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.