Updated: May 19, 2020
The more someone inflames, angers, or upsets you, the more you know you have something to learn about yourself from that person or that situation. In particular, you need to see where your own history, hangups, baggage, and biases have interfered with your willingness to resolve the problem.
Projection is when you see your own memories, thoughts and feelings in the minds and behaviors of others or the relationship, and not in ourselves. You push something about yourself or your history out of your active awareness, and instead you see it coming towards you from others.
You see that Bob is mad at you and you feel hurt. You don’t recognize that you are mad at Bob and would like to hurt Bob. It’s very similar to film projection. The movie going on in your head is projected out around us. Each of us builds, in this way, a highly personalized world. You need greater self-awareness if you are going to free yourself.
Hugging and Boxing Your Shadow
Extreme attachment or rejection is a sign that our "shadow" has its hold on us.
Shadow Hugging: You are overly attached to someone because of desirable qualities or abilities that you see in him/her and deny in yourself.
Shadow Boxing: You are overly repulsed by undesirable qualities or behavior in someone or something that you deny in yourself.
The Hook: The quality or behavior in the other person that inflames you is actually, in itself, a neutral event. Your projection gets caught on this hook.
The Symptom: Your emotional reaction (usually variations on anger or hurt). The Projection: The part of your shadow that is causing your strong reaction.
Acknowledge Your Shadow
In order to be willing to resolve, you need to recognize and acknowledge your projection to yourself. Remember a situation that inflamed you and now consider if you have:
Suppressed Needs: i.e. Failing to recognize your need for companionship, you are deeply hurt when a friend postpones time you'd planned to be together.
Unresolved Personal History: i.e. If you were seriously let down as a child, you may become really wild when people don’t do what they promised.
Unacceptable Qualities: i.e. Because you don’t accept your own anger, you don’t accept it in others.
If the situation inflames you, take a peek inside yourself. Notice what aspects of your private history, your own suppressed needs, or qualities you find unacceptable personally, are being triggered.
Look closely at yourself and recognize that others will always be different to you. Choose to respond in ways that seems more appropriate to the actual situation than the movie playing inside your head.
We didn’t make this stuff up. The skills in this article are based on over 30 years of experience in conflict resolution and psychology. The Conflict Resolution Network (CRN) is a resource center that offers high-quality free and low-cost training materials for educational programs that move people and systems away from adversarial approaches towards cooperation and sustainable solutions. For more information and access to their absolutely incredible (and extraordinarily accessible) resources, we recommend you visit www.crnhq.org.