Being Aware of Projection, My Own and Those of Others.
I have an almost kinesthetic awareness of projection, as if the whir of the reel wafts its mechanized whisper against my face.
The crackling of the burning light on the yielding screen reflecting and emitting a heated tabula rasa expectancy. An intentional blankness burns.
I have invited projection.
I’ve courted it, like a blank canvas that thirsts for paint, fibers awaiting instructive saturation.
A pattern first pigmented in childhood, but even then, collaborative. I think it’s always been a pattern of interrelationship, of engagement.
Nature doesn’t produce true blankness, it’s said, which paints the idea of pure parental cause-and-effect staining as perhaps a reductive illusion. Stemming more from a mechanized worldview than a holistic awareness of cooperation.
Maybe this conceals the dynamic pulse of synergy we have with our parents, leading to recrimination and a black-and-white comprehension of relationships so profoundly colored with myth, archetypal images, emotions and generational overlays.
What other child could my parents have produced, with what other stories encoded within seeking resolution? Called ancestral karma, or epigenetics, we can discern the patterns of lives lived before finding new embodiment. The idea of a pristine screen is pretty, but a narrative contrivance when we consider that “nature abhors a vacuum.”
This is not to suggest that actions cannot be hurtful or damaging, nor does it attribute equal accountability in enacted interaction between parents and children, but for me, acknowledging aspects of myself that I think innately reflect my early experiences with my parents, and now shade adult interplay, is helpful.
The mercurial adaptation that’s evoked reflexively, modifying and mirroring, was both born of necessity and was an essential component in my seed-pattern, I believe. An instinctive eye intuiting what’s needed, and the fluidity to acquiesce to unspoken demand.
Projection is a fluid medium and the ability to respond to currents deftly is an immersive skill. Like swimming, one learns by doing.
It’s impossible to sift through and find the precise delineations of environment and nature, it seems, what was called for before and after I arrived. As helpful perhaps as attempting to find the outline of a wave while in the sea.
A mother who saw a conduit to self, and a father who saw a conduit to mother, it’s easy to be reductive in retrospect. I don’t say this with castigation so much as a desire to be concise. The complex interplay of family dynamics cannot be summed up by one perspective succinctly and fully, but I think there’s truth there.
I don’t say this with resentment, nor do I delude myself into thinking I possess absolute clarity.
The ability to view our parents with compassion is, I’ve learned, related to viewing oneself with compassion.
Liz Greene, whose work I’ve found essential in this endeavor, has said, “As he develops compassion for his own darkness, moreover, he will begin to feel compassion for the darkness of his parents. They will emerge as human beings… Thus the child gives birth to the parent; and at the same time, becomes aware of the deeper energy which stands behind the parental figure and constitutes his own true source. By freeing ourselves, we free our parents.”
For me, the invitation is to see a motherhood conflicting with an autonomous desire for self-possession. A sense of individuality confounded and confused by the boundary-less merging of identity and progeny.
To view a reluctant fatherhood eliciting envy and suspicion, the child seen as an interloper usurping the love felt from a nurturing, healing woman, perhaps further intensified by his own mother lost early in his childhood.
Projection, it seems, is a family affair.
And what strange magic it is, the ability to perceive, to encourage, to provoke aspects within someone else’s unconscious material. To breathe new life into the cells of the shadow, to awaken what evades the conscious mind in another.
It may be an unconscious dance between two people, moves caught in the swoon of the unknown. Motions avoiding the spotlight surveillance of both party’s egos, gliding past the jealous arcs of light cast by their minds, rendering both graceful fugitives of the known, daylight realm of personal awareness.
Dancing is my favorite thing to do.
This kind of dancing can be dangerous, treading in spaces dictated by instinct and not preconception leads one to new realms of movement hidden from the choreographed world of the ego. Such exploration is not without risks.
One person unknowingly invoking the repressed, the unexamined, the potent in another can be combustible.
In my mid-twenties, I swam at night in the Mediterranean, off the Israeli coast. I was later told that I had swum in an area inhabited by sharks and littered with undetonated rockets.
My life has been so obviously symbolic, you can’t miss an era’s theme.
I didn’t attract gay men, I’m sure there are many reasons why, and some of them I think I know. I’ve never been drawn to gay culture, it’s always seemed like an abnegation of shamanic potential to me.
