Perception, interpretation & projection

Updated: Jul 10, 2018

The act of perception of the external world follows a particular pattern that affects what we see out there & what we experience through this perception. Our natural disposition is to perceive with clarity & such interaction enlarges our consciousness so that we may experience all of us. In simple terms it works as follows:

Sensory information from our exteroceptive world (outer world) through sensory neurons enters our system & its interoceptive domain (inner world). The information is then interpreted through our accumulated files of experiences. If it is a completely new experience it is logged as such and particular action is tested in relation to the external world & its consequences are again logged internally. Most of our interactions however are associatively linked with our historical experiences and their accumulated files of actions & reactions. What this means is that our current perception is associatively linked with our historical information on such type of events & gives rise to our particular reactions to the associations. In other words we react to our associations & not so much to the external event. The more accumulated experiences the less we react to the external event & the more we react to the internal associations. We therefore through the external event react to our internal world. Our reactions are either that we like, we do not like, or that we simply do not care.

Trauma in turn through this act of interpretation distorts our perception. During the development of trauma an external trauma-activating event had the effect on us that we felt the situation carried an element of “at-our-expense”. We were helpless to change that particular consequence & were left with a sense of abuse being done to our spontaneous flow. Our internal fight-flight action was rendered compromised. The internal activated fight-flight reaction that is on-hold then goes into freeze mode. In short trauma means we could not complete the internal activation caused by the external trauma-activating event. It will stay in this frozen state until reactivated through an external associative activator. It can also release when too much life stress lowers our defenses, the trauma unfreezes & the incomplete fight-flight activation starts releasing & completing its previously on-hold energy sequence. A third possibility is that when we reach a particular later-life stage our system wants to live free of bondage & spontaneously starts releasing internal stuckness in favour of flow. Flow implies that all our potentialities are available for interaction if so needed.

When we have internal trauma our interpretation of the external event through our logged internal experiences tells a story. We project our internal world onto the external canvass. And the more we paint onto this canvass the more we reveal of our developmental trauma. The give-away of the internal trauma is the repetitive interpretation that something of the external world is “at-my-expense”. An example would be a statement that a person makes that repeats in this person’s interpersonal relationships such as, “The winners walk away with the only prize & the loser (i.e. the interpreter & his/her interpretation due to the internal trauma colouration) must be content with nothing.” This particular statement, referred to as an inter-translator (projection through the medium of inter-action), reflects the particular individual’s interpretation of a given situation & implicates that it has a repetitive connotation. In other words it translates that it has happened before & will happen again. We can see only what we can see. This projection will stay in the interpreter’s world until such time that the interpreter resolves the internal trauma through in-depth psychobiological oriented psychotherapy.

Through the person’s projection we thus gain insight into the person’s internal world of unresolved issues. The person does not know that an inter-translator is exposing internal trauma, since projection is an unconscious response from the internal disconnected/ unconscious trauma experience(s).

Most battles are initiated through projection & projection is the greatest dis-ease of humankind. Our knowledge of projection can also be our greatest asset.

- Dr JO Steenkamp

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