Copyright ©1995 The Ares Press
Withdrawl of Projection:
MEANS of INITIATION
TOOL for SOCIAL CONTROL?
Projection and Freud
A well known incident in early psychoanalysis is that of Breuer, Freud'scolleague
who 'discovered' the frightening power of erotic transference. It chased
him out of his profession. Freud and Jung were also burned by this same
power. In Freud's early formulations of this bewildering phenomenon, he
emphasised the neutrality of the doctor and introduced the idea that the
patient transferred feelings from the past onto the doctor - hence 'transference'.
The mechanism of the transference was called projection. The healing or
cure of the patient lay in a method of withdrawal of projection in which
unconscious acting out with the doctor was replaced by memories of early
childhood experiences of an incestuous nature. The procedures involved free
association along with interpretation of the resulting 'elicited memories'
etc. I believe that the idea then was that the patient could return to adult
life free to enjoy mature relationships unencumbered by projections of early
It is now 80 or so years after psychoanalysis was developed and psychotherapy
has evolved considerably. Ideas like projection, transference and the importance
of withdrawal of projection as a cure are still very much in vogue, clinically
and theoretically. If psychoanalysis or depth psychology as practised today
is still attempting to reach the goal set by Freud, that of adult relationships
unencumbered by projections, thefact of increasing family disintegration,
along with concrete incestand child abuse becomes highly suggestive of massive
and profound failure inat least the practice of psychotherapy today, if
not the theory. What has gone wrong?
The Crisis in Psychotherapy
My own conclusion is that the practice of depth psychology has not only
failed to promote feelings of kinship between adults who have withdrawn
their projections but on the contrary has contributed to the epidemic of
family disintegration and consequent social anarchy. This is a very painfulconclusion
for me as I have personally found Freud's and Jung's pioneering work in
the area of projection to be of immense value to me, ofenough value to devote
my life to working in the field of psychology. Because I am convinced that
both men spent their lives struggling to find a vehicle to bring a new vision
into actuality, a vision of human naturethatholds great promise for us,
I began to explore the vision itself in an attempt to find out what has
gone wrong - why depth psychology has failed to help our society and why
it has contributed instead to society'sdisintegration. I discovered a root
- a root from which the field of depth psychology has sprung, but from which
it has become severed, resulting in its destructive form today. I discovered
this particular root of depth psychology in a dream. The dream was very
disturbing. In it Jung was acting psychopathically. At the same time a couple
was involved romantically. The two scenes were separated. The central idea
suggested by the dream was this: If Jungian psychology is separated from
its roots in Romanticism, it begins to function psychopathically.
This idea, initiated by the dream was a thunder bolt for me! I believe it
opened me up to my own roots in Romanticism. But it also initiated a stream
of images and ideas with respect to modern psychological practice, in the
light of Romanticism. It is here that I found the evidence for my terrible
conclusions about modern psychotherapeutic practice.
Romanticism and Psychotherapy
A central idea in psychotherapy today remains, as it was in Freud's time,
that of projection. Transference, for example was understood as theprojection
of childhood dynamics onto the therapist. A neurotic relationship is understood
as one dominated by projection. Images from the past are imposed on one's
present partner, say, and this partner is then caught up in a drama, a re-enactment
of past conflictual relationships. It is assumed that the normal state of
affairs in adult relationships is one in which mutual projection is determinative.
And it is equally assumed that healthy adult relationships are those that
are free of projection. This freedom is found only through the method of
psychotherapy, a method where the client projects onto the therapist - as
- stranger, who uses his status of stranger to help, through greater understanding
of projective mechanisms, the client to withdraw his projections and reclaim
his memories of a painful past. Then the client returns to life with an
ability to generalise his findings from therapy. He is able to enter relationship
with strangers without projecting his past onto them.
Though I can appreciate just how very complex our research into projection
has become, I also believe that in practice, in the actual work in the field
as it were, my description above of the goal and method of therapy holds
quite well. I can also say with confidence that this goal (of withdrawing
projections) with its attendant methods and procedures is far from being
reached and the method has become disastrous for individuals and society.
This is because, as I hope to show, the idea of projection and the presumed
social and psychological necessity of its withdrawal has become sundered
from its Romantic underpinnings and so is functioning psychopathically.
