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Projection is a psychological mechanism that the Bodily Ego uses to avoid uncomfortable confrontation with one's own guilt and shame, anger and resentment. When we project, we project our own Sins onto others.

Other Awareness Reduction Mechanisms

Awareness Reduction Mechanisms > Avoidance, Denial, Displacement, Dissociation, Distortion, Distraction, Diversion, Gaslighting, Intellectualization, Internalization, Projection, Rationalization, Reaction Formation, Regression, Repression, Sublimation

Related Terms

Awareness Reduction Mechanisms > Ego Threat, Unwanted Self


Projection also involves a redirection and distortion of reality and self, a redirection of emotions, thoughts, and actions, but in this case, we project our trauma and disjuncture onto others. Projection is an ARM whereby we reduce awareness of things we find unacceptable in ourselves by focusing our attention on these characteristics in others. For example, an individual angry over sexual assault, but unable to properly express and feeling guilty about feeling angry may project that anger onto others, seeing others as angry and hateful, rather than owning their own emotions. Or, an abusive spouse may, when confronted with that abuse, project onto the other person. If my partner comes up to me and says that my actions are abusive, I may project onto her and say, “Ya, but you’re abusive as well.” I may rationalize and divert attention from my own abusive behaviours by “digging up” things she has done in the past. Digging up things she did to me in the past allows me to rationalize and deny my current behaviour, and divert attention to hers. When I do this, it is because I am feeling shameful and guilty over my actions, and I do not want to admit it to myself, or her. Of course, if I do this, I am not dealing with my own disjunctive actions. If I am not dealing with my disjunctive actions, my guilt and shame will just grow deep inside me. Projection is a common tactic used in arguments with intimate partners and other family members. When families are trying to discuss issues, projections often end up flying back and forth like arrows in an epic battle. It is not hard to understand why projection is such a common ARM in families. Parents, and later their adolescent and adult children, use copious quantities of guilt and shame to control behaviour. Children and adolescents who are subjected to this learn to deny, distort, react, sublimate, and project just so they do not have to deal with guilt and shame. For example, my mother used guilt and shame all the time, whenever I did something she thought was wrong. My mother used to make my brother and I stand in a corner for long periods, just to make sure. This behaviour of projection happens in the social world. You can be a free thinker as long as you do not challenge the status quo. If you do challenge, those in positions of authority will undermine you, exclude you, publicly ridicule and shame you, or worse, vilify you.

Understand, guilt and shame are painful, and for a child, especially so. As a child, being shamed did not teach me to never make mistakes. Humans are always making mistakes so eliminating mistakes is impossible. Instead, being shamed as a child taught me never admit my mistakes. Nobody wants to feel guilt and shame and so we deny, distort, react, sublimate, and project so we do not have to. The use of all ARMs is particularly prominent in families, even those you might consider “healthy,” because within families is where guilt and shame are deployed the most freely. When you think about it, it is your parents, and later your siblings, that treat you the worst. Many parents still hit their kids and few think twice about screaming and invoking shame. When we punished for making mistakes, we learn never to admit them.