Positive Projection

The topic of projection arises frequently on this blog and in my counseling work with clients struggling through the wedding transition. The truth is that any time you’re in a intimate relationship with a real person (as opposed to infatuated with someone who’s not available), you’ll find yourself irritated with your partner. Some of this irritation is a natural by-product of intimacy and will occur with anyone with whom you’re close (parents, siblings, friends). And if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, the irritation will increase tenfold.  Let’s face it, people are sometimes annoying: They don’t do things as quickly or efficiently as you would like, they leave the toilet seat up, they call too often or not enough, they laugh loudly, they tell the same story multiple times. It’s okay to feel irritated, but when you find that the irritation has crossed the line into obsession, you know you’re in a projection.

This post, however, isn’t about negative projection. I’ve written about it here and have also devoted an entire lesson to it on the Conscious Weddings E-Course. As I was washing dishes this morning while my husband played with our little ones, my soul became filled with the simple joy of life: a clean house, a healthy family, the dawn of a new day fresh with possibilities, the seed of creativity gestating within. And the happier I felt, the more loving I felt toward my husband. I thought, “I’ve written so much about negative projection but have neglected to write about its counterpart: positive projection, or that feeling of love and joy toward your partner that arises as a natural extension of feeling good about yourself.”

Intimately intertwined with positive projection are our dysfunctional notions about real love (Lesson 3 of the e-course). We think love is a feeling that someone else brings to you. We think when you really love someone they make you feel excited, passionate, alive, creative, ecstatic. This is what can happen in the initial stage of what we call “falling in love” and it’s a window into your own potential to access these attributes and feelings within yourself. But real love has nothing to do with how the other person “makes you feel.”

Real love originates inside of you and extends outward toward others. Sometimes it’s an act of will; other times it’s a feeling that erupts spontaneously within and inspires to you wrap your arms around your partner and express your love for him or her. The joy, the fulfillment, the passion, and the aliveness begin in you and your bring that to your relationship. An alive and passionate marriage is two whole people bringing their passion to each other. As Kevin, married over 29 years, says so beautifully in the written and audio interviews in Lesson 7 of the E-Course when I asked him to describe his marriage today:

There are periods of euphoria. [Note: In the MP3 interview with Kevin in this lesson, conducted ten years after the written interview, he comments on his use of the word “euphoria” and replaces it with the word “joy”.] We do move in and out of them to some degree. I really believe that the euphoria I felt early on in the relationship was a product of my being willing to be open and loving. To the extent that I’m not feeling the euphoria, the conclusions I draw are not so abusive anymore. It doesn’t mean that I am a bad person or Jill is not holding up her end or our marriage is somehow less than it ought to be. It means that there’s an opportunity for me to learn and when I’m compassionate with myself and patient with myself, I learn the lesson. It can take a long time or not so long. Sometimes I don’t even have a lot of control over it. Then I move to the next period of euphoria.

There’s a sense of wonder and journey to it all, that even in the moments where I’m not in euphoria, if I’m open to learning about why I’m not is itself somewhat euphoric. I think I misspoke earlier: I think the connectedness we feel when we’re falling in love is an imitation of, and sometimes a not complete imitation of, the feeling of completeness we feel when we get to the end of the rainbow. And I’m not there yet so I don’t know what that looks like. The sense of fullness that I have is far richer and far more solid than the sense I had when I first falling in love. When I was falling in love I was only happy when I was with this other person. I believe that this sense of euphoria is something you bring from each individual and that the relationship can be the medium where that euphoria, love, creativity can be expressed with one another.

The euphoria comes from us. We have an opportunity to access that within ourselves. And relationship creates the medium where creativity and love can be shared in a way that is transcendent.”

This is positive projection. When you feel good within yourself, you will feel loving toward those around you. It’s a grounded joy that exalts us beyond the fragile euphoria of the beginning stage of love. It’s a moment washing dishes, listening to my beloved husband playing with our boys and sending them into peals of laughter, allowing gratitude to bubble up, touching my own creative spark. It’s simple, honest, real, and the greatest joy I could ever imagine.

15 comments to Positive Projection

  • Magda

    Thank you for writing on the positive projection, it made me feel a little bit better. I think that I filled myself up with so much negativity, that I started projecting it into my fiance. It’s easier to fall into the negative projections than positive ones, but I guess it takes little steps and a lot of patience to really just feel happy within yourself and your loved ones.

