In the last blog I said we’d talk about how to avoid absorbing the projections of others. We saw there that children—who desperately need their parents—are susceptible, indeed, very vulnerable to the projections of their parents. So much so, in fact, that they have a hard time not identifying with their parent’s projections. These become introjections—absorbed projections—with which a child begins to define him or herself.
But as adults we can begin the process of sorting through these introjections and realizing the affective distinctions between them and the more authentic aspects of who we actually are. In order to do this, we must first come to realize that we are dealing with identity issues.
This doesn’t mean that we are lost, or that we don’t know ourselves. We actually do know ourselves—even parts of our authentic selves. But we also know the introjections with which we have identified. And it is those that we tend to live out, until they make us so miserable that we start considering other options.
Even then, however, most of us think that we just have “issues.” We don’t realize that the voices in our own heads are the introjections absorbed almost as a hypnotic trance from our earliest environments and our caregivers. Some call these “old tapes.” But more than anything else these “tapes” inform us of who we are. Are we good, bad, both? Are we smart, “dumb,” “stupid,” “lame”? Are we “fat,” “skinny,” ugly, pretty? Are we compassionate, cold, indifferent? Where do we get these ideas about ourselves?
More often than not they are the introjections that define us. But there are other voices, other feelings, other thoughts, even other beliefs. And it is these that can create an argument against the introjections. In fact, these other aspects have already begun to argue with the introjections. We begin to feel uncomfortable in some kind of way with our own behavior, thoughts, emotions or beliefs. And this discomfort is some other aspect of who we are—perhaps it is even the authentic self.
How do we know which? Things that come from the authentic self—while sometimes uncomfortable, also give us peace when we listen and accommodate the wishes of that aspect. For example, if I’m someone who has always felt guilty and responsible for others, I might begin to feel resentment even as I’m feeling guilty. I’m uncomfortable with that resentment because it isn’t “nice” or “good”—the identity I’m striving for. But if I begin to see that the resentment is actually telling me that I’m doing things out of guilt and a false sense of responsibility that I don’t really have the compassion to accomodate, or even the desire—then I might allow it to have a say. I might even allow it to help me choose to stop obeying the guilt as if it were the only right thing to do. Then I feel peaceful, and that peace is affective evidence that I’ve touched the hem of the garment of my own authentic self.
This is why we must call this blog Traversing the Inner Terrain—because the journey to authenticity is an inside job. It requires that we become very, very familiar with that terrain. It requires that we learn to sort out the fine distinctions between what is and what is not authentic within us.
At such a point, we stop asking what is right—an external construct—and we start asking what is real. All healing comes from that question. Why? Because most of our wounds have to do with accepting as fact the introjections we’ve absorbed from other’s projections.