We all have issues, as well as undesirable qualities or traits that we don’t like about ourselves. Most of us realize that we are not perfect and that it is natural to have unpleasant thoughts, motivations, desires, or feelings. However, when a person does not acknowledge these, they may ascribe those characteristics to someone else, deeming other people instead as angry, jealous, or insecure. In psychological terms, such blaming and fault finding is called projection.
When we are the target of projections, it can be confusing and frustrating, not to mention maddening, particularly when we know that we are not the cause of another person’s distress. Even people who are well aware of their issues may find that sensitive subjects can bring up unexpected projections. They may feel insecure about a lack of funds and thus view a friend as extravagant. Or, if they really want to get in shape, they may preach the benefits of exercise to anyone and everyone.
While we can try to avoid people we know who engage in projecting their “stuff” onto others, we can’t always steer clear of such encounters. We can, however, deflect some projections through mindfulness and meditation. A useful visualization tool is to imagine wrapping ourselves in a protective light everyday. At other times, we may have to put up a protective shield when we feel a projection coming our way, reminding ourselves that someone else’s issues are not ours. Although it’s difficult not to react when we are the recipient of a projection, it is a good idea to try to remain calm and let the other person know if they are being unreasonable and disrespectful. We all know that it’s not fun to be dumped on. Likewise, we should be mindful that we don’t take our own frustrations out on others. When we take ownership of our thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings, we are less likely to project our issues or disowned qualities onto others.
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