How to Deal with Psychological Projection in Relationships

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Each of us has a unique inner world. It is built under the influence of life experience and many other factors. What is understandable and natural for one is alien to the other. Even those people who are close to you and have alike perceptions may turn out to be completely different. This may happen just because you have different “input data” - you grew up in different families, you had different childhoods, you fell in love with different people, and the same words or actions can have completely different meanings for you. There are too many factors that make up your inner self. And no matter how cliché it may sound, each of us is truly unique. Therefore, the only way to understand the other is to directly ask, clarify, and sort things out.

psychological projection in relationships

What Is Projection in Psychology?

Why do we constantly try to fill the blanks and find clues in someone’s speech? There is a good explanation: we see in others what is in ourselves. This is really so. In many ways, we find our true nature and become stronger through reflection by other people. We endow them with those qualities that we supplant or suppress in ourselves. A person who thinks that everyone envies them, in fact, cannot accept envy in themselves, they deny it. A person who can easily get offended believes that everyone takes offense at them, and a liar is sure that everyone is lying to them. As they say, “People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” It does not always about only poor character traits. It also works when we suppress our positive features. When you communicate with single girls for dating, you can project on them your personal experience, traits, relationships, motivation, in a word, your internal phenomena that may be completely different for them. It is a short psychological projection definition. Thus, to project means to attribute to another person your own emotions, thoughts, or intentions. What is projecting in a relationship? It is a psychological defense mechanism, that we subconsciously use to protect our psyche. We attribute our unacceptable thoughts, emotions, and desires to our surroundings. Some psychologists claim that psychological projection in relationships is its inevitable part, but it is also on the list of relationships red flags. The problem is that often we overdo with projecting feelings. As they say, you notice in other people things that you possess, and you hate someone’s features only if you subconsciously don’t tolerate them in yourself. The world will always be gloomy and dark for a pessimist, and a person who suffers from excess weight will always notice it in others. Thus, a person sees their reflection in others. Our projections have nothing to do with the object on which we transfer them.

We can interpret the same act in different ways, and there are many psychological projection examples. Thus, for instance, if you yelled at the dog, then this is the dog's fault, it did not obey and deserved it. And if someone nearby yells at a dog, then you believe that this is an unstable owner. To one degree or another, each of us faces projections. Often, we are irritated in others by precisely those qualities that we possess. For example, a new colleague seems arrogant and domineering to you, but in fact, this is your quality that you thoroughly suppress.

Why Do Projecting Insecurities Appear?

As we have already mentioned, projection is one of the mechanisms of psychological defense. This concept arose in the framework of psychoanalysis and was introduced by its founder, Sigmund Freud, in 1894. He believed that the person resorts to psychological defenses to cope with various painful experiences. They help preserve the mental health and integrity of the individual by distorting reality. One of these mechanisms is introjection - when a person attributes something external to something internal. Projection is its opposite: in this case, something internal is attributed to the external environment.

According to Sigmund Freud, the principle of projection formation is approximately the following. If we have quality (for example, aggressiveness) that we are forbidden to show in childhood, then we supplant it, but we clearly see this feature in others. And other people may not possess this quality in reality. It is estimated that about 80% of what we think of other people is our projections, and nothing more.

1. Suppression

If you dwell on the issue, you will see that most problems we have in adult life have their roots in childhood. Thus, a kid who was always told to keep their emotions to themselves may face numerous challenges when become an adult. All emotions that arise for one reason or another should be released, and when it doesn’t happen, a person becomes “cluttered” with numerous insecurities. Your psyche takes care of you, so projection becomes the only possible way out that can improve the situation. So, projecting insecurities, a person can transfer responsibility and guilt for some of their shameful (in their understanding) inclinations to another person, attributing their qualities or feelings.psychological projection examples

2. Fear

When a person is afraid to talk something out, their brain cannot get how someone else can do it. And when a trigger situation occurs, a person turns on their defensive mechanism, trying to project their insecurities. In general, people do a lot of things because of fear, and not all of them lead to something good or somehow change the situation for the better. It is a driving force that makes us act illogically sometimes. The projection mechanism can be compared to the work of a film projector; it helps you see particles of your personality, all that you deny in it. Any entity strives for integrity, and with the help of projection, you can start a dialogue with your fears.

3. Painful experience

As we have already said, painful experience is one of the main reasons that make your defense mechanism turn on. We subconsciously try to avoid everything that has left an unpleasant imprint on our souls. Thus, childhood trauma or painful situation in adulthood may lead to the appearance of projections. If you cannot deal with it on your own, it may poison your life and affect your relationships with other people who have nothing to do with the initial (root) situation. Why do not you see these phenomena in yourself? You can see them, but sometimes, it can be painful to encounter them. And your whole being is programmed for a stable and calm existence and all the events that concern you are pushed out by the psyche into the subconscious.

How to Respond to Psychological Projection in Relationships

Psychological projection in relationships brings more harm than good, and it’s very important to understand how to respond to someone who is projecting as well as how to stop projecting yourself if you want to build a healthy and happy relationship. Such things affect many spheres of life and make you fill the blanks in your partner’s speech, creating your version of the story that has nothing to do with reality. One way or another, we look at the world through invisible glasses that serve as a filter and deteriorate reality sometimes, for example, when your mood leaves much to be desired. The whole world is spinning around us. Thus, it is useful to find out how to respond to psychological projection to not bring the situation to the point of no return.

1. Take the lead

The very first thing you should do is to understand that their unpleasant words have nothing to do with you. So, don’t take them personally. Instead, facing such behavior, you can say, “I haven’t asked your opinion about that. So, if you don’t like it, try to deal with it on your own. The talk is over, and I am not going to continue this pointless discussion.” As simple as it is. You shouldn’t listen to unpleasant things if they are far from reality. In case you have some doubts about your rightness, you should listen to your gut and analyze the situation. If you have a psychologist, discuss these moments with them. You should defend your personal boundaries and not allow others to violate them.

