Are You A Victim Of Projection? Here's How To Know — And Not Let It Make You Crazy
Projection is one of those relationship experiences that can make you feel crazy. For example, let’s say that Brad is often impulsive regarding money and frequently spends too much, but because he’s in denial about this, he projects this onto his wife, Laurie. Their conflict might go like this:
Brad, in an angry, judgmental tone, exclaims, "I can’t believe the credit card bill we just got! Why are you always buying things we don’t need?" Laurie, caught off guard, responds angrily, "I’m not the one who spends the money around here." Their conversation then becomes a full-on screaming match, in which they're each blaming the other, and Laurie walks away more confused than ever, wondering if maybe she, in fact, is the one who's been spending all the money.
In my line of work, I’ve seen this exact kind of interaction happen with couples over and over again. Here's how to finally put an end to it.
Stopping this toxic interaction in its tracks.
If you're in a relationship in which there's some projection going on, learn how to stop it in its tracks. For example, the next time Brad gets on Laurie for overspending when he's the one who's been doing it, she could try responding like this: "Brad, this doesn’t ring true to me, and I’m not going to engage in this conversation."
By doing this, Laurie walks away to take care of her feelings, being very compassionate to herself in the face of Brad’s angry, blaming projection. By not engaging in defending and blaming back, Laurie takes herself out of the crazy-making dynamic so that it doesn’t escalate.
Understanding that projections aren't the truth.
One of the problems with being unable to spot projection is that many children were projected on by their parents, and they took in the projections as if they were true. Maybe your parents called you selfish, irresponsible, or crazy or told you to stop being angry when they were the ones being selfish, irresponsible, off-kilter, or getting angry.
If any of these or similar situations happened to you when you were growing up, then you may be an easy target for the crazy-making of projection. Being able to recognize this is the first step to putting an end to it.
The pain of being unseen.
One of the hardest feelings to deal with is feeling unseen by someone who says they love you. So when someone you are close with projects their disowned stuff onto you, there is a tendency to want to explain and defend, but this will only make things worse.
The way out of the crazy-making of projection is to learn to trust yourself when someone is blaming you for something and it doesn’t feel right to you. If you are being told that you are a selfish person, but you know that you are, in fact, a kind and giving person, then you need to trust what you know about yourself rather than what the other person is saying about you. And instead of trying to get the person to see you, you need to see yourself and value yourself enough to get out of range of the projection—as in the second example between Brad and Laurie. Learning to see, value, and love yourself goes a long way toward becoming immune to projections.
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Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator. She has counseled individuals and couples since 1968. She is the author/co-author of nine books, including the internationally best-selling Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You?, Healing Your Aloneness, Inner Bonding, and Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God? and her recently published book, Diet For Divine Connection. She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah, as well as on the unique and popular website Inner Bonding.