Projecting ourselves onto others

Large numbers of American soldier had idyllic marriages to German, Italian or Japanese “war brides” (after World War II) with whom they could not verbally communicate. But when their brides learned English, the marriages began to fall apart. The servicemen could then no longer project upon their wives their own thoughts, feelings, desires and goals and feel the same sense of closeness one feels with a pet. Instead, as their wives learned English, the men began to realize that these women had ideas, opinions and aims different from their own. As this happened, love began to grow for some; for most, perhaps, it ceased.

The liberated woman is right to beware of the man who affectionately calls her his “pet.” He many indeed be an individual whose affection is dependent upon her being a pet, who lacks the capacity to respect her strength, independence and individuality.

Probably the most saddening example of this phenomenon is the very large number of women who are capable of “loving” their children only as infants.

As soon as a child begins to assert its own will- to disobey, to whine, to refuse to play, to occasionally reject being cuddled, to attach itself to other people, to move out into the world a little bit on its own – the mother’s love cease… At the same time, she will often feel an almost overpowering need to be pregnant again, to have another infant, another pet. Usually she will succeed, and the cycle is repeated.

The point is that nurturing can be and usually should be much more than simple feeding, and that nurturing spiritual growth is an infinitely more complicated process than can be directed by any instinct.

M Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled