We are all guilty. Every single one of us does it… So before I get into it–let me explain:
First of all, what is projection?
What happens when you have a whole bunch of uncomfortable, embarrassing and annoying emotions that you don’t want to consciously deal with? According to famous psychologist Sigmund Freud these emotions are projected on to other people, so that other people become carriers of our own perceived flaws. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for us, this form of emotional displacement makes it much easier to live with ourselves … because everyone else is responsible for our misery – not us!
-Aletheia Luna, “6 Examples Of Psychological Projection We All Commit”
Yup. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We all have. Shit, I’m projecting by starting a piece about this. If I’m writing about projection and it was triggered by someone else’s episode and not mine, I am simply using that person to deal with my own emotions about how I project.
I hope I didn’t lose you. My mind is a maze…
So now, how do you know when you’re projecting? Better yet, how do you know when someone is projecting onto you? And most importantly, how do you make sure that this form of emotional displacement doesn’t cause wear and tear in your relationships?
The only way I could possibly explain this all without confusing anyone is by keeping it real.
I remember starting this blog and wanting to shelter as much of my truth as possible… but we’ve already become so comfortable — let’s talk about my messy life again!
Recently, I was talking to a very good friend of mine who was having a hard time with school lately. He is one semester away from finishing his associate’s degree, and was questioning his why–he was wondering whether it was worth it to continue trying.
Well, let’s just say that for a few months, I wasn’t advising anyone to go to school. In fact, I was telling people to avoid school.
“Why spend your money and waste your time? All you’re going to get from it is a piece of paper saying you finished something, is that really what you care about?” These were real questions I asked…
I had to stop myself. Oh god, Marielle. You’re projecting!
You finished your degree, and felt like it wasn’t worth it. You felt you wasted your time and money! And now… you are giving advice based on salty emotions.
Okay… digging for another example of my projection.
Here’s one. Over the past 6 months, I was the go-to girl for people who wanted to quit their jobs. I had quit 3 of them–at this point I was an expert.
However, not everyone who came to me for advice should have been quitting their job. Not everyone was in the same circumstance I was in when I decided to leave mine. I was dealing with some serious mental health issues for two entire years, and did not want to cause harm to others because of my erratic symptoms. So I left places because I needed to. Not out of impulse.
However, my advice to others reflected my own experiences:
“Leave that place! If something happens to you, they wouldn’t think about it twice before they replaced you! Put in that 2-week notice!”
I caught myself once more.
Marielle, you’re projecting. Again!
Let her stay at her job and stop harassing her about it! Back up! Let people make their own decisions!
If there is a situation I am still healing through, it’s really not in the best interest of the people in my life for me to give advice on those subjects. If there are raw emotions that I have not processed, it is obviously going to be difficult to do that.
You don’t know the emotions are there until someone reflects a part of you that you aren’t comfortable with.
I wouldn’t have even known anything was wrong with the advice I was giving if not for the fact that I read over both conversations weeks later with a fresh perspective. In the moment, it was unconscious. That’s exactly what projection is–an unconscious subscription of my own emotions to another person’s situation.
My own reflection led me to think about people who are projecting their experiences on to me. People who had been in dysfunctional relationships, and advised me to deal with my own relationship issues in toxic ways. Their insecurity and tendency towards conditional love did not allow them to give me the best advice, and instead I sensed a lot of envy and jealousy.
When it came to my future and to building a family, I found myself without role models. There is absolutely no one I know who has done family the way I want to do it when my turn comes. So, again, when I looked for advice and reassurance in others I was let down. And that doesn’t mean the people in my life have done anything wrong–it just means no one is me. No one would ever do things the way I would do them, because no one has been through what I have been through and no one has learned all of the same exact things I learned.
The most important thing of all is that projection can only leave a dent in your relationships if it goes unchecked. If you call someone out and say, “Hey, I understand that was your experience but I hope things will be better for me,” they may be upset for a moment but they will understand. If you say, “This is my decision and I thought about it long and hard,” or better yet, stop explaining your decisions at all, there is no way someone else’s experience can shape your future.
The key in life is to check yourself. Be accountable for your words and actions. Be accountable for the ways in which you cannot be there for other people.
You can’t be there for people in ways you haven’t been there for yourself. Your experience will taint the way you give advice to other people and the way you speak on the given subject. The bottom line is this:
If you do not monitor and control your emotions, they will control you. Suppressed emotions will always seep out somewhere else. Things that we hide only become bigger and more difficult to deal with. Get to a healthy place emotionally so that you could support yourself (and those around you) in the best way possible!