It is no longer serving our culture but instead has become an ideology or
dogma, an external imposition on individuals and families, a tool of social
Projection as a psychological idea is based on Freud's original discoveries
which I will reiterate. He observed that individuals in analysis would catch
the analyst up in a reenactment of past relationships. But these 'past relationships'
were not the ordinary, on the surface kind of relationship at all (Mom and
Pop in bed on a Saturday afternoon, as Hillman puts it). No, Freud accounted
for the intensity and complexity of the analytic relationship in terms of
transference (via projection), not of perceptions of actual mother and father,
but of unconscious mythological Mother and Father.
The World that is reenacted in the analytic relationship by projection is
a Romantically inspired one. This world is one filled with murder, lust,
envy, jealousy, incestuous longings, retribution, punishment, tragedy, love
and death. This world finds its epitome of expression in say, Wagner's operas.
The Romantic view is that this world lies behind and under our ordinary
world of superficial appearances. I believe it is this view ofReality that
finds a modern expression in Freud's use of the word, 'unconscious', which
is what he named as the location of the dramas of this reality.
Most crucial to my own conclusions regarding the destructiveness of modern
psychological practice is the fact that there is a growing body of evidence
that Freud's patients probably did not discover this Romantic vision within
themselves at all. Rather it seems that Freud alone did and his 'therapeutic
procedure' was really one of indoctrination. He persuaded, cajoled and even
bullied his patients into accepting his interpretations of their adult problems
in terms of presumed erotic, murderous etc. fantasies. On the whole it seems,
his patients did not themselves experience this Reality underlying their
actual relationships with their parents. What was rationalised as withdrawal
of projection was in fact an enterprise of indoctrination into Freud's Weltanshauung
or World vision. It is therefore no accident that many of the people Freud
successfully analysed ended up as psychoanalysts themselves, forming a close
knit group with all the markings of a group of initiates. It was Freud himself,
not his patients, who was indeed in the grip of a vision and that vision
was based and rooted in Romanticism and his life was a devotion to the work
of bringing that vision into actuality. His psychoanalysis seems in retrospect
to be more a form of indoctrination into the Romantic vision and culture
(when it was not shared by his patient) or a form of initiation (when the
patient was so Romantically inclined).
Freud's and Jung's lives remain exemplorary of the central importance of
the idea of projection and its withdrawal when coupled with its root in
a Romantic vision of the world. The schools and clinical practices that
followed these two pioneers remain exemplorary of the disastrous social
consequences that generate when the idea of projection is divorced from
its Romantic underpinnings and is used as a tool of goal oriented ego-therapy,
imposed upon individuals, families and society as a form of social program
without any consideration of the World View of those same individuals, families
We have each suffered the consequences of this psychopathic functioning
of an idea. How many arguments today between couples involve the torture
of telling each other where each is projecting: "You're projecting
your goddam mother onto me" Therapists are no better even if they are
less explosive about it: "Well, it seems to me that the hostile feelings
you are having go beyond our relationship. Do you recall any similar incident
from your past?" And so on. What can be more destructive to an individual
than to be told in a moment of passion that he is projecting? Can any verbal
action be more destructive to connection between individuals? I remember
a beautiful saying from a wise man where he claimed that people shout at
one another not because they are projecting, but because they are not being
heard (the reason for the shouting). Lovers, he said, always whisper!
Claims that another is projecting are no more than a social program of indoctrination.
It involves forcing people to withhold aggression, love, jealousy, or whatever
passion they are having in the moment and instead turn in on themselves
with an imposed idea of self. "I am projecting my bad parent here,
or my jealous child." There can be no inner change here, no inner development.
Instead an increasingly harsh and punitive critic emerges as a form of social
control. And why would we 'want' this form of social control? Well, what
would happen if people allowed themselves to feel, to actually experience
the effects of our current society, the way it is functioning today, with
its increased degree of specialisation of function at the cost of wholeness
in the individual?
The idea of projection remains for me a beautiful and profound idea when
left coupled, (how romantic!) with its background of Romanticism and central
to Romanticism is the knowledge that one discovers the Veiled World of Romance
(heroic epics, gods, goddesses, little people etc.) only through a form
of personal initiation into it. One does not discover it by indoctrination,
persuasion, explanation, or interpretation. The idea of projection and its
withdrawal, when left connected to its roots in Romanticism, is nothing
less than a modern form of initiatory experience into the Veiled Reality
behind the surface of ordinary life. For one who is not so initiated, the
Reality behind and informing appearances is at best an interesting entertaining
idea, the stuff of fantasy (ie made up by egos) and at worst a danger to
stability (psychosis and so on).
