Projection

So I’m taking this abnormal psychology class and really loving it for the most part. The only real issue I have is how absolutely and completely anti-analytical the professor is. The textbook is biased, too, continually praising the scientist-practitioner model of psychology, but failing to mention the mere existence of the scholar-practitioner model. There’s this huge divide in the field, it seems, between those who see themselves as hard-core scientists and those who see themselves as hard-core artists. I think I’d fall somewhere in the middle. Honestly, I think most people with a pulse and a brain, feelings and reason, would. While I understand that we are built of organs and tissue and cells and molecules, which we inherited from our parents, and they from theirs, I don’t think that science alone can explain who or what we love, how we feel, why we do the things we do, or where our thoughts originate.

Anyway, this week we heard about projective tests, including the Rorschach and Thematic Apperception Test. You’re probably familiar with the former — inkblots which a patient is asked to interpret. The latter is somewhat similar — a collection of emotionally charged illustrations, which the patient responds to: What’s going on in the picture? What immediately preceded this picture? What happens next? That sort of thing. In theory, a patient may not be comfortable talking about some of his or her own thoughts and feelings, or may not even be aware of them, but will potentially project them onto something or someone else. So a psychologist might see a recurring theme in a patient’s descriptions of inkblots or illustrations, and would know to explore those areas further. I’m not sure how these are scored, exactly, but they are. Scored or not, I do think they’re potentially useful.

And, friends and strangers, I am a big projector of feelings. I think I always have been, and I think it’s part of my connection with art and music and literature. I can see myself in the music I like. My favorite books and poems are the ones I can identify with, and if the work is vague, I’ll fill in the blanks with my own stuff, regardless of whether it’s “right.” Pretty much every paper I ever wrote for my English degree and art history minor was, at least to some extent, autobiographical. I’ve been known to think of myself sometimes as a lonely character in an Edward Hopper painting. I even identify with Rothko’s works. Apparently he said, “The people who weep before my paintings are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you are moved by the color relationships, then you miss the point,” (from my current read, Lawrence Weschler’s Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences).  I’m not sure I would call my experience in front of a Rothko “religious,” but I have wept in front of a handful, and I don’t think it had much to do with the colors. Yes, I can project my feelings onto color fields.  They just seem so vast and empty, lonely but stately, firm in their existence, except around the edges. If feelings were audible, I could be quite the ventriloquist.

A few weeks ago, I had several days of madly projecting onto every song I heard. They all became songs of strength and getting-over-ness, of hopeful endings and being better off. Central to this collection of songs was a tape left in my car by a friend, titled “Soundtrack: The Rehardening, Part 2.” I’d kind of assumed his “rehardening” had something to do with, you know, getting over, moving on, etc. I was projecting what I was feeling, obviously. I talked to the friend tonight, and he said he’d read that post — “The Rehardening” was actually the name he and a friend had come up with for an adult film they’d joked about making. The songs? Random. (Track list coming soon; I had it on my desk, but cleaned said desk off a few weeks ago for company, and now it’s lost…)

PS — Where the hell did summer go? I was tired of heat, but not quite ready to be cold…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Projection

  1. kris

    Great post. I often project my feelings on music. Even if it’s a song I’ve listened to half my life, if I’m having strong emotions I’ll proclaim to myself “That’s what this song is about!” and feel a little bit better and a little less lonely. It’s pretty self-serving and I really need to get over myself.

    On a sidenote, I just heard about a book called “The World in Six Songs” by Daniel Levitin that explains the evolution of human brains and music over thousands of years. It might be an interesting read.

  2. I like this…

    I think if we’re all honest (and I’m including the scientific types in this) we will admit that we project our emotions and experiences onto everything we do. It’s just part of life. I think that’s how people are able to write and make art so successfully. Both in the act of creating and interpreting we do this–and that’s why there’s so much richness and variety. Then again…I have to admit that when projection happens in relationships it can be messier and more upsetting…if it goes unchecked. Seeing someone through a certain lens and not seeing them for what they are. Or seeing what you want to see. I guess that’s a function of delusion but there’s a lot of projection with that.

    It’s weird that you wrote this because I was just thinking about the word ‘projection’ in conjunction with something (specific which I won’t blather on about in this comment…)

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