Facilitator Journal | Issue #0504, September 6, 2011
During our twice yearly offering of the Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration Workshop it's always exciting to watch each new group of facilitators unfold as a high-functioning team. While many beautiful insights and opportunities emerge, there is one I want to speak about in this issue as I believe it's a topic that deserves discussion. That is, the concept of psychological projection, which we explore in this week's article, What Are You Projecting?
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What Are You Projecting?
Know the common signs of projection and how to address it.
Self Mastery Skill
This week I want to talk about the concept of psychological projection.
According to Wikipedia,
Projection is defined as: the unconscious act of denial of a person's own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, the government, a tool, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings.
This is a topic I've not heard discussed very much in the facilitation arena and one that if better understood, might resolve many of the issues we face. Not to mention the issues that separate various ethnic groups, religious groups, and nations around the world. Perhaps this topic isn't brought up so much because it's so hard to swallow that our own minds could be the source of so much we dislike in the world. And especially difficult when we're actually in the throws of projection.
So let me give you an example of what I mean. Let's suppose you encounter a participant in your group, we'll call her Jill, who frequently complains of being overrun in groups, especially by men.
Over time you notice that while she can be a very outspoken and insightful leader, at times she retreats and withdraws from the group. One day she makes a comment about feeling beat down and overruled by dominating males in groups and that while she very much wants to stop this pattern, she doesn't know what to do about it.
Upon further observation, it seems to you that Jill is actually beating herself down. While at times she's clearly demonstrated her ability to project masculine power, at others, it's like that power gets turned inward and she shuts herself down. So while it appears to her that men are shutting her down, she is actually shutting herself down and projecting the cause on men.
How do we recognize and work with projection in groups?
1. I'm upset because. Whenever someone points to an outside source causing them to be upset, you can almost always be assured that projection is in play.
2. Introduce a pattern interrupt. When someone is triggered and begins running a projection, it's like they are running on automatic. Do something to interrupt their pattern. Encourage them to take a break, slow down, and breathe.
3. Look for new interpretations. When projecting, we mistake judgments for facts.
For example, "Men always shut down powerful women!" Or, "You can't trust the government." Or, "My people just don't take responsibility."
In these cases, suggest that there may be more forces at work than we can see. Ask them to be specific about the outcomes they see and to explore alternative causes for them. Encourage them to ask the group for help seeing other perspectives.
Encourage ownership. Projections exist because at some point we found the necessity to repress some behavior or ability.
Note that the following intervention goes a bit deep on the intrapersonal level and may be inappropriate depending on the scope and context of the work in which the group is engaged. If it is appropriate and the participant has given you permission to work with them, ask them if they're willing to look at shifting their inner views around this issue as a possibility of gaining control over it.
If they agree, ask them to consider how their outer experience may be a metaphor reflecting something about their own inner relationship with them self. For example: "When you check inside, is there some way in which you find this pattern going on in:
a) your relationship with the person or situation you are referring to?
b) your relationship with yourself?
These are questions that might also be explored through independent journaling with later followup.
Add Your Comments
Special Offer. Purchase any product on our site this week and receive a free copy of a 20 question Facilitator's Shadow Self-Assessement.
Are there projections you're running that you'd like to stop? Please click on the Add Your Comments link above and share your thoughts, stories, and experiences around this topic. I'd love to hear from you! Just click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic.
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