Through a Jungian Lens

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The Truth About Projections

with 11 comments

Mondou Hills cactus


The Mondou Hills surround a non-existent Mondou Lake, a low flat area now filled with wheat and canola fields.  The lake has long ago disappeared and the hills are semi-desert grassland in which all kinds of cactus plants can be found such as this small, but colourful little plant.  It is easy to forget that such a delicate blossom can be found a plant that has built-in armour.

In looking again at this image, I begin to think of relationships, especially the relationship with a significant other.  When we catch awareness of the other person and somehow feel a sense of magical connection, we are seeing the beauty of the flower.  The beauty exists objectively, we aren’t making it up in our minds.  Our relationship to that beauty, that sense of falling in love with that beauty is a different story.  We project something else onto the flower, onto the other person and create an other that is totally born out of our own need, our own inner spaces.

I think also of how people attract each other, how the choose each other and mate.  Both project their own denied attributes onto each other and both are ripe, ready to be hooks to catch the projections of others.  Of course, I am talking about the phenomenon of falling in love here, not about the calm, well thought out and deliberate choosing of a mate from a narrowed down subset of possible mates.  Falling in love with another person is all about projections and hooks.  There is no weighing of personality, characteristics, probable future security, genetics or social suitability involved.  Reason is not involved at all.  The truth is, when we fall in love with a person we don’t know, we are not falling in love with the person at all for we know nothing about this stranger.

Does this person believe the same truths as we do?  Does this person enjoy the same activities as us?  Will this person ever get to know the real you?  Will they like the real you?  Will you care for the person you discover eventually when projections are withdrawn?

Under the projections, a real person exists just as the real plant exists once the fragile blossoms are blown away in the next wind.  Beneath the projections are thorns, spikes and of course, a moist and vibrant life that is ready to create more life.  As time goes on, many relationships are broken because of the barbs that come out in self-defense.  For each of us does engage in self-defense when the stranger beneath the projections begins to emerge.  One says: “Who is this stranger?  Can I trust this stranger with my own truths?”  Sadly, the response to self-defense mechanisms is a reciprocal building of walls as the other also feels at risk as they are challenged and even denied.  Confusion exists within both as the other bemoans the fact of the other’s dishonesty, a dishonesty that doesn’t exist except in one holds the projections as the truth.


11 Responses

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  1. You’ve captured it exactly! Thank-you for making it so easy to understand. This is the problem…once the “dazzle” wears off. Is there a person there that we still care for.

    Question is…how does one avoid this trap? I haven’t figured out how yet…lol.

    A. 🙂

    Goddess Aphrodite

    July 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    • Welcome to Through a Jungian Lens, Aphrodite. 🙂 Thank you for your comments about the post on projections and love. One can’t avoid the trap, what does need to happen is for one to be aware that there is a real person to be discovered hidden behind this love at first sight. I hope you return to add your words often.


      July 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm

  2. Really like what you wrote and find this to be true in my experience too. As I become so aware of projections (everything is projection, good and bad) that is the question that remains… how to have a relationship, how to allow that first budding romantic love to happen as it does, naturally. Enjoy it while it lasts and learn now to let it run it’s course and either turn into a more connected human to human love of caring and companionship or move on when that connection is simply not there. Who knows how to live and make peace with all our projections? Where is the balance of living in the flow and just being versus being always aware of projecting?


    July 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    • Withdrawing projections, consciously taking one’s shadow stuff back, allows us to discover the real people who have had to carry our shadow contents. More often than not, we find that these others are good people worth keeping in one’s life and allows us to move on to perhaps more meaningful relationships. Thank you, Marina for coming and reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂


      July 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

  3. I’m wondering if it works the other way? If relationships occur because our internal processes seek the matching internal processes of the other. Right now I am seeing a friend work through a devasting breakup, but this relationship is an echo of every other relationship she had. She sees herself as a ‘healer’, and so her relationships are always with those who need healing. Her need to be needed, to be ‘caring’, supportive and seen as important in that process seeks out those whose needs are to be cared for by others. To me she is not projecting denied attributes, she is projecting the positive definition of herself she has created, even though this ends in pain every time.

    Not sure that makes sense.

    Lotus Eater

    July 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    • I think you might be referring to subconscious rather than unconscious processes, Lotus. We get trapped in repeating patterns that arise out of complexes. This is what leads to a man or a woman going through many partners with each partner having the same qualities/deficits of character. What I refer to here is rooted deeper in the unconscious, stuff that is activated via the unconscious. Thanks for your thoughts, very valuable and vital to understanding the way we are in relationships.


      July 12, 2011 at 8:32 pm

  4. I enjoy hearing people “rabbit” on about projection. In many cases they omit critical parts of the projection process. Here are two, explained by Marie Louise von Franz in her book “Projections and Re-collections in Jungian Psychology, Reflections of the Soul.”

    The projections of our fellow beings onto ourselves are by no means harmless affairs that disturb nothing but the adaption of the people from who they issue; they also substantially affect the person onto whom the projection falls. The projections of parents onto their children are especially influential, because children and young people are very suggestible, for their ego-consciousness is still weak.

    When a man does not awaken to some awareness of the eternal element that is central to love, he may readily make a personal tragedy of it; in that case ‘a spark of the eternal fire hisses out in a puddle’; the ‘divine child’ of the two transcendental factors, the symbol of completed individuation cannot be born either.

    If we compare the projections that issue from the shadow complex with those proceeding from the anima-animus complex, we may say that insight into one’s own shadow projections means first of all a moral humiliation, intensive suffering. Insight into the projections originating in the anima or animus, on the other hand, demands not so much humility as level-headedness and commonsense self-observation and reflection, which demand a certain wisdom and humaneness, because these figures always want to seduce us away from reality into rapture or pull us down into an inner world of fantasy. Whoever cannot surrender to this experience has never lived; whoever founders in it has understood nothing.

    John Ferric

    July 13, 2011 at 8:06 am

    • Hi John – I am finally getting around to answering some of the comments here while the grandchildren have gone off to the park with their grandmother. One of the things about projections is the fact that we don’t know that they are projections until after the fact, and then only if we are sensitive to the fact of the existence of projections. I agree with the idea that too many talk about their projections and those of others as if these are conscious events. Thanks, as always, for the great quotes.


      July 17, 2011 at 9:38 am

  5. Robert,
    Here is a bit of speculation by me. I have wondered, for years, if “E”(extrovert) don’t learn more about themselves from projection(assuming they are willing to learn about projection) than from dream analysis. I also disagree with you to a modest extent. If one have done personal work with projection, one can realize when it is occurring, and then make a conscious decision what to do about it. One may even learn to enjoy certain projections as they happen.

    John Ferric

    July 17, 2011 at 10:36 am

    • That makes for an interesting take on typology. I don’t recall Jung mentioning anything about introverts being different from extroverts when it came to projection. One can’t be consciously present in a projection, however one can quickly realise that one has been activated through projection and come back to deal with the reality of what has just happened.


      July 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm

  6. It is the quick realization I am referring to; I become conscious that something has just happened.

    John Ferric

    July 22, 2011 at 11:15 am

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