“Inner gold is the highest value in the human psyche. It is our soul, the Self, the innermost part of our being. It is us at our best, our twenty-four-karat gift to ourselves.”
-Inner Gold: Understanding Psychological Projection (Robert A. Johnson)
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism of the ego that involves projecting our emotions and attitudes onto the external world instead of dealing with them ourselves. While psychological projections are usually associated with negative emotions, the converse is also true – we project our greatest potentials and possibilities onto other people as these qualities are often unconscious to us. This is a reflection about the ways in which we unconsciously project our best qualities onto others based on the book Inner Gold: Understanding Psychological Projection by Robert A. Johnson.
When we awaken to a new possibility in our lives, we often see it first in another person rather than in ourselves. For instance, we often look up to certain public figures, celebrities or religious leaders as we wish to emulate their qualities. According to Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson, when we do so, we unconsciously project our inner worth (inner gold) onto these figures. Although the qualities that we project onto others are latent within ourselves, we reject them because they are in conflict with our conscious identity and we do not see them until they are reflected back to us through another person. In this way, we give up our personal worth to another person.
In my personal experience, I emulate female figures that demonstrate resilience, confidence and strength of character in the face of adversity. My personal heroines include Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou as well as the fictional character Jane Eyre. I studied and kept their words close to my heart and tried to find my own voice through their words. After understanding the psychology of projections, I realised that I had projected my own positive qualities onto them. As a natural introvert and someone who found comfort in introspection, I struggled to find confidence in a world that favoured extroversion. Although I had very strong opinions about many matters, I often withheld my words and chose to express my opinions only in writing. Perhaps, I have denied myself of my inner gold – my confidence to express myself to the external world – because it is incompatible with my conscious identity.
Apart from hero worship, we may also lose our inner gold in our daily lives by projecting our worth onto others when we form relationships with friends, family and romantic partners. As Robert A. Johnson said, “generally we don’t exchange gold well, and much of our depression and loneliness revolved around misunderstanding this exchange.” If we transfer our worth onto others and allow them to become the repositories of our gold, we may end up in unhealthy and codependent relationships. We may also have difficulties in letting our relationships go as we have attached our personal worth to the relationships.
The good news is, we can reclaim our inner gold. “The exchange of inner gold is occurring all the time. Try to be conscious of it … We need to create new language and new ways for increasing our awareness.” By bringing our unconscious projections into our conscious awareness, we can reclaim our inner gold and fulfil our greatest potentials.
p.s. Leave a comment if this resonated with you. I love to hear your stories!
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Everything may be a path but some paths should be avoided.
Nice post. Bob