As we move through the world trying to be happier, healthier, more peaceful people, the number one skill we need to develop is self-awareness. We’ve all heard people say, “Awareness is the first step” and it’s true. How else can we make changes and grow in our lives if we don’t first recognize an unhelpful pattern, belief, or reaction? So what do we do when–in peering inside ourselves–we find we can’t tell the difference between those old patterns/reactions and our Truth?
When you feel nervous getting on an airplane, how do you know if it’s because you have flight anxiety or you’re having some kind of premonition? How do you understand your nervousness after a second date when you don’t feel as excited as you think you “should” feel despite the fact that he or she seems really great?
The longer I do this work, the more I understand that the answer lies below our necks.
Let’s call the unhelpful thoughts and uncomfortable feelings “Projection.” During projection we’re too uncomfortable experiencing the fear at the root of our experience so we blame it on something external. Usually when we’re projecting we’re not very present. We don’t have a lot of awareness of our whole embodied experience. We’re like Talking Heads–only taking in a small percentage of information from the moment. Let me give an example:
Just today I got a call from the head of my son’s childcare center. She wanted to let me know that the stye in my son’s left eye was looking more red than before and she thought I might want to take him to the doctor. I explained that we’d been in touch with his doctor and were told that it would go away by itself with the treatment we were using and she was pleasant as we said goodbye. When I hung up the phone I felt icky and uncomfortable. I was thinking that she felt I wasn’t being a very good parent for not bringing my son to the doctor despite the fact that she’d said no such thing.
In the moment I hung up the phone I was stuck in my head with my projections bouncing around off the sides of my skull. Was that just me being paranoid or did I sense that she was judging me?
Projection might feel like distaste, revulsion, or anxiety. But, then again, intuition might come with those feelings too!
The key to getting more clear on if what you’re experiencing is projection or intuition is getting quiet, going internal, relaxing, soothing yourself, and getting in touch with the felt sense of your experience.
For me, in the example above, this is what I did:
I became aware of my discomfort after a minute or two…for the first couple minutes I’d just been self-consciously uncomfortable but I had a thought “Why do I feel so icky about that conversation?” I took a breath and brought my awareness more fully into my body and I found a subtle feeling of fear. As I stayed with that I realized that it felt much more true that I was nervous about my son’s eye and about possibly being judged than that there was anything really wrong or that I actually had been judged.
This isn’t always easy or clear.
It’s a practice to get to know your own knowing. As Madeleine L’Engle wrote in A Wrinkle in Time, “Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.”
Sometimes we need to gather more experiences or information. But we need to live into those experiences and information with our whole selves.
Intuition has a rooted foundation that exists under the static of projection.
Practice getting to that root.