What is Projection?
Projection is a coping mechanism that someone employs to deal with their negative emotions where instead of embracing them, they will cast them on the person or persons closest to them.
Psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that we make other people the carrier of our flaws by projecting these perceived emotional deficiencies onto them. The emotional displacement allows us to remain in denial and blame others for the misery we experience.
By projecting these negative emotions, you create suffering within yourself. It creates a false image, which allows you to be a “victim”, or the “good person” while also disempowering you to change the circumstances unless the person changes traits they may not even own.
It’s difficult to see when you or someone is projecting, but it’s generally occurring in a moment when someone seems to be misunderstanding you or assuming they know you in a way that you don’t see yourself.
Many couples experience this when one partner demands their partner to react and respond to situations the way they would.
It’s projection to expect that your partner will think of things the same way you do or to have the exact same response. It can lead to arguments and some attempts to control the other person.
The most common and clear example of projection is with infidelity. The cheating partner may become suspicious of the non-cheating partner. They may began to scrutinize their actions, question them about their interactions with the opposite sex or otherwise try to control their behavior. It may seem odd from the outside, but that cheating partner is projecting their untrustworthiness onto the non-cheating partner.
What Does Projection Look Like?
Not all projection is unhealthy, but many can be destructive to relationships in either business or personal settings.
• If you consider yourself to be a nice person, but find yourself strongly disliking a person. Then, you may project your dislike onto them and make them the bad guy. Then, you create a story of how their behavior is showing their strong dislike for you. It allows you to not like them without feeling bad about the negative emotions you feel.
• Referring to a woman as fat, ugly or a slutty can be a way of not dealing with your own insecurities. Instead of accepting the insecure within yourself, you project the shame onto the woman by judging her appearance, behavior or choices. Then distance yourself from the loathing you feel by forcing it onto her.
• Sexual shame produces a great deal of projection. Men project their shame for their sexual desires onto women by policing their sexual behavior and trying to control their sexual activity using words like, hoe, and telling them no man will want them if they have a libido anywhere near matching a male’s sexual history.
• Homophobia is projection of sexual shame created by attraction to the same sex and, often, comes from people who disconnect from their own feelings whether for religious, political or societal acceptance reasons. How many times does the story come out that a religious zealot or political figure who railed against homosexuals has been viewing gay porn or contacting someone of the same sex through dating apps? This is projection.
• If someone is trying to control what you eat, they often feel out of control or restricted with their own eating habits.
Complementary projection is where one person assumes the other person feels the exact same way they do.
Complimentary projection is where a person assumes everyone has the same ability, knowledge, or resources they do to accomplish something.
The latter type of projection is an example of when wealthy people say that anyone can “pull themselves up by their boot straps” with a disregard for the challenges that some people face in education, resources or support. People who live in poverty often face this type of projection as people make decisions about what they do or don’t need or what they should be able to accomplish to get out of their circumstances.
How to Stop Projection?
It’s not easy. Projection is an effective coping mechanism. It allows people to feel comfortable with the world around them and be in denial of their emotions. It is hard to convince someone that you should stop employing something that doesn’t require to do more work. As long as you can point the finger outside of themselves, you don’t have to do any extra work.
But, it can affect relationships in a negative way. No one wants to be accused of something they don’t believe they are doing. Projection can easily cross the line into emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment. It’s an unhealthy coping mechanism.
It becomes the filter through which you try to love your partner, children and the world in general and, you are seeing them through a negative lens. It will inhibit you from repairing relationships and from feeling like you are in charge of your emotions.
As long as you need others to change, you are not in control.
The first step is awareness and the second step is acceptance. If you can accept that you possess negative emotions, when you feel yourself judging someone know that what you see in them exists in you. You have a choice to stop projecting and deal with those negative feelings.
This post is republished on Medium.
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