What is projection, how does it work, and what can you do about it?
Do you frequently find yourself in a situation where you have regular fights with your partner, family, friends, colleagues and you live in continuous conflicts while remaining clueless what troubles you and why you get upset?
Because deep down, you know that the words which made your heart bleed were not actually demeaning or meant to hurt you, still, there is a pain which is real to you.
You often do not know why your partner’s casual remark sets you on fire and gets you into a heated argument.
You think your partner is causing you pain and hurt, but hold on your partner may not be the real reason for your pain.
You blame your partner or people around because they are right in front of you, but possibly what they said or done remind you of your painful memories. Maybe touching your unhealed wounds.
Hey! There are chances that you could be projecting.
What is Projecting?
Most of us find it difficult to cope with difficult feelings like anger, anxiety, negative feelings and rough emotions.
Projecting is when we unconsciously disown and move these unwanted feelings and emotional shortcomings onto others to feel better about ourselves.
It’s like moving your stuff onto someone else. And claiming, hey! It’s yours, not mine. Psychologist Sigmund Freud called it psychological projection
What is psychological projection?
Psychological projection is a ‘defence mechanism’ that occurs when a conflict arises between our unconscious feelings and our conscious beliefs.
The feelings are sometimes offensive to our conscious part of the brain that we deny having them and shift it on another person.
It’s not easy to take ownership of troubled feelings, so we find other person and transfer the ownership of these feelings on them - This saves us.
“Holding the door, my husband query ‘what happened you got late today?’ was enough to piss me off and to start a fight.
After a while, I was left with bitterness and teary eyes. Blaming my husband of insensitivity without realising that, I redirected my own insecurities and guilt feelings onto him.
Yes, guilt feelings which my mother down poured on my way back home. That spending time at work (even a tiring, draining and rough day) makes me a lousy and inconsiderate mother and wife.
My mother’s disappointment makes me believe that my husband also feels the same. Which is not the case, but now this distorted belief leads to frequent fights and slowly turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Why do we project?
Psychological projection is quiet, common in relationships, friendship, workspace Projection is mostly a defence mechanism and we unconsciously distort reality. Perception is all about how the brain processes information. So the information that is actually about yourself is incorrectly attributes to another person.
Whenever you have some unpleasant memories, fear, shame, trauma, anger, jealousy and self-esteem issue lying dormant and whenever your present touches your troubled feelings, you react to disown them.
You cope with the unwanted feelings by unconsciously shifting the ownership base to keep your guilt at bay. This helps your ego to feel better by rejecting your own negative feelings.
You run scripts and stories in your mind about the person and situations to validate your beliefs.
"He is cheating on me, that’s why he is ignoring me."
"She wants to show that she is superior to me."
'She did this to tell people, I am no good at my work.’’
Like Lily, who is jealous of her co-sister Ina but she refuses to accept and looks for reasons to believe that it’s Ina who is actually jealous of her.
Does this help?
Mostly, No, because the defensive activity keeps bouncing back and forth without being addressed.
“When two people are unconsciously playing out old wounds with each other, they create a situation fraught with the blame and discord – the opposite of a harmonious relationship.”
They often unwittingly project past hurts onto each other – and end up fighting about the wrong thing.
How to overcome if you are projecting?
Look for signs:
Start examining your negative relationship in your life.
Do you have more conflicts than harmony?
Do you feel rage and anger most of the time?
Do you get along with family, friends and colleagues? If not, why? Are they only to blame?
Try to figure out why there is this animosity in your relations - why do you feel people are conspiring against you?
Be compassionate about you and others.
Just observe and see things clearly.
Validate: Be honest with you - question and validate authenticity of your response.
Is my reaction appropriate?
Am I reacting to a current situation or referring to some past event?
These sorts of questions bring you back to consciously respond to the situation, not compulsively.
Conquer: if you realise that your reaction is impulsive and based on triggers.
Breathe and relax.
Be considerate to yourself and let it pass.
If you are unable to control, walk away for a moment, and come back later when you are in a position to put your point rationally.
How to tell if someone is projecting on you?
The projection goes both ways; you may have people in your life who are dumping their negativity on you.
You said something without any implied meaning, but the other person reacted irrationally.
You regularly encounter harsh reactions without justified reasons.
You frequently encountered manipulation, rage, disrespect, and other boundary violations.
How to respond when someone is projecting?
Your response is your responsibility - you need to figure out if people are throwing on you their anxieties, problems and issues, then set your boundaries.
What belongs to you and what’s not, clarify in a peaceful manner or at least in your head, be clear.
Staying calm and refusing other crap to overwhelm you is the best thing. Most people refuse to accept that they are at fault. So do not take other belongings.
If conflict stays unresolved, remove yourself from the situation. In case your partner is projecting you can also seek counselling help to resolve issues.
Projection is quiet, a common reason for conflicts. Do you know anyone who is affecting your life with projections? Share with them to know they are reflecting signs of projections.