The Role of Projection in Perception and Awareness
To understand the ways in which we create the reality which, to our “normal” and erroneous perception, seems “out there” and separate from ourselves, the first procedure we need to examine is the mechanism of projection and how it operates to create the initial division between inside and outside, which serves to alienate us from our inner selves and the world of our experience.
By observing how very much of what we consider to be “out there” in our environment is actually “in here” inside our own heads, we can become aware of the astonishing imaginative and interpretive power of creation we are exercising over our experience. Much – if not all – of what we comprehend as attributes and descriptions of “the real world” is a projection of our own inner states of mind and their concomitant interpretations.
At this point, it is important to see that what we are discussing is neither the difference between what is real and what is not nor what is true and what is false. What we are really taking a look at is a matter of location. When we describe an event as internal, which we previously believed to be actually occurring in the external world – even though much, most, or perhaps all of it is occurring in the mind – we are not denying the validity of its existence. Instead, we are describing its proper, determinable, and definable location. This allows for far less confusion in our lives and can gives us a sense of empowerment, since in so many ways, we do create our experience – even within specific parameters defined by contemporary neuroscience.
Watch a video on the role of projection in perception and awareness
The radical insights of Sigmund Freud and later developments in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, revealed an inner world of the self in which we have a great urge and ability to misinterpret events in the world as happening to us and for which we believe we are not responsible. There are aspects of our inner life which make us extremely uncomfortable and which are projected upon external causes. The fact that much of this process takes place without our conscious awareness allows the process to go on unchecked and out of control for most of our lives.
Additional insights into the field of psychological inquiry, such as existential and cognitive psychology, provide alternative or supplemental explanations for processes of projection. And these more recent understandings of the mechanisms of the self can offer some ways in which what was once considered to be a completely unconscious process can be brought into awareness and worked with in a manner that can provide insight, healing, and self-improvement.
More significant, even, than particular explanations of the process of projection, is the central position it occupies in our minds. Contemporary physics – experimentally verifiable laboratory research – takes us one step farther along the way toward a really revolutionary view of the creative relationship between consciousness and what was once considered “the material world.” Because of the central position occupied by the observer in quantum mechanical measurement, the mechanism of projection is a fundamental means by which the material universe is created and maintained.
To understand that our experience is largely – perhaps entirely – a product of our own creation can bring us a sense of empowerment and a degree of freedom greater than we have ever known. Some insights are so deep and far-reaching that they can function like keys to ever greater levels of awareness and consciousness.
A deep insight, such as the one we have been discussing here, can have very specific application, as well. To see an event or experience we once considered “out there” and far beyond our ability to manage or control as something that is well within our means to alter is empowering in a way that can truly change our lives for the better.
Image: “Projection,” by Tullio DeSantis, digital image, 2010.