Learning Empathy: Acknowledging Projection

Being individuals means difficulties in interacting. Within our tentative social bonds we struggle to find balance in withholding and projecting, both protecting ourselves and projecting ourselves onto others. 

The Cosmic Horror of Social Interaction is an existential game of defensiveness. Am I being misjudged? Am I misjudging someone else? There are rules we don’t know and reasoning we don’t realize, because we’ve only been learning our own game. Others won’t react how we expect them to react. We are all connected but we can’t expect our projections of ourself upon other people will be at all accurate or productive. 

We are all guilty of projecting ourselves into the void. If we don’t understand or can’t cope, we toss the unwanted parts of ourselves out to be viewed separate. It may seem easier to deal with if seen as an outside source. 

Freud took the word ‘projection’ from neurology when adapting it to a psychoanalyst practice. Unshockingly, I’m not a fan of Sigmund Frued but I’m fascinated by the origin of the term— inspired by the actions of neutrons transmitting sensory input through the nervous system. This transference is inherent and necessary, carrying vital information. 

If we look at projection as a distorted form of empathy, we can better understand the basis. What is projection, put simply? Projecting yourself onto another person, seeing yourself in them. It is an empathy of delusion brought on by a need to connect and understand, but warped by an improper transference of insecurity. Instead of acknowledging these difficult feelings and mindsets, reaching out to others in an authentic and healthy way, and accepting the same of others, our psyche takes a shortcut through empathy. 

Shame is a difficult emotion, so rather than let ourselves feel it, we might project the blame onto someone else. We may be insecure of certain personality traits or behaviours and be overly critical of them in other people.

The only way to avoid projection is to identify it. Like denial, dissociation, and other damaging defence mechanisms, without actively seeking to acknowledge and understand these mental distortions they will continue to take control of your consciousness. 

Self reflection and therapy are not tried and true practices that will immediately hail results without duly practicing. Time and effort are needed to refine your self understanding and how you interact with the world. 

I am still near the beginning of my journey, only within the past three years have I begun properly acknowledging how my disabilities affect my ability to empathize and socialize healthily. My progress has been exponential but I’m still in elementary learning, working my way through the fog to find resources and words I connect with. Our journeys are not easy and are unending, but I have faith. 

Thank you for reading.

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