The Non-Monogamous Projection Train

Posted by Amanda Moreno

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

Initiated by a conversation on a train, Amanda Moreno follows her thoughts down several tracks: owning projections, absorbing karma during sex (and processing it), the question of hierarchy, internalized shame by those trying to be monogamous who aren’t, and the real work required in any form of authentic relating if there is to be a true paradigm shift.

By Amanda Moreno

Today on the train I ran into a friend — one of those friends with whom it’s nearly impossible to have a mundane conversation. The best kind of friend as far as I can tell. We launched into 30 minutes of catching up with some pretty incredible depth than ran the gamut of richness and intrigue.

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

I was talking to my friend about brainstorming topics for workshops and classes and how I’m feeling increasingly drawn to teaching more relationship-oriented classes (for example: “Queering the Myth of the Soul Mate” or “Poly Lovin’ in Astro Land”).

I’m struggling a bit, however, with how to keep the clichés out, knowing full well that the basis of what I’d likely be communicating is: build your relationship with yourself; love yourself first. I don’t know why I’m cliché avoidant — they’re clichés because they’re true, after all — but there you have it.

My friend and I are both part of Seattle’s ‘alternative relationship’ communities, although non-monogamous identities aside we relate through the shared languages of depth psychology, astrology and several others as well. The sheer number of people I know or am connected to who are exploring new ways of doing relationship is absolutely awe-inspiring to me — being well into the thousands — and is one of the primary reasons I can’t imagine ever moving away from Seattle.

Breaking down internalized notions of how relationship should look is daunting work, as is navigating the territories of the heart without clear-cut models. Having a robust network of people to talk to, to socialize with and to date, for that matter, is vital.

In the process of the discussion with my friend, I articulated a brand-new insight that’s just coming to the surface for me. I’ve said it twice in my life, both times in the past four hours: although there might be some small parts of me that need or would likely do better within a monogamous container (not a new revelation), there are parts of me that are absolutely defiant when it comes to the prospect of monogamy.

Not because I think it’s bad or wrong for everyone. In fact, I believe it’s one very valid choice of many. It’s the cultivation of the conscious awareness that it is a choice not a default, and not the best or most intrinsically desired by all, that is more important to me.

That sense of defiance surprised me. I don’t think it is defiance that is based in defensiveness, although I have more reflection to do there. Rather, it is based in a core belief that if we as a culture don’t engage in and create new models of relating that are based in an emphasis on self-awareness and ever-improving communication skills, we are fucked. Perhaps I could state that more articulately, but there you have it. My own personal bias. If this paradigm is going to get shifted or busted or bridged, human relationships have to be at the crux of it.

There are so many unquestioned assumptions and so much ignorance in the world as to the history of monogamous constructs. In so many ways these assumptions and the institution of monogamous relationship sometimes seem like a direct threat to our cultural wellbeing. The more I’m exposed to that, the more consciously questioning and somewhat defiant I get.

I feel a form of righteous indignation when I consider how many people internalize feelings of shame and self-hatred simply because they cannot abide by a model of ‘this is how you shall be forever’ that is just not realistic at all. And although it goes beyond the urge for sexual diversity, that urge does provide an example. I have had several lovers talk to me about the intense guilt and self loathing they felt when trying to engage monogamous relationships while realizing that they wanted and needed more sex than their partners — but were trying to shut those instincts down in favor of trying to do relationships ‘right.’ The number of ways we learn to feel shame about healthy instincts is maddening.

As someone who is well equipped and willing to deconstruct the absolute, largely unquestioned notion in society that monogamous pair bonding for life is superior to any other mode of relating — the ultimate of ultimates to be desired, the industry of all industries to be bought into — and as someone who feels utterly passionate about hashing out and exploring new ways and models of relating, I feel this is work I have to do. Not as a slave to my calling, but because I want to. Most of the time at least. It’s part of my spiritual path and part of my own process of working through my karma.

