Taming Our Demons
Carl Jung said, "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding about ourselves." Most of us know the power of projections. Whatever inner force, emotion, or energy we have not acknowledged, becomes a kind of demon. I mean a demon in the experiential sense - it becomes problematic for us. These emotions that we disavow are the same ones we project onto others.
What character traits in others are the most irritating for you? What causes you to respond in a negative way?
The mechanisms of suppression and denial can be so well repressed that we might not even notice them in ourselves; but what we suppress we tend to project onto other people, the world, or even God.
Do you find it difficult to acknowledge when envy, blame, jealousy, fear, or anger exist in you? One of the ways that we can find the emotions that are the hardest for us to deal with is in looking for what about others triggers us. These are typically going to mirror our own traits that we don’t want to acknowledge.
We often project onto others what we can’t acknowledge in ourselves. In order to grow we have to acknowledge our entire experience - even the parts that are uncomfortable.
What we deny actually owns us. You may notice that your personality traits you want to change the most, that you condemn or judge the most, are the very parts of yourself that don’t seem to transform or change. This is because when we condemn and resist these parts, we are actually causing them to just continue operating in a dysfunctional way. When there is blame, resistance, or projection, we go into reaction mode. What we accept doesn’t have quite as tight a grip on us.
Try this exercise: Allow yourself to find that emotion or experience within yourself that you really find difficult to deal with in others. Which personality characteristic in others makes you bristle the most? Reflect upon how this personality trait operates in your own life. How much energy goes into projecting it onto others? Find the way it exists inside yourself. What happens when you allow that truth in?
First, admit it’s there, then let your body feel the very thing you have resisted. Without trying to fix it or judge it. Just experience it. We’re not going to get rid of these - we don’t get to exclude anything - we let it find its natural state of equilibrium.
By allowing your body to experience emotions you’ll often find that there is a hidden dimension that is valuable. Let’s use anger as an example. If you are uncomfortable with feeling angry, or judge yourself or others for being angry - without resisting, without projecting it, or acting on it in an angry way - you can find that the flip side of anger (not the opposite) is often clarity. By just experiencing it physically and exploring it, you’ll see that there is an understanding behind the anger - a vivid discrimination that can be revealing. This takes patience - it’s experientially based, not intellectually based. The more you explore it, the more you can integrate it in a healthy way. The more you disown it the more it controls you.
In time you’ll start to experience that any emotional quality doesn’t have to disturb you, but can be explored with curiosity. The next time you observe one of these difficult emotions, give yourself some time - welcome it as a feeling. As energy. As emotion. As experience.
Any energy that we deny becomes our inner tormentor. So our goal isn’t to get rid of these, but to embrace them. Only then will they no longer feel like demons, but rather just part of the spectrum of what it is to be human.
As you can own your projections, instead of feeling more upset, you will feel more whole. No matter how difficult they are to acknowledge, it feels much more peaceful than trying to run away from them. This is how we tame our demons.
"If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections,
then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow.
Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts.
He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say
that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against…
Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and
if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world.
He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic,
unsolved social problems of our day."
--Carl Gustav Jung
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I write about human behavior, meditation, body awareness, and a variety of other things that pique my interest.