New issue each Monday
Issue 13,  July 13, 2009     —      Benjamin Fry, Relationships

In this issue:   FEATURE: Gay Hendricks, How the Upper Limit Problem Works   Guy Finley, Liberating Lessons in a Tale of Two Selves   E-Myth, 5 Skills Essential for Success   Caroline Sutherland, Stomach Problems   Sharon Elaine, Affirmations for Entrepreneurs   Benjamin Fry, Relationships   Ton Pascal, Dream Your Life Positively   Wider Screenings, A Self-Healing World   Events   Reviews   Earlier issues   Submit Article

Benjamin Fry read physics and philosophy at Oxford University and is now a self-help guru, writer and TV presenter.
He developed an interest in psychotherapy and other areas of personal growth during extensive and varied personal treatment. He initially studied psychotherapy at Regent’s College, London in 1998/9 and has returned to study there towards a professional doctorate in psychotherapy.
He wrote the book "What's Wrong With You" and the eponymous column in The Saturday Times Body&Soul section; and recorded the follow-up audio book “How to be Happy” for Hachette Audio. 
Benjamin has co-presented the BBC’s groundbreaking and long running "Spendaholics" series as BBC3’s psychological coach.
Benjamin has a private practice in Harley Street. He is extending his work to beyond the consulting room with his “Happy Hour” network of personal trainers. Happy Hour is designed to make people happier in an hour a month.

Visit Benjamin at:

Hay House Inc. - 120 x 600              Hay House, Inc. 120x600 Animated

Hay House, Inc.

What happens when two people indulge in simultaneous mutual projections.

Theory: Mutual Projections (a.k.a. Relationships) and Lovers

Much of the most serious pain in life for both men and women is experienced in the baffling environment of the peer-to-peer mutual projection: nowhere more powerfully felt than in the romantic or sexual relationship.

There is a reason why intimate relationships are so explosive. To understand it, we have to return to the example of the frozen gazelle and the thawing of its traumatic state. It only comes alive again once it is safe. One of the qualities that we crave in another person (in the context of intimate relationships) is someone with whom we can feel safe: or at least a little bit less scared, alone and vulnerable. One of the reasons we crave people and particularly that special someone is that it increases our basic sense of safety. When we find someone we really connect with, particularly if there is a level of real emotional or practical commitment, then we begin to experience the kind of security that we may have craved since our early childhood.

However, when we start to feel safe, that’s when the trauma thinks it is safe to come out. Our threshold for the total threat that we can face remains the same. Therefore, if our external world becomes safer, we can tolerate more internal threat. So finding that special someone, making a commitment and feeling more secure externally prompts a vicious compensatory reaction from our psyche. The honeymoon ends. The unconscious mind sees its chance to release trauma via projections. Soon, the euphoria of recently discovered love is replaced by the confusion of projection. These projections stimulate the thawing of the trauma. The emotions of the emerging trauma are overwhelming. The conscious mind freaks out, unable to understand what is going on.

The conscious mind tries to control these feelings as much as it can. One of the conscious mind’s best defences is to blame our partner for causing this rampaging tide of emotion surfacing within us. While we are freaking out with our partners, they are also likely to be taking their opportunity to project plenty back on to us. They too get caught up in the thawing and fear of their own long neglected traumatic feelings. They start to see us as the cause of all the problems. While we are both simultaneously eviscerating our emotions from a thousand childhood injustices, it’s touch and go whether or not the relationship will survive. The good news is that trauma is thawing. E-motions are moving out. The bad news is that this may be accompanied by such a degrading of our relationships that we will start to feel unsafe again. That would trigger all of our childhood concerns about survival again and may create and accumulate yet more trauma.

Some relationships reduce your reservoir of unresolved trauma; some add to it. This fundamentally separates the good relationships from the bad. All relationships will trigger deep and complex emotional patterns, projections and unresolved emotions. If this can be processed in a mutually respectful manner, and the underlying conditions of the relationship remain supportive, committed and safe, then it can be very positive and healing. However, if the interaction degenerates into something that threatens the very fabric of the relationship itself, then it is unlikely that any healing will occur. In the latter instance it is more likely that the belief system set up by the original trauma will be reinforced and that the accompanying emotions will sadly become buried more deeply than before. We may even just give up on relationships all together.

