Oh projections, projections. I swear, one could talk about this topic all day if so inclined. There is so much to say. I’ve been using this word for years. I have had many a-ha moments over the years that have brought me into deeper understanding of the word. To be honest, it is normally seeing the patterns and struggles of my friends and family that helps me see my own. It’s always been this way.
Why? BECAUSE WE ARE ALL MIRRORS … especially when it comes to projecting our emotions onto others. Collectively, this was a huge week for many to do deep shadow work. The main topic for all seems to be the same: projections and expectations. In this article, I am going to use several sources, as well as my own, so bare with me if it gets lengthy. I’ll try to keep it engaging.
What did I learn this week that is new? Projections are all about self. Whatever someone is saying, they are normally saying it about themselves. For example, someone who says, “You never show me love,” is actually saying, “I never show myself love.” Someone who says, “I have tried a million times to get people to see the error of their ways,” is actually saying, “I have tried a million times and I cannot seem to find the error of my ways.” I cannot tell you how many times someone has said something to me or texted something and my first thought is normally, “Huh. I’ve been saying that about THEM in my mind or TO THEM for a while now.” We project to others what WE actually need to hear ourselves. How crazy is that?!?! So I have been watching what I have been saying and how my own projections have been spilling out all over the place on how I EXPECT things to be.
I EXPECT that others not judge me. I EXPECT that we all behave in a way that is kind, caring, and inclusive. I EXPECT that others give me boundaries to be myself with full acceptance. What I am just coming to realize is that these EXPECTATIONS come out as myself PROJECTING these same things upon others. I was judging them, questioning their behavior and boundaries, and not fully accepting them for who they really were by going on long tirades of my own infringements. This one hit me hard this week.
How could I have been so blind? We all project to a certain degree. We are only human. It is when we start projecting constantly that it becomes an issue. No one ever feels GOOD when they are projected upon, do they?
“The particular egoic patterns that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself.” ~Eckhart Tolle
“There is a human tendency to focus on certain behaviors in others (the very traits we have denied in ourselves) so that we can point at them outside ourselves. In this way we declare our (illusory) separation from—and victimhood to—the patterns we abhor.”1
What is projection?
Projection — in psychological terms — is our tendency to displace our feelings onto others. Sometimes, expectations can show up here as well and really tie in to make the snowball larger. Projections always ends in disappointment. If we are setting impossible expectations on top of that, we will find ourselves constantly being let down.
“Strong relationships aren’t those in which we change ourselves to fit the dreams of other people. They are those in which both parties are able to see one another as they really are, without judgement and without expectation of change. When this happens, we are able to come together as equals, instead of rivals, and build lives that are authentically aligned to our mutual goals and needs.”3 My own question here then becomes ... if we cannot meet each other where we are at and see each other for who we are, should we even continue this friendship/relationship/acquaintance? Because that would mean it is an unhealthy relationship, right?
“This tendency to disown the qualities we don’t like about ourselves and see them in others is projection. Projection is the single most derailing and destructive phenomenon in any type of relationship. Its power lies in our inability to see it. Because it is a subconscious defense mechanism, we are most often blind to our own projections.
We are SURE the fault lies within someone else or an entire group of people, and fail to see the part we play. The result is that boundaries get blurred and blame sets the tone for communications. We waste a great deal of time focusing on the wrong things, and fail to see what really is happening in the moment within ourselves.”1
“Projection is often learned in childhood and may keep individuals in a state of feeling like helpless victims if left unaddressed. Once someone recognizes their tendency to project things they don't like in themselves onto others, they can work on stopping it. Developing self-confidence, letting go of the past, and establishing a clear identity separate from one's partner are all techniques that can help prevent projection.
Blaming others for reminding us (however accidentally) of our never-healed emotional pain and projecting that pain back onto them is something like taking an anesthetic for physical distress. The painkiller may reduce, or even extinguish, the ache temporarily, but until the wound actually heals, that pain will return. You will never feel whole or at ease with yourself (or others) until you do.”2
What I have been noticing lately in my own life is that someone will project upon me and so I project it back to them, almost through an unconscious reaction mechanism. Which means, if I am honest with myself, I am most likely projecting onto others and they, in turn, reflect back to me and project back. I’m getting back what I put out. I’m also seeing in them what I fail to see in myself. My mind is melting at this point. I have talked about projection a lot over the years, but have not truly seen it IN MOTION until this past week. Using myself and others as mirrors will do that to you. Because I use that tactic, I am shocked it has taken me this long to see it.
So it is getting easier and easier for me to deal with projections when they come my way. Because now, instead of hearing, “Angie, you need to change these things about yourself,” what I am really hearing is the person saying, “Wow, I have some things I need to change about myself.” I have tested this theory now for the past week and a half and I have to say, it rings true every single time. Our hurts and our pains get projected in the strangest ways. So now I’m looking at what has been a repeating pattern for me, along with things I repeat a lot. Those are the things that I need to look at for myself.
I highly encourage your to Google “Projecting in Relationships” and read the first few articles. Here is a great one that REALLY opened my eyes! https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/3833/psychology-projection-8-feelings-transfer-onto-others/. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and I am FAR FROM being a psychologist or psychiatrist. FAR FROM IT! So please don’t take this as such. This is merely a musing of what I have been experiencing.
1 - monikahoyt.com
2 - psychologytoday.com
3 - medium.com