“Projection is one of the commonest psychic phenomena… Everything that is unconscious in ourselves we discover in our neighbour, and we treat him accordingly.”
A son is enthusiastically waiting for his father to arrive home from his work. He is eager to share the newest ideas on a dream he decided to fight for. His father listens and then prevents his son from dreaming as dreams never come true. Have you been in a similar situation? If so, how to stop projecting?
Indeed, that situation is a good example of projecting. The father is projecting onto his son his experiences. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love his son, or that he doesn’t want the best for him. He is trying to save his son from the bad feelings he had while chasing his dreams.
Similar situations where projection is at hand happen all the time around us. What are those projections? Why do we project our feelings on others? Is there a way to stop it? These are the questions we are going to address right away.
What does projection mean?
In short, projection is about placing a feeling on someone else because we reject, ignore, or dislike recognizing such a feeling within us. For example, someone feeling guilty about a situation will feel anger towards someone else and say they are the ones at fault. What’s internal is seen as external.
Projecting is summarized in this sentence: “When you point a finger at someone else, three fingers point back at you”. In other words, what we see in others, lives within us. That’s especially true when our judgments come with strong emotions, mainly anger.
By the way, there is the other side of projections. It can function as a bridge to figure out what someone else feels, and be empathetic. Think about that mother noticing her daughter’s facial expressions and concluding she is sad. Because that mother has experienced sadness herself, she can project that experience onto her daughter and make her feel understood and supported.
Thus, projection itself is not an issue, but projecting to free ourselves from our responsibility or avoid facing an unpleasant feeling is.
How can you tell if you or someone else is projecting?
If projections happen unconsciously, then how can you or anyone tell that projecting is happening? As said earlier, projections come with strong emotions or overreactions to a situation. We used to call that attitude ‘salty’.
When someone triggers your fears and insecurities, you feel the urge to defend against someone else “attacks”. Emotions burn from your heart, making you detach from them and assign them to someone else to strike back.
This also happens when someone projects on you and then you identify yourself with the projection. For example, someone yelling at you because you are supposedly angry at them makes you feel that emotion.
On the other hand, you will notice someone else is projecting feelings on you when their reaction is not aligned with what you did or there’s no reasonable explanation for it. Usually, the projector plays the victim to deflect attention from them toward someone else.
In any case, projecting harsh feelings onto others is an obstacle to building strong and meaningful relationships. These are some tips you may use to prevent yourself from projecting or dealing with others’ projections.
7 tips on how to stop projecting
Projection, in the end, is a matter of responsibility, self-awareness, and accepting who we are. In that sense, anything you can do to know yourself and understand who you are will contribute to stopping projecting your feelings onto others.
These tips will help you with acknowledging your inner reality and setting boundaries to prevent others from projecting on you.
- Accept your feelings.
There is no such thing as good or bad feelings. They simply are. We are who label them as this or that. To avoid expressing them unconsciously, we are better off accepting them and feeling them rather than suppressing them.
- Spend time with yourself.
Projection only happens when we interact with someone else. When you spend time alone, you have a chance to build a relationship with yourself. This time can come in the form of meditation, contemplation, practicing yoga, writing a journal, or simply listening to your thoughts without judgment.
- Treat yourself with compassion.
When you can’t forgive yourself for past behavior, you will likely project those feelings of shame and low esteem onto someone else. We tend to treat others the same way we treat ourselves. So, the more compassionate you are with yourself, the more chances are you will be easy on others.
- Challenge your thoughts.
Since the projection is an assumption we do over how other feels based on emotions we either like or don’t, it is a good idea to ask ourselves for backup over the assumptions we have over ourselves or others.
- Use assertive communication.
When we communicate our feelings, there is no need to project them. Now, the mere idea of talking about them can be overwhelming. Yet, assertiveness proves very useful here.
You can use this template to create and express your feelings without attacking others:
• Describe concrete actions.Going back to our father/son example, the son could be assertive with his father and answer him something like this:
• Express your thoughts and feelings.
• Ask for specific actions.
• Share positive consequences.
“You are telling me dreams never come true [concrete action]. That makes me feel sad because I was looking for your support [thoughts and feelings]. If it’s hard for you to encourage me, at least avoid doing the contrary. [asking for specific actions]. I love you, and I want to keep a good relationship with you [positive consequences]”.
- Recognize your inner strengths.
Knowing who you are and what you are capable of will help you cast away any inclination of becoming a victim. When you feel responsible for anything you do, it is easy to recognize that feelings belong to you and that you are responsible for them.
- Keep a journal to listen to yourself.
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to keep track of our projection patterns. It is a good tool to bring unconscious behavior to consciousness. Once there, you will have to recognize those feelings are yours and give yourself the chance to act accordingly.
We all project our feelings onto others. Despite projection being useful to empathize and honor someone else’s feelings, we also use it unconsciously to avoid dealing with unpleasant feelings like guilt, shame, or regret.
Going within, getting to know yourself, is the most important step you can do. This way, you either prevent yourself from projecting on others or identifying yourself with someone else projections.
To get there, you can either follow the tips shared recently or start Your Gift Journey to have someone backing you up and accompanying you through the process. Want to know more about this? Send me a message with any comments or questions you may have. We can also arrange a complimentary call to discuss things further. I am eager to hear from you soon!