Projection is putting our thoughts, feelings, or fears on to someone else. It’s what we do when we are in Shadow. We do it because we’re uncomfortable with something within us. We want to get rid of that thing, so we give it to something outside of ourselves.
If we want to be healthier people, it’s good to know how to tell if you’re projecting yourself onto someone else. Before I talk about that though, let’s look at some examples of projecting so that we can spot it.
Examples of Projections
- I am attracted to someone I think it out of my league so I talk badly about him. (I’m projecting my fear of not being good enough).
- I am attracted to someone who doesn’t appear to be attracted to me, so I accuse him of flirting with me or being inappropriate. (I’m projecting my fear of not being desirable).
- My ex cheated on me, so I accuse my new partner of being unfaithful. (I’m projecting my fear of being cheated on).
- I am having a hard time with my diet, so when I see someone else eating food I’d love to have, I say “You really need to…” (I’m projecting my discomfort with having to diet or the consequences of not sticking to my food plan).
- My life is run by rules. I control everything and everyone so I can always be right and be safe. (I am projecting my fear of being out of control).
- “I’m only doing this because I love you.” (I’m projecting my need to control someone else so that I can feel safe).
- “X cannot be tolerated.” (I’m projecting my need to control to feel safe).
- “She’s a hootchie! I can’t believe she’s wearing that!” (I’m projecting my insecurity with myself).
- “He hates me!” (I’m projecting that I fear hates me or that I hate him and I can’t bring myself to say it).
You may be starting to get the idea that projections are generally fear based. They are about us, not the other person. They happen when we are in emotionally triggered and are not mindful. Everybody does this from time to time. It happens to keep us safe. Unfortunately, the distance it creates results in pushing us away from the people we want to be close to, so it’s not the healthiest strategy. If we want to stop, we have to first become aware that we’re doing it.
How to Tell If You’re Projecting
Here are some things that may indicate that you are projecting. If one of them is true, it doesn’t mean you are projecting. It’s just a sign to go deeper. You have to view each situation holistically.
- You’re judging. Judging is about seeing things from your point of view vs. the point of view of the person, place, or thing. If you’re not neutral, open, and mindful, you’re probably projecting.
- You’re telling someone what to do or how to think. Statements that are a variation of “You need to…” are controlling. They speak to how you want to see the world and what works for you. This may not be how the other person sees it. Everyone has a right to be where they are and how they are. It isn’t always easy or pleasant to watch people do things that you disagree with, but we can only control what happens in our own bubble.
- You are motivated by “saving” someone or improving them. Maybe you have a better way. Maybe you are further along and just want to help. If you are moving in where you aren’t wanted, you’re projecting. It’s okay if people don’t want our help. Everyone has a right to their own life experiences. Their path is not our path. The most affirming thing we can do for those we love is to let them choose their own way.
- You’re blaming. Blame is always a deflection from your personal responsibility. It’s an easy way to get out of doing your work. It may be true that someone else contributed to a problem or the way you feel, and you still have to take care of your part of it.
- You’re more emotional than the situation calls for. When the emotion doesn’t match the situation, you can almost bet that there is another similar situation in the past that is fueling it. For example, if I go into a tirade because the toilet seat is up, I’m probably not reacting to that situation, but all the others in the past. If I am overly emotional because my partner is late coming home and I feel abandoned, I’m probably responding to something from the past. The tears and accusations of insensitivity are likely coming from my own unresolved fear rather than something he did.
Everybody projects. When we’re not mindful, we’re projecting. If we move through life this way, we end up feeling alone and victimized. It’s not a great way to live. The first step to ending this is to know when you’re doing it so you can stop. I hope this article helps.