"Consider what you project onto your partner. Is your preoccupation with your partner's flaws an avoidance of anxiety about your own imperfections?"
I almost feel like I answered this question before I started answering any of these questions. I was running at the time and thus it never got spoken aloud, but what I was thinking about on that run was a forthcoming meeting of minds where I needed help. The thought, a whine, a complaint, collapsed immediately upon itself - I wanted to say 'Rod, do you know of an island somewhere populated by happy secure individuals that I could just move to.'
Because my issues are not other people's issues. My issues are my own. I do get preoccupied with the 'flaws' of other people. And there's almost certainly a part of me arrogant and condescending enough to consider people inherently flawed, while making an exception of myself.
The tricky part is the complexity of these words 'an avoidance of anxiety about your own imperfections' I believe in law circles they'd call this a 'complex question' that is to answer it requires me to accept that I have imperfections (no big deal) then that I feel anxious about them (harder for me to recognize) and lastly that I avoid them. (very hard to catch myself doing).
It's true that I am bullshit at multitasking. I cannot think about my own issues and somebody else's at the same time. I can't be looking at and critiquing the work of others while simultaneously making my own. The best I can say, is that looking at and critiquing the work of others is part of my creative process, in constructing the critique, I am already drawing my own piece, my own take.
In the same manner, the best I can say is that getting preoccupied with other people's problems has in some ways helped illuminate my own decisions. I have no evidence to suggest though, this is more productive than just examining myself in the nearest mirror. There's plenty of evidence to suggest it is much more productive when I just sit down and think about myself. It can even be more productive when I am illuminated by others projecting their anxieties onto me.
So yes, ironically one of the things I project most - is a frustration with people in my life worried about the welfare of others, the addictions and mental illnesses of others, even the welfare of animals or kids in indonesian sweatshops sooner than actually take care of themselves and address their own issues.
Looking back at my psychology sessions, I can see how much time was dedicated to trying to solve the problem of other people. How to effect or adapt in such a way as to bring about desired change in others. When I actually gave up and accepted, things got better quite quickly. I just turned on myself. Turned back to myself.
I see with former partners, a clear trend - I only really ever accepted my partners for who they were when we broke up. It's also the only time generally we communicated as adults to each other.
One of the 'too little too late' gestures I made in one relationship was to read 'Development as Freedom' by Amartya Sen. It was one of the two times I showed an interest in what my partner wanted to dedicate her life to. I only remember parts of that book - namely how cultural identities have always evolved and aren't worth defending or preserving, how famines are caused by pricing mechanisms and rarely by a shortage of actual food but also I think so much value is wrapped up in the title - the only goal, the only purpose of development is freedom. And that applies equally to personal development.
Then something I saw earlier in the week, a gif of a Brad Pitt monologue from 'Killing Me Softly':
"My friend, Thomas Jefferson is an American saint because he wrote the words 'All men are created equal', words he clearly didn't believe since he allowed his own children to live in slavery."
Even though Chappelle did a bit on this before, this particular phrasing hit me harder, perhaps because of the observation that Jefferson sired children that then lived out their lives as slaves. There's something about that cognitive dissonance, that disingenuity that hits home here when asked about projecting. No matter Jefferson's own moral failings, he did manage to pen a document that has formed a very powerful basis for the winning side of the civil rights movement from the American civil war throguh to what's happening in Fergurson today. But this polymath, this genius was blind to his own imperfection in a manner perhaps more instructive than Isaac Newton's failings at investment.
Of course, Of Course, OF COURSE! I am no exception. I go to therapy and regard myself as 'doing something' and therefore an exception to the rule of having to sort your own shit out first. I did eventually, but this here, this is my shit - the world rejects me, I'm not important enough to take something for my own, or to seize an opportunity that is there. I'm worthy of being ignored or passed over, and it is up to me to take care of myself, solve my own problems and then assume privilege enough that it falls on me to 'help' others as well.
The trouble of course being, that this subconscious program I'm on if you will is scary in its power, and it's easy to avoid looking at it. And the anxiety drives avoiding behavior. When you're successfully avoiding shit, then your blind. It's hard to unravel. I don't think the above paragraph accurately articulates exactly what my subconscious drive is, but it's close. I'm getting closer.
next (and last) question.