When this idea of projection is kept firmly connected to its Romantic
roots, we arrive at some crucial questions about psychotherapy and culture.
First and most important to me is the question of to whom is this idea important
or relevant? As I said above, when projection is severed from its roots
in Romanticism, it functions in a way destructive to family and culture.
Why so? Because it is then generally believed that withdrawal of projection
is good for everyone, the rationale being that projection and unconsciousness
are destructive to family life and to the individual. But they are not!
This pervasive belief in psychology is based on a scientific fantasy about
projection. But unconsciousness and projection are not scientific terms.
They are cultural terms. They belong only in the culture of Romanticism.
They do not belong in, say, a culture of ScientificMaterialism. As currently
practised therefore, under the mantle of science, the technique of withdrawal
of projection is nothing less that the programmatic indoctrination of individuals
and families into a culture that they have notthemselves chosen, a culture
that many therapists have no idea is informing their practice, while all
other cultures are demeaned. Functioning this way, it is the present practice
of therapy that is destructive to family and individuals, not unconsciousness
and projection on the part of family members.
Returning to my question then, for whom are these terms relevant and important,
it seems to me that our cultural history is of great help here, for the
myths, folktales, epics, personal accounts are in agreement in terms of
addressing this question: The individual who experiences the living force
of the ideas of projection, unconsciousness, awakening, lifting the veil,
life-as-drama or dream etc., has been called to do so and such a Calling
constitutes an initiation for that individual, and most crucially, the initiating
power is the Veiled Reality itself (personified as a daimon, elf, animal
who speaks, etc.). Another human being may assist the initiatory process
but only in the capacity of One Who Has Been There and Knows. Never does
he function to indoctrinate unwilling or unknowing victims.
This Veiled Reality is what Jung called the unconscious, so another way
of saying it is that only those who have been called or prompted by the
unconscious should be involved at all in the process of withdrawal of projection.
Such a process takes the individual out of participation in Life, like any
Mystery does. There should be no demand at all on anyone else to follow
suit as happens so often in families. In fact the initiate might instead
consider an attitude of gratitude to those who continue to keep Life going
while he is undergoing a withdrawal - a withdrawal that is a burden to society.
The next question follows quickly. How do we know when an individual has
been called into the necessity of withdrawal of projection? Well, we can
be sure that it is not the ego of the therapist who says so. But this is
what many therapists do, becoming unwitting participants in indoctrination
of others. We can only know if we can recognise the signs of the Call. And
we can only do that if we have been there ourselves. The signs come from
the Veiled Reality or, today what we call the unconscious. But that sign
must be coupled with an experience that has convincing power, as our myths
and fairy tales tell us. I'll take some examples.
Many dreams are presented to therapists which show the therapist in, shall
we say, configurations that would be troubling to an ethics committee. Mostly,
these dreams are treated in practice as projections onto the therapist and
are discussed that way. But these discussions hold no convincing power in
the sense that I mean. They are instead a means of persuasion into a point
of view that usually is favorable to the therapist's self image. And as
many of us know, the 'projection' continues to functionquite unmoved by
the discussion. There is no Call here initiated by the unconscious, no convincing
experience. Just the therapist's program.
On the other hand, I had an experience in my own therapy that I'll tell
here. I went to my analyst with a dream. I was excited by it. It featured
a very virile young man on a magnificent horse leaping to the top of a cliff.
I began to relate this dream but when I came to 'horse', I said, 'hearse'.
I laughed and tried again. Same thing happened. Three times I tried. So
my analyst simply picked up a dictionary and we began to examine the word,
'hearse'. My excitement had vanished and I began to feel a sense of dread
creeping in the room. The sense grew in me that
before this dream could be lived, Death had to be addressed. The next few
years became the fulfillment of this Call. I say Call because neither of
us expected it. It emerged from the unconscious. It also carried great convincing
power for me and became initiatory for me as I followed its effects in our
session after giving up the ego strivings with which I had begun to tell
Another example comes to mind of dreams in which a familiar outer figure
appears but with a little difference ( wearing a cocked hat where the outer
person does not, a limp, bearing a child where the outer person does not
etc). These dreams demonstrate that a shift in projection is taking place,
as the outer person is no longer identical to the dream image.
