Define projecting feelings

Projection in Psychology: Definition, Defense Mechanism, Examples

What is projection?

Has someone ever told you to stop projecting your feelings onto them? While projecting is often reserved for the world of psychology, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term used in arguments and heated discussions when people feel attacked.

But what does projection actually mean in this sense? According to Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed, LCSW, projection refers to unconsciously taking unwanted emotions or traits you don’t like about yourself and attributing them to someone else.

A common example is a cheating spouse who suspects their partner is being unfaithful. Instead of acknowledging their own infidelity, they transfer, or project, this behavior onto their partner.

Why do some people project? And is there anything that can help someone to stop projecting? Read on to find out.

Like a lot of aspects of human behavior, projection comes down to self-defense. Koenig notes that projecting something you don’t like about yourself onto someone else protects you from having to acknowledge parts of yourself you don’t like.

She adds that humans tend to feel more comfortable seeing negative qualities in others rather than in themselves.

Who does it?

“Projection does what all defense mechanisms are meant to do: keep discomfort about ourselves at bay and outside our awareness,” explains Koenig. She says the people who are most prone to projecting are those who don’t know themselves very well, even if they think they do.

People who “feel inferior and have low self-esteem” can also fall into the habit of projecting their own feelings of not being good enough onto others, adds psychologist Michael Brustein, PsyD. He points to racism and homophobia as examples of this type of projection on a broader scale.

On the other hand, people who can accept their failures and weaknesses — and who are comfortable reflecting on the good, bad, and ugly within — tend not to project. “They have no need, as they can tolerate recognizing or experiencing the negatives about themselves,” Koenig adds.

Projection often looks different for each person. With that said, here are some examples from Koenig to help you get a better understanding of how projection might play out in different scenarios:

  • If you’re out to dinner and someone keeps talking and talking and you interrupt, they may accuse you of not being a good listener and wanting attention.
  • If you strongly advocate for an idea of yours at work, a co-worker might accuse you of always wanting your way, even though you tend to just go along with their ideas most of the time.
  • Your boss insists you’re lying about the large number of hours you put into a project when they’re the one who’s cutting out of the office early and not meeting deadlines.

If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. This can just lead to more projecting. Instead, try to focus on why you’re projecting. There are a few ways to go about this.

Do some soul searching

A good starting point, says Brustein, is to check in with how you truly feel about yourself, especially your weaknesses. What are they? Are there things you actively do to contribute to them? He recommends hashing out these questions in a journal.

Koenig agrees on the importance of self-reflection when it comes to projection. To her, self-reflection means “viewing yourself with detachment and curiosity, never judgment.”

Look at your behavior and see if you tend to blame others for things you do or incorrectly assign negative qualities to others. If you do, take note of it and move on. Try not to dwell on it and judge yourself too harshly.

Ask someone who understands

It sounds intimidating, but Koenig recommends asking someone close to you if they notice you projecting. Make sure it’s someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to. It might be hard to bring up at first, but consider being honest with them. Explain you’re trying to better understand how you see yourself and others.

Just make sure you’re prepared to hear things you might not necessarily want to hear if you decide to do this. Remember, though, that this info can help you learn to stop projecting.

See a therapist

A good therapist can be one of the best tools for overcoming projection. They can help you identify and address reasons why you’re projecting and give you tools to help you stop.

If projecting has damaged a close relationship, a therapist can also help you rebuild that relationship or prevent it from happening in a future one.

Not sure where to start? Here are five therapy options for every budget.

It’s human nature to want to protect yourself from painful or negative feelings and experiences. But when this protection turns to projection, it may be time to take a look at why you’re doing it. Doing so can improve not only your self-esteem, but also your relationships with others, whether they be co-workers, a spouse, or close friends.

Projection | Psychology Today

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection—attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another. For example, if someone continuously bullies and ridicules a peer about his insecurities, the bully might be projecting his own struggle with self-esteem onto the other person.

The concept emerged from Sigmund Freud’s work on defense mechanisms and was further refined by his daughter, Anna Freud, and other prominent figures in psychology.

  • What Is Projection?
  • Projection in Everyday Life
  • Projection in Therapy

What Is Projection?

