Defense mechanism or Security Operations. We all have them, and whether we know it or not, they protect us against pain (Growth is often painful) rather than deal with situations in healthy or responsible ways.
Projection: Of course you have heard of the “Pot calling the Kettle Black”? Here is how projection works:
Whatever I don’t like or recognize in myself when I see it in you I will become angry! The key to understanding projection is the emotional charge we feel in an encounter with someone else. What I don’t like (or what I do like) is usually a quality I have that I am not aware of or owning. A quality like rudeness (which we don’t like to own) often gets projected onto to others. When we experience someone else being rude we get angry and upset. It is almost like being in a hall of mirrors – the outer reality we see is in many ways a reflection of the projection of our inner reality. Almost like a movie projector projecting onto a a screen. In this case the screen is our lives. So if deep down inside one feels unlovable, he will act in a way to make others behave to justify how he (or she secretly feels). He will then tend to make an assumption that people are: not nice or mean spirited or can’t be trusted. Thus perpetuate painful relationships at work or with friends or family. It is like a being magician fooling himself into thinking the illusion of what is being experienced is real!
If one is not aware of being critical and judgmental; then interactions with someone who is perceived to have these qualities will often trigger anger and hurt. The tendency to judge or treat others disrespect can be justified because they deserve it! Remember there are compelling payoffs to this. It feels good to believe we are superior or better than the person we judge. It gives a false sense of security and even power. We don’t have to change or suffer the shame, guilt or remorse that comes along with the realization we have wronged someone or imprisoned them in our judgments about them.
This self defeating orientation though keeps us stuck and prevents us from having the healthy and collaborative relationships we need to be healthy and generative in our work and life. It is particularly hurtful when rigid principles or religious beliefs are held. If I believe that I am good and right and my way is the only way – and you don’t believe what I believe you must be wrong, misguided, even evil. My principles or faith can be used to justify to treating you badly, judging you or with contempt. For example if you think your significant other or employee is incompetent you can justify being contemptuous, controlling and blame them for shutting down, not being engaged or even depressed.
We project collectively as well as individually. Starting a war, dominating others, performing ethnic cleansing or genocide is actually frighteningly easy. All we need to do is demonize our enemy, make people afraid of them and smear those that don’t support us as unpatriotic. By making people afraid it is easier to control them and discriminate against the “out” groups.
It is one of the oldest tricks used in history (If history teaches us one thing we don’t learn from history) and easy. For example, Hitler realized that a lie repeated often enough no matter how far removed from truth will be accepted as fact. The Nazis projected onto the Jews the worst qualities that they could not face in themselves. They blamed the Jewish people for Germany’ problems; accusing them about wanting to take over the mass media, universities, the financial markets, the country even the world. Even the German women! All this described the Nazi’s! These beliefs laid the foundation for them to murder over six million people for the crime of being Jewish. Then they did what they blamed the Jews for: The Nazis took over the banks, industry, controlled mass media, and higher education, started WWII and treated the German women like cows whose main purpose was to reproduce and be servile.
Psychologists’ have shown that the unspeakable atrocities that were committed by the Nazi’ s is not only a German phenomena – we all have this capacity as well. Witness the ethnic cleansing of Rwanda, the Sudan and our own Native Americans (in a noble sounding term like Manifest destiny). Indigenous peoples all over the world have been under assault. ( Derrick Jenkins) One day I hope that religions will all live up to the teachings of their prophets and be a source of healing the worlds pain rather than being a cause of it. As so aptly put: Nobody know the age of man but everyone agrees he should know better. (unkown) “Man’s capacity for self deception is truly monumental”. Yoram Kaufman.
An important key to being responsible and having a healthy relationship to self and others is to own your projections. So whenever you get angry or emotionally charged at someone during an encounter – ask yourself what part of me I am not owning? Then notice how the energy of the encounter shifts. You will be able to better see who that person is.
As Marion Woodman writes: “To be psychologically free is to be confident in our own inner world, responsible for our own strengths and weaknesses, consciously loving ourselves, and therefore, able to love others” It is up to each of to be more conscious, self aware and mindful of our impact on others. Carl Jung was asked if there is hope for the world and he said ” There is hope – if enough people do their inner work” For our outer world to be healed; enough of us need to take this journey. It all begins with a first step.