A defense mechanism is an unconscious psychological strategy that keeps you from experiencing any unpleasant feeling. Despite the temporary relief it provides, it isn’t always healthy. It suppresses issues instead of working them through, while taking a toll on all parties involved. There are various defense mechanisms that a person may use to protect his ego. Projection is one of them. We’re all vulnerable to projecting in anxiety-provoking situations, especially ones that trigger painful or embarrassing memories. Although it’s not considered unusual, psychological projection causes not just anxiety, but even resentment, anger, disappointment, and prejudice to the person doing it. Read on to learn about this psychological mechanism and how you can prevent it from damaging your mental health and your relationships.
What is Projection?
Projection is a defense mechanism in which you attribute your own negative traits or emotions to others without being aware of it. For instance, you think your friends are conceited when in reality, you’re the one who’s full of himself. Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, discovered projection during sessions with his patients–they accuse other people of having the uncomfortable feelings they themselves show.
Types of Projection
These are the three general types of psychological projection:
- Neurotic Projection – as the most common type, it involves seeing your attitudes, motives, or feelings in other individuals. You project because you can’t accept that you have them.
- Complementary Projection – this happens when you assume other people share your thoughts or emotions: you believe your colleagues like your aesthetic preferences.
- Complimentary Projection – this involves expecting others have the same skills as you, i.e. thinking anyone can draw faces as good as you.
Why Do People Project?
Defense mechanisms help you cope with unresolved issues in your mind. Learned behavior and trauma are merely two of the many possible reasons someone projects. Other defense mechanisms such as Distortion (making circumstances adapt to your own point of view), Denial (not admitting that something’s real), Sublimation (doing positive things when experiencing negative feelings), and Dissociation (changing your personality for a particular situation), all provide a short and easy escape just as projection does.
How to Stop Projecting
An important first step is acceptance. You should understand that you’re using a defense mechanism to distance yourself from emotions you must face. You’ll only get rid of them once you examine them. Why do you feel anxious when others say you lack self-esteem? Why do people with certain temperaments make you distressed? Therapy can also help you find what caused your issues and employ the right treatment plan for you. Next, learn your triggers and practice avoiding projection at their occurrence. Whether it’s taking a deep breath or pulling away from a conversation, think of a method that you’ll be able to apply well.
It’s not easy to overcome a mental stronghold, but it’s not impossible. Indeed, change always takes time and consistent effort. You need determination and patience for you to break the habit of projecting. Treat your recovery process as a journey that’s worth toiling for. You’ll thank yourself in the end. You’ll witness your own transformation.
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