I like to see the borders melt. There’s something liminal about me, edging past the known with a gamine glint, the eyes I caught belonged to men who didn’t identify as gay, and usually hadn’t been with another man yet.
The type of protean prettiness I had in my youth inspired more of a schoolboy crush. An androgynous face, lush from biracial blending and often lost in a boyish laugh or smug, petulant pucker. I was the over-long locker-room glance, the night at summer camp, the weekend at the lake.
It was somehow unique to me, but never really about me. The images projected onto me coalesced and merged over me, lilting and flickering I let my face be a screen, a puerile pageboy’s upon which one could write and deliver their own notes to self.
Looking back, it seems there was more than just a beguiling bareness, something both intrinsic in me and projected onto me, personas I let flutter about my demeanor in passing possession.
As Liz Greene said, “… and where there is personal vacuum, the archetypes will flood in.”
And boy, did they ever. The Puer, youthful, playful, pouting, always lithe and game, and like any instrument both being played and playing, proudly.
The Puer is considered the Peter Pan archetype, an eternal youth perpetually evading the heaviness of adult constraint and responsibility. Though I’m speaking of the past, it takes very little to send me on an escapist jaunt to mermaid lagoon.
Other archetypes though were less obvious, and less known to me. More entwined origins and deeper waters than any technicolor tidepool. The Mother, both nurturing and withholding, I see her summoned in my interactions with men quite frequently, the consoler, the healing salve-bringer and the suddenly frigid face of disapproval or apathy, more chill a depth than any juvenile jaunt might find you.
She has been such a powerful figure that it’s no wonder I found more vibrational consonance with men who desire women, I see now her power to intensify mere youthful experimentation, imbuing these assignations with a deeper pull.
The Oceanic Feminine may be relegated to an isolated inlet in the land of boyhood fancy, but her true dominion pulls one away from the rocky outcrops and into the swell of infinity.
These archetypes belong to a triad — a family, if you will — with a completing and competing member. The Father, the disciplinarian, the provider of structure and enactor of exacting materiality. The one who plans, and the one who punishes, not in the amorphous way of The Mother, where the environment is plunged into the dark and frozen, but in a thundering, overt way, the dictator.
He crashes in when there’s been injustice, when any facet feels wronged, though each archetype seems to need mediation for integration, though they each vie for ascendancy in various moments, The Father is finality.
He comes in with restriction, Old Testament testy.
This is an energy that hints at the greater, more numinous pool these personas are pulled from, because this paternal power is pure projection.
This is not energy that I experienced in the family home from my own father, but certainly came across and battled in the external world of societal imposition. In the arbitrary, the imperious, the presumptuous world of male power unknown in my early years steeped in Jewish matriarchy.
Perhaps the bloated hallucination of what I considered male authority, male Will To Power, I see him in no personal figure in my life. If what I witnessed in early life was in mythic strokes the male sacrificial fertility god yielding to lunar female sway, this was the biblical boast, pulled from the collective to occupy the space of male authority.
This is not an energy that I relate to, it’s actually something that inspires rebellion and aggressive retaliation in me, particularly when enacted with clumsy, entitled audaciousness. Nevertheless, his roaring resolution boomed through the space when I’d been wronged, they’d never hear from us again!
Thinking of past interactions with men experimenting with me (a reactive substance) and then trying to appease the glacial witch or the tyrant on a tirade, I’m struck by how much it just Wasn’t About Me.
Really quite shocking for someone so vain!
These early experiences were reflections, mired in mirrors, they simply danced along the surface and pulled wantonly from the unconscious.
The intensity of these relationships were about my deft ability to undulate along the surface, find the rhythm of the current and float above lurking dangers, the unexploded missiles of others and the carnivorous predators hunting in the Stygian depths of my own motherland.
These days, I try to be aware of projection, my own and those of others. To be less Whoever You Want Me To Be, and more my own flawed, critical, fumbling and comically self-involved self.
To have patience and compassion for myself.
To be honest in my self-assessment without wielding my vulnerability like a beacon of harmless relatability that deflects aggressive projectiles and leaves my own sharp-toothed primitivism in unexplored unconscious depths.
It is, thankfully, a work in progress, and one I’m committed to while I’m alive.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500 hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.