Encounters with C. G. Jung: The Journal of Sabi Tauber (1951–1961)

On Projection

Ignaz Tauber: If you allow us, Herr Professor, we’d like to ask you one more question.

There are two, actually, belonging together, and these are: what did you do when, at times, you ran out of vitality – when you had too much work, or suffered a depression or stroke of fate? In part you already answered when talking about these soul-stones. And the last question belongs with it: how were you able to withdraw your projections?

C. G. Jung: Yes, these two questions belong necessarily together.

If one runs out of vitality, that is, participation in life, interest, energy, it is a kind of tiredness.

What does one do when one is tired?

One rolls up like a dog on the sofa and stays with oneself. One collects oneself, one recuperates.

And if one gets into a psychic mess, one recuperates psychically by paying attention to oneself, by reflecting on things, having a good look at the problems, becoming conscious of them, and, in fact, of all that concerns oneself. Everyone who is suffering becomes selfish, egocentric.

This is absolutely necessary, – so that he can put himself together again. It is precisely like the

Australian who seeks his churingas and rubs them.

So, we seek a resting place, quietness, concentration, in order to help ourselves out of our difficulties.

One can support this: in India, these practices are articulated, nicely described.

They can “breathe themselves into being,” if they want.

Or they can assume a certain lotus position, which reminds one of one’s own posture, the body. Just try to sit for two hours in lotus position, and you know where you are, if only for physiological reasons!

Or one satisfies some wishes that are within one’s means.

I had, for example, a patient who had life-threatening depressions during which she wanted to kill herself.

She noticed that, if she passed by a shoe store and bought herself a pair of new shoes, things got better.

With that she healed her depression, precisely because she did something for herself.

It can help in many respects to do something for oneself, and, in fact, perhaps in an egotistical manner.

For this purpose, there are men who allow themselves to get drunk.

And it may just be the right thing, namely because it is right to pay attention to oneself, to take oneself objectively.

This way one also can free oneself from projections. What does a projection mean?

A projection means, for example, that I project characteristics into someone, or find characteristics that are not there, that come from somewhere else, from myself for example.

This is why I’m not sure about the evaluation of that personality. Well, what to do?

One asks around what this person is like in reality. One listens to what other people say.

Or one really investigates how these people are in reality and then notices, to one’s own astonishment, that, perhaps, one has had a completely wrong judgment.

Then one can find the reason for it.

One has, for example, mistrust against someone and finds out that this is basically unjustified.

Well, what to do? How can one rectify that?

First of all, you know through objective investigation that this mistrust is completely inappropriate and that this person is trustworthy.

But why do I project mistrust onto that person?

Very simply, because something within myself is not working.

It can be, for example, that I myself have misgivings and that I somehow find myself

in some way untrustworthy, which, however, I wouldn’t admit. I would prefer to say, “No, I’m very trustworthy.”

It would not appreciate if others thought of us as being untrustworthy, and so we assume that we are trustworthy.

Still, we have a secret doubt about whether or not we are.

Or we did something that shows that we are not quite trustworthy.

Then we are secretly pursued by a bad conscience and seek to place it somewhere, and then discover a bete noire;

We discover someone and think, “This now is the one who is not trustworthy,” and with this the projection is done.

Then there it is.

If one can reverse this process through self-reflection, recollect oneself, get to know

oneself, then one has a sure criterion; one knows the answer to, “How come you’re saying bad things about this person – you know that you yourself are to blame!”

But few people do this. It’s about very simple things.

After all, one says that everybody has his bete noire.

There is always someone of whom one thinks, now this is a bad person, or some such thing.

Then one can see that it is projected and that it might even come from oneself.

Once one knows it, one can stop this nonsense.

There are, for example, men who project pure innocence onto every girl. These are the “innocents,” the “forever innocent and wonderful,” who don’t have any bad characteristics at all.

Such people then are, of course, completely blind, that means, they are completely blind with respect to their own feelings.

