9. Attachments to Projections
Ego is attached by nature. On the road back to Self, the obstacles are not material belongings or lifestyle as such, but our clinging to them that are. If we seek happiness there, we become attached to them and this attachment is binding. Our desire for — or aversion to — something, ties us to it and takes away our freedom. Gollum in ‘Lord of the Rings’ is in the vice grip of attachment to a ring which he calls ‘my precious’. His moody, but basically kind-hearted nature turns dark under it’s spell.
When we are attached to our desires, we become their slave. We are reduced to chasing after their fulfillment, while losing ourselves in the process. Whenever I chase after something specific, instead of enjoying whatever I have in front of me, my focus is on my lack. Once I do get what I desire, I grab it and devour it, starving, not even tasting it properly and before long, the search for fulfilment is on again and I am back on the hamster wheel.
Some common attachments and their effects
- attached to perfection, in ourselves, a partner or a lifestyle, for instance, we continually live in lack. Nothing is good enough.
- attached to intensity, to ‘extreme everything’, we are driven to create drama just to feel alive.
- attached to (or fixated on) that which is not working, we are frustrated and negative because we ignore all that actually is working.
Attached, we become manipulative. We fear losing what we are attached to and so we become dishonest in small ways. For instance, we don’t completely open up to our partner, we avoid sensitive topics. Any interpersonal struggle, be it blaming, guilt, negotiating or bartering has its roots in attachment.
Attachment is draining. Whatever relationship we grasp and cling to, is by nature an illusory ‘having’, fraught with tension. We invest huge amounts of energy just to keep a hold on it. The harder we clutch, the more we can be sure that what we are clinging to increasingly ‘isn’t’. Then, because we are so attached to it, when it ends, it is intensely painful.
Attached, we focus solely on where our life falls short of our mental image of how it should be. We keep this ideal picture in place by the energy we invest in it. All our perceptions transform into food for its embellishment. This causes a kind of tunnel vision. This can happen in a negative sense too. When we assume someone dislikes us, for example, we accept even the slightest disharmony as proof of that.
When I am stressed about a big project, my mind latches onto anything that is not behaving as I want it to. This then becomes the hook, snagging the project’s flow towards resolution. It is usually a minor detail, largely unimportant in the bigger picture, but to me, it feels like I’m losing control of the whole because of it.
Attachment skews reality. It pulls our attention away from open-minded perception and flow and fixes it on a frozen image instead. We wrestle with this one thing, locked, oblivious and blunted to all else, giving it huge power over us. Fixated on a part or denying a part, we miss the reality of all that is, including what is becoming. Synchronicities stop happening and when that starts happening, I have learnt to pay attention!
Attachment narrows down our choice of scripts in directing the movie of our life. We identify with the ‘I’ character instead of staying objective and open to possibility.
Besides being attached, ego also projects. Ken Wilber, in his book, ‘No Boundary’, explains projection as follows:
An impulse or drive, such as anger or desire, which arises in us and is aimed at the environment, when projected, appears to come at us from the environment. The impulse seems to attack us from the outside, instead of helping us to attack from the inside. No longer do we push to action; we feel pushed to action. It’s a boomerang effect and we end up clobbering ourselves with our own energy.
This scam works well when we find some parts of our ego unacceptable. We deny ownership of those parts, called the shadow, but conveniently forget that we’ve done so. When triggered, we place our shadow on the opposite side of the fence — outside of ourselves — and there it joins the ‘enemy forces’. The shadow is thus projected. For example, ‘I’m mad at the world’ then becomes ‘the world is mad at me.’ Every time we fall for this, the shadow grows.
All people or situations which ‘press our buttons’ instead of merely informing us, are sure to involve our projections. These triggers might bother, upset or repulse us on the one hand, or attract, compel and obsess us on the other.
What we hide from ourselves, we see outside of ourselves. We despise in others the greed or lust that we deny in ourselves. We blame others for our internal sorrow that we will not address and push them further away. The prison we try to dismantle in front of our eyes, mirrors the real prison behind our eyes which holds us captive.
We project onto the world a picture and it then becomes the reality that we interact with. We are attached to this reality, which is nothing but the sum of our own projections. It is a reality of attachment to projections.