“Wherever known reality stops, where we touch the unknown, there we project an archetypal image.” Marie -Louise von Franz
After reading quite a bit of Jung, I’ve felt that an important piece of understanding the soul is the concept of projection. However, Jung’s work is vast and I wasn’t keen on sifting through it merely to unearth some quotes about projection for a blog post. I briefly ran into this concept again (although not in the precise words) in Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen’s book, Thanks for the Feedback; still I held back.
But when I heard Dr Libby Weaver talking about projection as part of the 2016 Hay House World Summit and associating it with the Reticular Activating Center (RAS) in the brain, I felt we had to cover this topic before going further.
When we think of projection, we tend to think of it in a negative way, as in, “don’t project your insecurities onto me!” But, in my experience, projection is something we all do all the time. Projection is a big part of how we interact with our world. It is, actually, how we create our world. We can try to avoid projecting, but the practice is so engrained that we might have better luck if we start with identifying our projections and trying to understand them.
So what exactly is projection? It’s a very flexible word – the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary has no less than 9 different ways to define it. Definition #3 from a Google search seems to fit what we’re talking about in this post best; “the presentation or promotion of someone or something in a particular way;” with sub-bullet points, “a mental image viewed as reality,” and, “the unconscious transfer of one’s own desires or emotions to another person.”
I’ll return to a study quoted in my post 5 Habits to Make you Happier Now;
A study from the Netherlands, as referenced in a Psychology Today article from Dec 2012 asked subjects to “identify happy and sad ‘smiley icons’ while listening to happy or sad music. Music turned out to have a great influence on what the subjects perceived. Interestingly, even when a ‘neutral face’… was shown, the subjects often thought they recognized a happy smiley when listening to happy music and a sad one when listening to sad music.”
The participants projected their mood onto the neutral smiley faces. Whenever we find uncertainty, vagaries, empty space, we project into it. We don’t usually notice that we’re doing this because it is seamless with our engagement with the world. It is only when we pull back and really try to notice projection that its ubiquity becomes apparent.
However, the fact that we project does not make our projections ‘untrue’ – they represent deep truth, our truth. We need to recognize that a projection’s primary value is not what it tells us about the other person or the outside world, but what it tells us about us.
If we look at the world through the lens of very defined categories where thoughts are nebulous ‘fluff’ and matter is physical and corporeal, then projections seem like nothing; only a mental interpretation displaced to an outer source, right?
But, as argued in the post Thoughts on Co-Creation, if everything is energy at a root level – then projections become as much a part of world creation as everything else. If we view everything from the energetic perspective, we might ask what the real difference is between a mental image made up of energy and a corporeal element made up of energy. It raises interesting questions about reality.
But why does projection matter to this discussion on the Soul?
It is my belief, based on my informal study of mythology that our souls have projected our deep truth of discarnate existence into myth. I don’t think this is that far from what a Joseph Campbell or Jung would say – only they would be hesitant to use a term with such a heavy religious connotation as “soul.”
Regardless of the name we call it – the perspective that projects a pantheon of immortal, deathless beings is one that understands such an existence.
However, as we discussed in the post Orbiting, our memories of such an existence become unmoored when we incarnate and thus this soul-level (or subconscious) understanding has to manifest through the context of the time – in stories and myths.
If this only happened in one place, it would be easy to dismiss – it would be easy to say “Well this is one person’s deep truth they’re projecting.” The fact that we see so many similar fundamental themes in mythology, though; the fact that many of these stories still captivate us and resonate on a deep level, suggests that this represents our truth as a species.
In the next post we’ll talk about a mythological figure that may have started out as the ‘dumping ground’ for our feelings about incarnate life, but who has grown and evolved to take on a life of his own.
 Quote from psychologytoday.com article The Neuroscience of Music, Mindset, and Motivation, Christopher Bergland, Dec 29 2012