They don’t know that they are absolutely egotistical and selfish by assuming that another is perfect.

Then, of course, the girl one wants to marry has to be perfect, because one is oneself such a fabulous stag.

Therefore, one can only marry a wholly perfect woman.

This is a crazy demand on the other person, because one demands of the other person what oneself doesn’t do.

That, too, is a projection.

If one thinks of someone as a lazy dog, and one isn’t totally sure whether he is a lazy dog – one might even have proof that he isn’t – then one has to look into oneself, whether oneself is a lazy dog. This is how it goes.

We find this everywhere in our society.

Women have certain ideas about each other, and then it turns out that they themselves are like that.

The same happens with men. In this regard, men are as bad as women, only their projections are aimed at different things.

Just look around in the business milieu, for example: time and again you find the story of the bete noire. In families, too, it happens that one brother projects onto the other and doesn’t see that what he criticizes is what is most faulty in himself.

These are the usual things.

And these, one can, of course, correct without further ado by turning within and saying to oneself, “Now, let’s open all the drawers for once and see how things are with me.”

And then one discovers all sorts of things, and one sees that one doesn’t need these projections any longer, that one doesn’t have to project these things onto others.

In this way, one can rid oneself of projections.

But it isn’t always a comfortable procedure; one suffers a few setbacks.

One has to acknowledge that one isn’t one hundred percent a fine stag. This is why the two questions go together.

One can only renew oneself if one takes charge of oneself.

But people who habitually project always want to make others responsible, as if others were responsible for our own stupidities.

For example, one’s wife should treat one differently, because, in fact, one treats oneself

stupidly. At least one’s wife should do it right! And so on.

I knew of a case where the wife made the greatest scenes, even hurt her husband physically, because of thunderstorms!

There is thunder and lightning, and the light flashes in her eyes, and her husband

is responsible for it!

She made him responsible, as if he’d been Zeus himself.

If I were to introduce you to this woman you wouldn’t think that she was in the least bit crazy.

Quite the opposite: a highly reasonable woman.

But she projected a lot; she kept blaming others, “Yes, if he or she or this or that had been different, then, of course, I’d be different.”

Or, “There’s lightning, and, by golly, it’s flashing in my eyes.”

A thunderstorm in the skies aims at her, because she is such a tremendously important person, and long ago has been put on Zeus’ list to be aimed at, because she is such a fantastic Semele or some such thing.

That wouldn’t be the case, if her husband weren’t to blame. I asked her how her husband could be blamed and how she could make him responsible.

It turned out that he was fond of thunderstorms.

He loved thunderstorms!

And that is his damn nastiness, that he loves what has been aimed at her and wants to kill her.

This is why he is the secret ally of Zeus and Semele, who was consumed by the divine fire.

Now this is a Greek myth, played out in the life of a completely reasonable Swiss woman.

She is Semele – and doesn’t know it.

He is, if not Zeus himself, at least a colleague of Zeus and a co-conspirator.

Zeus aims, by golly, at her, because she is a goddess, a semi-goddess, a Semele, and if there is a thunderstorm, lightning would hit her.

She sees clearly how lightning is flashing in her eyes, and that is a terrible impudence. Her whole reputation is being put into question, as Zeus has it in for her.

And yet, it is a very fine thing when Zeus himself is interested in one’s personhood.

And her husband lets it all happen; he doesn’t stop those thunderstorms.

He is, you see, a colleague, a co-conspirator of Zeus, who wants to hand her over to Zeus.

It is a whole conglomerate of “plots,” of cabals.

Out of this arises a very complicated play of emotions towards the husband.

She doesn’t know this; she has no clue.

So, if she wants to liberate herself from these projections, she’d have to go to her little room in private, sit on a chair and write, “So, my husband makes thunderstorms.”

Then she’d say, “No, now that’s too crass. My husband can’t make thunderstorms.

But where do these flashes in my eyes come from?” – That is the “lightning-god” who is after her.

