You don’t want to go out for the evening, but convince yourself the other party actually doesn’t find you interesting and that’s why you’re cancelling.
You are incredibly attracted to a colleague, but get angry at them for flirting with you.
In a fight with your sister you stay very calm, pointing out how angry she always gets, then go home with thoughts of rage against her.
Welcome to the world of psychological projection.
Psychological projection is when you unconsciously avoid taking responsibility for certain feelings and thoughts by attributing them to someone else.
[Why do we project? What are the many ways you might be projecting onto others without realising it? For the answers to these questions and more read our connected piece on “What is psychological projection?“.]
How to manage your psychological projection
So you have admitted to yourself you are the projecting type. So what now? How can you start to become more responsible for how you think and feel?
1. Stop saying I’m fine.
Projection happens because we are in complete denial of how we really feel to the extent we dump it on others instead of acknowledge it. “I’m fine” is a response many of us are quick to not only say but buy into, ignoring the anger that has our stomach in knots or the sadness that has us secretly overeating or bingeing on alcohol every night.
Begin by just noticing how many times you say “I’m fine” each day, either to others, or in your head to yourself.
Projection is the mind’s way of tricking us out of feeling what we need to feel. So what if you stopped believing all your thoughts were the gospel truth? And started recognising that most of your thoughts are a mix of assumptions, old core beliefs, and doubt?
Question your thoughts about others. Do you really know what they think and feel? Have you actually asked them? Do you have facts to back up your assumption? What other facts contradict what you are thinking?
Question your thoughts about yourself too. Are you really as hated as you think? As powerless as you want to believe?
Part of communicating also involves learning to listen more. Remember that words aren’t the only way people communicate – it might also be in their body language and the actions they take.
7. Recognise your personal power.
Projection is often a way to make a victim of ourselves. Instead of admitting we don’t like a colleague, we decide they hate us. Instead of admitting we are furious at a family member for not pulling their weight, we say nothing and blame them for being too angry and mean.
Sure, it means you can feel sorry for yourself and gain the attention and pity of those around you. But making others responsible means that you have given away your power to change the situation.
Start to notice what situations make you project can be helpful. And notice who you tend to project around. Is it only with romantic partners, or more often with strangers?
Then ask what your projection is about. Do you tend to project when people ask too much of you and you feel overwhelmed? Would you rather project than admit you were wrong? Do you project your sexual feelings onto others?
You might find the present patterns link to past patterns. For example, if you do project over admit you were wrong, did a parent punish you frequently for being ‘bad’? And if you do project your sexual feelings, do you have a religious background that shamed any sexual thoughts? The next suggestion can be helpful if these feels too overwhelming.
9. Talk to a therapist.
If you worry you are projecting but find it overwhelming to figure out how it all began or how to stop, you can talk to a counsellor or psychotherapistwho is trained at helping you recognise your patterns and find new ways of approaching your relationships and life.
Do you have an example of projection you’d like to share? Do so below, we’d love to hear from you.