By Brian Thompson
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are screaming at someone for no apparent reason? Perhaps a cashier at a retail outlet, or a driver on the highway, or a call center operator who is simply trying to do their job. when you are removed from that situation you wonder what was that all about? Where did that anger erupt from?
When you consider the circumstances that led to that moment of anger and rage, you realize that nothing in that particular moment was deserving of that anger. That is because you are projecting your anger. You are not mad at the cashier or the operator, you are mad at yourself for not honestly addressing a situation in your past, so instead you feel guilt, which has you then project your anger onto an innocent bystander.
Whatever it is you are feeling it has very little to do with the person you have just taken it out on. For instance, maybe you are feeling fear, insecurity, hurt, or any other feeling that has you defensive, but instead of being honest with yourself, out of nowhere you get angry with a person or situation that has absolutely nothing to do with what is really going on. This is called projection.
But we don’t have to let anger-projection make matters worse. We can explore our history, identify opportunities to show up differently, be honest with ourselves, look in the mirror, and never be a victim. If we can do a couple of those things really well we will begin to see less anger projected onto others, and we will start to show up differently in our lives and the lives of others.
It is in the avoidance or denial of a certain situation or aspect of ourselves that we then explode over a small matter.
Projection is a common defense mechanism where a person gets upset with a trait in someone else that he wishes to deny in himself. They suppress the knowledge that they have the same trait and externalize blame on the other person. You are not conscious of this at the time, but on a subconscious level you are keenly aware.
Projection is a fascinating phenomenon they failed to teach most of us about in school. It is an involuntary transfer of our own unconscious behavior onto others, so it appears to us that these qualities actually exist in the other people. When we have anxiety about our emotions or unacceptable parts of our personalities, we attribute these qualities -as a defense mechanism- to external objects and other people.
Much of their internal thought or words during an argument is focused on blaming the other person. We all have a bit of projection in us, but some people have the need to take their issues out on others, thus obstructing their own growth and learning.
Of course, there’s always a “hook” that invites our projection. Some imperfect quality in other people activates some aspect of us that wants our attention. So whatever we don’t own about ourselves we project onto other people. In fact, those of us who routinely use anger as a “cover-up” to keep our more vulnerable feelings at bay, generally become so adept at doing so that we have little to no awareness of the dynamic driving our behavior.