In AA we have a simpler and somewhat cruder, but much more memorable, way of speaking about projection. It is called “The Three Asshole Rule”.
It goes like this:
When you get up in the morning and you see that the newspaper delivery person has left your paper on the wet sidewalk you grumble, “What an asshole.” Then you get ready for work but in the car you notice someone merging with no signal and you say to yourself, “stupid asshole”. Then approaching your exit another car cuts you off and you say out loud, “That asshole”. Here’s the rule: When you get to the third asshole, you’re it.
Yes, any pattern you notice in your world is likely to be a part of you that you don’t want to own. If there is just one asshole in your day you may be safe but if there are three, there’s a good chance you are one too.
You can apply this to any characteristic: people who show no respect, people who lie, those who are bossy, vain, and our favorite, people in denial. This game works especially well when we are sitting in an AA meeting and taking other people’s inventories. Notice what bothers you most (In Ken Wilbur’s lingo (see this blog May 23) what “affects” you.) If you find yourself saying, “Well, he’s in denial” and “she’s in denial” take a few minutes to look around inside yourself.
Remember: If you get to three you’re it.