One of the biggest things I’ve been trying my damnedest to remove over the past eight years is a character defect that plagued me during most of my addictive years and that’s selfishness. Yet, for some reason, no matter how hard I keep trying to do so, to become a selfless individual, some continue to project their own selfish behaviors onto me.
Recently, I experienced this with a good friend I care about greatly. They’ve been going through a good amount of depression. I’ve done everything I can to reach out to them, to get them involved in a men’s group we both are part of, and to call or text to let them know I care, all of which has been met with silence. While they have reached out to others who have contacted them, they’ve opted to not get back to me whatsoever. After expressing my sadness surrounding this through email and asking for some sort of contact from them, I received a short response completely void of any compassion or understanding that said I was selfish and to leave them alone. In their mind, somehow my repeated attempts to connect with them and to show them I care was thought of as selfish. Yet, I know my intentions were nothing of the sort, as in my selfish past, I wouldn’t have cared less about their depression or anyone in their state of mind and being, and would never have reached out to someone feeling like that, because it would have had to been a conversation about them and not me. Yet, I know in my heart my repeated attempts to contact this person was out of concern for them, even if they couldn’t see that.
But, because I often internalize what people think of me, another character defect I continue to work on, I let this friend’s negative opinion of me ruin a few days of mine in a row. I went around this over and over again in my head trying to see if maybe I was being selfish somewhere. But, after delving through it with my partner, my best friend, my therapist, and two other close friends, I realized this wasn’t my issue at all, and was merely a projection of someone’s own stuff. It was indeed also one of those types of things where hurt people often hurt the people they care about the most.
After coming to accept that, I began to wonder how many times I’ve owned other’s projections onto me. I can safely say that this happened quite a bit with my alcoholic mother. While she was often quite selfish in her actions, she often pointed out anything she felt was selfish that my sister and I did, even though many of our actions weren’t nearly half as hurtful as some of hers were. The fact is, people who aren’t happy with themselves often project their character defects onto another, especially to those they are close to and actually care about.
The more I work on my self-love, the more I see this, that I don’t have to own any of the projection’s others place onto me. Because ultimately, I am a good person who’s far more selfless than selfish these days, which I feel has been pretty apparent to those who’ve been a part of my 12 Step journey.
It really is ironic though, because my best friend and I were talking about this the other day when he laughed and said, “if only this person knew how selfish I really was back in the day…” How true that statement was. If only my friend could see how much I’ve changed.
The bottom line is projections are nothing more than judgments that are typically far more about the person saying them, then about the person receiving them, which hopefully my friend will eventually see for themselves…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson