What is Projection?
Projection is a form of defense mechanism in which we transfer unwanted feelings, qualities, or impulses into another person. In other words, when projecting, a person is unconsciously taking their unwanted or harmful feelings or thoughts and attributing them to someone else.
For example, someone who is overwhelmed by anger and hostility may project these feelings into another person, and then accuse this other person of being aggressive.
What is the Function of Projection?
According to Sigmund Freud’s personality theory, our psyche is structured into three parts, the id, ego, and super-ego. These three systems within our subconscious mind are in constant conflict. While the id is the primitive and impulsive part of the mind, led by hidden memories, aggressive instincts, and sexual drives, the super-ego is driven by moral conscience.
The ego is the realistic part of the mind whose main role is to mediate between the impulses of the id and the moral principles of the super-ego. Freud considered projection a defense mechanism used to avoid unpleasant and repressed feelings. He believed that we mostly tend to project sexual, angry, jealous, or controlling feelings that we cannot accept. Therefore, the main purpose of projection is to protect us against feelings and thoughts we don’t want to deal with.
All of us use projection as a defense mechanism now and then to protect our mental health. Sometimes, however, they may get in the way of your successful relationships, affect your day-to-day life, and be a symptom of other mental disorders, such as paranoia and narcissistic personality disorder.
The Types of Projection
There are three forms of psychological projection:
Complementary projection reflects a person’s assumption that other people share their values, motives, beliefs, and attitudes (“I think this is great. You have to love it too!”).
Neurotic projection means that the person attributes their own feelings, attitudes, motives, desires, and beliefs they find unacceptable to someone else (“She hates me.” “He is having an affair!”).
Complimentary projection occurs when a person assumes that if they can do something, everyone else can do it too (“If I can finish this project, she can complete it too.”).
How to Stop Projecting?
When you catch yourself using projection, try to focus on why you are doing it. Use journaling to explore your emotions, and use expressive writing to self-reflect. Delve on how you feel about yourself and explore your emotions as they appear in your conscious mind. Writing your feelings and thoughts down can help you understand without self-judgment why are you using projection.
Enhance Your Self-Esteem
People who have low self-esteem often tend to project the feelings of not being good enough onto others. A good antidote to low self-esteem is self-compassion. Practicing self-compassion can help you accept yourself as you are, with all your weaknesses and flaws. Studies show that people who feel good about themselves can tolerate experiencing the negatives about themselves and therefore have no need to project.
Coaching can be one of the most effective ways to stop projecting. A good life coach can help you recognize and address the reasons why are you projecting. During sessions, you will learn the strategies to help you overcome projection and learn healthy strategies to manage your emotions.