QUESTION: I have been realizing how much I have been projecting on a famous rock star. As a professional musician myself, it did not seem odd to me to be enamored by someone so successful in my chosen field. Recently some deep cracks in this person’s personality were revealed to me, which made me step back and realize the folly of my unconscious behavior. You have talked about all the projection that happens with these people, and I’m as guilty of that as anyone. It’s sobering and humbling to realize how much I’ve projected onto this guy since I was a kid. I get that there’s a time and place for that. But I also get that it’s time to release it now. How do you recommend one takes back a projection and integrates it? Is there a way to ritualize this?

ANSWER: This is such an important topic. What you are talking about is the flip side of the shadow, called the golden shadow. The shadow is the unaccepted and unintegrated parts of us that our culture at large would view as shameful or destructive. These aspects are repressed and then projected on others whom we then despise. The golden shadow is the same phenomena, but it includes our constructive aspects and strengths that we are afraid to hold. These are then also projected out, which we then admire or are attracted to in another. The important point here is that these qualities are projected out in both cases and disowned in ourselves.

It is obvious why one would do that with the shadow, but not as much with the golden shadow. The reasons we do that with the golden shadow might include: an unconscious fear of holding that power in ourselves, since at a young age it threatened a power authority, or being shamed around a specific talent or not being recognized for it, again by an authority figure. This, in turn, can lead to a sense of false modesty, staying small, and a disowning of these gifts and talents. Again, this is all due to that unconscious fear of holding that specific power. Many times, the integration of the golden shadow is even more difficult than that of the shadow due to the charged nature of the confusion and shame around it. One needs to remember that it is not just the shadow that needs to be owned and integrated, but also the golden shadow and its noble impulses. We damage ourselves and others just as much with the projection of either.

A common place that we place this golden shadow and its exaggerated idealization is on people we admire, which include celebrities. This is especially true of our hyper-infatuated celebrity culture where we are encouraged to give our power over via constant media saturation. It also gets projected onto spiritual people or perceived heroes and heroines. We mask all the human faults that we all possess in order to be able to project these qualities out. Which is why we are shocked when at some point the inevitable happens and we are confronted with the humanness of the person being projected upon.

It is often not understood that many times the power and good feelings that we feel in a concert or spiritual gathering is the collective projection of the viewers on the person on stage. This great feeling is, in fact, our own energy being reflected back to us, which we then confuse as coming from the person being projected upon. This is not to say that these artists or teachers do not have something special. Or maybe they do not. It is just that when there are hundreds or thousands of people projecting their disowned golden shadow onto them, it is easy to forget that, in fact, it is us that have the juice. And we miss this energetic fact repeatedly. Whatever of ours we do not own, will own us. This cycle continues until there is a crack in the facade, which is what is happening for you.

The fact that you are asking this question means that the integration is beginning. The first step is recognition, which is where you are at. One does not take back a projection, but rather owns it so it is not being projected in the first place. Examine the projection to the earliest memories you have. What qualities attracted you to this person? Look back at your own life and see if you can discover places in your own childhood where you could not hold this for yourself. Where are you hiding in your own life - on and off stage? Where is there a “no” in you when you get on stage or stops you from going to the next step? 

There is no magic ritual; awareness and examination are the tools here. It is a process and not an event, as much as the addict in us would love for it to be an event. Own your terror of owning your gifts. We serve no one by hiding, least of all our self. You are that you seek.