Thursday, June 16, 2016

Projection's Projectiles and the Wounded Healer

Deerfield, Michigan

Over the years, as a pastor who counsels people (and does a lot of referring when I run up against my own limits), I have been hit with many psychological projectiles. (From my SE Michigan POV I refer people here, and here.)

For example, there is the spouse in a failing marriage who projects their anger onto me in lieu of their husband or wife. There is the child who is angry with their parent and projects their wounded feelings onto me as if I am their father. There is the person who displays irritation with me but doesn't really tell me why, and I am left wondering if I have done something to hurt them. 

In psychology this is called "projection." "Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harboring hostile thoughts." (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Projection is a defense mechanism. When a projectile is launched against me I must remember, "This anger is really not about me." Yes, this person is now expressing anger towards me, but the root of their anger is not about me.  

Hurting people sometimes hurt other people. When I get wounded by a hurting person it is an opportunity to become a  wounded healer. If I am to help a hurting person who hurts me I must forgive them, for they know not what they do. I am to transcend the situation in hopes of getting at the real, deep issues. I refuse to enter the abusive world of the angry person and operate by its language games and rules. This is a challenge, since the other person's world is deep inside them and often the only relational world they know.

It's also important not to hierarchize and act as a superior. I must remember that I have launched some projectiles of unhealed woundedness at others. Wounded healing enters into a person's pain without being manipulated by it. 


My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God is available HERE and as a Kindle book HERE