The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.
Wearing someone else’s stuff
Because people with Personality Disorders have an unstable view of themselves, sometimes they can lose track of where their own identity ends and someone else’s begins. In psychological terms, this is known as an Identity Disturbance.
As these Identity Disturbances blur the lines between the self and others, sometimes people with Personality Disorders will attribute their own personal and psychological characteristics to others. This practice is known as projection.
In some forms it’s relatively harmless, such as a Personality Disordered person believing their own likes, dislikes, feeling, opinions or beliefs actually belong to another person.
It can however become malignant when it involves attribution of the Personality Disordered individuals own actions, words, blame, fault, hatred, liability or flawed character onto another. This is especially the case when the Projection then becomes justification for some form of punishment or abuse.
Projection can either be conscious - where the perpetrator knows they are deliberately deflecting blame or liability onto another person – or subconscious - where the perpetrator is unaware they are distorting or dissociating the facts.
Sometimes it is simply the result of good old fashioned Blaming - where blame or responsibility for a problem is conveniently attributed to another person. Projection can also occur as a result of Dissociation and a departure from reality-based thinking. It’s extremely difficult to prove if a Personality Disordered person believes their own statements of Projection, which also means it is generally an exercise in futility trying to argue the case for your own reality.
How it Feels
Nobody likes to be told a falsified version of what they think, feel or believe - even about benign issues. And whenever someone is falsely accused, slandered or held in disrepute, great harm can be done to that person’s relationships, self-confidence and sense of well-being.
Acts of projection commonly result in defensiveness, indignation, annoyance, argument or even retribution and retaliation on the part of subjects or victims.
What it Looks Like
- A mother assumes her children only like the same food she likes.
- An abusive father hits his children and blames his teenage son for the bruises.
- A wife empties the joint checking account and accuses her husband of wasting resources.
- A mother who is embarrassed about her weight problem repeatedly calls her eldest daughter “fat”.
- An employer who lacks financial discipline accuses his employees of squandering resources.
How to Cope
Coping with Projection is very similar to coping with episodes of False Accusations, except sometimes the false statements may initially appear “nice” or “neutral”. Even these can still be irritating and annoying, and when they veer into negative territory or make inflated or untrue claims, they can also in the long-term be damaging to your credibility or self-esteem.
What NOT To Do
- Don't accept any responsibility, blame or criticism which you know is wholly undeserved.
- Don't give a Personality Disordered person power over your self-image.
- Don't attempt to argue the point, state the truth quietly and clearly ONCE.
What TO Do
- Know yourself – emotional clarity and understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses is your best self-defense against the erosive power of Projection.
- Honor your own experience and spend time with people who give you an honest reflection of who you are.