  • So true! When my anxiety was at it’s worst, I would notice that when I had periods of joy or excitement, I would feel love towards my fiance and I would want to share it with him. Unfortunately, because of all of the anxiety fear confusion and depression, those moments were few and something had to be really great to inspire them. I was worried that because the only time I felt loving toward him was when I was excited about something that it meant something was wrong with me, but I guess it means I was projecting positively. I knew I was projecting negatively big time but had no idea about the opposite. :)

  • admin

    Yes, that’s it, Cori! It sounds like you’re through the worst of it. Any words of encouragement you can offer Magda (above)? I know how comforting words of wisdom are from women who have recently been drowning the anxious muck. It can be a lifeline…

  • KD

    Changing the channel when you’re in negative projection mode can be next to impossible, especially when you’re feeling more anxious and depressed than usual. I’ve found that, ultimately, I need to feel good about myself and how I am positively impacting the people around me to project positively. To change the channel, so to speak, I found enjoyment in calling a friend and scheduling time together, cooking a meal for someone else (maybe your FI), volunteering, helping someone at work on an assigment, or even just complimenting someone else. All those things helped me feel less anxious and to turn negative into postive. Also, as Sheryl noted, just being grateful for what you have (instead of what you don’t have) can help tremendously. Good luck.

  • Janelle

    Hello all! I have been married for 5 months. I was an emotional wreck when I was engaged and I felt so lost. I thought that I was the only one going through this and no matter what I read, I believed that my engagement feelings were worse than anyone else’s.

    I have to say that inner bonding works really really well. I have noticed a huge difference in my feelings when I’m feeling good about myself. You see, I’ve always realized that this anxiety has nothing to do with my husband. It is all about me being so hard on myself. When I’m feeling good about myself and who I really am, I feel so positive about my marriage. However, when I am picking myself apart that’s when my anxious thoughts start going crazy. When I’m anxious, it is like I’m sad b/c I’m feeling sad…if that even makes sense.

    It just breaks my heart that I can go from being so positive about my marriage for days than in five minutes start criticizing everything. For example, my anxious thoughts are the worst when I wake up in the morning. It’s like I start analyzing and questioning myself before I have even had a chance to really wake up! I think that fear knows that my mind/body is tired so it tries to take advantage of that! I will say that I have learned so much and that being married is so much less stressful then being engaged. For those of you that are engaged hang in there! And try to remember that it’s really not about your fiance/husband it about you being so critical of yourself!

  • magda

    I’ve read this post on thursday, and it did help a little with projecting more on a positive level towards my fiance. It is so true, how easy it is to slip and project negatively. I think that just like I made a choice to get married, it’s a choice to try everyday and work hard at making things work. The thing that really is hard for me is how the fear just sneaks in, just when I think I’m ok, the anxiety is somewhat lowered, I’m happy with my fiance, happy just in the moment, out of no where the negative thoughts come in full force and it just feels like I’m back at step one, and I have to start over again knowing that I’ve made the right choice. Just when I think it’s getting a little bit easier, it just gets worse. I think I’m having a really hard time just getting so disappointed with these thoughts, that it makes it really hard not wanting to give up. I’m ten months away from my wedding, and those ten months seem so scary, just because I’ve been going through this anxiety every day for the past four months. It did ease up just a little, but it does scare me so much, how much I still have to work on for it to ease up more. Every evening is scary, because I’m scared of how I will handle the next day. Is this just me??? Did anyone feel like this sometimes everyminute of their day?

  • Yes every minute of the day! every single second. i was constantly thinking about it and constantly wondering what my problem was, what my fear was. it was paralyzing and it was gut wrenching. you are not alone. follow sheryls advice. i know it seems hopeless and you cant imagine it ever going away but if you keep doing the work (journaling, thought stopping, etc) it will ease up. i was so bad that i wasnt eating or sleeping and was sick to my stomach. i still get freaked out and i am sure i am not completely healed of my anxiety but the more you take control of your fear and anxiety the less it will take control of you. (way easier to say than do).

  • Magda

    Cori, did you have days and moments where you just thought you couldn’t do it anymore, like you should just be single for the rest of your life. Because, those are the scariest moments for me and those really make me think like I’m just the only one. These thoughts are so distressing, it’s like I start believing them. And tell me about the whole not eating part, I already have a slim figure, but now it really got bad because I just literally forget to eat.

