Are you seeing someone as they are, or through your projections?
Discovering what projections you’ve put on others is always interesting. Sometimes it can be quite challenging, but it’s always rewarding.
Another benefit is the energy you’ll gain. This is the energy of repression and denial which you no longer need to use in keeping your shadow energies locked away within you. This is energy which becomes available for you to consciously use in running your life.
I remember the first time I attended a psychotherapy workshop as a trainee therapist. This was a residential ten day workshop, where each participant had the opportunity to do one or two pieces of deep emotional shadow work alongside the theory and teaching. In an instant, I knew there was something different about my colleagues. I could sense something almost tangible in the energy around them. They all seemed to have much greater presence than most people.
When I discovered how much personal therapy these men and women had undertaken, I knew I’d found the answer: they’d been in therapy for ten, fifteen, even twenty years. It’s so obvious, now, as I look back. This was the first time I’d experienced the way in which reclaiming the shadow energy of repression and projection can produce a far more powerful way of being present in the world.
The best way to reclaim this energy for yourself is to attend a shadow work healing workshop or emotional process workshop where you can discover what you’ve hidden, repressed and denied, and start the work of reclaiming the cut-off parts of yourself.
Shadow work video
You’ll find shadow work can also rapidly eliminate dysfunctional or unhelpful behaviours. You quickly and easily get much more control over your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’ll also develop a lot more control and choice over how you react to others, even when you’re under extreme provocation.
When we talk about transference, we’re referring to something that happens between two people when one person unconsciously “sees” the other as a significant person from their past. This is often a parent, sibling or friend, but it can be anyone: teacher, neighbour, doctor, friend, whatever.
Transference can develop during therapy or counselling, when the therapist seems to assume the identity of some historical figure in the client’s life. That’s common enough, but transference is much wider than this.
When anyone in your life reminds you in some way of a historical figure in your life with whom you have some, shall we say, “unresolved issues”, then you may start reacting to them as if they really are that person from your past. In fact, you form a part of your personality which can act, at least in part, as a separate entity somewhat beyond your conscious control. These are what we call parts of the personality, and with which we engage during shadow work. (Also known as “parts work“, which you can see more about on the video below.)
Video – Parts work (i.e. archetypes in shadow work)
Perhaps your boss at work reminds you of your difficult and challenging father or your brother, and you find yourself responding to your boss just like you did to your dad or brother all those years ago. Now there’s a dynamic that will most likely create difficulties for you!
Or maybe your girlfriend or wife reminds you of your mother, at least in certain ways, and you gradually become aware that you’re responding to her as if she is indeed your mother. This, as you may already know, is generally not helpful in an intimate relationship!
Then again, you might find you have a work colleague or a friend who seems to irritate you, just as your annoying younger sibling tried your patience to the limits all those years ago in your family.
While this kind of transference can be useful in revealing where you have unresolved emotional issues to work on, there’s also a problem: you’re not really connecting with the person currently in your life. Rather, you’re relating to them via a memory of someone else which has been triggered for some reason or other.
So clearly this kind of parts work, where you engage with a discretely identifiable aspect of the personality, can help bring cut off parts of yourself back into the whole of your personality. This work is sensitive and delicate – after all, those parts were cut off for a very good reason! (Usually because of something related to a traumatic experience during childhood.) And this means you need a competent and accomplished shadow work facilitator to help you complete this re-integration.
Whatever the situation, you clearly need to go beyond the transference, to find a way to step out of it somehow, so you can see the people in your life today as they really are, not as some reflection of your past.
The challenge here is that the unconscious is very powerful. It seeks out people who embody the energy of those from earlier in our lives with whom we have unresolved issues.
This is what Freud called the repetition compulsion – an unconscious drive to achieve resolution of the outstanding emotional issues you have with a historical figure in your life by finding someone who resembles them in your current life. In simple terms, this means that when you have outstanding issues with your mother, you might find yourself repeatedly encountering and getting involved with women who behave like your mother!
There are ways to stop this happening, to avoid all the misunderstandings and difficulties, to prevent the emotional regression that makes you feel like a little boy again. You need to stop your power in the world melting away. You can do this by finding a woman with whom you really can work out these difficulties.
Of course that’s not always so easy without the help of a professional facilitator trained in healing shadow work techniques, because you’re right in the middle of the drama.
A quicker and easier option is to go on an emotional process workshop, sometimes called a shadow work workshop, or an emotional healing workshop. (There’s a list of possible places you can do this in the resources section of this book.)
With the help of the facilitators and the other group members, you can carefully set up a dynamic which reflects your childhood experience. This time, though, the facilitators will make sure you get a different outcome, so you can express yourself just as you wish in similar situations in the future.
What happens in a workshop? Simply, where you were once wounded, now you will be blessed. Where you were once unheard or unappreciated, now you will be honoured. Where you were rejected, you will find acceptance. The feelings you suppressed will be brought out, given space and time to express themselves, and restored to you. You will become whole again.
Each time you do this work, you become more of who you were always meant to be. You feel more powerful and you get more of control of your life.
This can seem like magic, but there’s a beautifully simple and elegant explanation of why this works so well: the techniques we use effectively “reprogram” your brain with a positive and empowering outcome for you. This also gives you a new set of beliefs about yourself. You come to know you are a potent and powerful man, and you embody that belief in all you do.
To put it another way, you go away from the workshop with a set of beliefs about yourself which expand rather than limit your way of being in the world.
As you’ve probably realised, this is just another way of healing your shadow. This healing means taking out of your unconscious the thoughts, feelings and behaviours caused by traumatic, painful or damaging emotional wounds during your childhood, and putting in place a different emotional “program” which allows you to step around or beyond the limitations of the past and assume your rightful power, presence and potency in the world.