Cafeausoul logo
Go to home page

There Is No Adversary

treasure map and skull
“Dragging the adversary about, when there is no adversary will cost you your inner treasure.”

Watch Video

Not long ago, a few national channels and one or two newspapers delivered news to our homes. We enjoyed time with family, and turned on the news to learn what was happening around the world.

Today, we search online for news in an ‘echo chamber,’ where we open links to the information that will validate what we already believe. It doesn’t matter if the story is true or not, and we are no longer getting news.

Day by day, life is being reduced to a reflection of our own thoughts.

This echo chamber is a good example of what psychologists call projection. Freud observed how a patient avoided confronting her own feelings of shame by imagining others were gossiping behind her back.

She attributed her uneasy feelings to the behavior of others – rather than her feelings of shame. This allowed her to avoid examining feelings she couldn't understand or process.

Had she looked within, she would have discovered the feeling of shame was a misunderstanding. Events can cause us to feel guilt or shame, even while we have done nothing wrong.

Of course, if we were not in fear of being found out or judged, we would never think others are judging us.

Projection is how feelings we don't understand, hide or protect – take on an obsessive quality and become the center of our focus.

The Other

Archetypes are universal and inborn models that play a role in influencing human behavior. The archetype of ‘the Other’ is anything that is ‘not Me.’

As we confront ideas that frighten or feel foreign to us, rather than own and examine the discomfort as our feeling, we project its cause onto ‘the Other.’ This allows us to make life more predictable.

Ego hates any kind of change, and it views new information as troublesome.

Ego is the face of our defense mechanisms. It continuously searches for what is threatening or out of place in the environment, seeking to bring events back under its control.

It takes life in the energy of fear, and large media companies have learned how to tap it. They’ve made fear their primary means of distribution.

Rather than adopt a new idea, we look for consensus among those who believe as we do – and the Other becomes the archetype of our adversary.

Factions develop and enemies are created. The feelings we don’t understand or are avoiding require immediate resolution. It is just easier to offload our discomfort in this way, and move on.

A similar idea has been studied and documented as the Fear-Affiliation Relationship. When tested, strangers begin affiliating, looking for reassurance when any type of discomfort or fear is introduced into an environment of strangers.

Projection allows us to resolve our feelings, albeit in a less productive way. If a person feels threatened, perhaps by a lack of self-esteem, they may bully another. In a sense, they are ridiculing weakness in another, when it is actually part of their own misunderstanding of feeling weak.

Through projection, we transfer ownership of our feelings and encounter it as something coming from ‘out there.’


Confucius said: “When meeting contention in another, it is wise to look within.”

Carl Jung wrote: “Projections change the world into the replica of one's own unknown face.” By transferring a disturbing self-assessment onto another, the advantage of projection is that “one has apparently gotten rid of the painful conflict once and for all.”

As a dream analyst, I observe how everything and everyone who appears in a dream embody our evolving ideas as we examine possible paths forward. Nothing is good or bad. We simply examine qualities of the Other, symbolized by those who appear in our dreams, and we do this with an open mind.

Although we are unaware, a similar mirroring occurs in daily life through projection.

What I love most about Taoism is how it incorporates the daily experience as a philosophical journey – not something to be negated.

Owning our darkness or inner misunderstandings can give us greater access to enlightenment. Our inner treasure combines compassion, not embroiling but learning, and a desire to be the guest, not the host of what unfolds.

In this way, each experience offers us a gift.

During the day, we find ways to shut down any information that threatens our need to protect the status quo. The fear is ours, but we find ways to quickly rid ourselves of it – through projection.

Nature appears to bring opposites together to provoke a type of transformation. Nothing is good or bad. When anything reaches an extreme, natural disasters or revolutions simply bring about balance.

Opposition and Innovation

We recognize projection happening for the individual, but we can also see it happening among groups.

Like Yin and Yang, a two-party democratic system is needed to find balance. It promotes stability at the same time that it allows for the introduction of new ideas. The two parties were never meant to agree.

They may fear the outcome of their disagreement as a loss of control. Voting tends to balance out their differences.

Studies show that conservatives have traditionally preferred order, while liberals appeared more open to uncertainty. The right accuses the left of threatening their freedoms with government structures that appear too ordered. In the meantime, the left is accusing the right of overthrowing democracy and rejecting what worked in the past.

Liberals seem to be promoting order, while Conservatives are giving free reign to uncertainty. This is the natural way opposites transform each other.

Both view the Other as close-minded, dishonest and immoral. How did this transfer of ideologies become the face of the Other? Projection is how we accuse the Other of possessing our own flaws.

We have to examine what is being repressed.

Conservatives tend to appreciate Christian values, but they don’t seem to extend compassion to serving the needy with any type of social assistance.

Liberals believe they are tolerant, but they don’t extend this tolerance to the idea that people naturally think differently.

The right thinks they are defending liberty, while they enact laws that restrict individual freedoms. The left thinks they are defending democracy, while they demonize those with opposing views.

In the meantime, nobody is being truthful, taking responsibility for their hypocrisies, or willing to examine their own inconsistencies.

If each examined their own motives and founding principles, they just might find consensus.

Rather than try to change each other, we'd do well to change ourselves.

When someone pushes our buttons, or we meet a situation that feels unusually ‘charged,’ we can learn about our deeper motivations by observing and owning the projection.

What we accuse of the Other, is usually something unresolved within us. Perhaps we sense our inconsistencies.

If we feel defensive, a better course of action is to ask ourselves what are we defending and why? Seeing the ‘Other’ as an enemy is not enlightenment. It is how we continue to walk in darkness.

We might blame the media for serving us food for our fear. However, today, the news is more like a vending machine. We are the ones who push the button and make the choice of what we read.

Life becomes alot more joyous when we are willing to take responsibility for our unresolved feelings. We only learn these feelings are there, when our hackles go up.

Rather than get angry, turn within.

By removing the charge and not embroiling in the drama we unwittingly create, we learn to appreciate how life returns us to joy.