Projection is a psychological concept identified in the 1890s by Sigmund Freud, a neurologist and psychoanalyst. Freud is referred to as the father of modern psychology. It refers to the process of attributing your unwanted urges to another person. Another form is projective identification, which means that not only do you see your unwanted characteristics in someone else, but that person actually takes on those characteristics because of subtle ways that you have prompted them to do so.
What Does Projection Mean in Psychology?
Psychological projection may take different forms, such as:
What Is Projection As A Defense Mechanism & How Does It Work?
Think of how a movie theater works. There’s a screen in front of you on which you can see a film. However, the film is not coming from the screen itself but rather from a projector, which casts images on the screen. This is the gist of projection as a defense mechanism as well: as a defense mechanism, projection is when someone casts their flaws and feelings onto someone else. This is separate from splitting defense mechanism.
Say you’re a very jealous person. You are always hovering over your spouse, and you’re afraid you’ll lose them. When confronted about this, you may say that your spouse is the jealous one. This is projection. Most of the time in these situations, we are unaware of what we are doing, as the projection is unconscious. In these cases, we believe that our problem belongs to the other person. Other times, projection can be done on purpose. Politicians, celebrities, and others who have power will use it to distract and not admit fault.
Many of us get defensive when we are criticized. We all want to be self-aware, but some of us struggle to remain self-composed when we feel vulnerable. Projection and using other defense mechanisms, like deflection, are ways we may inadvertently react when we feel threatened by criticism. But what exactly is projection? How does it work? And what can you do, not only to stop projecting yourself, but also to defend yourself against someone who is projecting? Let’s dive in!
Why Can’t We Admit We’re Wrong?
To understand projection, you first need to realize why many people have a hard time admitting they are wrong. For some, it may seem silly. Admitting you’re wrong is a sign that you’re honest and willing to learn from your mistakes, while doubling down on your faults or errors makes you seem stubborn and unable to be self-aware. However, in part because of our evolution, it is hard to admit when we are wrong.
Most of us picture ourselves as the hero in a story. We believe that the hero is always good and never wrong, and to be wrong or to admit we have flaws is to be a bad person. However, this is not the case. Think about it: even in a story, a character with no flaws is two-dimensional and boring. Also, being wrong doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human.
Here are some reasons people may have a hard time admitting they are wrong.
We Are Naturally Defensive
We Are Prideful
We’re Afraid People May Get Mad
Related to Projecting - Results of Projection
Besides projecting feelings during an argument, a projector may also do other damaging things, including:
How to Deal with Someone Who Is Projecting
If someone is projecting their emotions onto you, what is the best way to handle the situation? First, you should not listen to what the projector is saying.
Should you confront a projector? That depends. If you believe they are projecting their feelings unconsciously and are open to change, then find a time when they are calm and speak with them about projection. However, if they protest more, it may be a losing battle. You do not want to make yourself vulnerable to being attacked.
How to Stop Yourself from Projecting
Once you are aware that you’re projecting and why, you can make efforts to stop. Here are some suggestions:
Self-Reflection: Spend time considering why you tend to behave in certain ways when placed in uncomfortable situations. By understanding why you feel a particular way through a nonjudgmental lens, you can take steps to change yourself and stop projecting.
Talk to Others: Have a conversation with someone who is open and understanding—or even better, with someone who has pointed out that you have been projecting. Keep in mind that you will hear things that may make you uncomfortable.
Start Becoming Accountable:According to Walter E. Jacobson MD., projection, at its core, is used to avoid taking responsibility. When you take responsibility for your own flaws, projecting behaviors will likely improve.
BetterHelp Can Help
Psychodynamic Therapy Online
Psychodynamic therapy (PDT) is the type of therapy that addresses defense mechanisms, including projection. Research has shown that online PDT (IPDT) is an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD). Findings showed a large treatment effect for clients with SAD after for a 10-week course of IPDT, as compared to clients who were waitlisted but did not receive treatment. Moreover, improvement continued between termination of therapy and follow-up two years later.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
By taking an active approach to understanding why we use projection as a defense mechanism, we can take the necessary steps to stop projecting onto other people. Seek help today and learn how to avoid resorting to projection and defense mechanisms.
FAQs About Projection & Defense Mechanisms
What Is An Example Of Using A Projecting Defense Mechanism?
When you use a projecting defense mechanism, it means that you attribute your unwanted feelings, motives, and thoughts to someone else. Defensive projection can appear in different scenarios, including the following:
Identified by Sigmund Freud and expanded upon by his daughter, Anna Freud, a defense mechanism is an unconscious mental process by which a person resolves their anxiety about unwanted emotions and urges. Defense mechanisms are normal, and everyone uses them; however, defense mechanisms can be unhealthy if the underlying anxiety is never addressed. Eight common defense mechanisms are: repression, projection, reaction formation, displacement, sublimation, rationalization, regression, and denial.
Psychological projection can be harmful if it is directed toward you. You can take the following steps to defend against projection:
What is An Example of Rationalization?
Rationalization refers to the use self-deception to justify behavior that is unacceptable or unwanted. It also refers to making up a logical reason for why something disturbing has happened.Examples of this psychological defense mechanism include:
What is Projection According to Freud?
Freud was the first person to describe defense mechanisms. He defined projection as one person attributing their unacceptable impulses, such as thoughts, motives, and feelings, to another person. Like many defense mechanism, the purpose of projection is to avoid the anxiety that comes from having feelings that are unacceptable to oneself. Projected feelings may be jealous, controlling, or angry in nature.
What is a Delusional Projection?
Delusional projection refers to a defense mechanism that involves attributing unacceptable thoughts, emotions, and impulses to another source that is not based in reality. For example, a person may project their anxiety about being unemployed by believing in an underground group that takes jobs from people.
How Can You Tell if Someone is Projecting?
There are a number of ways to tell if someone may be projecting their own urges onto you:
What Is Projection in Narcissism?
Narcissism is a term in psychoanalytic theory that describes an inflated self-image, lack of regard for others, and the excessive need for admiration. Sigmund Freud believed that narcissism existed on a continuum from normal to a disorder, depending on both the developmental phase when and the extent to which it occurred. Narcissists derive their sense of self-worth by how they are perceived by others. Because it is too painful for them to acknowledge their own flaws, they will transfer them onto others. For example, a narcissist may accuse someone else of being vain or lacking empathy.
Is Deflection a Defense Mechanism?
Deflection is a defense mechanism that involves diverting the attention from one’s own negative actions to those of another. Deflection is used to distract from one’s accountability.For example, when it is pointed out that a child broke a glass, they might point to the fact that their sibling spilled a cup of milk.
What is Identification as a Defense Mechanism?
Identification is a defense mechanism used when you take on the behavior of someone else to avoid anxiety. For example, to avoid rejection and be accepted in a new community, you might imitate the attitudes of your new neighbors.Anna Freud described identification with an aggressor, in which a persontakes on the characteristics of someone who is both superior and a threat to them. An example here is a child taking on the traits of someone who bullies them.
What is an Example of Repression?
Repression is a psychological projection that involves the mind preventing troubling thoughts, motives, or memories from becoming conscious. Instances of this psychological defense mechanism may include:
How Do You Deal with People Who Project?
Since projection can get in the way of forming healthy relationships with others, learning how to deal with this defense mechanism can be helpful. Here are some ways you can deal with people who project:
Is Fantasy A Defense Mechanism?
Fantasy is considered to be one of the psychological defense mechanisms. It involves retreating into the imagination to avoid the pain and frustration of reality. For example, if you are presently struggling at your job, you might imagine becoming a successful executive.