How to Respond to Psychological Projection in Relationships

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Do you think your partner has changed and lost interest in you? Well, you see they have become gloomy and irritable. Oh yes, they said something about problems at work. The habit of attributing to others their thoughts and fears can prevent us from being happy. Today we will talk about just that, projection in relationships. We will find out, "Is abusing someone a form of psychological projection?" see some examples of psychological projection in relationships, find out how to stop projecting and how to respond to psychological projection. But first, let’s look at the psychological projection definition.

psychological projection in relationships

What Is the Meaning of Projection?

What is projecting in a relationship? “You absolutely do not understand the hints that I’m giving you,” “You see everything quite clearly, you just don’t want to admit it,” “It is so difficult to live with you sometimes.” If you have said something like this at least once in your life, then you are familiar with the concept of projecting feelings. To project means to attribute to another person (or even an inanimate object) feelings, thoughts, or intentions that actually belong to you. This is the protective mechanism of our psyche that we inherited from childhood: this is how we make the complex external world easier and more understandable. Psychoanalyst Saverio Tomasella states, "Projection is the inevitable companion of communication." But if we resort to them too often, it becomes a problem. We project everything that we know about the world. A friend asks us, “How to know she is the one?”, some people might answer in a pretty confident manner, provide some examples and arguments, but this is all just a projection, the way the person sees the world, and it is just their opinion on the matter.

Why Are We Doing This?

From time to time, we all resort to projections. “It helps us overcome the barrier between ourselves and others: we imagine, interpret, guess,” explains Saverio Tomasella. At the very beginning of the relationship, our projections play a positive role. “We attribute to our chosen one features that reinforce our first impression. Thanks to them, until recently, a stranger seems familiar and even dear to us.” This is the phase of idealization when the partner seems to us to consist of the same strengths. The problem is that this condition does not last forever. Sooner or later, we begin to look more soberly at the one next to us. And when the image created by our projections contradicts reality, we often experience frustration.psychological projection examples

When Do Projections Harm Relationships?
If positive projections tie us to each other and make rapprochement easier and more comfortable, then negative ones, on the contrary, complicate relationships. Negative projections arise due to a mismatch between the image of the partner that we've created in our heads and their actual behavior, as well as because of our habit of predicting other people's reactions and thinking of others. Situations in which the projection mechanism is triggered occur constantly. They arrived late from work and did not warn about, they praised the new outfit without enthusiasm, and now suspicions arise in their head: they are cheating on you, and, in general, just falling out of love with you. These thoughts begin to control your behavior, for example, they make you cold or start to find fault with your partner for any reason. And they may not understand what happens and begin to build their conclusions on the basis of their own projections.

What Is the Danger?

If there are too many projections in our communication, they create an atmosphere of mutual distrust and doubt. You start projecting insecurities onto each other. And the consequences will come quite quickly. Over time, you may get the feeling that the partner neither understands nor knows nor loves you. “This problem can increase if one of the two is internally vulnerable, has problems with attachment, and is depressed,” Saverio Tomasella warns. In the worst-case scenario, projections can lead to a break - if one of the partners does not want to analyze their reactions and believes that their reproaches and suspicions are based on something. “It all depends on whether each partner can look at the situation from the outside and recognize their responsibility for the relationship,” says Tomasella.

If you are sick of your partner constantly projecting their insecurities onto you, and it drives you nuts, then you should try to fix everything and tell them about it, and if that doesn’t work, then just leave, end this relationship there and then. After all, there are so many single woman dating websites to be found online, you will find another partner for yourself in no time.

Let’s now move on and look at some psychological projection examples.

Main Psychological Projection Examples

If you start with the basics, you can distinguish three basic types of projections.

  1. Mirror projection - I attribute to another those qualities that I would like to possess (if a person wants to be kinder, then they fantasize about the kindness of other people).
  2. Projection of catharsis - I attribute to another person things that are rejected by me (if a person sees anger in other people and claims that the world is evil and almost all people are cruel, then they simply supplants their own aggression, forbidding it to themselves; “It’s hard for me to admit my aggression and to express it, so I see people evil”).
  3. An additional projection - I attribute to others qualities to justify myself (a person says that they are being flirted with because they allow others to do so, but in fact, the reality is different). "You want to see me because you are bored," actually sounds like, "I miss you and ascribe to you my own feelings to justify myself."

