In Syndromes & Disorders

The Elusive Concept of Psychological Projection

psychological projection

Projecting is a common term used by people when describing someone else. It has serious implications and if you are not familiar with this term, then it can be difficult to understand what this term means. There are a few things you should understand about this term so that you can understand what Psychological Projection means as well as how to spot signs of Psychological Projection.

Projection Definition

According to multiple psychology websites, the definition of psychological projection “involves individuals attributing their own thoughts, feeling and motives to another person. Thoughts most commonly projected onto another are ones that would cause guilt such as aggressive and sexual fantasies or thoughts. For instance, you might hate someone, but your superego tells you that such hatred is unacceptable. You can ‘solve’ the problem by believing that they hate you.” Essentially what this means is that people project their own inward emotions onto others by recognizing it in them while not seeing it in themselves. Often times a person may do one simple thing that will make the person label them in this way, when in fact the person does not have the character trait. This is a common defense mechanism people use along with denial and repression. They are used by the mind as a way of coping with emotions that the mind simply does not want to accept or process. It can happen for a number of reasons.

An example of this is with a person who is always rude to other people. When they see someone do something that may be considered rude, they will label them in this way and may even confront them about this. Whether the other person is rude or not, the point is that it is the person picking up on this trait in another person while failing to see it in themselves. This is why it is important to understand the projection definition psychology has to offer.

Why does it Matter?

Once you look at the projection psychology definition you may be wondering why this matters. If it is only a theory in psychology, what bearing does it have on your life? There are a few ways that this can play a huge role in your life. Let’s take a look at them:

1.    It is something people naturally tend to do- including you. This is something you may do without even considering it. You may point out when you think someone is behaving rudely or something more extreme like saying you feel that they are bad mothers. It could indicate that this is something you do or something you are concerned you do; something you subconsciously do not want to admit to in your mind. Looking at this and understanding it can help you to recognize this in your own life and in turn will allow you to improve yourself and live a more fulfilling life.

2.    You can recognize when other people are using psychology projection with you. There are always going to be people who say mean and hurtful things. By understanding how to define projection in psychology you will be able to recognize when this is something someone is doing to you. While it does not excuse what they are saying, it can help to give you a little more insight into their life and help to lessen the blow of their words or actions.

Recognizing Psychological Projection

There are a few things you can do to recognize projection in day to day life. After understanding the importance for recognizing it, the next thing you will want to know is how to spot it. The good news is that you do not have to take a psychology class and perform psychology projects to be able to learn this. You can perform a project all on your own. Keep in mind that the way that it is spotted in others will differ from the way you spot psychological projection in your own life.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you start thinking up psychology project ideas to be able to spot projection. One is that it is difficult to discern the true motives of a person, even yourself. In fact, especially in your own mind. This is because many people find it difficult to spot their flaws or admit when there is something that needs to change within their own life.

When assessing other people’s actions to see if they are projecting, remember that it does not do any good to confront them about the projection. Just as it is hard for you to recognize your own short comings, it will be hard for them to as well. Since this is a defense mechanism people use, it will only serve to make them even more defensive which in turn could cause more issues. Now if this is someone you are close to, then there may be a time when you can sit down with them and discuss what you feel to be a projection, but do not do it in the moment as tensions will be high and could lead to an altercation.

How to Recognize Projection in Others

When someone says something negative to you, there is a good chance it could be projection. This can be easy to spot if you know the person. For instance, if you have a friend that is vain and calls you out as being vain because you stop to take a selfie before going out, then there is a good chance that this could be projection. The best thing you can do to understand this is to think about what you know about the other person. Put yourself in their shoes using the information you know about them. Unfortunately this does not work very well when it comes from a person walking down the street who may call you rude for talking on your phone while walking because you aren’t paying attention. Maybe they are projecting but maybe they are just recognizing your actions and calling you out on it. Calling the person out on this will not serve any positive purpose. You may think this will alleviate some of the emotions you feel at that moment, but it may actually escalate the situation.

When analyzing another’s words toward you to determine whether it constitutes projection, it is important to think about what they are saying to you. If they are calling you rude, arrogant, vain or something else, take some time to analyze whether this is true. Do not do it in the moment when tempers flare. Rather take a few minutes when you do your reflection for the day to see if it actually true. This is a good way to recognize negative character traits you have, which in turn will allow you to make changes so you can improve yourself.

How to Recognize Projection in Yourself

There is one super easy way to recognize when you are using psychological projection. When you accuse someone of something think about how that action made you feel. For instance, when you accuse someone of being greedy, does it just rub you the wrong way or do you boil over with anger? If you find that you have a major reaction, then chances are this is projecting.

The best thing you can do is take some time every day to understand where you are projecting and what this means to you. It will allow you to come up with a strategy for changing these negative traits in yourself. If you find that you are having a hard time figuring out how you are projecting, then you can always see a therapist or life coach. They can also be a huge help if you are trying to figure out how to deal with these negative attributes and change them into something more positive for your life. This can be done with cognitive and behavioral therapy. This looks at the negative or destructive behaviors you do to help you to recognize them and teaches you to implement a more positive behavior instead.

Psychological projection is something people have been doing since the dawn of time- or at least as long as people have been aware of their behaviors. While projection may be a negative way of recognizing your own character flaws and may not be the nicest way for someone to approach you, it does not have to be negative. By learning how to spot it, you can make a change for the better.

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