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Beware of Projecting

Anti-gay activist Dr. George Rekers and the prostitute he hired -an example of Projection
Anti-gay activist Dr. George Rekers and the prostitute he hired -an example of Projection

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to explore and reveal projection – how we project our issues onto other people and how other people’s projection onto us can harm us.

First a quick update:

“2 Things people want more than sex or money”
 Do you know what those 2 things are? Mary Kay Ash surprisingly revealed the answer which can also help you to get what you want. Read my article:

Follow me on Twitter– You can now choose to follow me and receive a few words of wisdom on Twitter: @Behavior_Expert

“Are you a people pleaser?”
Do you constantly take care of everyone else and their needs but never take care of yourself or your needs? Do you hide from others what you really want? Do you find it difficult to say no? You might be the people-pleaser personality. Watch my video

Now, let’s talk about projection – how we project our issues onto other people and how other people’s projections onto us can harm us.

Josh Duggar, 27, one of the children from TLC’s TV show “19 Kids and Counting”, resigned from the Family Research Council, after admitting that he sexually assaulted five underage girls, including his sisters, when he was a teenager.

Josh Duggar boldly stated that he believed that gays and the LGBT community are a danger to children and that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. (While I will not be addressing this issue in this article, research does reveal that pedophilia is not motivated by sexual orientation. )

Given the revelations and admissions by Josh Duggar that he molested five young girls, people are screaming that Duggar is a hypocrite.

This raises the question “Why do we see so many people shouting, screaming and thumping about something being particularly bad and evil, only to later learn that the actual people screaming are engaging in the ‘bad and evil’ behavior themselves?”

The answer is not hypocrisy – it is projection – hating in other people what we actually hate in ourselves.

Let me explain and elaborate on projection as well as share examples.

When you attend a cinema screening of a movie, you are seeing the presentation of an image on a surface, namely the movie screen. This is known as projection – projecting the movie onto a screen.

We do the same thing psychologically.

We present, assign or project aspects of our ‘self’ onto other people. However, what we are usually projecting onto other people are subconscious issues, thoughts, feelings, impulses, desires and behaviors that we dislike about ourselves.

In other words, we project or assign to others things and aspects that we cannot tolerate in ourselves (if they were brought to the conscious.)

We do this as a defense mechanism to avoid pain and discomfort. That pain and discomfort might simply be the admission to ourselves that we are bad or engaging in bad behavior or the realization that we are flawed, that our self-image is flawed i.e. we engage this defense mechanism as a way to avoid consciously facing our flawed self.

Josh Duggar is one such example. Another infamous example is Dr. George Alan Rekers.

In the 1970s, Dr. Rekers set out to reverse “Sissy Boy Syndrome” – engaging in perceived feminine behavior. He did this with physical punishment. Later, he also became a prominent anti-gay activist and co-founded the conservative Family Research Council. (Yes, the same Family Research Council which Josh Duggar just resigned from.) However, Dr. Rekers projection eventually was revealed in 2010, when Dr. Rekers was caught returning from a 10-day trip to Europe with a male prostitute he found on Dr. Rekers was clearly projecting and attacking in other people the behavior he couldn’t consciously accept in himself.

Here is the second key component of projection: claiming the undesirable behavior is a threat.

Thus, projection begins with accusing and hating in other people, the subconscious issue, feelings, thoughts or impulses we hate in ourselves. Then, it moves into stating that the despised behavior or impulses is a threat. Accordingly, we see and hear activists such as Josh Duggar or Dr. Alan Rekers warning the world that LGBT people are a threat to women and children, and that we must beware of pedophilia and the threat to our children.

How does this relate to each one of us in our personal lives?

We all engage in some form of projection and we all are often victims or at least subjected to the projections of others.

Parents constantly project onto children.

A father that tells his son “You will amount to nothing; you are a loser.” The father subconsciously believes he himself is nothing and is a loser.

A mother tells her daughter “You are fat/skinny, ugly and no one will want you.” The mother subconsciously believes she herself is fat/skinny, ugly and no one wants her.

The beauty pageant mother tells her daughter “You have to win; you have to be beautiful” and scolds and punishes her when she does not win. The mother subconsciously believes she herself is ugly and is a loser; she pushes and projects onto the daughter the need and drive to become beautiful so that  the mother doesn’t have to face her own subconscious pain of feeling and believing she is fat or ugly.

A husband accuses his wife of infidelity; he has cheated on her and projects to avoid facing the guilt and shame of his own actions. He might even project with the subconscious desire that she will cheat so that her cheating will lessen his guilt.

A woman who is attracted to a fellow worker accuses him of flirting or making sexual advances as a way of avoiding having to face her own subconscious impulses which she has deemed as bad and wrong.

A woman accuses her friend of being controlling and being a threat to her independence. She projects this as a way to avoid the pain of admission that she herself is controlling or as a way to justify and alleviate her guilt for wanting to be independent.

An angry man accuses others of being angry and aggressive as a way of justifying his own angry behavior and responses. Thus, he doesn’t need to consciously face his own anger which he deems as bad and wrong.

The final aspect of projection is that when people project onto us, it can harm us by influencing us into thinking that what they are saying is the truth about us and who we are. Thus, you need to beware of other people’s projections. Your parents were projecting because of who they are; it doesn’t represent the truth about you. In other words, when someone else is criticizing you, he/she might simply be criticizing a projection of themselves.

The solution is to hold up a mirror to the person who is projecting onto you.

Equally, you need to beware when you are projecting onto others; is that criticism and negative thought about the other person actually the truth about them or is it that you are projecting or hating something in them that doesn’t exist in them but  rather exists in you?

Finally, here is a simple exercise to create awareness of the behaviors and self-image you have formed:

  • List the projections your parents made
  • List the ways you project onto other people
  • List the projections your friends make

Review the answers and take action to correct the false image and bring to conscious awareness the real you!

Other Duggar related articles:

Was Josh Duggar molested?

Beware of Projecting

Should we forgive Josh Duggar? 

Forgive the Duggars? Not yet? 

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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