Have you ever had one of those experiences where you’re talking about something with someone and suddenly your wires get crossed in communication? The moment that I’m referring to is when we think one thing is happening, when in reality, something altogether different is occurring. This can be a confusing moment because it can evoke something deeply unconscious in us that has not become conscious.

I had a moment a couple of years ago when someone was communicating that what I was suggesting to another person may not be safe for them. It was a pretty simple statement made without judgment. Suddenly my body is having a visceral reaction to what they said – my hands became sweaty, my body became hot, my ability to become present waned. My thoughts became panicked, “I need to leave now. I need to just quit working with these people and go do my own thing. How do I get out of this room?”

I left that interaction with a variety of feelings and thoughts, “How dare they say that I’m unsafe! Why would they say that?”. I felt completely rejected.

It took me some time to realize what had actually occurred. In a dream that night, I dreamt of an event that happened to me 15 years prior in which a situation occurred where I literally was being told that I wasn’t a safe person. In that particular moment, 15 years ago, I did have a panic attack with very similar thoughts and feelings. What happened to me then was suddenly being relived in my body now.

Somehow this very unconscious, unresolved experience was being remembered in my body and being projected onto the current situation. Fortunately, I knew that what I was experiencing was completely out of proportion to the situation that was occurring now, but in another day and time I may have ended that relationship due to what happened.

It’s likely that we all have projected parts of our experiences onto others and likely we’ve been projected onto. It’s can be a very unpleasant experience if you don’t know what’s happening in the moment.

In an attempt to repair this experience, it’s imperative that we learn to differentiate between ourselves and others. Sometimes differentiating between ourselves and others can be hard to do – especially if we’re used to having a knee-jerk reaction in the moment to what’s happening.

A few questions can be asked to understand the moment at hand:

Who’s emotional stuff did we just step into?

Where are we misunderstanding each other right now?

Is this a combination of both of our emotional stuff showing up?

How did I perhaps come across when I said what I said?

Did we trigger each other in some differing ways?

Once you slow down and make sense of the moment, it can be much easier to hear the other person or to feel heard yourself. This is actually a great moment to enter into repair by understanding one another better and how to meet each other in a better space next time. It can also be a way for you to make peace with yourself and to understand that some areas are particularly sensitive for whatever reason. It can be a way to be kinder to yourself as you understand what you’re reacting to.

How has projection shown up for you at various times?

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