Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What's in a Name?

Many years ago I had the good fortune to attend a Self-Differentiation Workshop with John and Joyce Weir. "Self-differentiation" refers to separating our intellectual and emotional functioning from childhood conditioning influences. 

As children we typically had low differentiation from the family, depended on others for approval and acceptance, and began to unconsciously accept only input that fit our unique biases.  

As adults we carry this worldview with us, acting as if there's a truth in the world around us, when, in fact, we create that world based on the meaning we give it. 

Below are two ways you can broaden your worldview, based on practices from the Weir workshop. 

First, we used language to denote how we project our perceptions onto others. Projection means denying something about yourself and attributing that denied aspect to someone else, as if your unconscious were a movie projector and the other person the screen. 

When you experience surprisingly strong emotions, that's a clue that you may be denying the same trait in yourself. You'll know by trying it on.

Let's say you're particularly impatient with Sue, who's "always moping when she doesn't get enough attention." You'd say to yourself: "I'm impatient with the 'Sue' in me who mopes when she doesn't get attention." Then let it settle, and see what comes up.
Now think of someone you know who really gets under your skin, and finish this sentence: "I'm (strong emotion) with the (name) in me who (behavior you dislike)." Let it settle, see what comes up.
Second, we were requested in the workshop to choose name tags that represented what we were projecting onto the world at the moment. When that changed, so did our name tags. For example, one participant chose "teenager" for his opening day name tag; later that week he was "deer in the headlights." 
What word or phrase would capture what you're projecting onto the world at this very moment? 
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In Emotions and the Enneagram, Margaret Frings Keyes defined projection as "denying a particular feeling in ourselves and sensing it as coming from the other person." She assured us "the same unconscious which generated the projections also strives to correct them:"
Projection: When we believe what we believe is so.
Doubt Denied: Some information doesn't fit, but "louder and wronger," we insist it is so.
Recognition: We experience "small and ugly" self-blame for a "wrong" perception.
Empathy: We can see the other person's point of view.
Assimilation: We shift to include the complexity of feeling two ways about something/someone.

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