One of the things I learned about while in therapy was ‘projection’. When sharing, in therapy, my experiences during childhood with my abuser it was brought to my attention that she did a great deal of ‘projecting’ to protect herself, likely not even realizing that’s what she was doing, but if she projected her own insecurities, failures and flaws onto others, she escaped facing and taking responsibility for her own choices, actions and feelings.
Psychological Projection is defined as ‘a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people. Thus projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others originate those feelings.‘
According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a a way whereby one ‘projects’ one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else. ‘Emotions or excitations which the ego tries to ward off are ‘split out’ and then felt as being outside the ego… perceived in another person.’
Projection can also be established as a means of obtaining or justifying certain actions that would normally be found atrocious or heinous. This often means projecting ‘false accusations’, information, etc., onto an individual for the sole purpose of maintaining a self-created illusion.
Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them. An example of this behavior might be ‘blaming another’ for self failure.
When I recently made the difficult decision to let a ‘friend’ go, it was because I realized I was the target of an extraordinary amount of projection and try as I might to defend myself against it and reassure the person that they were wrong about what they were constantly accusing me of, assuming about me, there was no way to convince that person that they were incorrect.
Not only did I realize I was not following my training as a peer counselor, by allowing this individual to emotionally and verbally abuse me, but I was doing so because I was treating her differently because of her disability. A serious ‘no-no’ for anyone who believes, to any degree, in the independent living movement’s philosophy.
This individual had assigned to me a number of thoughts and characteristics that simply are not representative of who I am, how I think or feel.
I realized some time ago that the things this person accused me of thinking, believing, were behaviors and attitudes she demonstrated. She made assumptions about how I felt, what I believed or thought and stated her assumptions as ‘facts’, if I defended myself, suggesting she was wrong she accused me of not liking it when she shared her ‘opinion’.
When we’re self conscious about our short comings, when we have insecurities, we can become sensitive to those same things in other people. It’s always much easier to advise someone else, than to correct those things in ourselves.
I became aware of the ‘projection’ because I was talking/sharing about how I felt, what I was thinking, what was important to me, yet this individual responded as if everything I was saying was in reference to her. It became clear that she was viewing everything through a skewed filter.
We all ‘project’ to some degree, some of us are occasionally aware of it and try to make corrections, others do so unwittingly, therefore are unable to control it or make corrections.
I’m thinking, if everything you’re saying is, if all your opinions are, about another person, if you feel compelled to avoid or are uncomfortable with “I statements” it’s possible you’re projecting. Maybe we need to stop ourselves when we become aware of it and question whether we’re taking responsibility for our own feelings, attitudes and behaviors.