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Psychological projection

In psychology, psychological projection (or projection bias) is a defense mechanism in which one attributes one’s own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts or/and emotions to others. Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted subconscious impulses/desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them. The theory was developed by Sigmund Freud and further refined by his daughter Anna Freud, and for this reason, it is sometimes referred to as "Freudian Projection

Overview

According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one "projects" one's own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else. It is a common process that every person uses to some degree.

To understand the process, consider a person in a couple who has thoughts of infidelity. Instead of dealing with these undesirable thoughts consciously, he or she subconsciously projects these feelings onto the other person, and begins to think that the other has thoughts of infidelity and may be having an affair. In this sense, projection is related to denial, arguably the only defense mechanism that is more primitive than projection. Projection, like all defense mechanisms provide a function whereby truth about a part of themselves that may otherwise be unacceptable is shielded.

Compartmentalization, splitting and projection are ways that the ego continues to pretend that it is completely in control at all times, when in reality human experience is one of shifting beingness, instinctual or territorial reactiveness and emotional motives, for which the "I" is not always complicit. Further, common in deep trauma, individuals will be unable to access truthful memories, intentions and experiences, even about their own nature, wherein projection is just one tool .

Historical uses

Peter Gay describes it as "the operation of expelling feelings or wishes the individual finds wholly unacceptable—too shameful, too obscene, too dangerous—by attributing them to another.

The philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach based his theory of religion in large part upon the idea of projection, i.e., the idea that an anthropomorphic deity is the outward projection of man's anxieties and desires.

Psychological projection is the subject of Robert Bly's book A Little Book on the Human Shadow. The "Shadow"—a term used in Jungian psychology to describe a variety of psychological projection—refers to the projected material . Marie-Louise Von Franz extended the view of projection to cover phenomena in Patterns of Creativity Mirrored in Creation Myths: "... wherever known reality stops, where we touch the unknown, there we project an archetypal image". .

Counter-projection

When addressing psychological trauma the defense mechanism is sometimes counter-projection, including an obsession to continue and remain in a recurring trauma-causing situation and the compulsive obsession with the perceived perpetrator of the trauma or its projection.

Jung writes that "All projections provoke counter-projection when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject."

The concept was anticipated by Friedrich Nietzsche:

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."

Common definitions

  • "Projection is the opposite defense mechanism to identification. We project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blame them for having thoughts that we really have."
  • "A defense mechanism in which the individual attributes to other people impulses and traits that he himself has but cannot accept. It is especially likely to occur when the person lacks insight into his own impulses and traits."
  • "Attributing one's own undesirable traits to other people or agencies."
  • "The individual perceives in others the motive he denies having himself. Thus the cheat is sure that everyone else is dishonest."
  • "People attribute their own undesirable traits onto others."
  • "An individual who possesses malicious characteristics, but who is unwilling to perceive himself as an antagonist, convinces himself that his opponent feels and would act the same way."

Consciously recognising one’s own traits in someone else

Some people can recognise their own personality type and can understand other people who are like them. Not every case where people blame others for their own failings is psychological projection.

Psychopathology

In psychopathology, projection is an especially commonly used defense mechanism in people with certain personality disorders:

References

See also

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