Unconscious discomfort can lead people to attribute unacceptable feelings or impulses to someone else to avoid confronting them. Projection allows the difficult trait to be addressed without the individual fully recognizing it in themselves.

Who developed the concept of projection?

Freud first reported on projection in an 1895 letter, in which he described a patient who tried to avoid confronting her feelings of shame by imagining that her neighbors were gossiping about her instead. Psychologists Carl Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz later argued that projection is also used to protect against the fear of the unknown, sometimes to the projector’s detriment. Within their framework, people project archetypal ideas onto things they don’t understand as part of a natural response to the desire for a more predictable and clearly-patterned world.

More recent research has challenged Freud’s hypothesis that people project to defend their egos. Projecting a threatening trait onto others may be a byproduct of the mechanism that defends the ego, rather than a part of the defense itself. Trying to suppress a thought pushes it to the mental foreground, psychologists have argued, and turns it into a chronically accessible filter through which one views the world.

What’s an example of projection?

An example of projection would be the following: A married man who is attracted to a female coworker, but rather than admit this to himself, he might accuse her of flirting with him. Another would be a woman wrestling with the urge to steal, who comes to believe that her neighbors are trying to break into her home.

Why do people project?

People tend to project because they have a trait or desire that is too difficult to acknowledge. Rather than confronting it, they cast it away and onto someone else. This functions to preserve their self-esteem, making difficult emotions more tolerable. It’s easier to attack or witness wrongdoing in another person than confront that possibility in one's own behavior. How a person acts toward the target of projection might reflect how they really feel about themselves.

Is projection conscious or unconscious?

Projection is thought to be an unconscious process that protects the ego from unacceptable thoughts and impulses. Attributing those tendencies to others allows the person to place themselves above and beyond those urges, while still being able to observe them from afar. Although this occurs unconsciously, these patterns can be brought to conscious awareness, especially with the help of a therapist.

What is projective identification?

Projective identification occurs when the target of projection identifies with and expresses the feelings projected onto them. This represents a deeper stage of the distortions raised by projection, one that often occurs in relationships. For instance, a man could displace his own feelings of frustration towards a distant parent onto a romantic partner, who then withdraws emotionally after an argument.

Projection in Everyday Life

Projection can occur in a variety of contexts, from an isolated incident with a casual acquaintance to a regular pattern in a romantic relationship. But learning to recognize and respond to projection can help people understand and navigate social conflict.

How can you tell if you’re projecting?

When your fears or insecurities are provoked, it’s natural to occasionally begin projecting. If you think you might be projecting, the first step is to step away from the conflict. Time away will allow your defensiveness to fade so that you can think about the situation rationally. Then you can 1) Describe the conflict in objective terms 2) Describe the actions that you took and the assumptions you made and 3) Describe the actions the other person took and the assumptions they made in order. These questions can help you explore whether and why you may have been projecting.

How can you tell if someone is projecting on you?

If someone has an unusually strong reaction to something you say, or there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable explanation for their reaction, they might be projecting their insecurities onto you. Taking a step back, and determining that their response doesn’t align with your actions, may be a signal projection.

A harmful consequence of continual projection is when the trait becomes incorporated into one’s identity. For example, a father who never built a successful career might tell his son, “You won’t amount to anything” or, “Don’t even bother trying.” He is projecting his own insecurities onto his son, yet his son might internalize that message, believing that he will never be successful. 

Although it’s difficult to do so, individuals who experience this can try to remember that the criques are about the other person, and to be confident in who they are outside of that relationship.

How does projection affect romantic relationships?

A common source of projection in romantic relationships emerges when unconscious feelings toward a parent are projected onto the person’s partner. If the partner then identifies with and expresses the feelings projected onto them, projective identification is at play.

Signs of projective identification in a relationship include having the same fight over and over again, feeling upset with your partner but not knowing why, and confusion about your reaction or your partner’s reaction to a situation. Couples can overcome projective identification by recognizing it, slowing down in conflicts, checking to make sure that they understand each other correctly, and considering couples therapy if needed.

How do narcissists use projection?

Narcissistic people often resort to projection to protect their self-image. Complaining about how someone else is so “showy” or “always needs attention” is one example of how a narcissist might project. They may also blame others for things that have gone wrong, rather than taking responsibility themselves. As the narcissist projects more shame and criticism onto another person, that individual’s self-doubt often grows, leading to a self-reinforcing cycle.

