The Other

peter-pan-other copy

The Other

Don’t you think it is interesting that with humans most of our perceived problems are with the other? We don’t own it as a problem with ourselves, or the way we naturally are, but, rather, the problem is located elsewhere. These problems fall into several categories:

Present, but Deficient

The one we are with is present, but is deficient in myriad ways. Our feelings range from irritation, frustration, bitterness or exasperation with the other. Sometimes the other is perceived as not sufficiently present or overly absent – whether physically or emotionally.

The Other is the Problem to be Eliminated

Very often the other is framed as the problem to be rid of. We fantasize that if we could just eliminate the other, our problems would be solved. This other, whether it is someone in the personal world, or someone on the world stage, constellates all our unacknowledged shadow issues and becomes the convenient scapegoat. If only we could just get rid of that person – whether it be bin Laden, Harper, Nixon, Bush, Ford, Assad, Obama, Stephan Dion or Saddam Hussein! We tell ourselves that we will feel better, vastly relieved, if this problem can be somehow eliminated. If successful, there is a moment of respite in which we don’t have to face these shadow elements in ourselves.

In the story of Peter Pan Captain Hook personifies the evil archetype on whom we ‘hook’ all our fears and hatred. This is not to say that Captain Hook or any of his stand-ins are blameless or innocent of crimes. In fact, they have to be ‘sticky enough’ in their badness to carry our negative projections. The real problem is that we when we locate the problem elsewhere, we tend not to face up to our part in the problem, and so there is no movement towards resolution of the dilemma.

The Longing for the Beloved

In certain more conscious individuals, there is the recognition that the longing for the other is the longing to return Home. There is an awareness that the deep-seated soul longing is the longing for the other on a spiritual dimension. This is the problem of individuation that Jung addresses. The inner marriage is the coming into partnership with the deep soul urgings. It becomes a journey dedicated to fulfilling soul purpose and being at one with the Beloved. There is the recognition that there is no other way.


In many marriages, the most insidious of these problems is the first one – the problem of present, but deficient. When we first fall in love, we hope and long for that partner that will complete us. We project that hope and fantasy onto the other, and as long as our partner is able to carry that ‘projection’, we glory in that rose-colored world of the honeymoon phase. Gradually – fortunately or unfortunately – the wear and tear of the daily grind chips away at the glorious projection, until it completely falls away.

This is often a difficult period, filled with feelings of sadness, bitterness, disappointment, and disillusionment. Many marriages founder at this point. ‘He/she is not who I though he/she was!’ This is the common refrain. And the only logical answer is, ‘No, and whose fault is that?’ However, there is no point voicing a logical response because we are dealing with deep-seated emotions, and they are NEVER rational.

Somehow, humans need relationships to evolve. Being in relationship, or simply longing for one, or for the Beloved, or for something ELSE, forces us to confront ourselves, to go within, to question and explore the dark edges we would rather not admit to. The relationship – with the other or with the Beloved – becomes the container, or in alchemical terms, the crucible. It is there that we cook, we burn, abort or transform.

In the marriage we have to give up the idea the notion that the other can fix or improve our lives in some way. Many people who leave their marriages when the honeymoon phase is over, simply go out and recreate the same dysfunctional pattern with the next partner. We have all seen that in ‘other people’ right? It’s too bad we can’t see it in ourselves.

Once in a while we get a glimpse and have the opportunity to face up to and integrate our difficult parts. Remember Wendy and Peter Pan? Remember Wendy trying to stitch Peter Pan’s shadow back on? It is an ironic and bittersweet twist in this modern myth of the eternal boy or girl who doesn’t want to grow up. Growing into mature adulthood requires that we face our own shadowy issues and take responsibility for our deficiencies and how we wound others, whether intentionally or inadvertently. There is no easy way to stitch our shadow back on after disowning it. And if you want to keep flying off to Never Never Land then you are not ready for the heavy, grounding work of individuation.

Of course we all want to escape to Never Never Land at some point in our lives. There is nothing wrong with wanting that, but we also need to recognize the infantile nature of that desire. Naturally, all the Lost Boys want to go home. But the way Home is the work of fully grown, deeply mature men and women. This work is not for the faint of heart, and the journey is long and fraught with hardship, but also many joys.

See Rumi’s poem to the Beloved, set to music by the fabulous Kharaindrou:

Projection: The Bitter Pill of Psychology And why it matters.

Projection: The Bitter Pill of Psychology
And why it matters

Although a great deal has been said about the nature of projection in the current discourse of pop psychology, it is nevertheless a concept that seems to cause a lot of confusion. The idea behind it is that things, people and events that we are interested in carry meaning, feeling or energy to the degree that some of our essential psychic content is projected onto it.[1]

To try to paraphrase Jung on this complicated subject – an empathizing individual wants to feel his or her own life in the object, and by an unconscious fantasy either devalues or depotentiates the object or enhances its value or importance. In this way the individual gains a feeling of control over the object.

A person with a strong thinking function can find him or herself in a frightening situation that seeks to overpower them. Their response is to think up strategies and rationalizations that allow them to hold their own in the face of an overwhelming reality that threatens to smother them. They retreat mistrustfully and ‘build up a protective anti-world composed of abstractions’. Abstraction, (a strong thinking function) according to Jung, seems to be a function that is at war with the original state of mystical identification of our early ancestors. In contrast, the individual with the empathic attitude lives in ‘in a world that needs his subjective feeling to give it life and soul.’ He or she gains power over the object by projecting values onto it.

One of the most startling examples of the nature and reality of projection is in the work of the Japanese photographer, Dr. Masaru Emoto. Dr. Emoto’s work demonstrates that when we project energy onto an object – in this case water – it has a direct effect. The water crystals are extremely responsive to the energy and will change in shape and quality depending on the nature of the projection. Given that our bodies are approximately 70% water, this might serve as a wake-up call to monitoring your own emotional state. It is clear from Emoto’s work that our negative thoughts and emotions have a direct impact on our physical being, and when we project those negative thoughts on others we are having a destructive influence on the world around us.

It should also alert us to the awareness of the reality of projections. Fundamentally, there is no objective reality that we can all agree on. In other words, there is no there, there. This was articulated by Heisenberg in his Uncertainty-Principle:

There is no objective reality in the world of interpersonal relations either. We can only see the object or the person through our own particular filters. If your filter is clouded with anger and resentment, what do you think you will tend to see? And not only that, the energy you project onto the object will start to change it to be in accordance with what you are projecting! We live in a sea of energy, but until we start to take responsibility for the reality we are generating, we will flop around like victims in a sea of unseen force-fields.

In terms of our relationships with others, our positive projections on others are rarely troublesome until, with a familiarity that often comes with the passage of time, the object or our affection or admiration begins to lose its glow. Without consciousness this can lead to disappointment and disenchantment.

Generally speaking, the negative projections are the most difficult to deal with because we unconsciously transfer our own difficult shadow material onto the other. When we begin to appreciate that what we see and judge as being out there begins in large degree within us, we can start to realize when we are assigning blame or fault to the ‘other’. If we can withdraw the projection and begin to acknowledge that the shadow material is also in us (note, I do not say solely) then we have a chance to change how we see things and to potentially change the outcome. That which angers us most in other people is most often an unmet aspect of ourselves. This is the bitter pill of projection and why it matters.

[1] [Jung, Psychological Types]