But she still doesn’t realize that it is she who has it in for the “lightning-god.”

That’s the tricky part.

These are the reflections she has to make, and when she can make such reflections, she’ll come out of her projections.

The miracle is how these people come to have such archetypal ideas.

But that’s because we all have a collective unconscious that contains such ideas.

And if something is not particularly interesting …well, one doesn’t go for a walk in a golden chaise; Zeus doesn’t come through the roof in the form of golden rain; and one doesn’t ride a Europa bull – ah yes, then life would be beautiful – but one has to ride the streetcar in the city, and that’s so boring.

Then archetypal compensations come up, and people construct such ridiculous fantasies.

Of course, these are very interesting for the clinician who treats them.

You’re apt to hear, for example, the whole Greek mythology in the Zurich dialect; it happens on street number such-and-such in Zurich, and it is Mrs. So-and-so – Mrs. Cabbage-head.

It is all terribly banal, but when you look carefully, it is actually “The God and the Bayadere,” or “Zeus and Semele” and so on.

Under certain circumstances, this may ruin a marriage; it ruins the relationship with the children, if, for example, a woman has a Semele fantasy, which happens quite often.

Then what happens to her son? In that case, he is Dionysus! Woe betide him!

He is being drawn into the myth and has to embody Dionysus.

If he becomes an alcoholic, the whole world will wonder why.

He could well have become an alcoholic in honor of this myth.

I’ve seen more than one case where the mother, a most reasonable person, had all sorts of fantasies with just such Zeus characteristics.

After all, you know how many love affairs Zeus had.

Nothing of the sort happened in her own life; however, she had a son who then committed all these foolish things.

And then his mother wondered why; she didn’t know anything. Because all projections work like missiles, psychic missiles.

If someone projects onto you, it is as if you were hit by a missile.

The god is like something that enters into you.

A man, for example, can be made completely crazy by female projections, without realizing what’s happening to him.

A female missile has hit him. And the other way around.

This is why it is important to know what belongs to one, and what doesn’t belong to one.

If, therefore, the aforementioned lady, with her Semele fantasies, would have had

the inclination to think whether she really was Semele, lover of Zeus, mother of a god, she’d soon be taught otherwise.

But this is never thought about, only acted out, done; one lets it happen. This precisely is the danger.

From there, of course, arise neuroses, this you can easily see.

Just imagine a man who, for his wife, virtually represents Zeus, or perhaps just a colleague of Zeus, and who is suspected of making thunderstorms.

Lord – after some time, he inevitably must have a megalomania!

If he doesn’t think about it, then he only feels the effect from others’ reaction to him, as if he was “god-be-with-us” himself. This, of course, has an effect.

This changes him.

This is why there are many men – with the assorted corresponding women – who through marriage come into a very strange psychic disposition by way of such archetypes, which the wife brings with her.

And vice versa! I always have to add that. It’s not only one gender, it’s the other one too.

This poisons our society and our personal relationships to a high degree, because it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit with us.

This is why I need to know who I am, if I want to free myself from such things.

It means that I need to know that it doesn’t belong to me to have such affectations.

Perhaps I have such an affectation if it was shot into me, secretly shot into my back.

One can ruin someone with such expectations, especially children.

For example, the mother can completely ruin her son by having the wrong expectations.

She can “twist” him, and this can happen with grown-ups too. This is why the analysis of projections is so important.

Of course, as a medical doctor I couldn’t afford to have fun with my patients by staging Greek myths.

To the contrary, I had to pay attention so that I noticed the projections.

For this reason, I couldn’t afford to also project. If one has a profession like I have had, then, of course, the devil only knows what is projected into one.

One is the savior, and who knows what else. It’s … ! One finally gets sick and tired of it.

But if one doesn’t know this, it has devastating consequences!

It is a rule that parents, be it the father or the mother, want to elicit the very thing in their children that they don’t do themselves.

They push their children into the life they haven’t lived themselves. This is unrelentingly so. It is a mathematical formula.

