You Need to Accept Each Other and Look for Values Without Projections
A friend of mine was living with a man who traveled regularly for work. Whenever he returned home, there was a strange disconnect in the air for a day or so. It was only after they separated that she discovered he had been having affairs on his trips away. Now her discomfort made sense. She never suspected anything at the time because she was not the kind of person to have affairs.
We assume that our intimates have the same beliefs, motivations and values that we do, and so would act the same way. Sometimes we find that is not the case. When their words and actions indicate otherwise, we change our view of them, but in general, we think they have the same motivations that we have. It is a form of projection, but of course we assume this; what other assumption would make sense?
It applies whatever your values are, good or bad. If you always return items you borrow, you’ll lend things to other people, assuming they’ll return them. If you habitually lie to make yourself look better, you won’t trust what people say.
How you understand peoples’ motives or evaluate their actions (or lack thereof) is often colored by your own projections. You tend to project both your strengths and weaknesses in this regard. Even when you know you share core values with someone, you may be going on these projected assumptions of how they would behave and what the meaning of that behavior is, based on your own method of living out those values.
A few weeks ago in one of our blogs, I shared just such an instance of projection:
I have a friend, a dear friend, who rarely reaches out to make contact or share. I mainly only hear from her if something is wrong or she needs support processing something. For years this bothered me, as I am the kind of person who stays in contact and inquires often about how friends are doing. I like to keep relationships current and to share experiences wherever possible so the interaction stays alive and vital. I shared this with her a number of times, talking about how I feel, not criticizing her. And yet her actions do not change in this regard. I came to realize that the love between my friend and me is as strong on both sides, but she is different from me and she acts differently. I accept her now for who she is, rather than wanting to make her more like me. There is clearly nothing meaningful about the difference in behavior, except that we are both unique and therefore act differently.
Recently, I stumbled over this kind of projection again in a response to the very challenging issue of those who believe strongly in people getting vaccinated, and those who do not. I know there are many reasons and differences among people in both categories, but this was with a very dear friend of mine. I do not pretend that this has resolved itself easily for me, but applying this same understanding of acceptance of someone with matching core values, even when their application of those values varies greatly from mine, has been a rich process for getting to view and understand myself better.
How you understand peoples’ motives or evaluate their actions is often colored by your projections Click To TweetIt is my strong belief that we are all connected and all responsible to each other in the deepest of ways. This colors my feelings about people getting vaccinated. I think we have an obligation to each other in this regard to do everything we can to keep each other safe and to not put those most vulnerable among us at risk. I do not say this out of fear, but out of my deepest evaluation of the facts. My friend has the same value concerning connection and responsibility to one another that I have described, and this value is at the very core of her being.
And yet, she will not get vaccinated and feels very strongly about it. She has her own truth concerning this and in trying to process what felt at first like a great disparity to me, I recognized again that out of the same values different actions can ensue, ones that even seem opposed at first viewing.
Our description of relationships that generate peace and harmony is based on having core values that match, and through that match, accepting differences and individuality. You derive that sense of shared values from a person’s words and actions. I believe it is true that you recognize value, especially shared value, on a level of truth recognition deep within yourself.
Acceptance excludes the reaction of judgment that so many of us respond with when we encounter difference in behavior. We need to be looking at the values that we hold, at what lies deeper than our projections.
If we can learn to work with this kind of understanding and use it to accept each other, we will have far richer relationships and be moving on the path toward peace, rather than the great divide so many of us have been experiencing currently.
(This blog is the result of a long discussion with Phil and some of his writing suggestions.)
Photo credit: Maude Mayes
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