How do you respond to projection?

Setting boundaries can help you respond to projection. Responding with clear statements such as “I disagree” or “I don’t see it that way” can deflect the projection and may prompt the person to reflect or take responsibility. It can also prevent you from internalizing unfair criticism or blame. But if the person continues to project, and seems unable to move forward, it may be necessary to remove yourself from the conversation.

Projection in Therapy

Projection can reveal hidden insecurities or beliefs that are valuable to explore in therapy. It also relates to the phenomenon of transference, in which a patient transfers feelings he or she has toward another important figure in their life onto a therapist. While projection can occur in different contexts, transference is primarily understood through a therapeutic lens. (For more, see Transference.)

While psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapists are more likely than others to invoke projection as a behavior of note, therapists trained in all modalities are familiar with the construct. Some may discuss a person misattributing or misunderstanding their own biases, without labeling such behavior "projection."

How does projection work in therapy?

Through their conversations, a therapist may observe that a patient seems to be projecting, either onto the therapist or toward other people in the patient’s life. For example, a therapist might realize that a patient continuously posits that their partner is having an affair, with no evidence. The therapist might explore whether the patient is secure in the relationship or is perhaps the one struggling to remain faithful. Projection can be an opportunity to identify difficult emotions that need to be processed.

How do therapists respond to projection?

If a therapist suspects that a patient is projecting—either onto the therapist or onto other people in the patient’s life—they will likely explore the patient’s reaction. Understanding why the patient is reacting to the therapist with such a strong emotion, or misinterpreting a therapist’s statements, can help reveal underlying relationship challenges that should be discussed and resolved.

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The transfer effect in psychology and its features

In psychology and psychoanalysis, it is customary to talk about transference when someone directs their feelings and desires in relation to one person to a completely different person. You can meet a new colleague and see in him the features of your worst enemy. Attitude towards a person can deteriorate greatly, even if he can be quite pleasant.

Transference in therapy occurs when a patient transfers anger, hostility, love, adoration, or a host of other possible feelings onto their therapist or therapist. Sometimes some therapists even actively encourage it. Within the framework of psychoanalysis, they try to evaluate unconscious mental processes. nine0003


  • 1 How is transfer different from projection?
  • 2 Countertransference
  • 3 How is transference used in therapy?
  • 4 Transference oriented psychotherapy

How is transference different from projection?

Projection and transfer are very similar. In both cases, you are attributing emotions or feelings to the person that they don't really have. The difference is only in the attribution.

Projection occurs when you attribute to someone the behavior or feeling you have towards them. Then you can begin to see evidence of these feelings being projected onto you. nine0003

For example, a projection occurs when you realize that you are not too fond of a new employee in a nearby office. You don't know why, but you get this feeling. Over time, you begin to convince yourself that he himself is showing signs of hostility towards you. Individual behavior is proof of your theory.

Assigned emotions can be either positive (love, adoration, worship) or negative (hostility, aggression, jealousy). They can also grow as your own feelings for that person grow. nine0003


The therapist must be aware of the possibility that his own internal conflicts may be transferred to the client. This process, known as countertransference, can greatly damage the therapeutic relationship.

Some studies show that 76% of female therapists and 95% of male therapists admit to having sexual feelings for their clients at one time or another. Despite the negative connotations of countertransference, some therapists find ways to use it therapeutically. nine0003

How is transference used in therapy?

Transference in therapy may be unintentional. The patient redirects feelings related to a parent, siblings or spouse to the therapist on a subconscious level. It can also happen on purpose, on purpose. Your therapist is actively working to get rid of anxious feelings and internal conflicts. In all cases, the doctor must inform the patient when the transference occurs, and then he can better understand what exactly he feels. nine0003

Transference-Oriented Psychotherapy

In an established therapeutic relationship, the patient and therapist can use transference as a treatment tool. Your therapist can help you transfer thoughts or feelings about a particular person to him. The healthcare provider will then use this interaction to better understand your thoughts and feelings. Together, you can develop better treatments or behavior changes.

