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Projection: Don’t Take The Bait!

At some point in our lives, we have been the victims of projection. What is projection? Projection is a coping mechanism we use when our ego feels fragile. We do this by disengaging from the characteristics in ourselves we deem unattractive and then attribute these characteristics to another person. As human beings, we seek to cope with our insecurities by projecting onto others. Frequently, we are unaware of this behavior since avoiding focus on ourselves is the very reason we project.

Here’s an example: Let’s say recently you have been feeling guilty about not spending enough time with your mother. You’ve been wondering if you have been selfish. Your sister calls. You tell your sister that she has been acting selfish lately because she hasn’t spent much time with mom. In other words, the selfish characteristics you see in yourself are too painful to admit to. You decide to give the characteristics to your sister as your way to cope. Taking the focus off yourself and placing it onto your sister helps you to avoid dealing with the feelings you may have about your mother, your own selfish behavior, etc.

When we are the victims of the projections of others, we can react in a number of ways. One of these ways is a counter-projection. A counter-projection is the act of the victim projecting back at the projector as a way to cope. This is usually expressed as an explanation or retaliation.

Why would a victim respond with counter-projection? The victim could be coping with the frustration of being the victim or could be battling the fact that the projection could be triggering experiences of psychological trauma that is lying dormant in the victim.

So what is the best way to deal with the projections of others? As difficult as it may be, the best way to handle being the victim is to ignore the behavior of the projector. Entertaining the behavior will keep the behavior alive. The projector will continue to ignore their feelings and will continue focusing on others. Ignoring the projector will only leave the projector alone with their feelings to deal with.

It is very difficult not to take the bait of projection. It becomes easier if you realize that despite the fact that these projections may be directed toward you, they truly say nothing about you and your character.

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We are unwritten.

A few years ago, I remember speaking to a woman. To protect this woman’s privacy, I will call her Shirley. Shirley had expressed to me that she was feeling sad. Sad because she had a dream to become a nurse but she didn’t think it was possible for her. I spoke to her for a little while and asked her why she felt this way. She said she just didn’t think the goal was reachable for her. She had struggled though school and now was a mother of three children. The thought of going back to school made her uncomfortable.

I tried to understand why this woman was filled with self-doubt and fear. Since all she really needed to do was enroll in school and study hard. Simple right? But she didn’t see this matter the same way as I did. The very thing that seemed simple to me seemed impossible to her. I placed myself in her shoes and realized that I also have goals and dreams that may seem impossible right now. But to others, my goals may seem simple. I realized that our goals and dreams are relative to what we believe is possible for ourselves. These possibilities are sometimes closely related to our past experiences. So what am I trying to say? Your goals and dreams are directly related to what your mind believes you can accomplish. For example, if you grew up with parents who entertained and achieved huge goals in their lifetime. Then guess what, you may also most likely feel that accomplishing huge goals is a possibility for you. Exposure to a more expansive mindset can help your mind expand. In other words, you become what you associate with. The same is true if your brain achieved success in the past. Your brain will always remember your success and use it as a reference point to achieve bigger and better goals and dreams.

Therefore, you can see why choosing to stay in fear and not try is the true definition of failure. The truth is, most of us are the victims of our own limited way of thinking.  It may take some work but we can choose to change our thoughts from a small ignorant mindset. We can choose a more expansive view that states we are limitless. We don’t need to attach to who we are right now. We are works in progress. We are truly unwritten. The choice is yours.

 

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Mental Health, Social Science

What is the price of love?

Every so often I like to take a trip into good old NYC. Nothing like NYC to help you gain motivation in your life. The speed of this big city is very quick. Walking around, even the most accomplishment person can wonder if they are achieving enough in their life. Sometimes I like to sit down at a cafe with a drink and write. Recently I decided it was time for a NYC adventure again. Took my seat at a Starbucks and began to focus. I was deep and focused, when a pack of dogs walked by. A dog walker was walking them. The expressions on the faces of some of the dogs were intense and distracting as they rushed by. So intent on what they were trying to accomplish. They had a job to do and they were going to do it. It was interesting to see these dogs work so well in a group. Each one was no longer an individual. They were now functioning group members.

Group Mentality is such an interesting subject to me. I find it interesting because my whole life’s goal has been to find strength within my developed individuality. But how well did I work in the group? We are trained throughout life to stay within the confines of the group. A view that dates back to the beginning of time. We go to school and follow a schedule that resembles closely what are lives should look like as functional and productive group members in society. We follow a religion in order to be part of a group, in order to be loved and accepted and to indulge in the social constructs of belonging as a member of society. Because after all, our ultimate goal in life is to be loved.

But to me this price is just way too steep. Must I sacrifice myself in order for you to love me? Or can I be a whole person and find your acceptance? So many of us with so many holes. We were trained to seek solace in others. Why are we trained to seek validation from others and not ourselves?

Not that it bothers me too much but leaving the confines of the group usually leads to criticism. Criticism because the person choosing individuality puts the security of the group in jeopardy. Another view that dates back to the beginning of time and most likely rooted in the reptile brain (the lower part of the brain that responds to fear). We were conditioned to function this way but in a healthy way, just like the pack of dogs. It just seems like we have lost that balance. So many people giving their power away instead of claiming the power of their own individuality. Do you struggle with the fine balance of individuality vs. group?

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How Bendable Are Your Boundaries?

Establishing clear and concise boundaries for yourself is an essential part to living a happy and successful life. It is through relationships we learn about ourselves and what our personal boundaries are. As children we struggle to develop our individuality and begin to establish boundaries. Our childhood provides us with a guide of what is acceptable treatment from others and what is not. In my practice, I have encountered individuals who have been raised in what most would describe as a healthy environment. They come from supportive families who foster growth and encourage self-worth. Others I have encountered were the exact opposite, raised in abusive and unsupportive domestic environments. And just as both of these clients’ domestic situations were drastically different; so were their personal boundaries.

I began to notice that the more abused client struggled more often with loose or soft boundaries. In other words, they were willing to endure more pain in a relationship than an otherwise healthier person. The possibility of abuse was always a concern for the abused person, even despite working on their self-worth and self-esteem and becoming successful at creating change in their lives. Once our brains have been exposed to trauma, we simply can’t unsee or undo it. We may recover from the experience but the experience will always be a part of us. An abused person may set solid personal boundaries but they will always struggle with the possibility that these boundaries may be compromised. This can be compared to the recovering alcoholic who struggles with alcohol. The recovering alcoholic knows he wants to stay clean but struggles with the fact that it is possible to drink again. Over time this problem can improve but will never be completely gone.

A person who has encountered trauma may be more challenged to stay true to their strong established post-recovery boundaries when faced with a similar triggering trauma.

This is something I call bendable-boundaries. Boundaries are bendable based on how well you are able to respond to a person or situation that challenges your limits. Are you able to exert what is expected of others when they are involved with triggering a previous trauma? So as I begin to close, I have one question for you. How bendable are your boundaries?

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