Attraction is an umbrella word that I use to describe any time you’re in a projection about your hot topic. This could be lack of physical attraction, doubting if there’s enough intellectual stimulation, struggling with sexual connection, or criticizing your partner’s social awkwardness or idiosyncrasies. When you’re not attracted, it means you’re stuck in a projection: the mind spinning and ruminating on any perceived lack. You walk in the room and all you see is the physical feature or personality trait that makes you want to run.
By contrast, when you’re in clear-seeing, open-hearted connection both within yourselves as individuals and with each other, the voices in your head – the Checker, the Doubter, the Detractor – pipe down. As they are all manifestations of fear designed to keep you under the illusion of safety, when true and real love is at the forefront of heart and mind, it washes away the fear. Love is more powerful than fear. And connection is the outgrowth of love in action. During these times, you’re in the is-ness of your relationship. This is the ultimate experience of real love: not the infatuation of feeling madly in love, but the clear, positive goodness of oatmeal love. This is the grace of love.
In this state of present-moment connection, you walk into the room and see only essence. The perceived “lacks” and topics onto which the magnetic shards of your projections attach simply don’t exist in your field of awareness. This is what it means to see through clear eyes.
The burning question is: How do I find my way out of projection into clear-eyed seeing more often than not? One simple key is to focus on the question of connection and ask:
1. Am I disconnected from myself?
2. Is my partner disconnected from his/herself?
3. Are we disconnected from each other?
Sometimes these questions can be easily answered. Let’s take the first – and most important question – as an example. When you turn inward and recognize that being stuck in a projection is an indicator that you’re off-kilter inside your own being, you can quickly and easily pull back the projection and take responsibility for meeting yourself in your raw and soft places. Let’s say that you endured a significant loss last holiday season and these holidays are paring you down and bringing up a soft place of grief that lives inside of you. You may find yourself getting more irritated at your partner until you soften around the grief and meet it with your own loving attention. If you keep going at light speed and become caught in the fray of mass consumerism, your grief will slink away and the projections will grow.
Other times, however, the disconnect may be more difficult to ferret out and attend to. During these times, just naming that there’s a disconnect somewhere in these three realms (self, other, relationship), can help to reel back the projection and at least say, “There’s a disconnect. I don’t know what it is. Can we hold each other anyway?” The simple yet extraordinarily powerful act of naming and holding can bring you back to yourselves and each other.
Ultimately, real attraction hinges on healthy and safe connection. When you’re connected to yourself, your partner is connected to him/herself, and you’re connected to each other, grace and beauty flow like water.
It’s important to understand that there’s a trajectory to breaking free from relationship anxiety and projections. You may enjoy months or even years of clear-seeing, open-hearted connection where you’re in a present-moment connection and the projections feel like a far-off memory. And then, often around a transition of any kind (either external or internal), you’re back in the muck of fear-seeing, focusing on your projection-du-jour. The sweet and effortless magnetic draw between you has lost its pull. You’re not attracted, and your stomach thuds with the familiar disappointment of disconnection.
What are the transitions that can wake the projection-beast from what you hoped was an eternal sleep? It can be the larger life transitions: a move, wedding, graduation, birth of a child, death of a loved one, divorce, miscarriage, new job, new career, midlife, retirement; the yearly transitions: birthdays, holidays, seasonal shifts, an anniversary date; or the smaller, everyday transitions – dusk and dawn, waking up and going to sleep, hormonal shifts.
The distinguishing factor between relationship anxiety and a healthy response to falling back into a projection is the degree to which we take full responsibility for the projection and recognize it as a symptom that something is off-kilter somewhere in the tri-lateral permutation of a relationship (within self, partner in him/herself, with each other). When we recognize that when we are in an intimate, healthfully attached relationship we are in symbiotic relationship with each other, we understand how profoundly we affect each other’s moods and well-being. Add being a highly sensitive person to the mix, and we realize how highly and sometimes painfully attuned we are to our partner’s own subtle shifts of mood. We’re obviously most drawn to our partners when they’re in their highest, most joyful selves, but this can’t always be the case. So we learn, over many years of conscious relationship practice (and it is a practice that requires years of attention before any level of mastery is attained), to recognize these shifts in mood so that we can name them for what they are without falling into the pit of anxiety and rumination.
How do we recognize these shifts? We recognize them by staying connected to ourselves. Through a daily, anchoring practice like journaling or meditating, through connecting with friends in a real and vulnerable way, through seeing a therapist weekly or every two weeks, we learn to track our inner worlds. If we’re caught in a dark cloud, it doesn’t steal us away completely because we can see it, name it, and own it. Instead of projecting the cloud onto a certain physical feature or personality trait in our partner, we can come forward with vulnerability and say, “I’m caught in a cloud. I’m not seeing straight. Can I have a hug?” Again, the naming diffuses the intensity of our own fluctuating moods. The owning keeps us from falling into projection. The request for a support keeps us connected to each other.
Moment-by-moment, minute-by-minute, day-by-day, we make the commitment to turn inward and then move toward our own soft places and find the willingness to be vulnerable with the one we love. This is how we break free. This is how we heal ourselves. This is how, from a place of more wholeness and strength, we bring our full selves and our much-needed gifts into the world.