Why is this important?
There are a huge number of ways, but let me just name a few, focusing in
today's post about the ways "negative projection" can play out. By negative projection, I mean what I
don't like about you or a situation.
What does this say about me?
According to psychological theory, we all have aspects of
ourselves we are uncomfortable with, that we don't want to admit to ourselves
or to others that exist within us.
Let's say I'm stingy, or hostile, or callous, or selfish, or some other
negative quality. The truth is
that we all have those aspects within ourselves, but because of our social
upbringing, or what we have come to believe is permissible and what is
forbidden, we are more comfortable admitting some negative qualities than
others. If for example I have been
raised that anger is a terrible thing and one should never be anger but always
be loving toward others, I will dutifully attempt to smile at the world and at
people around me, and not let any negativity into my voice, my inflection, or
Or so I think. It
is not possible to wish away a negative emotion, simply because I was told or
came to believe that it is unacceptable.
It may go underground, out of my awareness, but it shows up in my
projections onto others or onto the world. Suddenly I'm surrounded by angry people, the world becomes
unsafe, people are always rude, drivers are nasty, everyone around me seems to
be filled with hostility. Why
can't they all be peaceable and loving and accepting like me?
Well, there are at least two reasons: 1) these people and situations are not nearly as hostile as
I'm perceiving. It's my projection
of my own unacknowledged hostility that makes them seem so, and 2) people
around us pick up on what we won't acknowledge within ourselves. They can feel our hostility even when
we won't let ourselves feel it, and it makes them uncomfortable or sometimes
downright angry. Haven't you ever
met someone who was always smiling and acting nice but whom you felt
unaccountable hostility toward? Chances
are this was a case of a person who was disowning their own hostility and
projecting it into the world around them -- in this case, you. And in a marvelous way of how we create
our reality even when we don't realize we're doing it, this person was indeed
in some way making you into
the hostile person they see the world as.
I know this sounds a little bit magical but these are some of
the discoveries of human psychology.
This stuff actually works.
Most importantly, when this person becomes more conscious and
comfortable with her own internal hostility, the world around them becomes less
dangerous and hostile to her perceptions and those who come in contact with her
feel less hostile toward her as a result. So
the situation just described is reversed from a negative cycle into a positive
Next week: Positive
Do you have a question about your marriage or relationship? Ask Josh in the comments below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Josh Gressel, Ph.D., is a couples therapist based in Pleasant Hill, CA. Visit his website at joshgressel.com. He is currently accepting referrals.