How to Understand Your Partner Has Projecting Issues

How to stop projecting onto others? How to understand that you are being projected? Here I would begin by talking about one simple rule of interaction between two people. "It is impossible to achieve a higher level of relationship with a partner if your relationship with yourself is lower." It is important not only in romantic relationships but also in friendship since the low level of your understanding of yourself will never let you be at a high level of relations with a conscious person. This is a certain basic principle that you should adhere to new relationships with people. If a person is a little lower than you in the level of relations with themselves, then they will not be able to maintain a higher level of relations with you, since the second golden rule sounds like, “If a person does not know how to love themselves, then they do not know how to love another person. If a person does not know how to support themselves, then they do not know how to support another person. If a person does not know how to realize their feelings and needs, then they do not know how to realize the feelings and needs of another person.” So what is projected in those very same level relationships? Everything unconscious, all childhood injuries and experiences, own narcissism and individuation. How to get rid of projection in a relationship? Psychotherapy, in which they increase the level of responsibility.

And now closer to life. Let's get back to the fact that a person builds their relationship with people based on individual experience, which I wrote about. You should understand that fantasies about other people are false and toxic. Having understood this firmly, it is worth moving on to understanding the insignificant aspect of the work of the psyche. Those situations that accompanied a person in life (especially in childhood) become a reference for the psyche. There is a certain desirable pattern, under which it is worth “customizing” everyone and everything. In fact, the psyche is in search of repeatability, that is, losing a traumatic experience since it has become a reference.

If there was aggression in childhood, then this aggression is transferred to real relationships. De facto, we face difficulty in constructing the image of the present situation. A person projects childhood experience on real relationships with a partner, while the situation is different, and the partner is not a parent. In any case, when entering a new relationship, a person lives the closeness that they lived in the first relationship or in relationships with their parents. It turns out that the new partner is distorted under the prism of the experience that was obtained earlier. I repeat once again: the partner is new, and the relationship is a reference (such as it was before).

How to Recognize a Projection?

  1. The emotional response to the situation and the person (if I scold someone, then this is something mine).
  2. If I heard anything from another person (“you are a fool,” “you are lying,” “you are arrogant”) and I feel insulted, then this means an unexperienced experience. I am in a mask, and when they tell me that I was arrogant, and it hurts me, it means that my shadow position is the way I am called. If Joe tells Jessica that she is lying and that causes Jessica insult or anger, then she simply suppresses her emotions, and now she has to be in the mask that Joe discovered and put off. There is a response, which means there is injury. If Jessica is not hurt by Joe’s words, then there’s no injury (see point one).projection in relationships
  3. If I have strong feelings for a certain situation in which these feelings should not have appeared, then this is a projection (I am making a mountain out of a dust speck).
  4. If what others said or did is fixed and does not let me go emotionally, this is a projection.

Let’s now find out how to respond to psychological projection. How to respond to someone who is projecting?

How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting

How to deal with this? What should you do about psychological projection in relationships?

Know yourself, motivate your partner to do the same. Each of us has its own sensitive buttons that trigger the projection mechanism. Of course, it’s difficult to predict when they will work. But try to watch yourself. Learn to track your reactions when they arise. For example, you know that you tend to lose your temper when someone criticizes your family. You notice that your partner does not wear a tie that was donated by your father. You immediately respond, “Oh, so it seems to me that my father has no taste?”

Do not be afraid to admit that you are wrong. No need to be ashamed of projections - after all, this is a natural way in which our psyche tries to protect us. It is far more important to admit that we could be wrong. If you realized that you were angry at your partner for no reason, tell them about it and explain what caused your reaction. With the help of sincerity, you can correct the negative effect of the projection.

Ask questions. We live at a fast pace and talk a lot. Sometimes even too much. Such communication is a breeding ground for projections: we do not always have time to realize what our interlocutor says, but we quickly respond. If the conversation is about a topic that is sensitive to you or your interlocutor, it is especially important to ask questions. For example, your partner came late from work. Maybe an urgent task fell on them, and their boss did not let them go. Ask about it. So, you not only clarify the situation but also demonstrate your interest.

Develop your wisdom and motivate your partner to do the same. As we get to know each other, it becomes easier for us to understand where the borders go, what sharp corners should be avoided so as not to provoke a conflict. Such caution does not humiliate us, but, on the contrary, demonstrates our maturity in relationships. Ultimately, the main thing is our desire to know another person as they are and love them.

Having recognized the projection, it is important to understand what past experience this reaction is directed at and what feelings and emotions were not expressed there (or needs are not satisfied). This is best done by a therapist.

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