I couldn’t really think of an intro for what I want to say, so I’ll just start with writing a letter to you, all my closest internet friends.
I’ve been working on some of my Stuff With Men with my therapist, just trying to unravel the patterns, the fear, the trepidation, the desire, and everything else. So that’s led us to a discussion about projections.
Projecting, as I understand it, is the idea that everything we notice about others is somehow present within us, whether we realize that or not.
It’s like reading any language that uses the same letters as we do in English. You could probably muddle your way through Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, and maybe Welsh and Gaelic just by virtue of the fact that the alphabets share a lot of the same characters. By contrast, if your native language is English, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, and Arabic look completely foreign to you and you probably wouldn’t know where to begin reading them.
So the fact that I notice that a woman has beautiful hair means I MUST have noticed it at one point within myself. Otherwise I’d have no frame of reference to make that observation. Same with someone having a perfect body, or great muscles, or excellent eating habits. Even if I only observed it in myself for a moment, I still have to have a personal experience with that thing, or at least the quality of that thing, in order to see it in others.
This, in my experience, manifests differently with different genders. Keep in mind that I am a straight woman, so your mileage may vary based on your gender and sexual orientation. Or maybe it won’t. But I’m not intentionally excluding anyone, just describing my experience.
I sometimes, when I notice a quality in a woman, snap into comparison mode. I have some sort of hierarchy in my head, and I immediately try to figure out my place in it compared to this new person. Is she in a relationship where I’m not? Oh, not only is she in a relationship, she’s dating a doctor. She weighs less than I, but I can deadlift more than she can. She’s got a smaller waist but I’ve got bigger boobs. My hair looks healthier, but hers is a natural red and I’m fake. She’s got a Masters Degree? I only have a Bachelors.
With men it’s slightly different. I’m not directly in comparison with them, so that’s one thing. But men are also inherently foreign to me. Even if I have a lot of male family members, friends, coworkers, and clients, I do not have personal experience BEING a man. So a lot of times the things I notice about men are not necessarily things I’ve consciously noticed about myself. Since they’re so foreign, I project foreign parts of myself onto men.
I think this is why the line “You complete me” gained so much traction. Sometimes the opposite sex is foreign enough that they provide the yin to the yang. You unconsciously project parts of yourself onto your partner, and it’s the only way that quality of yourself sees the light. That’s compelling, and of course you’d be drawn to that.
None of this is wrong. It’s all really understandable and natural. But it means that you look to external forces to find your power and completeness. You may need to put other people down, or you may depend on someone else to complete you. In the context of relationships, sometimes you’re putting a lot of projections on some poor sap that just can’t live up to it. And then they disappoint you.
If you can reclaim these qualities for yourself, it clears up the lens through which you see others. You’re not looking at them through the lens of a projection; you’re seeing them clearly for Who They Are, firm in the knowledge of Who You Are.
I like this reframing. Maybe I just like making it All About Me, but it’s kind of exciting to make all the qualities I admire in other accessible. It’s exciting to realize that all the human potential I love about the world exists within me. It’s heart opening to own the fact that what I despise in others exists within me; it changes my capacity for empathy.
And the owning of all these qualities changes how I feel about relationships. If people aren’t necessary to complete me, what are relationships for? How does that change how I relate to my loved ones and my hated ones? How does it change what I want?
If you like this idea, you can play too. Make a list or a pinterest board of Your Ideal Mate. Or Your Ideal Self. start to figure out the qualities you want, what you’re drawn to, what you don’t want. And just start asking yourself where it’s true within yourself. How is this quality yours? How would you like it to be yours? What qualities do you want but don’t think you have? Is it possible that you have experienced it? If you haven’t experienced it consciously, what do you think it would be like? How does it make you feel to claim this quality? Do you still want it?
So many qualities, so much potential.