Projections can’t be avoided fully but with awareness, you’ll stop making projections a big deal and keep the conversation and your relationship flowing easily and effortlessly.
Projecting will keep you as the victim in all the stories you tell yourself if you let it.
What exactly is projecting?
Projecting is the act of energetically seeing a part of you that lives in the shadows of your psyche, commonly known as the ‘inner child’ in your partner and you blame them for it.
This part is usually hidden from others because it brings you feelings of shame, insecurity and or embarrassment.
This part of you are traits in you that can be so immature that the adult in you can be completely unaware of them. When you do become aware of them, you’d rather disown them.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to hide your ‘inner child’, it pops up!
This immature part of you, is the part of you that may be causing so much havoc in your relationship right now.
Projecting is a defense mechanism you have that protects your inner child’s feelings.
The thing is, you need all parts of you to be as mature as possible so that you can have a healthy relationship with yourself and your partner.
How do you know you are projecting?
Let me give you a couple of examples so that you can see how you may be projecting.
A couple came in for therapy to work on their communication skills. I asked them to tell me about their last disagreement. They both began to tell me about their plans to go to Europe. They were telling me that they want to go to Spain, Italy or France. The more they talked about the trip, the more excited about it they became, the more excited, the more interruptions.
They interrupted each other until the husband shut down, arms crossed and all.
Long session short, the husband began to have a tantrum just like children do. The inner child came out to play. A grown man acting like a child isn’t funny, nor is it attractive and can destroy a relationship. You can’t have ‘inner children’ running a relationship, let alone a household.
I asked, ‘Who was the person that interrupted you all the time and never gave you permission to fully express yourself? ‘My parents’ the husband said.
He then was able to see how at that moment when he couldn’t fully express himself to his wife, he projected his parents on to her through his inner child.
He also was able to understand that when they talk about going away, his wife is listening and they both get so excited that all they want is to build on each other’s stories instead of taking away from one another. Not to mention, the husband was doing some serious interrupting himself which the wife just let go.
Let me give you another example.
Another couple I worked with. This couple came in because the wife thought the husband needed therapy to get their finances in order. The wife continued to tell me that her husband doesn’t have a ‘real’ job. The husband worked at a donut shop. The wife is a police officer and has a side job.
As we continued to work together, even though her husband paid for most of the household bills, she resented him because if he had a ‘real’ job, she wouldn’t be ashamed of him working at a donut shop.
Again, long session short, when I asked the wife, ‘Do you have a real job? ‘I’m ashamed that I didn’t go to law school and I settled.’ She said. Again, the hurt ‘inner child’ spoke through. They were able to see how the wife’s insecurities made the husband feel insecure about himself and their relationship.
It wasn’t their finances they needed help with, it was the resentment the wife was projecting.
How to stop projecting
If you’re feeling like you want to blame your partner for how you’re feeling and thinking, that’s when you know you’re projecting. Check in with yourself. If you’re feeling mad at your partner, ask yourself ‘What am I mad about?’ Point the finger back at you.
Remember that you’re not perfect and you’re doing your best. The more stress you’re going through the harder it is to reflect on what’s going on now. You may have to reflect later and that’s ok.
When your spouse projects on to you, simple disengage respectfully.
It’ll feel like crazy making. If you’re thinking is this me or is this him, disengage, come back to the conversation later and hopefully in a therapist office.
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More by Maria Rivera Heath