On projections

Oh, the passenger
He rides and he rides
He looks through his window
What does he see?
He sees the silent hollow sky
He see the stars come out tonight
He sees the city’s ripped backsides
He sees the winding ocean drive
And everything was made for you and me
All of it was made for you and me
‘Cause it just belongs to you and me
So let’s take a ride and see what’s mine

The Passenger, Iggy Pop

Of the many new concepts I came across while reading Jung’s work, projections is definitely one of my favourites. It is based on our inability to assimilate reality fully, an object, a person, a landscape, even an inner reality. We can understand part of it, “know” part of it, but not the whole of it. In order to have a whole mental image, we fill in the gaps by projecting from our own unconscious. Therefore, so much that we see in our outer world, and especially in other people, is there because we put it there. We paint the reality with our own unconscious, so that the world we see is “our” world.

I always liked Iggy Pop’s song, The Passenger, although I now see it in a different light. The Passenger sees things he knows are his. They are indeed, because he projected them there. The outer world is there as it is, but the way he sees it is his, only his. It is “his” world. It is there for him, laid out by him.

We project constantly. Our inability to assimilate reality in all its complexity necessarily means that the reality each of us sees is partially different and, in this way, unique. Our world. If we look carefully, we can see ourselves reflected on it. Especially in people. So often, what we see in others is our own selves. When I say that someone is “like me”, actually they are not like me, they are me. Because that which I like or dislike so much in them is myself reflected. In a way, we need to look into someone else’s eyes to truly see ourselves.

It’s only when I lose myself with someone else
That I find myself

Only when I lose myself, Depeche Mode

How much projection is there in the music we like? I guess this is why our taste changes with age. We change and, as a consequence, we change what we “see” in music, in art, in people. And I guess, too, that this is one of the ways in which our unconscious, our soul, shows herself so that we can at least see her reflection. And so does our shadow. In someone else’s art, someone else’s work, someone else’s breath-taking masterpiece… we find ourselves. A part of ourselves that comes from the inside, a part that we project. The “person” who composed Spem in Alium was probably Thomas Tallis’ soul, who used the technique his conscious mind had mastered to get this marvellous piece out from his inner world. Music that does not belong to this outer world, this conscious world. And if his music comes from his soul and communicates with mine, is it possible that we have something in common, at an unconscious level? Beyond the fact that my love for this music is a projection from my own soul, from my unconscious, is it possible that Thomas Tallis’ soul and mine find a common ground in this music?

Conscience makes possible what the unconscious imagines. Cathedrals, paintings, motets like Spem in Alium… they wouldn’t be possible without conscience and technique. In this way, conscience enables unconscious communication. Technique makes it possible for Thomas Tallis to produce this expression of his inner soul that is Spem in Alium, which endures the passing of time and is capable of “talking” to other souls in a distant future, in my present. He is dead, but his conscience was able to portray the voice of his soul in this music that now somehow speaks to mine. Or, rather, I just project my unconscious onto this music, in which I see myself somehow, and even onto this idea of souls talking through time and space.

I guess it’s the same with personal relationships. An illusion projected by each of us, just to be able to see ourselves reflected. These projections build our nest, our “home”, an external reality painted with our own inner content. As unavoidable as it is necessary. I wonder if life would be bearable if it wasn’t for projections. We would feel so lonely without them, if we were unable to see ourselves reflected in others. If we didn’t think they were “like me”. I wonder whether our species would exist without projections, whether we would find other people minimally bearable if we didn’t see ourselves in them. Illusions are the basis of personal relationships… “It is all an illusion, it’s a trick” (The Illusionist). Indeed.

I just read that Spem in Alium means… hope in any other. I guess there are no coincidences. Projections, illusions… the psychological “reality” that surrounds us, in which we wrap ourselves. So when I look around me… what do I see?