2. Don’t build castles in the air

When you like a person very much, you turn a blind eye to numerous things that hint you on their indifference or poor attitude. Thus, you should cherish yourself with hopes that a person will change with time, and everything will become even better. You cannot make anyone love you and care, so if you believe in these changes, you deceive yourself. Such things can lead to codependency in which you will play the role of an abuser and a victim. None of you needs it. Well, is abusing someone a form of psychological projection? In some cases, yes. Just take a realistic look at your partner.

3. Don’t be afraid to seem strong

Many people face projection in relationships, and it evokes controversial feelings and sometimes very unpleasant emotions. You should be self-confident and self-sufficient to withstand these attacks and not allow others to use you to their benefits and selfish interests. You should work on your boundaries and put things in perspective as soon as possible. Discuss all these moments right away when you face their projection for the first time. Don’t try to look for excuses or justify them in one way or another.

4. Show interest in their thoughts

Nowadays people communicate more than ever, using all the possible opportunities that the modern world provides us with. Sometimes we talk even too much. It can become a breeding ground for projections: you do not always have time to realize what your interlocutor said, but you rush to respond. If you discuss some sensitive topics, it is especially important to ask questions. For example, your significant other came late from work. There can be different reasons for that. And if you have some worries, you should ask. Doing it, you not only clarify the situation but also demonstrate your interest. Your partner should learn to do the same. It is also about how to stop projecting onto others.

5. Ignore them on purpose

When people prone to projection, they do everything possible to stay in their comfort zone. Thus, when they project their “demons” on you, they try to freeze their self-worth or increase their self-esteem at your expense. It is a kind of addiction that brings short-term satisfaction and makes them feel high. Doing that, they improve their mood and deceive themselves with illusions. So, if you are dating a woman, who tries to look better against your background, projecting her thoughts on you, then you should decide whether you want to build a committed relationship with her or just ignore her on purpose at such moments.projection in relationships

6. Study yourself and inspire your partner for the same

As we have found out, certain things serve as a trigger for turning on the defensive mechanism. Nobody can say for sure what things will evoke such emotions. However, if you make efforts and study yourself more, you will be able to track your reactions to the events. For example, you can lose your temper when someone criticizes your relatives. Your partner can do the same, so the best strategy, in this case, is to sort things out and get to know yourselves better.

7. Develop your wisdom and motivate your partner to work on themselves

When people become truly close, they study each other as if under a microscope, trying to find out all the trifles and skeletons in the closet. Besides, you learn to avoid sharp corners that may evoke an unnecessary reaction. Thus, you try to do your best to not give a reason for arguing. It is a great tactic that may provide you with a happy life together. However, both partners should work on it. You should develop the level of maturity and motivate your partner for changes.

How to Stop Projecting Onto Others If You Notice This Problem in Yourself

The thing is that your partner can be not the only one who projects their fears, emotions, and thoughts onto others, but you can also do the same. Relationships are a two-way road, so both partners are responsible for their union. You can have the same reasons for projecting, or they may differ, it doesn’t really matter. The most important thing here is to deal with it as soon as possible to not turn your relations into a toxic partnership. Even if you realize the problem, don’t expect to meet this challenge at once. Chances are that it has already become a habit, so you will need time to get rid of it.

1.Study your needs and desires

You should learn how to track your reactions and understand what things become a trigger in your case. You might lack something or want to achieve, and you project your unfulfilled needs onto others. There are two ways out in this case – you should either accept the situation and change the focus of your attention or you should do your best to get this “precious” thing. Work on yourself. In case when you cannot cope with everything on your own, you should turn to a psychologist.

2. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are wrong

You should not be ashamed of projections since your psyche tries to protect you no matter what when the root cause of the problem is not solved. It is crucial to admit that you could be wrong. If you realized that you threw tantrum for no reason, arguing with your girlfriend, tell her about it and explain what caused your reaction. You can correct the negative effect of the projection, being honest and sincere.

3. Accept your true self

How to stop projecting? As soon as you gain enough dignity and increase your self-esteem to fully accept yourself, you can attract a decent woman. However, you cannot immediately attract the perfect match since usually, we run into people who reflect the problems that we have recently solved. You might not have made the right conclusion, so you need to repeat the situation as if from the outside. Or you should just become their shoulder to lean on.

4. Ask yourself questions

One of the ways to deal with projections is to get the qualities that you endow with others. If you think someone is envious, ask yourself, “And who do I envy? Why do I find envy in other people, what does it give me?” Or, if you have a feeling that everyone is using you, tell yourself how you use others or what it means to you to use a person. Reflect on why a phenomenon worries you so much that you want to talk about it.

5. Don’t rush

When you are going to judge someone, don’t rush to do it. Even if you put the prism of your experience on the situation, and it seems to you that it fits into it just right, you should check your projection by asking a direct question. Because an unverified projection is the cause of many awkward situations. The fewer people talk about what is happening between them, the more they fantasize about each other. And then the projection occupies the entire space of relationships.

Broaden Your Horizons

It is important to remember that the perception of the world is subjective. No matter how hard you try, you look at the surrounding reality through the prism of your experience, beliefs, and fears. Thus, a two-year-old child sees an animal in the picture in the book, their mother sees a dinosaur, and the paleontologist sees the carnivorous Tyrannosaurus. Your mind doesn’t like uncertainty, so you often try to fill it with projections. Try to always investigate the situation and find real evidence in favor of this or that conclusion! Now you know what a projection is in psychology, and you can find examples of it in your life yourself!

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