When a person feels blame, and then, blames in reaction to it, a cycle of trauma infliction begins. We refer to this as projection. The great news is that there are two sides to it. One is negative projection, which can create a cycle of blame, and the other is positive projection, which can lift us out of our pain and suffering, or upset, and show us the truth of who we are through the lens of recognizing it in someone else.
There is a human tendency to focus on certain behaviors in others (the very traits we have denied in ourselves) so that we can point at them outside of ourselves. In this way, we declare our (illusory) separation from—and victimhood to—the patterns we abhor. This tendency to disown the qualities we don’t like about ourselves and see them in others is called projection. Simple psychological projection is most often described as an attempt to cope with anxiety caused by having unpleasant or frightening thoughts, feelings, and/or impulses. The projection comes by keeping the unwanted thoughts, feelings, and/or impulses out of our own conscious awareness, and instead seeing them in others.
And ready to have your mind blown?
As coaches, we have witnessed projection as the single most derailing and destructive phenomenon in intimate relationships.
Its power lies in our inability to see it. Because it is a subconscious defense mechanism, we are most often blind to our own projections. We are SURE the fault lies within our partner, and fail to see the part we play in it. The result is that boundaries get blurred, and blame sets the tone for interpersonal communications. Partners waste a great deal of time focusing on the wrong things, and fail to see what is really happening in the moment. Projection hurts our partners by casting them into a false role, and blocks authentic communication.
If you try to blame your partner for what you are feeling, thinking, saying or doing, then you are likely projecting your issues onto them.
When your partner is projecting, it can feel crazy-making. You may be accused of the very things you know are true about your partner. It feels like a complete reversal of the truth, and you may be shocked, confused and disenchanted. You may feel tempted to defend yourself and prove your innocence. You may feel frustration, despair, anger or betrayal.