The Taos News has committed to implement a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted:
In a past Taos News article, you mentioned something about projections. I was hoping you might be willing to go a little deeper in what you meant by projections and how they impact someone’s life and the world around them. Thanks, Adam
Thank you for asking for clarification on a certain portion of an article and for reading the article as well! Semantics can lead to many different avenues of understanding as well as misunderstanding. Asking for clarification is something we all could take more time to make sure we understand what someone is talking about and sharing with us.
Projection and transference are two words that are used quite often in behavioral health lingo and are often unknown and misunderstood. These two words, projection and transference, are also important in your personal work to help navigate if your emotions are being triggered from what is really going on in the present moment, and/or from a past situation, that your unconscious mind is believing is happening in that present situation. Projection and transference are abstract topics that are difficult to discuss as absolutes.
Projection is when you are feeling a certain way about yourself, often in a negative light and you “project” those feelings out onto someone else, and believe that is how they are feeling about you. For example, if you are feeling you have been lazy, not doing your job, or overweight or some other topic that bruises your self-esteem in this internal thinking process, you may project out onto someone else that they are thinking the same thing as you and you become angry, defensive or protective as you believe that is what they are thinking.
In actuality, they may not be thinking any of these thoughts and you now have a mirror of your thoughts rather than a conversation with someone else and their thoughts. Quite a merry-go-round, but it actually happens all the time.
Transference is when you’re talking, seeing or thinking about someone else and your brain brings up another experience in your life and replaces it with the person or persons you are truly talking within that moment. Almost like a silk screen is placed in front the person and you are now reacting to the mirage on the silk screen.
Once again, this happens all the time as your brain is continuously trying to thematically categorize and respond to a theme, and use tools to help in the past with that categorized theme.
For example: you may have had difficult times with a sibling growing up and you feel your sibling was domineering and you felt small. Now in your present life, your partner asks you a question and you immediately start to feel small and become defensive, while your partner just wanted to know where you wanted to go for dinner and enjoy the evening together. Now your partner is upset, projects or transfers their unconscious onto you and the evening is now in disarray.
Any time someone can step out of transferences and projections there is the opportunity of truly seeing the other person which allows clear and conscious communication called intimacy. I hope this convoluted answer can help you become aware if you are projecting, transferring, or truly being conscious and present. I know it is a great reminder for me. Until next week, I wish you health, healing and continuous growth.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com.