Projecting Your Feelings in Everyday Life: What Is It and Why Do We Do It?
Have you ever been around someone and felt like you can’t quite put your finger on what it is that’s making you feel so strange? You’re not alone. In fact, we do this all the time. We project our feelings onto others.
In this article, I’m going to break this topic down for you in a way that’s easy to understand. We’ll explore the reasons why we do it, some examples, and how to deal with it when it comes up.
What is projection and why do we do it?
Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto another person/object. It is a defense mechanism used to cope with difficult feelings or emotions. Projection is when one sees the traits they find unacceptable in themselves in others.
The counterpart of these negative projections is positive projections. In that case, one projects a positive feeling they experience on others.
Other people become a mirror for what is going on inside of us that we aren’t aware of. It’s an unconscious process that happens without us realizing it.
Projecting your past onto the present
It’s not uncommon to project our feelings from the past onto the present. For example, if we’ve had a negative experience with a particular person, we may automatically assume that everyone in that situation will act the same way.
Or, if we’ve gone through a tough experience, we might find ourselves constantly reliving it in our minds. This is known as rumination, and it can be really harmful because it prevents us from moving on. It can also trigger the same feelings we experienced in the past, which can be really overwhelming.
Projection is often activated by something that we see or hear. It might be a behavior that reminds us of someone from our past, or a conversation that triggers an emotional response. When this happens, something is coming up inside of us that’s related to our past experiences. And instead of dealing with it head-on, we often project our feelings onto the person or situation in front of us.
Projecting our past onto the present can be a way of avoiding our feelings. It can also be a way of protecting ourselves from getting hurt again. But it’s important to remember – and this sounds obvious – that the present is not the past.
The effects of projecting your feelings onto others
Have you ever caught yourself thinking that someone was angry with you, only to find out that they weren’t? Or maybe you’ve assumed that someone was judging you when in reality, they were just trying to understand you.
If so, then you’ve experienced the effects of projecting your feelings onto others. By definition, projection is the act of attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings, or impulses to other people or objects. In other words, it’s when we see our own stuff in someone else and react accordingly.
For example, let’s say you’re feeling insecure about your weight. You might project those insecurities onto your partner by accusing them of looking at or flirting with other women. When really, they’re not doing anything of the sort.
Or let’s say you’re feeling guilty about something you did. You might project that guilt onto someone else by accusing them of doing the same thing, even though they didn’t.
Projecting our feelings onto others is a defense mechanism that protects us from having to deal with our own stuff. It allows us to avoid our feelings by putting them on someone else. And while it might offer temporary relief, it’s not a healthy way to deal with our emotions in the long run.
How to know when you are projecting?
There are a few ways to know if you are projecting your feelings. The first is to ask yourself if you are feeling defensive. If you find yourself getting defensive when someone brings up a topic, it might be because you are projecting.
Another way to tell is if you find yourself feeling angry at someone for no reason. If you can’t think of a logical explanation for why you are angry, it’s likely because you are projecting your own anger onto that person.
A third way to know if you are projecting is if you find yourself making assumptions about others. For example, if you assume that someone is judging you without any evidence to back that up, it’s likely because you are projecting your own insecurities onto that person.
Examples of projecting your feelings onto others
Let’s say you’ve been feeling really angry lately. You might find yourself snapping at your friends or loved ones for no reason, or maybe you’re just feeling really irritable in general. What’s going on?
It’s possible that you’re projecting your anger onto other people. In other words, you’re taking your own feelings of anger and frustration out on the people around you, even though they might not have done anything to deserve it.
Other examples of projecting your feelings onto others include:
- Feeling jealous of your partner and accusing them of cheating, even though there’s no evidence to support this.
- Feeling scared and anxious, and taking these feelings out on the people around you by yelling or being overly critical.
- Feeling insecure and lashing out at others in an attempt to make yourself feel better.
We tend to project negative emotions more often than positive ones. However, it is possible to project positive feelings onto others as well. For example, if you’re feeling really good about yourself, you might find yourself being extra kind and generous to the people around you.
Strategies to prevent projecting your feelings onto others
Now that you understand what projection is and why we do it, let’s talk about some strategies you can use to prevent projecting your feelings onto others.
The first thing you can do is to become aware of your triggers by reflecting on your behavior — the things that cause you to react in a certain way. Once you know what your triggers are, you can start to work on managing your reactions to them.
Another strategy is to practice mindfulness — being present in the moment and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. This can help you to notice when you’re starting to project your feelings onto someone else and stop yourself before it happens.
Finally, try to be honest with yourself about your feelings. If you’re feeling something, don’t try to push it down or ignore it. Acknowledge it and then deal with it in a constructive way.
How do you know when someone is projecting onto you?
Here are some warning signs that someone might be projecting their feelings onto you: They
- make assumptions about what you’re thinking or feeling without checking in with you first.
- regularly try to control how you feel or what you do.
- gaslight you, which means they try to make you question your reality or your sanity.
- constantly criticize you, even when there’s no reason to do so.
- play the victim all the time and never take responsibility for their own actions.
If you’re regularly dealing with someone who is projecting their feelings onto you, it can be really tough. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Set boundaries and stick to them. This person might not respect your personal space, so it’s important to be clear about what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not.
- Keep communication concise and to the point. This person might try to drag you into a long conversation in order to manipulate you, so it’s best to keep things short and sweet.
- Practice self-care. It’s important to take care of yourself emotionally and mentally when dealing with someone who is constantly projecting their feelings onto you.
How to process suppressed and projected feelings
Now that you understand what projection is and why we do it, you might be wondering how to deal with all of the feelings you’ve been projecting onto others.
The first step is to become aware of when you’re doing it. Pay attention to the language you use when you’re talking about someone else. If you find yourself saying things like, “She’s so angry,” or “He’s so needy,” chances are you’re projecting.
Once you’ve identified that you’re projecting, the next step is to sit with the feeling and try to understand where it’s coming from. Ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Oftentimes, the answer will be something from your past that you haven’t fully processed.
Once you’ve identified the root cause of the feeling, it’s time to start working through it. This might mean going to therapy or a coach, journaling, or simply talking to a trusted friend about what’s going on. The important thing is that you allow yourself to feel the feeling and work through it in a healthy way.
When it comes to our feelings, sometimes it’s just too hard to deal with them on our own. We might not even be aware that we’re projecting them onto others, but it’s an incredibly common defense mechanism. It can help us to feel better in the moment, but it can also have negative consequences for our relationships.
Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, take a step back and ask yourself why you might be projecting them onto others. And if you notice that someone else is always the one who ends up taking on your feelings, try to be more conscious of your own emotions and find ways to deal with them on your own.