Thus withdrawal of projection becomes a Call with convincing power when
simultaneously, the dreamer experiences a withdrawal of projection from
the outer world and an awakening to the existence of the psychic image which
is not a pale reflection of the outer world but has an autonomous existence,
according to the Romantic tradition. The characteristic phenomenology that
marks the beginning of this process as a Call is that of dying to the world
and an entering simultaneously to another world that lies behind or below
or interpenetrating the ordinary one. Myths of going to Hades are very helpful
in elucidating this phenomenon.
All of this is as I said initiated by the unconscious but it is crucial
that it be noticed by the therapist in order that the therapist can function
as a guide to the ego of the dreamer, naming the experiences that the ego
is having in ways suggested by the dreams themselves. In this way the ego
feels support as it undergoes the initiatory experiences into the culture
Romanticism in Today's World
Having suggested that projection and its withdrawal belong only to the cultural
tradition of Romanticism and have no place anywhere else, many questions
come to me about the enterprise of therapy and its place in society today.
Its current place as I have said is as an agent of social control, an unwitting
servant of the worst oppressive and destructive forces in society today.
I believe there must be a clear and distinct separation between forms of
counseling that seek to help individuals adjust to society or to even deal
with the many problems of living and a particular, very narrowly specified
form of therapy that seeks to assist those who are called to an initiatory
process, the fruit of which is a living experience of the Veiled Reality
behind the world of appearance. Probably this second, initiatory form will
not be called therapy.
In my judgement, all references to projection and its withdrawal belong
only to the second form of therapy and not to the first.
Since the individual who is called into an initiatory process which leads
to a Romantic World View did not expect or even want it and who certainly
did not lead the way into it, a question remains regarding responsibility.
Having been led into a Romantic World View, what responsibilities does he
have in this modern world whose Weltanshauung remains Scientific Materialism?
This question puts us right in the middle of world events for answers to
this question have had huge consequences. Nazism grew out of values, horribly
distorted, that belong to German Romanticism, for example. Various individuals,
including Hitler had convincing experiences about the Veiled Reality but
then drew up a political program of indoctrination along with an elimination
of all other differing cultures.
This problem as I see it rests on the historical fact that Christianity
with its roots in Judaism conquered Paganism in Europe. This means that
individuals who share this heritage and who have a convincing experienceof
their pagan roots (with its Romantic Weltanshauung) usually try to understand
those experiences with a mind rooted in Judaism which is a mind of literal
thinking, the pathology of which is paranoia.
Thus what such individuals want to do is to take the findings of their Romantic
experience and shape them with missionary zeal into literalisms leading
to monomaniacal actions in the ordinary world, dominated by fantasies of
World Domination. I hear faint echoes of this problem when Jungian groups
get anxious over dropping membership and start to organise their presentations
etc. for the purpose of 'getting new members'.
So, with these dreadful consequences which we have already suffered from,
the responsibility of any individual who is initiated into the Romantic
Weltanshauung becomes relatively easy to formulate. Such an individual must
learn to take the findings of Romanticism as they impact his Christian-Judaic
consciousness and apply themto himself. Such an individual must learn to
see behind and below himself. By this I mean he must learn to de-literalise
himself by learning how to see the deeper background of his cultural heritage
as it functions in his consciousness. He must come to experience how his
pagan roots are interacting with his Judeo - Christian ethics, producing
a dynamic, creative but very complex and difficult psychological structure,
which has a very dark shadow. Then and only then will he be ready to re-enter
the actual world with his vision, not as a missionary or fascist but as
an ordinary person, with a cultural heritage just as everyone has. He becomes
more able to hold true to his vision and share its fruits in a way that
contributes to, not destroys, the diversity and richness of our pluralistic
If I sound idealistic, I do not apologise. After all, ideals belong to Romanticism.
9950 Lake Washington Blvd. NE
Bellevue WA 98004
Phone: (206) 455 4392
Responses to the author are encouraged!
Reach Mr. Woodcock through The Ares Press at