So much that emerges in our adult relationships we bring from our childhood.
We build a template replicated from our earliest experiences that shows us how to create connections.
The perfect childhood doesn’t exist. Perhaps we come from a family where we had reasonable parenting and grew up believing that people are inherently good and to trust our interactions with others. Or maybe we come from a traumatized family system. This environment may have been chaotic, abusive, or emotionally closed and we learned the world is dangerous and people are not to be trusted.
What is Projection?
Projection strikes a destructive setback in our intimate relationships. Frequently we’re oblivious to our own projections. We unconsciously zoom in on unwanted emotions or qualities that we don’t like and attribute them to someone else.
Believing the wrongdoing lies with the “other”, we are unable or to see any responsibility from our own actions. We are unknowingly avoiding something true about ourselves. It is a defense mechanism we use to flip the switch.
- Say you dislike Steve, but are unable to acknowledge this, so you persuade yourself that Steve doesn’t like you. This protects you against feeling lousy for disliking someone no matter what the reason. Allowing you to sidestep something you can’t admit that exists within yourself.
- Feeling insecure about some facet of ourselves; unconsciously, we find ways to identify insecurity in others. Think about the bully who targets others’ insecurity so they can escape dealing with their own feelings.
Projection urges us to feel superior and lets us ignore our own shortcomings, while focusing in on what we deem to be defective in others. Failing to see the good because we are solely focused on their imperfections.
It’s Not Me … It’s You
Another example, I am talking to my partner, colleague or you and you say something that touches into my own trauma history and it triggers me. Instead of being able to own what I am feeling, I shift my anxiety and distress onto you. It is now because of you that I do not feel okay. And instead of dealing with my activation and old trauma, I blame you for how I am feeling. It is now all about you and it is your fault.
When we project, we create an atmosphere of “us and them”. There is me and then there is you… the “other”. I start protecting myself. We are no longer connected.
Most people have had an experience of “othering” where they feel excluded whether it’s in our own family, workplace, school, or community. At some point in our life, we have felt that sense of not belonging and rejection. This tracks back to the earliest time in our tribes. It was very important to belong and be accepted in the tribe. It’s a big part of our identity and sense of self.
I once heard someone say that feeling comfortable in your own
skin is important but feeling safe with others is revolutionary
A good step is to place your focus on why you have needed to project. The more intense our reaction the more consuming the need to project this onto another. What are you trying to protect?
How do we work with this defense mechanism that fails to either identify or address the underlying feelings it is sitting on? It takes courage to look within to see where we may have created some of the difficulties we have experienced.
The mirrors, people and circumstances, we pull towards us are an opportunity that allows us to go within and explore the hidden fears and mechanisms. We continue attracting the mirrors needed for our growth and evolution until we can feel more of our truth. We may uncover a new direction and create a new template for developing deeper connections, intimacy, and allowing more love in.
Responding To Projection
When You Project Onto Others
Projection tends to be unconscious and there can be intense feelings of being wronged with an obsessive quality to it; we keep turning it over in our minds. To become more conscious of it helps to shift it as you are pointing your focus toward something more constructive. Try to face problems and clashes more directly instead of becoming defensive. Change places: if you think about how the other person feels you can humanize them, and maybe have a little more compassion.
When Others Project Onto You
Some common projections encountered: you’re selfish, crazy, judgmental, angry or it’s always about you. When you’re on the other end of the projection it is essential you don’t get trapped. They want you to defend, explain argue, discuss, project back… anything to protect yourself against their projection. This then becomes all about you giving the person projecting exactly what they want: the focus is on you instead of themselves. The worse they feel about themselves, the more vicious the attack. The best practice here is not to engage and give yourself space to remove yourself from the situation.
Inspiring Change Through Empowerment…
Bringing Balance To Body, Mind and Spirit
Karen Johnson |416.732.2661
Shaman | Coach and Mentor | Energy Healing Toronto | Somatic Experiencing Practitioner