We all know what projection means in terms of movie theaters and probably in terms of trying to predict the future. But projection is also a common term in psychology. Here’s a decent definition of projection as it relates to psychology: “the attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings or suppositions to others”. In other words, one locates or attempts to locate attributes of one’s own self in other people. Below are some steps that will allow you to apply the concept of psychological projection to your daily life.
1. Recognize Your Own Tendencies To Project
Perhaps you’re a woman who has big feet (or thinks she does) and is unhappy with them looks at the feet of other women a lot and criticizes them. Maybe you’re a man who is “cheating on” his wife and you’re especially suspicious of her cheating on you. Find areas in which you seek fault in others and then ask yourself if they point back at yourself. Finding areas in which we project can lead us to more sober understandings of ourselves.
2. Recognize Projection in Others.
Similar to Step 1, only outward. The paradox here is that one could project one’s own tendency to project onto others. A person who practices an awful lot of projection could “see” (perhaps mistakenly) excessive usage of projection by others. Arguably the most noble application of recognizing projection in others is being able to treat them with more compassionate understanding. Another application is that if one recognizes another projecting, one is better able to take that person’s criticism less personally.
3. Recognize “Group Projection”
Possibly more dangerous than a single powerful leader’s projections are those shared in by large groups. Of course, with groups, you might have a few people who know what they’re doing in terms of manipulation, and then the rest of the herd following somewhat naively because it serves a psychological function for them. Scapegoating is a well-known form that group projection may take. The shortcomings that exist within a group are said to be caused by black people or Muslims or Jews or gays, etc. More extremely, the shortcomings are said to exist in the marginalized groups but not in the projecting group.
4. Recognize That Not All Attribution Is Purely Fallacious Projection
Very often there may be good reason for criticizing some action or aspects of persons. For instance, just because a person confronts you about an addiction doesn’t mean that she’s projecting her own addiction and you’re not an addict. She might simply be concerned about you.
Further Tips & Caution
- Practice trying to discover your own projections or at least things that you may fixate upon in others
- Soon you will find yourself being able to recognize instances of possible projection around you, from close relationships to figures in the news
- Don’t go overboard on “the projection thing” — recognize it as one tool of psychological, social or political analysis, not a blanket cure-all or explain-all