Do we truly see people for who they are, or do our preconceived ideas mean we only see them through a filter? Do we assume we know what our loved ones are thinking and end up feeling upset or hurt because we didn’t challenge that assumption? Are the negative qualities that upset us so much in others actually parts of ourselves that we try to deny?
Sigmund Freud claimed that projection was a defence mechanism – instead of looking at something “bad” in ourselves, like selfishness, lust, or anger, we saw it in other people instead. Instead of seeing people as they are, we ‘project’ an image onto them, like a movie projector stopping you from seeing what’s really underneath.
We don’t necessarily only do this with things we’re denying in ourselves – we also project what we expect of people onto them, which can lead to stereotyping, discrimination, and a lot of unnecessary conflict. And what happens when we bring this into our close relationships? Maybe we start think we can read the other person’s mind – assuming they are upset with us or that they are bored of us, then treating them as if our projection is the ultimate truth.
Our special guest, John, talks about the role projection played in his marriage. He often assumed that his wife was needy and dependent on him, yet never questioned this. He also talks about how he struggles with his idea that people are angry with him all the time, and how he uses open and honest communication in his current relationship to figure out what’s really going on.
We also talk a little about how we feel when people project onto us – assuming traits or intentions that are not there because they have created an idea of who we are based on one or two pieces of information – and the ‘positive’ side of projection; where we project all our fantasies onto our new lover and see them through rose-tinted glasses.
Some of the resources we mentioned:
We mentioned the book Why Do I Do This? by Joseph Burgo; the quote about “when we project we turn the other person into a symbol: the Bossy Jerk or the Needy Wreck” was actually from this article here at ExperienceLife.com: https://experiencelife.com/article/how-to-stop-projecting/
This article – “Projection in Relationships: Stop it from ruining your connection” was helpful as we thought of ideas for this episode: https://www.monikahoyt.com/projection-in-relationships/
The book that mentioned how families project their expectations onto us is They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life by Oliver James.
We talked about Freud, and how he discussed projection as a defence mechanism. Read more about psychological defence mechanisms here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201110/the-essential-guide-defense-mechanisms