One trait most animals seem to share is emotional projection. I see it regularly in my walks with Audrey and Shaka. They see a dog across the street they don’t like and will start snarking at each other. And many a behavioral issue with pets can be attributed to human projection onto them.
The other night I watched the Jessica Yu documentary Protagonist that examines the lives of four men who in an effort to not be like people they despised (in most cases their fathers), they became worse versions of the people they were trying not to be. The son of a former Nazi became a left wing terrorist, an abused son took to getting pleasure out of terrifying people while robbing banks.
While I don’t worry about ending up robbing a bank or blowing up airplanes, I have recently been calling myself out or at least my inner critic that is prone to judge others so harshly and then wind it back around and slam the mirror in my own face. The trick is not just to own up to the fact that the bad behaviors in others are forgivable but to offer some of the same forgiveness to myself. I rarely vocalize these criticisms of others, but they play out in my head daily to the point of drowning out happier and more positive thoughts.
It came up the other day when I finally agreed to have lunch with a friend whom I sometimes consider to be a psychic vampire, an energy drain that I can find difficult being around. When we met up, I worked at quieting those voices and assumptions and to just let the conversation flow. The negative qualities were there, but I was surprised by how they are a small part of the larger package. Those negative aspects tend to fester and curdle in my mind until a very unrealistic portrait of that person gels in my head. I get tired of the old adage about not giving free space to others in your head, but the side of it that often isn’t mentioned is that those other people don’t want to be there anyway. And they are residing there in effigy and caricature.