  • Hi Magda,

    I definitely had those days where I just wanted to give up. I would look at single women and actually be jealous of them. I thought about how easy it would be to be single a lot and daydreamed about my past single life. Sheryl told me this was because it was the easy way out. It was fear speaking… just trying to find the easiest way to escape the situation since I was in so much pain. One morning I woke up and came to the conclusion that I didnt love him. I started bawling my eyes out — I literally cried the whole day — and I was talking to my mom on the phone and she said “if you don’t love him, then why are you so upset and crying so much?”. she was basically saying that my words and actions werent making sense and it was because it was the fear speaking, telling me that i didn’t love him. the easiest way out would be to just end the relationship – but if you stick with it and do all of the hard work, it will pay off and strengthen your relationship that much more. The thought of ” i dont love him” was my most terrifying thought. It made me feel sick to my stomach. I wasnt eating because I was so overcome with anxiety. I literally lost my appetite and nothing tasted good. I couldnt force anything down and it would just make me nauseous if i tried to. I hope this helps.

  • The truth is that EVERYONE thinks they’re an extreme case. But the inability to eat or sleep is just a symptom of anxiety, and anxiety is a hallmark of the engagement transition.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, Cori. I know that hearing from other women who have made it through is a huge source of comfort to those that are still in the thick of it.

  • magda

    The worst think is that it just feels so real, that I actually believe it, believe that I should just leave and than I get this pit feeling in my stomach like it’s true and what am I going to do. And then I come somewhat to my senses and need him near by and just want him to hold me, but when he does, most of the time I just can’t be still, the anxiety is so horrible sometimes. It was always so easy for me to just give up. Johnny just asked me where would I be if he wasn’t in my life right now, and I told him that I would be exactly in the same spot as I was at this exact time last year longing for him.

  • magda

    My biggest fear is of hurting him. It’s almost like I put my pain and imagine him with it, if I just ended things, and than I feel like my heart is breaking, and I’m holding onto him even closer. Uhhhhhhhhhh It’s horrible, it just feels like it’s the end, but I don’t even know of what.

  • Sarah

    Hi Magda. What strikes me about your last post is your acknowledgment of something ending but not knowing exactly what it is that’s ending. My suggestion is to sit with that feeling without pressuring yourself to understand it and allow the emotion to come in. I know it’s hard. The same happens for me, and it’s hard to be going through this process without being able to “get it” intellectually.

    Another thing that works for me is asking myself out loud, “What do I need right now?” Often times I’m feeling anxious because there’s some need I want met that I’m either expecting someone else to meet, and for them to even know what the need is without me telling them, or because I have some other outside commitment that I need to tend to that my anxiety is distracting me from, but really just making me more anxious. Does that make sense? For example, I can be obsessing over my relationship and endlessly searching the internet for some miracle answer (note that when I’m doing this all self-trust has gone out the window and I’m counting on some random website to tell me what to do) and I’m feeling really anxious because 1) I know exactly what my anxiety is doing – giving away my wisdom – (I have to make a conscious effort when I write that to not say what I’m doing, because I have to remember I’m not my anxiety) and 2) There’s something else I need to be doing that I’m not because my anxiety has me distracted. So, when I recognize my anxiety, or whatever emotion, and say to myself, “What do I (or you, could be your inner child) need right now?” I’m able to access my inner wisdom and get done what needs to be done and take care of myself. Hopefully that makes an ounce of sense.

  • KD

    Hi Magda,
    Like Sheryl said, everyone thinks they are an extreme case. I probably said that like 10 times! Cori and Sarah’s experiences are very similar to what a lot of us transitioning experience (loss of sleep, inability to concentrate, need to find an answer to the point of obsession, loss of appetite, lack of desire to spend time with people you care about, etc). Even feeling like you don’t love your partner is a sadly common reaction to the fear.

    One of the best things that I’ve learned from this is understanding what’s bothering me today, and what is either in the past or in the future. If I am using ‘what ifs’ or ‘shoulds’, then I know this is anxiety. I’ve read great articles on how ‘should’ ought to be taken out of our vocabulary, because it implies judgement. Avoid judging yourself!

    So, when you’ve had time to relax, try understanding what’s bothering you today… make a list if you need. One by one, dialogue with yourself. If you say, ‘My fiance leaves dishes in the sink… he’s going to be a sloppy husband,’ you can rationalize that while it’s annoying he does this, it’s not a dealbreaker, AND, you’re also implying that his action foreshadows an unhappy marriage. Stop yourself if it gets to this point.

    Hope you’re feeling better today.

  • Excellent advice, KD. I would suggest that anyone struggling with with anxiety to follow it.