At the same time as this devotion to ‘alternative’ relationship models — be they labeled as non-monogamous, solo, anarchistic, etc. — swells to the surface, I’ve been reading a book called Masochism: A Jungian View and joking to a friend or two that it is quite possible that my polyamorous identity is an expression of my more masochistic tendencies. Gotta stay humble, after all. I’m well aware, however, that the parts of me that crave more consistency and the ‘primacy’ of a closed-container monogamous bond get pretty anxious and worked up by my romantic choices, and have not received the memo that safety is relative and that I am in fact trying to build something that lasts, even if it’s taking some intense work.

I’m also aware, however, that the ‘safety’ those parts seek is relative and largely an illusion and that so many modern relationships are based on a psychological projection or displacement of the inner child’s unmet parental needs. We tend to take all of our unresolved childhood material and project it onto our lovers in hopes that we can be their chosen one, the one they love more than anything — their child.

I type that out and cringe at the simplicity, but there it is. I just can’t help but wonder what it would be like if we stopped projecting mommy and daddy onto each other and instead let each other be who we authentically are without the weight of that misplaced responsibility. That said, the act of reclaiming projections in relationship can totally rock the boat — the object of your projection might falter without the container of the role you’ve placed them into. Not everyone copes well with being forced in on themselves to uncover who they really are.

On a perhaps more tangential note, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be non-monogamous, to have multiple lovers, while also exploring the notion that we essentially absorb by osmosis the karma of our lovers and their lovers when we have sex with them. I’ve been resistant to this theory, although increasingly aware of its potential truth. If I accept it as potential truth, it means I’m currently linked into a pretty huge network of ‘other people’s stuff’ at a very visceral level, and my first thought is that that makes energetic hygiene quite tricky.

I was, however, talking to yet another friend about that subject the other day, and she brought her own take to the table, which I probably don’t yet understand well enough to articulate in the way she meant it. But I’ll try anyway.

She mentioned what she sees as the potential for non-monogamous relationships to transmute karma faster and more efficiently, and therefore the importance she sees in non-monogamy. She spoke to how much more quickly you can work through stuff when you’re relating to someone at the sexual level, as you become immersed in them — in her words, in the mix of chemicals and DNA that help us ‘get’ each other at levels that are deeper than words.


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I wonder, then, about the interplay of projection, sexual osmosis and energetic convergence. People and experiences are drawn into our lives through energetic resonance; at least that’s my language for what happens. The most basic way of understanding projection in the psychological sense is that we project our unconscious onto others who then mirror it back to us so we can learn.

When asking a teacher once whether that meant the thing we are projecting does or does not exist in the other person, he told me it likely did, as the projection needs a hook to hang on, but that it was likely more of an 80/20 or so split. I’ve realized that I tend to think quite a bit about what I’m projecting onto others — but not quite as much about the hooks within me that others try to hang their projective hats onto.

Reclaiming projections, relating honestly and learning about ourselves takes work. I’m loathe to say one form of relating is more difficult than any other.

The friend from the train quoted someone who had recently told them that “conscious monogamy” is far more difficult than any other form of relationship, as if that made it a higher or better choice — an insinuation that non-monogamy is about simply giving into the animal/primitive/lesser urge to just fuck, and instead one should choose the ‘higher road’ and The One. My friend and I laughed and rolled our eyes a bit, both of us feeling strongly wary of any hierarchical models of relating while knowing full well that sometimes hierarchy is warranted, wanted or just implicit.

But relationships can be difficult be they familial, romantic, friendly or professional. They take work. The relationships I’m most interested in are with people who are doing their own personal work, who are owning their own shit and at least trying to reclaim their own projections, who can offer consistency and long-term investment while respecting my and hopefully their own need for a lot of freedom. Which, unfortunately, seems to strongly limit an already limited pool of people to choose from. But, as I said, it seems worthy work for me to do personally. And so…I stick with it…

Posted in Columnist on | 10 comments
Amanda Moreno

About Amanda Moreno

Amanda is an astrologer, soul worker and paradigm buster based in Seattle. Her adventures in these forms of ‘practical woo’ are geared towards helping people to heal themselves and the world. She can be found in the virtual world at

10 thoughts on “The Non-Monogamous Projection Train

  1. Glen Young

    The root of my projection comes from Jacqueline Susann book: “Valley of The Dolls”. A novel I read as a teen. Totally mind blowing at the time, yet this problem of drugs persist today. I think they’re trying to legalize Marijuana in Seattle, which to me is safer to use then alcohol; the oldest of drugs.
    Amanda was a supermodel, very beautiful, and successful, yet succumbing to her addiction.
    Never really looked at the movie, because the book, I thought was better. With a natal Mercury in Virgo, in the third house, a name can be erotic. Ms. Susann thought so?

