I read a blog on Handling Projections by Dane Tomas where he talked about holding projections.
He says: “lovingly accepting that people see you in certain way UNTIL such point as they are ready to see past that projection. You patiently allow them to do what all humans do. It’s a much more beautiful place to come from. It also moves things out of the fear/power/ego dynamic that is present when one person is more famous/rich/successful than another.
So my note to self/learning for today is really this: The more I own my own shadows and stop trying to control others or fear their perceptions – the more I can shine and be seen.”
His words stirred something in me. It reminded me of something I know to be true: what you see in me reveals more about you than it does about me.
Anyone who has been pedestaled will eventually fall – it is inevitable. I know that I have had periods where I have looked up to teachers and then become resentful towards them when I discovered they are human just like me.
These days I like to think I can see them for the full spectrum that they are – that we all are. And just appreciate that. It’s been several years since I’ve been so blinded by someone’s brilliance that I couldn’t tell I’m merely seeing myself reflected in them. And it’s in gratitude to my teachers like Deb Maes that lovingly held my projections until I embodied that knowing – spot it, you got it.
In March 2014, only 6 months after I started working as a Transformational Brain Trainer, I met a delightfully witty and beautiful woman at an event. We sat next to each other and started chatting and I adored her from the moment I met her. On some level she must have felt my spirit’s reverence of her’s, even if it wasn’t in her conscious awareness (it certainly wasn’t in my conscious awareness back then… it was only later I came to discover that’s one of the quiddities of being with me).
A few weeks later the woman decided to sign on to a coaching program with me. During her program she experienced some profound shifts in perception. At first she attributed them to me. I continued to remind her: YOU are one doing your inner work. I’m only here to hold space and point the flashlight.
Eventually, she came to understand that – to appreciate her own courage and brilliance. Our coaching relationship organically morphed into a close friendship. I consider myself friends with all my clients, though because I have many friends all across the globe, I don’t speak to most of my friends that often – maybe once every couple months or so. However, because she lived in my neighborhood, we saw reach other regularly since we would go for morning walks together around Sydney Harbour about once a week, chatting along the way.
Then one day she sent me an email asking me to remove her testimonial from my website. I found that really odd, so I called her to ask about it. My interpretation of her request was “I don’t want to be associated with you anymore” and because I perceived her as a good friend, that was perplexing to me.
During that call she said she didn’t feel like we had been connecting recently and she said something along the lines of ‘you still see me as who I used to be and I’m not that person anymore…I don’t think you’ll ever see me as your equal.’
In my experience, I only ever saw her as an equal (hence the reason I pursued the coaching path rather than the therapy path). Whilst my logical mind knew it was a projection, I felt the pain of the rejection of my affection. And because there was hurt there, I knew I had to be telling myself a story beneath the surface.
The story I made up was that she didn’t really love me, she loved what I could do for her.
Because when my identity was expanding to include being a keynote speaker, I noticed that in response to her stories, rather than reply back with a question (shining the spotlight on her), I would reply back with a personal story of my own (spotlight on me). This happened organically and I observed it occurring over a period of time.
So I thought, whilst she enjoyed me holding space for her insights and breakthroughs and she wasn’t actually interested in me sharing mine. And with that thought, I suffered myself. I cried and cried with the sadness that swelled up inside me.
At first I tried to look for the lessons – the blessings – anything to ease the feelings of grief that overcame me like a wave. I knew I wouldn’t drown in it, I’d experienced these emotions enough to know I was safe to feel whatever came up, no matter how uncomfortable it might have been.
Still, I wanted to find a learning that would make the experience worthwhile. If I have an addiction it would be that: discovering new learning in each of life’s experiences.
So I settled on the realisation that honoring who people truly are is important to me – it’s something I value. Even if those people change superficially, my job is to see through the story and into the soul – to remind myself of that which unites us all as one family.
And that soothed me. I reminded myself: she doesn’t need to love me back for me to love her. Love is a choice I make regardless of what anyone else may say or do. And whilst I may not be resourced enough to make that choice 100% of the time, I’m certainly earnest in my desire to.
And when I read Dane’s post on projection her face came to mind. I thought of the message I sent to her the last time I saw her before I moved away from Sydney…
“It was lovely being with you today. Just so we’re crystal clear: I love you no matter what. No matter what I’m feeling or your feeling – sadness, hurt, anger, unworthiness, bliss, joy… I love you, regardless. Whether I see you in 2 years or 10. I love you. Whether or not you see or love me back, I still love you. And I’m grateful for the roles you’ve played (and perhaps will continue to play – who knows) in my life. And I wish for you all that your heart desires.”
There was a quiet sense of understanding that came over me, even though it was tinged with slight sadness and a feeling of missing her. But, more than ever before, I’m at peace with the projection. Rather than distract myself from it like I had done previously, in the present moment I can lovingly hold it. And I’m grateful for that newfound capacity.