What is projection and how can we control it?

Among the defense mechanisms of the unconscious, raised by Anna Freud, we find the projection. It is about transferring responsibility for our actions to other people or situations. But, to understand it better, we must know that its function is protective.

Although at first it may seem something negative, actually this mechanism seeks to maintain our psychological well-being. That is, to the extent that human beings manage to evade guilt in a "justified" way, they feel better about themselves.

The curious paradox of these protection systems is that, in their eagerness to defend the person, they end up preventing me from having access to reality. Therefore, over time they harm you. In other words, someone who is unable to take responsibility for their decisions will hardly be able to change their negative behaviors.

Projection as a psychological defense mechanism

What is projection? In the strictest sense, we can establish that it is about attributing the origin of our conflicts to others. Indeed, that is what this defense mechanism is all about. However, there are some aspects that need to be clarified. For example, projection does not happen in all kinds of conflicts.

One of the aspects that makes it difficult for the person to realize their projections is that they do not happen in all cases. ANDs say, sometimes accept responsibility for certain problems in your life, such as those you consider harmless. Meanwhile, it is unable to recognize responsibility in serious conflicts.

According to the above, people do not usually accept that they are projecting their most significant conflicts. A justification could be, "I can accept when I'm wrong, I don't need to be told".

Most people think they can take responsibility for their conflicts, but in reality there is an arbitrary selection process, in which the person involved chooses which problems are responsible for and which are not. In this sense, those conflicts that overcome it are projected abroad.

Projection, despite being a psychological defense mechanism, can harm the person by preventing them from taking responsibility for their actions.

Read also: Psychoanalysis: what it is and how it works

Some everyday projection examples

In everyday life we ​​can observe various situations that respond to the effect of projection as a defense mechanism. For example, in couples' conflicts. The reason for this is that intense feelings, such as love or emotional attachment, are often triggers for frustration when things are not going well.

Life's frustrations aren't always handled the right way. In fact, some people never face their frustrations. Consequently, they project them outwards. Another good example can be recurring complaints about work.

It is common for some workers to constantly complain about their colleagues, their bosses or their work in general. However, in reality the cause of their discomfort lies in other reasons, such as poor social skills, lack of preparation to fulfill some functions, and so on.

This situation is also common in the academic area. Such is the case of students who fail a subject and project responsibility onto the professor in the chair. Something similar happens in other areas of life, projection is a natural mechanism of the human psyche.

How can I avoid this behavior?

Despite being normal, it is important to learn to avoid some projections so that they do not end up affecting mental health. Above all, we must avoid judging ourselves when we perceive that we are projecting a problem onto others. That is, understand that we are not bad people for that.

In any case, the key to preventing these behaviors is not denying ourselves. Thus, and although it sounds strange, we are less likely to project our conflicts abroad. In this sense, the ideal is to recognize and accept responsibility for our actions.

Shakespeare once said «Studying yourself is the most difficult art ». Boy, was he right. Sometimes emotions skew our ability to reason and make it difficult for us to make an objective assessment of our behavior. Ultimately, we must remain vigilant to prevent projections from perpetuating.

When to seek professional help?

How we have seen, it is not easy to detect projections in our daily lives. However, this does not imply that we should ignore them. Ideally, attend a psychological consultation when conflicts are too intense.

For example, having the feeling that most people are against us is a clear sign that we should seek professional help. ANDThe psychologist is the one who is trained to provide the therapeutic tools required in these cases.

When the projection affects different areas of our life, it is best to seek psychological help to deal with it.

Read: When should I go to therapy with my partner?

How to identify the projection in our life?

Now that we have seen what this defense reaction is all about, it is time to learn to identify it in life. Namely, recognize in which areas we usually present it. A good idea may be to ask ourselves if the things that bother us about others actually do not seem so unpleasant on ourselves.

Sometimes we project anger onto others that we are unable to validate on our own person. In other words, when we do something inappropriate we justify it, but We find it wrong when other people do exactly the same thing.

It is necessary to accept that the things that we dislike about others can be a true reflection of what we are not able to recognize in ourselves. For example, criticizing someone who underwent cosmetic surgery – stating that he is vain – when in fact we want to access the same intervention.