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Destructive Forces: Projection and Denial
Karina: Dear Sundari, thank you so much for your beautiful letter. It is so true and clear, and I will read it over and over again.
I had a reoccurring situation today that reminded me of my question.
Although my boyfriend is very kind and loving and wonderful he does completely live in blame consciousness and is very defensive, which I find very challenging. He does not agree with my view that our experience of life is ours alone and that we alone are the reason for our overreactions. When I am triggered I usually immediately see where it comes from and take ownership of it and let it flow through me; I understand that a trigger is mine alone and that no one else is responsible for my feelings. Rick IN NO WAY shares this view; he finds it very flawed. This is a problem for me, especially because we are quite serious and are talking about a future together.
There are often situations where I will say something and he will get incredibly offended (he is a very proud man). Mostly I am even surprised at his offence as I in no way intended to offend him. He would completely overreact and blame me for my comment or action and then things would only be okay again if I apologise. I always do although I feel that I did nothing wrong. I simply apologise because I see no use in having an ego battle. It does really affect me though, and although we usually get over the conflict quite fast it still takes me on an incredible emotional roller coaster ride which I know is very unhealthy.
I find it incredibly challenging responding to these kind of reactions, especially because I always want to respond with Vedanta knowledge but know that this will be the worse-received response. So I simply apologise and tell him that my intention is not to hurt him with my comments.
I don’t know if I am being overly sensitive or not. Is there any advice you can give me so that I can deal with these situations better? I hope that if I am less triggered by these situations that they will just not come up as much.
Thank you so much, and much love to you.
Sundari: Dear Karina, I am so pleased that the e-satsang I wrote helps you.
I read through you emails very carefully, and you could have a problem so I understand your concern. Projection and denial are the basis of ignorance and are the culprits in all suffering – and sadly, most relationship are eroded and destroyed by the relentless pressure of these two forces. They are rajas and tamas; I call them “the terrible twins” – and they always work together.
It does not seem to me that you are being “overly sensitive”; it seems clear that you have total clarity about this issue. You identify your stuff as it arises and work it out, then you dis-identify with it as “not me,” meaning that the conditioning that triggers Karina belongs to Isvara, the gunas, and not to you, awareness. You do not deny it or project it onto Rick. You dissolve it in the light of self-knowledge, which means you are free of it because you understand what it is and where it originates from. This is what it means to have non-dual vision and to apply self-knowledge on a moment-to-moment basis in the daily working of your life. For Rick to have an understanding of what his conditioning is he need not be interested in Vedanta but he will need to gain an understanding of the basics of what constitutes a balanced psychology.
Rick seems to be run by his conditioning and he has no idea that he is, or what his conditioning is. He projects it onto others and then denies that he does so. This is pretty normal for most people who have not done any self-inquiry into the true nature of reality. Most people are totally identified with being the person they think they are. This is all unconscious so he really can’t see that he projects and denies his own stuff.
This is what Vedanta calls “the self under the spell of ignorance.” What to do about it? You need to do something because in the long term, unless it is addressed, it will wear you down. Who wants to continually work that hard being extra careful that you do not say or do the wrong thing in case you upset the other person? It is very difficult as over-sensitive people tend to have very long feet and it is almost impossible not to stand on them. His defensiveness could be an indicator of low self-esteem, which is maybe why he is so easily offended and so proud. Your self-esteem is very healthy so for now you can accommodate him and roll over for the sake of peace. How long will you be able to do this before you get fed up with it? My advice to you in my last email was based on him being a balanced and psychologically healthy person, in touch with who he is. He may well be in many ways but this is a very important factor and needs to be seen for what it is, especially if you are making plans for a future together.
It is true that almost all misunderstanding in communication comes from how one uses words, based on how one’s mind works (the nature that you are born with and the environment that helped mould it) and what words mean to you. Everyone sees and hears things through the filter of their conditioning or vasanas. It is possible that he genuinely is a very sensitive soul and his feelings are easily hurt; maybe you do need to look at how you say things. It is clear that he misunderstands you, and maybe this is because you are such a forthright person.
I often have that problem; people sometimes take offence because I am so direct and I can take complete honesty as well. I call a spade a spade because I want to see what is really there and I want to see what I can’t see. Sometimes I forget that most people are not capable of so much honesty! Most psyches are made of tender stuff and one has to move them gently along to accept the truth about themselves. You have the huge advantage of self-knowledge, he does not. Not only that, he thinks that self-knowledge is rubbish.
As you say, and from what I have heard from your mum, he sounds so wonderful in every other way. There is so much to be grateful for, so much genuine value in how you relate to each other and what you bring to each other’s lives. This cannot be ignored or tossed away as the many good qualities he clearly does have are not in overabundance in most people. Clearly, there is much in your relationship that really does work and it is worthwhile to work things out. Nothing is perfect in samsara and it is foolish to look for the perfect person for you because they do not exist. You are the perfect person for you. Your perfect mate is you, awareness. If you are looking for someone to make you happy you are asking for suffering. I know you are not so that is not the issue here.