Wikium's Emotional Intelligence course will help you learn how to manage your feelings and emotions. He will also teach you to understand the feelings and emotions of others. nine0003

Channel Decoding (Human Design) - Reality FAQ

Channels are Generated (from the Sacral), Manifested (from the "motor" to the Throat) and Projected (all the rest).

Manifesting Generators can have channels Generated (there will definitely be at least one), Manifested and Projected.

Ordinary Generators can have channels Generated (there will always be at least one) and Projected. Manifested cannot be. nine0003

Manifestors can have Manifested (not necessarily) and Projected channels. Generated cannot be.

Projectors can only have Projection Channels (there must be at least one). The Projector cannot have Manifested and Generated channels!

Reflectors have no channels!

All Centers are interconnected by a system of Channels that belong to one or another Circuit (group of Channels)

humanity as a whole, and people with tribal definitions are interested in the family and the immediate community. "Individuals" are acoustics, "collective" people are visuals, and "tribal" people are kinesthetic (tactile). Therefore, the relationship between people with certainties in various circuits can be very For example, in a married couple where one person is individual and the other is tribal, the difficulty will always be that the "individual" needs someone to listen to him, while the tribal person needs to be touched. lie, but also no one is able to change the inherent human nature. Sometimes the differences can be irreconcilable."

Integration Circuit :

10-20. Awakening Channel - nothing is more important to you in life than being yourself
20-34. Charisma Channel - the healthiest thing for you is to be constantly busy 57. Channel of the Perfect Form - your life is a canvas, and your behavior is your art
34 - 57. Channel of Power - trust your archetypal role

Individual Circuit is divided into two:

- Knowledge Outline (shown in black):

24 - 61. Awareness Channel - you are created to inspire others to think about the mysteries of life
23 - 43. Structuring Channel - you are born to influence the way other people see
1 – 8. Channel of Inspiration - the style of the individual leader
2-14. Channel of Pulse (Beat) - mutation, innovation and uniqueness
3 - 60. Channel of Mutation - these people are born to bring radical change to the world
28 - 38. Channel of Struggle - your life is a hero's march against difficulties
39 - 55. Channel of Emotionality - learn to appreciate the ups and downs as much as you love the ups
20 - 57. Channel of Illumination (Channel of Existential Awareness) - you bring an incredible gift to the world - the sharpness of your intuition
12 - 22. Channel of Openness ( Frankness) - your life is a life of passion and following your feelings

- Centering Outline (shown in red):

10 - 34. Research Channel - your goal is to love yourself and life
25 - 51. Channel of Initiation - you are born to learn to go your own way in solitude

Collective Circuit is subdivided into:

- Circuit of Understanding (on the illustration in red):

. Channel Logic - there will always be someone who will need your clarity and inspiration
17 - 62. Acceptance Channel - you have a rare ability to see the big picture
7 - 31. Alpha Channel - You are created to one day become a Leader
5 - 15. Rhythm Channel - you draw everyone you meet into your own rhythm
9 - 52. Concentration Channel - purposefulness and focus
18 - 58. Judgment Channel - people striving for perfection in everything
16 - 48 Channel of Talent, Mastery (Wave Length Channel) - wait to find the only thing to which you can devote yourself entirely

- Contour of Feeling (on the illustration in black):

47 - 64. Channel of Abstraction - you are born to create something new from the old
11 - 56. Channel of Curiosity - these people are born to seek, not to find
13 - 33. Channel of the Prodigal Son (sometimes translated as the Spending Channel) - each cycle of experience in your life will make sense at the end
29 - 46. Channel of Discovery - you are born to lose yourself in your experiences until the experiences are over
42 - 53. Channel of Maturation - any life is a journey that never ends
30 - 41. Channel of Recognition - you are born to gain wisdom through the exploration of the senses
35 – 36. Channel of Transience — you are constantly attracted by the search for new experiences in life

Tribal Circuit is subdivided into:

- Ego Circuit (in black in the illustration)::

9005 - 2. you are born to make money
37-40 Community Channel - The purpose of your life is to discover where you belong in the greater scheme of things
19-49 Synthesis Channel - we are all one
32-54 Channel Transformations - you are born to transform energy into something lasting
26 - 44.
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