How To Handle ProjectionDec 23, 2021
Projection is when someone has a feeling of guilt, shame, or some other uncomfortable feeling and projects that onto someone else. There is a number of reasons that someone will do this, but typically it is because they don't know how to deal with what they are feeling.
Projecting is done on an unconscious level. The person was never taught the coping skills to deal with these emotions, and they don't know how to acknowledge and process them. What ends up happening is that these feelings are suppressed. Unfortunately, that type of energy can't stay suppressed, and it's only so long before that energy comes out as anxiety, panic, or depression. Projection is used to release that pressure off of themselves so that they can feel better with those thoughts and feelings on someone else.
A lot of people are scared of their feelings and no one wants to feel the negative things. With those feelings on someone else, the projector can blame the other person for how they're feeling and shame them. They can't take responsibility or accountability, so they place it on someone else and make it someone else's fault for what happened.
Projection can also be used to push fears and insecurities on someone else. For example, say you get the chance to go back to school for better opportunities, but that would mean leaving a decent job. Because of their own insecurities, a partner could project their fears that it will be too difficult for you or that it's too big of a risk and won't work out. They will give you all of their worries and doubts that played in their mind, all the while, they were possibly thinking of doing the same thing.
The thing that makes projection so difficult to catch is that it is not black and white. People can project for a variety of reasons. Narcissists project because they don't want to take accountability for their own actions. They can't see themselves as other than perfect, so projection is a tool they can use to assign blame to someone else. Others can use projection as a way to cope because they never learned how to process those emotions.
Handling projection can be tough. If we are working through our own issues and still working to master our emotions, it can be difficult to handle someone projecting their issues on us. One of the quickest ways to figure out if someone is projecting onto you is to see if there is anger. That when the person becomes upset, they become aggressive and it feels like they're always blaming you.
When someone is coming at you in an aggressive way, it is important to try and mask your emotions. Then take a step back and look at the whole situation and the person that you are dealing with. We do this because the goal for the other person is to project their feelings onto you and try to transfer that energy to you. You don't want to get involved in their drama, you want to treat the person almost like you would a toddler. Acknowledge that the person is acting out and becoming abusive. Then let them know that you are going to wait until they calm down so you can speak like healthy adults. Staying calm and firm with an emotionally abusive person is not easy, but the more that you are able to practice and learn the different tactics of manipulators and narcissists, the easier it becomes.
But what if the projection isn't negative? It's easy to think of projection as solely negative, but we can also use projection to push our own fantasies or wants onto someone else. Positive projection is more common for people who are codependent and more so for women, who tend to be better connected to their emotional side. A common scenario for positive projection is when people are dating. There are feelings of insecurity or self-doubt that can make someone feel lonely and isolated. They believe that being in a relationship will fill this void in themselves because they haven't learned how to deal with those fears. So when they meet someone, they can see a lot of what they're looking for in the other person. It's easy to gloss over red flags when we are insecure and lonely and want to see this other person as an amazing and good partner.
With any type of projection, handling projection means not defending, not getting angry, and not letting yourself get pulled in emotionally. It's learning more about self-love, self-empowerment, and self-parenting that will help you begin to see and heal those internal parts. Whether we are being projected on or projecting, it is important to be able to step back and try to look at things from a different perspective.