The thing is, you don’t stop being a person, even if it is only an apparent person, even when you do have self-knowledge and know that your true nature is awareness. Ramji and I are very happy to be people and we do not censure or judge ourselves as people. We do not expect our natures to change for the other and we never project or deny anything. We are totally aware at all times that the person, like the relationship, is in us, awareness. Seen from the outside we seem to behave like most other couples do. Ramji says that he gives James as much room as he needs to express himself as he always come home to him, awareness. I feel the same about the Isabella-person. So we do not try to make the person perfect because they are fine the way they are. But we have rendered our binding vasanas non-binding because we do not wish to suffer and we want to experience peace, which is our nature. So we follow dharma in all situations. We do not cause injury to ourselves or anyone else because there is no one else. Everyone and everything is awareness whether they are aware of it or not, and we relate to all of it as such.
Very importantly, the apparent person lives in the apparent reality, which one cannot dismiss and Vedanta certainly does not deny. Moksa, freedom, is freedom from the person, not for them. The problem is this: if your life as a jiva, or person, does not match the truth of who you are you will suffer. There is no way around this. Many people, who may well be genuine truth seekers and committed to non-dual wisdom, still try to make excuses for this lack of congruency by trying to find the fine print that will justify normalising adharmic lifestyle choices. It does not work that way because if you want self-knowledge and non-dual vision, there is no fine print. There is no way that you can escape the fact that self-knowledge needs to translate into the life of the person or self-knowledge does not work.
Unless Rick is willing to look at this from a different perspective and at least entertain the possibility that there is something very important that he is missing or does not understand, you will very likely have problems. Small things like this are not at all small. In time they build up and could destroy the relationship, wearing it out so that you will one day no longer connect in love and truth. In the example you gave me about a typical situation that causes this kind of reaction from him, he sounds very immature. You are the kind of person that faces things head on and does not run from them. You are not afraid to make difficult decisions and, from I have seen, don’t try to sweeten the truth so that it is more palatable for you. You can take the truth as it is, maybe he can’t.
You will have to tackle him on this issue. My advice would be to find a good relationship therapist, someone who is neutral and not threatening to him. And not someone he sees as a part of your “belief system.” Perhaps he is resisting you on this because he thinks that your Vedanta beliefs are just that – no more than something you believe in. He does not understand what Vedanta is: it is self-knowledge which is not based on belief or opinion but on the irrefutable logic of the true nature of reality. He does not understand that his inability to be objective about himself is the basis of all psychological problems and therefore of all therapy. Find a professional, someone that will give you a safe platform to address each other honestly so that you can state your point of view clearly and without him being able to fight you on it. He needs to see how important this is if he truly wants a long-term relationship with you.
If you have not read up on the gunas, I would strongly suggest that you do. The more you understand them better you can then help him to gain some objectivity without causing a reaction on his part. I have attached an article I wrote on the gunas. Ramji has written extensively about it as well, in his book and in many e-satsangs. This teaching is where all the work comes into self-inquiry. The more you can understand about Isvara’s psychological order the better you will understand yourself and everyone else as well. The gunas, sattva (typical qualities, to name a few: clarity, peace, revelation), rajas (projection, agitation, desire, fear, etc.) and tamas (denial, dullness, depression, etc.) work the same way in everyone, with totally predictable thoughts, feeling patterns and actions.
The gunas are what make up the dharma field and run it; they generate the creation of all vasanas, likes and dislikes. And so, of course, they are responsible for everyone’s conditioning. The gunas belong to the Total Mind, or Isvara, not to the person. No one makes themselves the way they are; he can’t help they way he thinks and feels. He is not trying to be difficult, he just does not understand how things really work. A person’s nature is what is called the individual’s svadharma, or in other words, the nature that they are born with and develop as a result of seemingly outside factors.
When a person has no self-knowledge they are totally identified with the body-mind and will fight to the death to hold onto their likes and dislikes, their ignorance. Ignorance is hardwired and tenaciously resistant to change. The person is then like a puppet on a string; their lives are totally dictated by the gunas and they are completely unaware of this. This is maya, the hypnosis of duality, samsara. The person is not real, it is just an idea in the mind that awareness has identified with under the spell of ignorance. However, this does not mean that the person does not exist, as I have explained above.
Freedom is achieved when one can discriminate awareness from the objects that arise in it; in other words, discriminating the real from the apparently real and never confusing the two again.
What is very positive is what you do have going for and with each other. If he really does love you then he should be prepared to do what it takes to make your lives together work. You are not saying to him that there is something wrong with him or that he needs to change for you. You are saying to him that there is something that he does not understand, the knowing of which will help him understand himself – and you – better. You are not saying that he has to take on self-inquiry. You don’t expect him to be different or to follow your spiritual path. But you are saying that without understanding each other better you are in for a rocky ride, long-term. If he is not prepared to do this then it means he wants the relationship on his terms only and that is a recipe for disaster, not only because projection and denial will wear your love down, but because it will interfere with your spiritual development in the long run.
Even if you are not going for moksa right now, what is dharmic for you is to live your life in accordance with self-knowledge. What is very important is that you apply karma yoga to this situation, which is taking what appropriate actions are necessary to find a solution and then surrendering the results to Isvara, knowing that you are not in charge of the results. You do this in an attitude of faith and gratitude, taking the results that do come graciously. If he will not co-operate and continues to misunderstand you and over-react it will be difficult for you to continually accommodate this kind of behaviour.
Seeing a good therapist would be an appropriate and dharmic solution; therapists can help you to discuss how you both feel about this, not only so that you have your say but so that he can express himself clearly too. Maybe there is something about him that you are not getting clearly. I really hope that you find a way to resolve this as he really does sound like a wonderful person.
Please feel free to write to me any time; I am here for you in any way I can be, and it is always a pleasure to hear from you.
~ Much love, Sundari