature and perhaps even overly idealize Nature. They will strive to be connected to Nature and to preserve the environment.

Of course, there are complexities to the picture I have painted. Social forces also play an important role in determining our perceptions of Nature. But the existence and power of personal projections must be recognized. We may perceive Nature in one of these two ways, in which the perception is viewed through the cloudiness of projection. Perhaps you would prefer to see only the creative side to Nature, but this one-sided view of Nature is limiting. We need to recognize the polarity of Nature, both its creative and destructive aspects.

Ultimately, we are called upon to withdraw our projections onto Nature. It is only after withdrawing these projections that we will see Nature in its totality and will find ourselves in an authentic relationship with Nature.

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