Stop Projecting! Might be words you hear in an argument or heated conversation. We use the term projecting more than ever, but do we have a good understanding of what it means and if we are doing it? Think of a movie projector, it “projects” the movie image on a screen. What it has on the film is being shown on a screen or being “put” on the screen. Essentially taking what the film is and putting it on something else. We can do the same thing. Project our ideas, thoughts, behaviors, fears, advice or even love onto others. Whatever we are feeling inside of us we can then project them onto people or situations. Most of the time when we are accused of projecting something it can be in a frustrating situation and for good reason. We may be trying to make someone else’s situation into something we have dealt with. This can then be extremely frustrating and confusing for the person we project our ideas onto. So how can we recognize when we are doing it? How can we understand why we feel the need to do it? And when can we recognize when others do it to us?
Sometimes projecting our ideas or past experiences onto other people can seem logical. For example, say you have a friend that is having a relationship problem. You might pick up on key things that you can relate to. Instead of hearing their full story you might assume it is the same thing you have experienced. You may put your story on them when in reality it doesn’t match. But it is what YOU can relate to, so it makes sense to you. Or you might have had an issue in the past with someone that looked a certain way or acted a certain way, and you had a bad experience. So, when you see someone that looks or behaves that way now you project those old feelings on them without even knowing them or their story. You don’t take the time to interact with them and know who they are or why they are doing an action. You only project what you have experienced before onto them. There are so many examples of this being done on the news, social media, and discussions among people. This action of projecting can cause misunderstandings and be disrespectful to other people's experiences.
We can also project our beliefs onto other people. What if you saw someone walking a dog? The person was distracted on their phone and being really frustrated with the dog and hurrying it along. If you are a huge dog lover, you might project that the person is being cruel to the dog and not a good owner. Maybe they even abuse the dog. How far can you project the storyline? But in reality, what if the person just found out a relative was in the hospital and had to hurry and let their dog out so they could rush to the hospital? How would you really know without talking or interacting with the person? You wouldn’t but unfortunately most of us find it easier to project our storylines onto others than taking the time to dig deeper. Can you see how you could be triggered by an action you observe and then you project your story, viewpoint, or judgement onto it? Unfortunately, it is easy to do and many of us don’t slow down enough to understand what might really be happening and are quick to project a story or even pass judgement.
Think about how often we project thoughts, ideas, and judgements onto other people. Unfortunately, technology has made it even easier to quickly project onto people or situations without knowing the whole or true story. Can we slow down enough to do research and get more information about a situation or is it easier to project a familiar story we have onto it and post an opinion? If we do not truly know someone or take the time to ask them questions and get some background, how would we ever really know their reality? Think about how many times we can get so emotionally caught up in what is right or wrong for us that we are quick to project a storyline onto someone. When we are just placing blame or judgement without honoring the whole situation. This can happen in any situation at work, in a relationship, with a family member, with a stranger or with an event happening halfway around the world. It is so easy to project our thoughts, beliefs and experiences onto people or situations. But can we take the hard step of stopping, listening, questioning, absorbing, and being open to the details of what is happening in someone's experience?
Start to slow down and see where you might be projecting ideas or beliefs onto people or situations? Or where are others doing this to you? Is it causing more harm than good? Is it disrespecting people, situations, or you? Is it damaging current or potential relationships? Is it causing you to be in negative energy of frustration, irritation, judgement or even hate? If you find yourself projecting, see how the other person responds. Does it line up with what is happening in their situation? Are you projecting old experiences onto new ones and sabotaging something new? Is someone doing that to you? Try and have more awareness of when you might be projecting or when others do it to you. Slow down and see if you can look at a new situation with a clean slate. Take the time to get to know someone and see how different they are than what you might have projected. Try not to project a story onto people or situations and see what wonderful new experiences, friendships, or relationships you will create. Stop carrying around the old projections and live in the present and experience people as they are now!