In the mental health arena, projecting means imposing your thoughts and/or feelings onto someone else. This occurs in all types of relationships, familial, romantic, and platonic. Projecting occurs when assumptions are made about how someone else feels based on your internal thoughts or feelings. What does projecting look like in the various areas of our daily life? Let’s take a look.
In a family setting, projecting can occur between siblings and/or parents and children. Projecting in the sibling space can be seen by an older sibling that feels like they should be a lot further along than a younger sibling, imputing their own limitations on the younger sibling. For example, if the younger sibling decides they want to build a house, an older sibling that is projecting their own limitations on the younger one may say something like, “That seems like a monumental task. Are you sure you’re ready to take on something like that?”
You may be the older sibling doing the projecting or the younger one who is experiencing the projecting, but both can learn from this scenario. If you find yourself needing to provide input in a situation like this, you should take a moment to ask yourself why you feel the need to point out the challenges.
Conversely, if you are the younger sibling in this scenario, don’t second guess yourself. Remember, you could be experiencing someone imposing their limitations on you.
In a romantic setting, projecting occurs between partners (obviously!). Each person in a relationship comes with their own set of baggage that can often manifest by way of projecting.
In a mild sense, a partner that is feeling insecure about their weight, for example, might be defensive if the other partner doesn’t compliment their attire on date night. This has the potential to erupt into an argument where the defensive partner has concluded the lack of compliment is as a result of their weight, when in actuality, it could be that their partner is tired or simply didn’t pay attention.
In a more severe case, unfaithful partners can be accusatory and/or suspicious of their partner because of their own behavior. While this could be classic insecurity, it could also be projecting.
Many feel that friendships should be the easiest relationships we encounter in life, however, that isn’t always the case. A lot of competition can exist in friendships and this is where projecting can be found.
It’s similar to the sibling example above, but the example I’ll use here is slightly different. There may be a friend in your group who always wears the most expensive brands, is happily married, or one who has multiple sets of friends. There also may be a friend (in the same group), that says things like, “Ugh, you’re such a brand whore,” or “Gosh, I’m tired of hearing about your husband,” or “Oh, so you’re hanging with your other friends.”
The latter friend is the one projecting; they could be jealous they can’t afford the expensive brands, be feeling insecure about being single, or don't want to share their friends for fear they will prefer the other set of friends.
I’m sure after reading this you’ve either recognized areas where you may be projecting, you realized that others often project onto you, or some combination of the two.
So how do we fix this? Self-reflection and communication are necessary. Do an internal motive check when we say things to people and if you’re feeling like the victim of this topic, you can simply address the issue with the other person to prevent them from imposing their internal struggles onto you.
Candice N. Crowley, Counseling Intern
Reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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