Why using projection as protection is self defeating

I’ve been thinking a lot about projection lately, especially since many of my engaged and newlywed clients and eCourse participants have been perseverating on the thought, “I don’t love him/her.” This is such an important and complex topic that I’ve written about it several times on my blog (including one of my “Alanis and the eCourse posts“) and have devoted an entire lesson in the Conscious Weddings eCourse to it, but let me say it more clearly here: Projection is a defense or an addiction against feeling the natural fear and grief associated with a transition and the anxiety, self-doubt, and old traumas around love of your wounded self. As one of the women on the eCourse forum said so poignantly in her recent post: “But I also know from my own experience that its so much easier to stay in the projection state than to deal with the real grief.”

It might sound strange to think of projection as an addiction, but in order for this to make sense you need to understand the difference between a process addiction as opposed to a substance addiction. An addiction is anything that distracts or protects you from your painful feelings. We commonly think of addictions as related to substances like drugs, alcohol, or sugar. But process addictions, like spending, sex, television, planning and ruminating are just as rampant and difficult to address. Planning? Ruminating? Were you surprised to read these in the list of addictions? Planning is when you can’t top thinking about things you have to do (like planning a wedding). Ruminating is when you become so obsessed about a single thought that it successfully distracts or protects you from addressing the underlying emotional pain.

The phenomena of “bridezilla” that runs rampant in our culture is a woman who’s so addicted to planning her wedding that she avoids addressing the natural and normal fear and grief that accompany this major life transition. She obsesses so deeply about all of the items on her to-do list, the things she needs to buy, the place settings and the table arrangement that she becomes a warped version of herself who alienates everyone around her. She’s living in a state of control, tightness, and disconnection. She’s living with an addiction.

The same is true for the people who find their way to my work, except that instead of over-focusing on the planning, they’re over-focusing on their partner. Where bridezilla funnels her fear, grief and old wounds around love and intimacy onto her dress and flowers, the “conscious brides and grooms” funnel their difficult feelings onto their partner. They put their partner under a microscope until all they see are the so-called faults and flaws. They disregard the good times, diminish what works, and only focus on the reasons why they can’t possibly move forward with this person. Then they spin their thoughts into a spool of negativity until a single thought remains: I don’t really love him/her. And that’s when they find their way to my work.

So what’s the antidote? First of all, to recognize that every time you think the thought, “I don’t love him/her” you say to yourself, “I know this feels real but it’s a projection.” Then ask yourself, “What am I protecting myself from feeling right now?” If you can, spend some time with your Inner Child (or teen) and ask her/him if there’s anything she/he would like to share with you. I’m writing this with the assumption that you have a fairly good understanding of the Inner Bonding process!

Remember: You’re struggling NOT because you don’t love your partner, but because you love him/her more than you’ve ever loved anybody in your life. And this scares the you-know-what out of your wounded self, who simply doesn’t trust love because of what it’s seen, heard, and experienced. In fact, I’ve also come to understand that the depth of the childhood abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual) informs the intensity of the projection once you’re in a real relationship with a safe person. The wounded self is simply freaking out because it doesn’t trust that love can be safe. It’s screaming at you in every way it can to get out now. And it often uses the line that will get you the most which, for many people, is, “I just don’t love him/her.”

Projection is one of the most difficult psychological states to deal with because it feels so real. The hardest part is peeling the projection off of your partner and getting, really getting, that it’s not about the other person. The wounded self will think of every reason in the book why your case is different (“Sheryl doesn’t really know what she’s talking about” or “But what if it IS about the other person”) but having worked with thousands of women and men over the years just like you, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that chances are quite high that you’re in a good relationship and that it truly isn’t about the other person.

Hang in there. Hold on. You will get through this. It take a real commitment to yourself, patience, and support, but if thousands of others have gotten through it and found their way to love, you can, too. I promise.

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© Copyright 2015 Sheryl Paul, M.A., All rights Reserved.
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As the daughter of two psychotherapists,Sheryl grew up with the language and theories of psychology running through her blood. As a young girl, she vacillated between dreaming about one day being either a writer, a therapist, or a midwife. Having found the confluence of these three arts through writing about and spiritually midwifing people through life’s transitions, including the transition of transforming anxiety, self-doubt, and depression to serenity, self-trust, and joy, Sheryl feels deeply blessed to be living in the heart of her calling. While her writing and counseling work have primarily focused on the specific transitions of getting married and becoming a mother, in recent years she has felt called to broaden her practice to include the lifelong transition of life in all its beauty and complexity. For whether on the verge of leaping into marriage, getting a divorce, suffering through anxiety or depression, struggling with an addiction, or birthing a new identity as a mother, Sheryl believes we find the same issues of self-trust and control appearing again and again. The story line may change, but the spiritual seeker quickly finds that the areas that need attention reappear at deeper layers of the spiral on life’s journey. Sheryl utilizes an effective, 6-step process called Inner Bonding® cradled within the spiritual context of transitions to create a powerful framework through which she can assist clients in finding their own voice, exploring the stories and beliefs that interfere with hearing this voice, confronting their need to control and the perpetual practice of learning to surrender, and guiding them as they make their way through life’s challenges and joys. Her decade of working with clients in transition combined with years of a loving marriage (not without continual consciousness and hard work!) and the privilege/challenge of being a mother have solidified her firm belief that, while guides are often necessary to help us find our way through the labyrinths, no one outside of ourselves and a spiritual source has the answers. In fact, SheryI believes that, whether we’re talking about parenting, marriage, or anxiety, there are no definite answers; there’s only the process of discovering what’s right for you. In 1997, Sheryl graduated from Pacifica Graduate Institute, a depth psychology program founded upon the teachings of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, James Hillman, and the study of dreams, archetypes, myths, and the myriad ways that the unconscious manifests in daily and nightly life. As a writer, poet, and epic dreamer, she encourages her clients to explore their own creative outlets as pathways for connecting to Spirit and finding their own truths. In 1999, she launched her unique business, Conscious Weddings, and a year later published her first book, The Conscious Bride, which broke the taboo of discussing the underbelly of the wedding transition. In 2003, her second book, The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner, was published, and in 2004, she began working with impending and new mothers through Conscious Motherhood. Since 1999, Sheryl has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her Home Study Programs and her website. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, “Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes“, visit her Home page. Sheryl looks forward to hearing from you.