We are not only projecting our feelings or energies on others, like when somebody is angry, rejects the anger, and perceives others as angry. We project a whole world. We assume that the world is like this or that, we assume what is possible in this world and what not. We have projections about what is real and what not. And a big part of these projections comes from the time of our arriving in this world, birth and the time right after birth. These moments which are called imprint period, where it is set whether we perceive the world as safe, dangerous, indifferent, welcoming.
An obvious example for projection is when we dream. You lie in bed safely, and you have a dream about something exciting. Your heart beats faster, you breath faster and deeper, your whole body goes into the mode of action. The outer „reality“ is that you lie safely in bed, resting. But your body is responding to the projections in your dreams. Your unconscious projects the whole film. And even when you wake up, it can take quite some time till one manages to get out of the dream reality fully and come back to „real“ environment.
Another strong example of this projection mechanism is death. There is a whole swarm of projections. Of course we know logically that we will die one day. But we have a big investment into postponement, projecting death into the far future, projecting a future which we don´t know whether it will be there for us. In other moments when you get sick, you might „see“ yourself in the hospital, having a serious sickness eventually even dying. People tend to project their biggest fears on death, turning death into a dreadful thing to come. We paint an all frightening picture of death on the wall, and then we become afraid of the picture we have painted, forgetting that it was us who painted that picture.
In other moments we paint a pink world, typically in honeymoon, that from now on everything simply will be wonderful. And then we feel deeply disappointed and betrayed if things develop differently.
„Projection“ is a beautiful word, it means I create an image and put it somewhere, like the video beamer projecting a film on the screen. As long as I know that I am projecting this film all is ok. But quite often we project a film and are totally unaware that it is us who project this film.
In Meditation we can see this. I remember so well, in my first Vipassana retreat, it was on the 6th or 7th day, I started to have so much physical pain. Everything screamed inside of me, you have to jump up and run, move, otherwise you will die. The pressure was unbearable. I don´t know what made it possible not to listen to this pressure, but I stayed sitting. And something unbelievable happened. I didn´t move, but in the next moment all tension was gone, and there was peace. This was the moment, where I saw the power of projections.
Or to say it in different words, when you wake up from a dream, you know it was a dream. And the most simple and obvious tool for finding out whether something is a projection or not is to talk with people. Share your perceptions, the way you feel, and listen to what the others are sharing. Things do get more clear, and life less complicated.