Projection: evil or gift


Poet Robert Burns wrote: “Oh that would the Giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.”

But we all have that gift, whether we know it or not.

We call it projection.

A wise woman once told me: “Projection is the greatest evil.”

However, projection can be positive.

Years ago, an Australian nun came to New Zealand for a retreat. She had with her a book of reflections I had written.

On the first day of the retreat, she talked about this book. We did not journey far.

On the second morning, she was still referring to the book, and I was getting annoyed.

Then the indwelling voice I know as Jesus made a suggestion.

I asked her, “Do you write?”

She said no, she didn’t, then added that she wrote poetry as a teenager in school.

With a nudge from my inner friend, I asked her if she would like to write all her retreat reflections as poetry.

She looked animated, and that’s what she did.

Those poems were so deep and clear, they were eventually published in Australia, and went into reprint.

This religious sister re-discovered her gift and I discovered that projection is a gift that acts two ways: as attraction or repulsion.

Either way, projection is all about growth.

What do I mean by that?

Let’s look at negative projection. There is someone who irritates us, someone we put at a distance, someone we see as “wrong.”

If I release myself of the judgemental attitude, I realise that another person has tapped into my shadow.

Every gift has a shadow.

I have good discernment and the shadow side is discernment is judgemental attitudes. I have to deal with that.

I’ve always been a maternal person, but when someone tries mothering me, my feathers get ruffled.

I am nor going to change the gifts I’ve been given, but I learn to see my shadow as my teacher.

Did Jesus have to deal with his shadow?

I think so.

He would need to, in order to be fully human. He was also fully divine and living a life of huge compassion.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus very critical of people who are self-centred and not compassionate.

But near the end of his life, he did not defend himself, and he came to the fullness of divinity and humanity in his last statement: “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

At the end of life, Jesus fully understood the blindness of his persecutor’s projection.

When I was young, I was taught about “good” and “evil.”  Now I see  that as “Blessing” and “Teaching.”

Here I have dwelt on the “Teaching” side of projection because there is a lot of negative talk in the Catholic church today.

Why is this so?

Instead of seeing our shadow as a teacher, we want to project it out there on something or someone else

Why are we not writing about the radiant beauty of the church, that glorious mixture of the human and the Divine?

I don’t know.

But when I witness the bickering that goes on in parishes, I wonder how that can attract people to our beautiful Faith.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator. Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: ,