  2. Bette

    “We tend to take all of our unresolved childhood material and project it onto our lovers in hopes that we can be their chosen one, the one they love more than anything – their child.”

    That’s the story of decades of my life. As a child born as a late “oops” in my parents’ lives, years after my sister who was expected to be an only child, I was not particularly welcomed by any of the family. My parents were dutiful – good food, warm clothing, a good education – but I never encountered the words “I love you” until I was old enough to go to movies. I was hooked on “romance”.

    Needless to say, my neediness was easily perceived & exploited by males, from breathless teenagers to men I met later in life. Until I had done enough self-discovery & healing, until I began to learn to love my self, I was vulnerable. I believe I could now love & be loved safely,. I’m not holding my breath expecting anyone to show up in my life, but I suppose one never knows.

    Thank-you for evoking some useful reflection.

    1. Amanda MorenoAmanda Moreno Post author

      Thanks for sharing such personal insights here, Bette. and thank you for doing the tender work of self-discovery and healing. As someone whose dad died when I was very young, I’m consistently shocked at how deep that wound goes and how much I’ve tried to find “father” in my lovers — and how vital the process of learning how to parent myself has been while also recognizing the importance of remaining vulnerable with others. Just with more discernment in all directions :)

  3. pam

    Amanda, I read this a few days ago: ‘defiant’ made me remember Dad who said quietly (as a mic drop) when I was about 35 ‘So you are still rebelling…’ And the other is – it is alright to be kind to oneself. To say ‘ok! If I met someone who added to my life (rather than adding to its distress or struggle), it is alright to give myself that warmth, second heart/mind on matters, the freedom to be ‘at home’ with someone else, to be with someone who has my best interests at heart for as long as we both live, and to bathe in the ease of sharing with someone where it all works.

    I went on a ZRM work shop last month – embodiment of ideas and there were several things that struck me –

    Getting your rational and unrational (pictures, symbols, meanings) facets in alignment. Reducing negativity or resistance to zero% (how you frame your statement/being etc) and positivity to at least 70%. How plastic the mind is and you can use your subconsious to do alot of the (I imagine 10 000 hours of) making default pathways legwork by creating a zeitgeist phrase and then triggering it with symbols and images and body movements (complete, and short version) that you stumble on many times a day.

    Notimmediately useful perhaps but the link is an off shoot of Zurich university – at the moment available in German (and here in French), English I’m not sure about.

    love Pam

    1. pam

      And the brain works well with if/when… then… ie when the alarm goes off at 7 then I will get up, put on my clothes and run for 5 miles. It suffices to say it and write it down once. Of course you still have to agree to get up, but it cuts out alot of the discussion and prevarication ie oh its raining/I feel tired shall i do my exercise today…

  4. pam

    So now I’m rereading what I wrote and asking my self if I’ve inadvertently employed a sledgehammer to crack a nut – if so (sorry!) that wasn’t my intention. I’m into made to measure for everyone and non monogamous is still ‘labelling’ for me. And if you seek what is right/true/the next step for you then there is no guilt or shame but just clarification and considerations where your preferences touch the lives and well being and wishes of others.

    (framing the question – that of course takes into account your experience and this is a good example – ie non monogamous still creates resistance in me but ‘seeking what is right/true/the next step for you then there is no guilt or shame but just clarification and considerations where your preferences touch the lives and well being and wishes of others’ has no resistnace for me and is at least 70% poitive for me to go with.

    Apols if I was heavy handed – i=that wasn’t my intention…


    1. Amanda MorenoAmanda Moreno Post author

      Hi Pam! I didn’t feel like it was heavy handed, and I don’t feel like any of my nuts were cracked. :) And you’re right — non-monogamy is a label as well, and I’m very clear that the most important thing is staying true to myself (even if that ends up being in a mono relationship.


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