A common question is where do I start? It does not really matter as long as it a start that involves inward looking. But sometimes people need a bit more than that answer to help them move along.
A good place to start is to look at how we project onto others. Projection is the psychological term but it applies just as much to the spiritual path if not more so. A way to think of projection is to think of it as like having an unconscious inner image of self which we project onto others much like a movie is projected onto a screen. A simple example of projection would be you are feeling all over the place and you get angry at a co-worker for being disorganized.
In your view that the co-worker is disorganized seems like a substantial fact. Indeed in some cases it may well be a fact. But what is disowned in this example would be your own disorganization.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you are being irritated and it has a high level of intensity surrounding it, then something is occurring at an unconscious level internally. And if so the first port of call is to look towards projection.
When we unconsciously project it can lead to many issues later in life. Consider an example of growing up with a tyrannically father. We might later in life project the quality of tyranny onto authority figures which could lead to all sorts of dysfunctional relationships. Internally we may be critical and judgmental, after all this is what we have been taught, but not wishing to believe of ourselves in the negative, we see these qualities more easily in others. What is more important is that those qualities affects us.
It can work the other way as well. We often project positive qualities onto others, while disowning our own qualities. This is particularly true in the spiritual field where gurus are often held in such high esteem that often what they are actually saying goes unquestioned. This helps no one other than the guru and is one of the more common barriers in the spiritual field.
It is relatively easy to find those qualities out there in others. Most of the time they are going to be there. What we need to focus upon however is what is within. If we can see the pattern which we have learned over the years we can begin to undo do it so that it has less of a hold on us.
A good exercise to try is to note when you are excessively irritated at someone or something.
Insert “I am” before each quality. You may deny it and decide it is a silly exercise, but that in itself is often another defence mechanism at play. Try and see how the quality affects you and how it plays out in your life. If you can do that it is a good start.
Here is a curiosity and says much about human beings. When we are doing this exercise it is far easier to see the negative qualities that we project than the positive ones we project. We resist the “noble” aspects of our internal worlds more strenuously than our darker sides. Curious is it not?