The quest for who we truly are is as old as humanity. The search for consciousness, meaning and self-analysis dates back to Ancient Egypt where philosophy, spirituality and dream interpretation was thriving.
Mankind was always plagued by self-doubt and the search for a purpose. Who are we really? What is our core? How can we find out what we are about as individuals?
Some of us never fully developed an identity beyond what our parents wanted us to be. As children, we were fully at the mercy of our caregivers, and if they saw our only role in becoming what they needed us to be, our sense of self remains vague and unformed.
One tool how to learn about the self is the analysis of projection. The great psychoanalyst Carl Jung used to say: “All the contents of our unconscious are constantly being projected into our surroundings.”
What does projection mean? It means that we see something in another person that is really in us.
We do it all the time. “Oh, that guy over there, he really looks angry,” we may say when we feel upset about something but can’t quite acknowledge it. We project our dislikes on the political party we don’t agree with, or on a group of outsiders (like homosexuals or another race) that displays traits we don’t like about ourselves.
It goes the other way around too: “I admire this woman’s strength,” we may say when we watch an Olympic champion or a public figure that stands up for her rights. Or when we watch a brilliant communicator navigate a difficult situation, and feel that we would definitely fail were we to stand in her shoes.
But the truth is that it’s already in us. We already have an eye for the strength or skillfulness we observe in someone else. The seed is already there. It just needs a hook to bring it out in us. And this is what other people provide.
Jung writes, “Something that strikes me about the object may very well be a real property of that object. …it frequently happens that the object offers a hook to the projection, and even lures it out. This is generally the case when the object himself (or herself) is not conscious of the quality in question.”
We constantly project our own inner truth onto others. When we admire a strong person, we project this quality onto them and neglect our own potential for it.
What we need to do is focus on what is already inside, and build on that rather then look to another person. That is the path to true happiness.
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Giant Comfort » Finding Your True Self (August 11, 2012)
Last reviewed: 11 Aug 2012