One can see very clearly the effect on the children.

I believe that a year ago I gave you here, in this circle, an example of a family in which six daughters had to personify the anima of the father.

Group: No.

C.G. Jung: No? The father was – to use a decent expression – a Bourgeois.

He didn’t know that he also had a rabble-rouser within him. So, he had six daughters, and he was a great hater of Germans.

The first daughter married a German theologian. Theologians he couldn’t stand anyway.

The second was engaged for years to a German theologian as well, and finally married him.

The third had a long-lasting affair with a German, a l’insu de ses parents, and ended up marrying him. It was a rather scandalous story.

She’d already had a certain artistic inclination.

Even more so the fourth, who had strong artistic inclinations.

This one teamed up with the youngest one, the fifth daughter.

They both lived in a bed and breakfast in Paris and went out with Corsicans; they were leading such a wild life that it almost created a scandal for this absolutely honorable family.

I then had the middle daughter come to see me and told her, “You know, I heard it all – something has to be done.”

After all, these girls had been spoiled by the family, by the parents.

She said, “It’s so terrible – I don’t know what to do. This doesn’t work, does it?!”

I said, “Yes, it is a highly alarming situation.” I didn’t know these people otherwise, but I knew the family as a very good family, and also as decent people.

So, I said, “We have to initiate something. Go home and write to your sister that Professor Jung doesn’t agree with how they carry on.” Whereupon both sisters went back home.

The whole thing was called off and both got married – namely because I meddled in their affairs. I took on the role of the father and said, “Under no circumstances is this going to work!”

If the father had said this just once, if he’d only once wanted to know what was going on there, the whole thing would not have happened.

Because then they would have realized their projections, their expectations.

They were all “twisted” by the fact that their father wasn’t aware of a piece of life within him, and that their mother had a field of vision as if she was eternally looking through a cigar box.

She didn’t react either.

When I asked the daughter, “Why didn’t you ever speak about this with your father or your mother?” she said, “That’s impossible. You can’t discuss that. Such a thing doesn’t exist in our environment.”

That’s Jung uses the German Pfahlburger, a mix of citizen and “Pfahlbauer”, the prehistoric pile dwellers who lived in pile villages on lakes around the Alps.

the right attitude for projections to flourish!

These children simply had to compensate for the pitiful, narrow horizon of their mother and the even more deplorable narrowness of their father.

Some of them had to marry what their father hated, what he despised, and the others what their mother hated and despised.

This, then, goes with the saying: “Father’s blessing builds houses for the children. But mother’s curse tears them down.”

Only here there wasn’t any blessing, because there were such projections.

But what family doesn’t have such projections?

If I hadn’t intervened there, those two girls would have slipped into prostitution. As simple as that.

Just imagine such a thing: two Swiss girls with Corsicans, embroiled in vendettas, tinkering with sharp knives.

One would fear that they’d be murdered at some point. Now I have to stop; now I’ve had enough.

Sabi Tauber: Would you like to have a glass of wine now?

C. G. Jung: No, no – now I have to travel home, on the wings of the wind, literally!

Ignaz Tauber: I believe I speak on behalf of everyone when I thank you cordially for the efforts you have made to give us a sense of your knowledge and experience.

  1. G. Jung: I’m always afraid that I talk too much and repeat myself.

Didn’t I tell you a story twice? Isn’t it true, when one gets old, there comes this loquacitas senilis.

I had an uncle who said to his sons, “When you notice that it doesn’t function so well anymore, please let me know. Then I’ll retire.”

They promised, and, a few years later, they found that the time had come for the old man to retire.

The oldest son went to him and said, “Father, we thought it is now time for you to retire.” Whereupon the father replied, “What? Never before did I feel so alive, strong, and youthful! I’ve never been in such good form!” – It was already too late!

Fig. 28: C. G. Jung, June 27, 1959. ~Sabi Tauber, Sabi Tauber: Encounters with Jung, Page  209-216