More Thoughts About Projection

Martha Lask (Philadelphia PA)

Recently, I have been thinking about “projection” as a gift we can give one another, in Authentic Movement, in our everyday lives together and in my role as consultant and “coach” in organization settings.

I can see “my projections” as a gift to another because to share my experience of another, as witness, (coach and consultant), and to own it as my experience emphasizes our differences as humans. Paradoxically, it also creates a powerful connection between us, because rich dialogue and connection becomes possible when people share their distinct perspective and experience of a particular event whether in movement or otherwise. Together we can construct meaning based on my projection and yours. We are not striving for truth and we are not interpreting. We are discussing the frames of reference that inform our assessments, examining our assumptions, and discovering how we make meaning of what we see. Through that we can learn about the different ways people see the world.

When someone shares his/her experience of me that is different then mine, another possibility may open for me. Another’s experience of my movement or story, carefully shared, is a gift. Been truly seen and attended to by another whether their experience resembles mine or not, creates a wonderful, satisfying connection.

But agreements must be in place for that connection to occur.
I. One is the notion that Aileen spoke about in her post: owning the different “parts of me”. I have been influenced by the work of John and Joyce Weir, pioneers in self development and self- differentiation, who taught what they called “percept” language: “Here is what is happening in me as I watch you…As I listen to you, I am reminded of the ….part of me. I have you be the xyz part of me”. So, in my view, in order to establish safety, we must have the agreement that we own our projections as our own experience, not an interpretation of the others’ actions.

II. Another agreement is that not everything needs to be spoken – that each of us will be mindful in speaking our experience and will choose carefully. As a listener, I must agree that what is said is said in good faith.

III. A third agreement is that we will check out responses with the other person after we speak. That is how we illuminate our differences and our commonalities. From there we make meaning together.

TEACHING THE "WITNESS STANCE IN ORGANIZATIONS" As a consultant and coach in organizations, I teach what I call the “Witness Stance” as the foundational skill within the context of team or peer coaching. First and foremost, the stance of witness is to create a compassionate non judging, non interpretive environment. But, how can we not form judgments? We constantly develop judgments to help us make sense of the world; it is the suspension of judgment of another as right or wrong, bad or good that is the gift of the witness stance. There are 2 quotes I use to help establish the environment:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there."
Rumi 13th c Sufi

"The experience of being understood versus interpreted is so compelling you can charge admission."
B. Joseph Pine II
The Experience Economy
Quoted by Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations

I also use witnessing in my individual coaching work. I have felt tremendous freedom in allowing myself to have whatever experience I have when witnessing someone. Then, what I choose to offer depends first on my role vis a vis the person, and our agreements, (facilitator is different than therapist is different than peer). As a consultant, which parts of my experience would be helpful? What are the benefits of containing and not speaking? I, myself, have learned to be much more discerning; I contain much more. At the same time, I also venture more. I am more willing to speak from my heart about my experience, which is different than offering my impressions of the other person, or what we commonly think of as feedback.

I find this subject of projection continually interesting, as I debrief interactions in my personal and professional life.

© 2008 Martha I. Lask


Aileen Crow said...

Dear Martha'

I think your writing on Projection as a Gift is extraordinary: such a fresh point of view, excellently articulated and immediately useful to me. Thank you!

Aileen Crow

Judy Funderburk said...

Hi Martha,
I too find your thoughts on projection extremely helpful. I am part of a Peer Authentic Movement group in the Greater Washington DC area and we are in continually working with our witnessing skills and trying to refine our responses to each other. Thank you for your input. Blessings, Judy Funderburk