LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Weekly Message
Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.

On Projection

Some years ago I embarked on a "spiritual," non-denominational course of study in my ongoing effort to explore and challenge all I believed about life. This was a self-directed experience that included a text, workbook and 365 lessons that I believed I would complete one day at a time during the next year.

Guidelines for the Course in Miracles included that I might find some of the ideas in the lessons hard to believe. I read that I didn't need to accept or even welcome them and that I might actually resist some of them. That is exactly what happened when I picked up the card for Lesson One and read, "Nothing that I see is real."

I believed this was ridiculous. Of course the screen in front of my face or the hummingbird feeding outside my window or the letter from my good friend or the bill for my taxes or the ringing telephone is real. However, I reminded myself that the Course asks only of those who take it not to judge-to simply repeat the lesson until the words become comfortable.

I was off to a great start. (That was sarcasm.) Faced with 365 lessons (there is no direction for how to proceed through the course, which suggests only that no more than one lesson be studied each day) I resolved to simply stay with one lesson until I felt ready to move to the next. As suggested, I repeated the one statement "lesson" several times a day and read the supportive text in the morning and evening. I continued to feel so much energy around this first lesson that it was several days before I was repeating the six-word statement without the "this is ridiculous" thought following the words. At that point, although I didn't understand what Lesson One meant I moved to lesson two, then three, and so on-taking years to get through one card at a time.

The experience changed the filter through which I view life. I came to realize that the "nothing that I see is real," is about projection. Projection, as I understand it, is when we assign some quality or character to a person or thing as an unconscious defense against anxiety or guilt. It ranges from the very simple belief that if I see red as red, everyone else will also (not realizing that some people are color blind) to a more Freudian perspective when someone projects his or her unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blames them for having thoughts that we really have. For example, an aggressive person may be projecting when he (or she) accuses another person of being hostile. I believe projection plays itself most often in the judgments we make about people and events in our lives based on our lack of knowledge, impatience, insecurities, fears, previous experiences, and unwillingness to notice without judging (the noticing being about what's going on for us).

One day this week I had ample opportunity to view projection in action. A neighbor who has been stewing for years about a 3rd neighbor who leaves his recycling "across the property line" on trash pick up day went ballistic when I added an oversized piece of cardboard to his recycling. (Our recycling is picked up on different days and my neighbor loves the concept of "double dipping-filling one not filled can with surplus from another.) A professional associate (projecting who knows what) "took umbrage"(his words, not mine) when I suggested (somewhat in jest) to a peer that I might suggest her for a position if an opportunity came up. I watched a young friend dissolve in tears when her unexpressed expectations of her beau were not met. "He doesn't care about me." Another friend, whose husband said of her new dress, "wow, it's really blue" responded with "you don't like it," when he meant nothing of a kind.

Reaction and over-reaction (including my own), rather than response, to an event, happens when we see something that is not real. The "realness" of what I see is based on the attributes I put on it. In the Myers Briggs world it is well researched that a person whose decisive lens is based on being objective and reasonable will make a very different decision (about the same situation) than a person whose decisive lens is based on compassion and accommodation. Two people viewing or hearing the same thing can have very different interpretations. (For a visual example of the projection phenomena see the popular Young Girl-Old Woman Illusion at

Watching and listening to the projections of others forces me to sit up and take notice of my own. I find myself reminding myself the word play on the word "assume" which "makes an ass out of you (u) and me."

Now I've lots to think about.

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