Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.  Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others originate those feelings.

Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them.

An example of this behavior might be blaming another for self failure.  The mind may avoid the discomfort of consciously admitting personal faults by keeping those feelings unconscious, and by redirecting libidinal satisfaction by attaching, or projecting, those same faults onto another person or object.

I do not like another person.  But I have a value that says I should like everyone.  So I project onto them that they do not like me.  This allows me to avoid them and also to handle my own feelings of dislike.

An unfaithful husband suspects his wife of infidelity.

A woman who is attracted to a fellow worker accuses the person of sexual advances.

To work authentically with other people, avoid projecting your woes onto them.  When you see others in a negative light, think: are you projecting?  Also understand that when others  are criticizing you, they may well be criticizing a projection of themselves.

When others are using projection, you can hold up a mirror to show them what they are doing.  As usual, this may well be met with other forms of resistance.

When a person has uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, they may project these onto other people, assigning the thoughts or feelings that they need to repress to a convenient alternative target.

Projection may also happen to obliterate attributes of other people with which we are uncomfortable. We assume that they are like us, and in doing so we allow ourselves to ignore those attributes they have with which we are uncomfortable.

  • Neurotic projection is perceiving others as operating in ways one unconsciously finds objectionable in yourself.
  • Complementary projection is assuming that others do, think and feel in the same way as you.
  • Complimentary projection is assuming that others can do things as well as you.

Projection also appears where we see our own traits in other people, as in the false consensus effect. Thus we see our friends as being more like us than they really are.

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