Posted by: Edward | August 29, 2008

Reclaiming our Projections

Projection is one of the most common psychological quirks and one that greatly enhances our existence once we learn how it operates in our lives. Projection, simply put is when we see some aspect of our selves which we are not conscious of in the behaviour or character of other people, generally in an exaggerated manner. Most of the time these aspects of which we are unaware are negative as we generally have the most difficulty seeing our own faults. Of course, there are always some positives which are unconscious and projected. People with low self-esteem tend to project the most positives. Projection gives us an opportunity to discover missing parts of ourselves. Maybe you are saying to yourself, but I don’t want to discover bad things about myself. Well, you can’t correct a fault that you are unaware of. Many of these invisible faults can become strengths when we have conscious awareness enough to harness them.

Finding and reclaiming our projections requires putting effort into improving our self-awareness. When you react strongly to something someone else says or does, ask yourself if this is an overreaction to the occurrence. If it is then this is our first hint that you may have uncovered a projection. When you find something that you are overreacting to ask yourself if this is something you do or if other people could perceive you as doing this. Put some effort into imagining your behaviour from other people’s points of view. Now you may recognize this pattern as one you perform. If you do then the next thing you are likely to think is, “yeah but” followed by an excuse. This is perfectly okay. Use this offered reason to help you accept the other person’s action. After all, if the excuse is good enough for you then it’s good enough for them too.

There are a number of ways we could proceed from here. The first is to note this behaviour as part of your repertoire and stay conscious of it in yourself when you do it in the future. Truly getting a formerly unconscious behaviour into conscious awareness will result in your being able to stop or alter the pattern if the reaction is inappropriate to a situation.

The second is to figure out the purpose of this behaviour. You can begin by examining the “yeah but” that arose when you first realized that this was something that you did. Is this an adequate reason or is it just an excuse? You can then ask yourself, what does doing this get me or what wouldn’t happen if I stopped doing this? These questions help you get at what is called secondary gain. If you have figured out what this behaviour is doing for you then you can now brainstorm alternate ways to achieve those ends. You want to find at least three ways that achieve the positive effects without the negative side effects. Every time you notice yourself starting the old pattern use one of the new ones instead. If you really have found behaviours that meet all the positives of the old one then before long you’ll be doing the new behaviours without even trying. If you find yourself drifting back to the old habit think more about what other secondary gains it might have had and come up with new replacement habits.

The third thing to do with a recently discovered projection is to transform it into a strength. If it is a positive projection then chances are just discovering it will have allowed it to become a strength. What about a negative projection? In most cases the negative projection is problematic as a behaviour but if we think about it in terms of a capability we can find places in our lives where the skill that the projection required could be useful to us. Sometimes the projected trait is an expression of a desire or interest of which we are otherwise unaware. Discovering a new passion is one of the most enriching things we can do.

Thus far I’ve only touched on the advantages of being aware of your own projections but it can also be valuable to be on the look out for the projections of others. Have you ever noticed a friend of family member overreacting to some little thing you or someone else did only to think, but you do that too or but you’re even worse for that? If you have then you’ve seen them projecting. When someone is overreacting to something you’ve done because they are projecting it can help to realize that it isn’t really about you, it’s about them and their emotional reactions. This realization helps to keep you calm even while they are not. However, in order to hang their projections on you, the trait they react to must be present in some form. So while you don’t need to react to their reaction, do look at how your behaviour acted as a trigger and whether it would benefit you to change it.

Another interesting example of projection that you’ll regularly encounter is when people give out advice that suits a situation in their life better than one in yours. If you maintain awareness of this you’ll find that people teach you how to help them in how they try to help others. And of course, you do the same thing. Is there any advice you’ve given lately that you should act on?

If you like this article feel free to give it a thumbs up on stumbleupon.



  1. […] post by fenris23 and software by Elliott […]

  2. […] place to look is in our overreactions to others. They are sign of what Jungians refer to as projection. When we react out of measure to a fault in others it can be a sign of an aspect of ourselves that […]

  3. […] into conscious awareness and control. I’ve gone into greater length about how to do this in Reclaiming our Projections. This whole process of increasing our will is part of the same goal as was addressed in Choosing to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: