Maintaining relationships can be tough. It’s not always rainbows and laughter. We argue and disagree with the ones we love, but we do our best to make reparations. Sometimes, though, we make things a little harder on ourselves and our loved ones by projecting our own hurt onto them. This doesn’t mean you’re weird or strange — we’ve all done it. The thing is to recognize it and face it head on, especially when it is interfering in your personal relationships. Projection just keeps us from understanding the true source of our pain and how to resolve it.
3 Signs of Psychological Projection
- You aren’t wrong – ever. Whenever you find yourself in a debate or disagreement, do you believe that you are totally in the right, even if a mistake is yours to claim? If so, there’s a good chance you’re projecting your own issues and baggage onto your loved ones. Along with that feeling 100% right, you become aggressively defensive of your viewpoints and feel angry at your loved ones. You find ways to convince yourself and the other person that the mistake was their fault, when in all honesty it’s yours to own.
- You feel wronged. If disagreements and minor arguments leave you feeling wronged and attacked, you might be projecting hurt from the past that has been left unresolved. Sometimes when a person from our past has caused us pain, we carry that with us and it makes it hard for us to deal with disagreements in future relationships. Arguments then feel like personal attacks and leave us really sad, even if the argument was over something little like which couple from the TV show Friends was the best.
- Arguments are life or death. When you’re in an argument, do you feel as though it has to come to a resolution or else? If anxiety and fear overwhelm you during disagreements (without threat of violence being part of the equation*) perhaps you are projecting past fears onto present relationships.
(*If you are in a relationship in which the threat or reality of violence is present / you feel that your safety is at risk, please seek help right away. You are important.)
The Harm in Projecting and How to Overcome
Projecting is harmful because it basically blocks you from confronting (and therefore overcoming) problems. Not only that, projecting can make good relationships into unhealthy ones, increase anxieties, and prevent personal growth. It leads to a lot of unresolved arguments and discord. Knowing the signs of projection is step one in the process of overcoming. Step two is learning what you can do to disrupt the cycle of projection. Step three is to put that knowledge into action.
In regards to that “never being wrong” projection — it’s hard to admit when we’ve messed up and made a mistake. It’s embarrassing and it makes us face the reality of our imperfections. However, when we admit to ourselves and to others that we’ve made a mistake, we can learn from this and become a better person. It’s super important to own mistakes, no matter how embarrassing. Once you become more okay with your flub-ups, you’ll likely find that you argue less about blame.
Personal Trauma and Projection
As for those feelings from the past causing us anxieties in the present, remember that it’s important to live and let go. When someone hurts us, we can’t and shouldn’t hold on to that pain for the rest of our lives. We deserve better than to be saddened by each disagreement we have with loved ones. Also, remember that it’s okay to disagree. Having differing opinions doesn’t mean you’ll be loved any less by the people who care about you.
If you’ve experienced traumatic events in the past that make it difficult for you to have healthy disagreements, then you deserve help. You can talk to your family doctor or seek counseling to figure out what treatments are available to you. With the right assistance, you can work through trauma and come out even stronger.
Growing Through Self-Discovery
It’s also vital to note that we tend to get into arguments when we are cranky and/or in pain. Before going for a loved one’s jugular (metaphorically speaking, of course), check in with your mind and body. You may very well just need a nap, some meditation, or a back rub. When our bodies are tensed up, we become emotionally tense. Honestly, you can avoid a lot of arguing (where projection gets put into action) by just making sure your body and mind are well-rested.
It’s important to recognize when you’re projecting, as well as understand how it can hurt you and your relationships. There’s no shame in looking at our own blind spots. There is only growth, Friends.
This, of course, requires self-reflection and a little brutal self-honesty. Now that you’ve learned a few ways to break the cycle of projection, start acting on it! You and your relationships will benefit. Not only will you feel a whole lot better, but your relationships will become stronger and you will have more serenity.