In the field of psychology, “projection” is a term that is often used pejoratively, as a synonym for hanging a subjective state on an object outside ourselves. Instead of being able to accept their own negative emotions, for example, people frequently project them onto others.
Projection can get complicated. A society that feels endangered can project wild fantasies. Muslim fundamentalists project a West that is corrupt, unholy, and decadent, while Christian fundamentalists project an Islam that is barbaric, fanatical, and godless in return.
Projection is “successful” when we no longer can see reality but have created a false version based on fear, hostility, anxiety, or insecurity—any negative emotion for which we refuse to take responsibility. Projection also can be positive, as it is when a smitten lover sees perfection in the object of his love, although to friends and family the beloved remains an ordinary creature of flesh and blood.
Vedic rishis said that projection is the mechanism by which consciousness created reality. We are all familiar with this because the movie business depends entirely on projection. In Hollywood, a star is an actor who has crossed the dividing line between reality and projection.
Here are the some of the keys to turning the human into the supernatural:
Symbolism: Our projection must stand in for something deeper and more significant.
Desire: Our projection must fulfill a wish or need that cannot be fulfilled directly.
Fantasy: Our projection must operate in the realm where physical constraints don’t hold sway.
Myth and archetype: Our projection must be universal in meaning.
Idealism: Our projection must connect us to higher values.
Adapted from Life After Death, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).
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