It is hard to differentiate exactly what makes one scenario more possible than another. Most relationships will experience a shifting balance of the two as trauma ebbs and flows. The fundamental intention of genuine compassion and respect between two individuals is a good place to start. And if on top of that there can be some conscious understanding of this process, an acceptance of the fact of the projective mechanism, then there is a chance that our emotions can be experienced without blaming and pushing away the person who is helping us to experience these feelings in the first place.
The nature and intensity of our emotional experiences often make this very difficult, but if we can see our current situation and partner as merely a catalyst to stimulating emotions frozen from our past, then it can help us to relate to them with more equality, understanding, compassion and respect. If however we dump the responsibility for the whole of our past and all of our impacted trauma onto our partner in the present, then we are giving them an impossible burden to bear. We are therefore unlikely to reach a meeting of minds before bedtime.

It is hard for the conscious mind at first to comprehend this. How can something that is happening to us (our strong feelings) because of what someone else is doing to us (our partner’s words or actions) not be their fault? If they are in our face calling us names and saying hurtful things that they know will upset us, then surely they are in the wrong? We convince ourselves that we are in the right and they jolly well better learn to understand this and apologise or else. The trouble is they also think exactly the same thing.

The easiest way to see that this is not correct thinking is to imagine two different people responding in two different ways to the same stimulus. (Or we could imagine ourselves responding in two different ways to the same stimulus at two different times.) Clearly if we accept that this is possible, then we understand that it is not simply the stimulus that causes the reaction, otherwise the reaction would always be the same. The stimulus has to combine with something in us. That something is our own projection. It is a function of our trauma and our own buried feelings which sometimes will surface, and sometimes will not. We will let them out when we feel safe enough or are just too tired, or too hot, or too bothered, to be able to keep them in any more. (Why do hot countries have such passionate populations? Does this seem to improve their relationships and cohesion as families and couples? It might be hard to generalise, given many other factors at work, but cultures that seem to place less emphasis on repressing emotional expression do seem to have some attractive societal qualities.)

It is difficult to live with someone who makes us feel emotionally safe. Both partners will be unconsciously using that safety to place projections on to each other nearly all the time. The only time that we may be somewhat free of this kind of projective mechanism is perhaps after a big outpouring of e-motions. We are familiar with the sweet quality of kissing and making up. Often it can seem as if we are particularly open, present and radiant right after a strong and emotional disagreement. This is because we are actually seeing each other more or less as we really are, temporarily without any need for our projections: simply as a treasured fellow human being. But this state is rare and fleeting. The rest of the time we will simultaneously struggle with the difficulties of relating to the ideas that:
(a) the other is a fellow human being, who loves and cares for us, and
(b) that they are also manifesting qualities of the experiences in our past that we found most difficult to bear.

This makes the dynamic of relationships especially charged and hard to negotiate. Opposing qualities may seem to simultaneously exist in our partner, and our partner may never agree with us that these qualities are there. We have augmented what we really find there with the projections that we have placed over their objective reality. Once this starts happening at the same time on both sides, then it becomes impossible for anyone to know what is really going on. There is no longer any objective reality. The truth becomes a battleground. Finding a simple consensus on who is doing or saying what becomes maddeningly impossible. Both parties genuinely think that they are right. Both parties have different versions of reality. Hence the conflict. That’s why lovers fight.     ###

The opinions expressed in any articles in this publication are those of the individual authors and may not necessarily by shared by the publishers of No Limits
Any financial, health or other advice given in No Limits may not be right for your particular case and you should seek your own profession opinion before acting on said advice. 
Copyright — The publisher, authors and contributors reserve full copyright of their work as featured in No Limits magazine™.
No part of this publication may be copied or otherwise reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.  No Limits magazine is protected by trademark.  
ISSN 1835-7164