I noticed the Golden Labrador Retriever as I waited for the traffic light to change. As most Labs do, he or she was gazing up at its owner with love and a moment later that Lab had a brief look of love for my friend and me.
As the light changed, my dear friend and I walked across Pacific Avenue hand in hand. We were headed to the theatre to watch ‘Legally Blonde’. We both smiled as the Lab walked beside its owner and toward us.
Suddenly we heard the Lab’s owner say this, “You two should be ashamed!” Now I’m not unfamiliar with people’s comments of their experience of my sexuality – Lord knows I’ve had my share of ‘fag’, ‘homo’, and ‘queer’ tossed at me over the years. What surprised me was my reaction.
While doing my own work on my shadows and training as an Integrative Coach Professional™, I learned about the dynamic of ‘projection’. According to my teacher Debbie Ford and her staff at the Ford Institute for Transformational Training, projection is the involuntary transfer of our own unconscious beliefs or behaviours onto others so it appears that these qualities actually exist in other people.
I laughed out loud. The laughter was not at the man, but at the circumstance. I turned towards him as he walked across the street; he never looked back. I laughed! I actually laughed in the presence of someone inviting me to feel shame because of who I am. This was a first for me. Wow!
Debbie Ford shares this, “Projection typically means we have anxiety about our emotions or unacceptable parts of our personalities, we attribute these qualities – as a defense mechanism – to external objects or other people.” Could my friend and I, for the first time in our gay lives, have recognized someone’s projection of ‘gay’ on us? Perhaps this man was simply dumping on us something about himself he was not able to be with.
We both continued to walk and wondered out loud, “How in March of 2011 was anyone continuing to publicly denounce his or her experience of gay people?” But more importantly we instantly recognized that perhaps this man was struggling with his sexuality and tossed his own shame towards us – he simply was projecting.
I felt proud to be able to, with my friend, send this man a blessing for peace within his heart and some compassion for where he feels he needs to be. I was reminded that throughout our lives we can only see that which we are. Could it be that this man was no exception?
I know what it is like to examine what I am attracted to and not deal with what repels me. How often have I used projection as a way not to deal with my stuff, especially the stuff I was uncomfortable with?
I projected onto my family my judgment of the addictions that existed for a number of my siblings – thinking of course I didn’t have any and making it very clear that ‘theirs’ were bad and wrong.
By doing my own work and having a willingness to look underneath those projections I was able to discover that I too had an addiction. Mine was to suffering. And as long as I did not own my projections, by acknowledging them as mine, all I would get was more of my addiction. My siblings became some of my greatest teachers in my life.
As the city block spanned distance between the Lab, its owner and us, we giggled together saying, “We’re sure the dog loved us!”