Is It Love or Is It Projection?

RequiebroBy Rebeca Eigen

There is something magical about the experience of “falling in love.” Psychologically it is their feeling function that gets activated when two lovers first meet. Emotions burst forth and sparks fly that ignite a passion and an unmistakable bliss. When you are with that person, you are “in heaven,” so to speak. And when you are away from them, you are longing for the next encounter. As the song says, “Suddenly life has new meaning to me,” and they are transported into the realms of the Gods (the archetypes). In our Western culture, our movies provide us plenty of examples of this experience — so much so that we all yearn for it.

We mistakenly call this love, and many find themselves searching for their other half, their “soul mate.” We believe that this is what will complete us and that this magic is what we feel to truly value another person. As you will see when you understand the nature of the “Anima” and “Animus,” this is only the beginning of an encounter with our unconscious.

It’s interesting that the word “soul” also means psyche. In the psychology of Dr. Carl G. Jung, he explains this phenomenon of projecting our Anima and Animus (the contrasexual soul images in our unconscious) onto each other. The psyche seeks wholeness, and a union of our inner opposites is what Jung called the process of individuation. When projection occurs, this process has begun as these contrasexual images are now out in the open. We will learn a lot about ourselves by the people we either extremely love or hate.

Often we will fall in love and get involved in some very unsuitable, destructive and soul-destroying relationships, but these, too, are showing us aspects of our shadow. In order to grow and be a whole person, we need to become aware of what is really happening. When someone is “into us”, we need to ask ourselves, “Is it love or is it just projection?” Two people won’t know until time gives them a chance to see who each other actually is — and this requires self-honesty and self-disclosure.

There is no other way to see these parts of us, so it’s inevitable that they will be projected. The intoxication and the intensity of the experience are clues that we are into a projection. Ordinary human beings do not evoke the instant passion that “love at first sight” evokes.

The Anima and Animus

A woman carries an image of her male counterpart that Jung called the “Animus.” This unconscious inner male is her God (soul) image that gets projected onto a man in the outer world. As inner and outer create a mirroring effect, she will know a lot about what shape her inner partner is in by the person upon whom the projection lands. The clue to knowing a projection has occurred is the feeling of intense fascination or obsession with a man whom she will feel is her ideal mate.

A man faces a similar dilemma. When a man projects his perfect God (soul) image onto a woman, she becomes the carrier of his “Anima.” His Anima acts as a muse to bridge the gap between his inner and outer worlds. She animates him from within.

When this happens to both people at the same time, we call this “falling in love.” They definitely fall. They fall into their own unconscious image as each projects part of himself or herself onto the other person evoking a feeling of fantasy and Eros. The erotic and sexual nature of the encounter is psychologically symbolic. It is each one wanting to merge with or penetrate into themselves.

As time goes on, it is inevitable that projections are going to fall off. They actually have to so that we can see who the other person actually is and relate to a real person instead of a God or Goddess (a symbiotic extension of oneself). When relationships reach this stage of familiarity, many people addicted to this kind of high start looking outside their primary marriage or partnership. Many relationships end and the alchemical process begins all over again with someone else. Some go on to marry the person with whom they feel they are “in love with,” and later become disillusioned when they realize that they have married a person who is not who they thought they were.

On the other hand, if they are both committed to their relationship, growing and becoming conscious, when the projections dissolve, there is an opportunity that arrives for both people. They can now discover and embrace their missing halves. This is not an easy task as it takes work and often involves a painful encounter with the Self. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, Jung says that an experience with the Self is always a defeat for the ego but that the death of the ego (the Self as you knew it) allows one to be reborn into one’s own wholeness as projections are taken back.

In taking back our projections, we can now see and accept our partners for who they are — not what we wanted them to be; not what we wish they would change into; not for what they can give us; but who they are. The love that can now grow between them is profound because it is REAL. Real love, unlike projection, is a willingness to see and support another person to be their own unique, separate self. This will untangle us from seeking in them the perfect parent-mirror image of ourselves, for as long as we are still seeking to be completed by another person, we will not allow them their own autonomy.

As love between them grows and expands to the entire cosmos, this kind of love gives each partner their freedom — the greatest gift of all. As the duet by Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion professes, LOVE will be the gift you give yourself.

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RebecaEigen-72-dpiRebeca Eigen, an astrologer for 25+ years and author of The Shadow Dance & the Astrological 7th House Workbook, specializes in relationships. Using your time, date, and place of birth, she uses the astrological birth chart to evoke the symbolic and help you become more aware of your total Self. Her study of the Shadow using Astrological tools has given her an invaluable awareness of the unconscious and the role it plays in the relationships that we attract into our lives. For more information, visit her Web site: www.shadowdance.com.

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