All Relationship Begins in Projection

James Hollis rephrases Kant’s idea to say that one can: “never know the essential character of an external reality, but only the subjective, phenomenological workings of one’s own psychic experience.”

All Relationship Begins in Projection

This is one of the pontoon bridges that I crossed while on a motorbike tour of rural Vietnam near HoiAn.  Like most areas of Vietnam, this area suffered destruction during the American War with basically all the bridges destroyed sometimes just leaving a small section of a bridge to indicate where the bridge had originally been located.  The quickest solution is to use barrels to float a rough plank bridge.  Looking at the scene, one doesn’t think of war.  One is left with an idyllic scene that is all about countryside, water and perhaps poverty.  It is only in digging deeper that we see that the scene is all about a relationship that was violent.

But even a historical awareness doesn’t really tell us enough about what it is that one sees in the image.  As hard as I look, I can’t truly “see” the “thing-in-itself” as Immanuel Kant had once said “Ding-an-Sich”.  James Hollis rephrases Kant’s idea to say that one can: “never know the essential character of an external reality, but only the subjective, phenomenological workings of one’s own psychic experience.” One is trapped by one’s container, by one’s body and limited sense of consciousness.  What one does perceive is then all about projection, even concrete things such as this bridge.  I can almost hear the denials even in this print space.  But just think for a moment about our differentiated responses to “things.”  Some of us have pleasurable responses to certain odours or textures while some have an almost non-response or a negative response.  We accept these possibilities based on how life experience teaches us to associate these things with negative, neutral or positive experiences.  It doesn’t take much of a stretch to see that all external reality then is “framed” by our experiences in context to external “things.”  Simply restated, everything has an affect based on projection and thus ceases to be a “thing-in-itself.”

Projections – to have a sense of otherness, whether the otherness is an object, animate life, place, sensory evidence or people can must contain a projection.  With time and repeated contact, the projections can be withdrawn to reveal some of the “thing-in-itself” but not completely.  The same goes for our awareness of other people.  To have a sense of otherness in terms of another human, is to engage in some sort of relationship to that other person whether the relationship is that of family member, colleague, neighbour, teammate, friend, enemy, fan, or lover.  As Hollis states:

All relationships, all relationships, begin in projection.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 36)

Just as we don’t, can’t know the “thing-in-itself,” we can’t ever know the “other-in-his/her-self.”  We can claim to know, really know another person.  But how true is this when one never does ever get to know the fullness that is one’s “self?”


Robert G. Longpré is well known among people interested in Jungian Psychology because of his excellent site, Through a Jungian Lens, parts of which are reproduced here by permission.  He says the following about himself:

"I am wearing a backpack in the photo because that is often how anyone would see me at this point in my life.  I am on a journey of soul, a journey in search of meaning and in search of self.  I am a retired school teacher and school administrator having taught in various schools in Saskatchewan, Canada.  I was a principal for a number of years as well.  Intermingled with my career in education was a second career as a psychotherapist.  Needing to take care of students with issues and later, teachers with issues, I took a number of university and certificate courses to allow me to work more effectively and safely with those whose care I was entrusted.  My counselling focus eventually shifted to include others and to include some “depth” work.  The depth work had a foundation in Jungian psychology.

"Now that I am retired, I am currently in Calgary, Canada working on my writing, my journey through a personal “Dark Night of the Soul” with my wife of forty-one years sharing most of my days and dreams.  Our children and grandchildren have their own homes in both Canada and the U.S.A.  For those interested in these things, I have three children and six grandchildren.

"Since retirement, we have travelled to a number of countries with some becoming places of part-time residence over the past five years. We lived in Changzhou, China for the better parts of four years.  Three months in Costa Rica during one winter, and three months in the Yucatan, Mexico during another winter were other longer stays during this time.  Added to this was a month in Rajasthan, India, a month in Thailand, and a month in IndoChina with most of that time spent in Vietnam.  This past winter break, I spent a a break of ten days in the Philippines.  Of course, if you are a reader here, you are already aware of these things as the selection of photos talk about my response to being in all of these places.  In travelling with a camera, I discover myself through images of both the known and the unknown."

 May 19th, 2011 at 9:37 am

Posted in Jungian Psychology

Tagged with consciousness, Ding-an-Sich, experiential, HoiAn, James Hollis, Jungian Psychology, Kant, other, projection, reality, relationship, self, Sony A550 DSLR, The Eden Project, thing-in-itself, unconscious, Vietnam

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