Learning not to project bad feelings onto to others

When we get angry with others, it is often because we cannot face feelings in ourselves.  Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Projection is a quasi-psychological term.  When we project, we push out, onto other people, negative experience that is, in fact, internal.  Examples could include

  • Accusing others of harbouring ill-feelings that we ourselves hold
  • Accusing others of incompetence that is, in reality, ours
  • Accusing others of being oppressive, while in fact being oppressive ourselves

We do this when we cannot afford to face faults or bad feelings in ourselves.

Here’s an example.  Phil wakes up, and remembers all the things he needs to do, that he hasn’t done yet.  This makes him feel panicked, and guilty.  He gets ready for the day, and the first email he reads is a trivial one, perhaps from a phone company.  He has all this negative energy inside him, but he does not want to continue experiencing fear and guilt.  So, in an attempt to push it onto someone else, he finds a tiny fault in the correspondence from the phone company, and phones them up.  He becomes disproportionately angry, pushing the customer service representative into feeling, guess what, panicked and guilty.

Phil has pushed his angst onto someone else, because he cannot afford to face his own fear, guilt and procrastination.  It would be too much for him.  So, instinctively, he finds someone else to blame for how he is feeling, and discharges all that negativity onto the third party.


How can we learn not to project?

I’d suggest working on three things:

  1. Learning to sit with our own feelings, and become an expert in deciphering and describing them
  2. Holding only ourselves accountable for problem resolution
  3. Learning to act peacefully, even when provoked
If we can interpret our own feelings, then the game is up on projection; it is harder to continue doing something when we become very aware of it.  Regarding our problems, if we only look to ourselves, then there is much less danger of projecting blame onto others.  And if we focus on peaceful action, then it is much less likely that we will act aggressively towards others.  These three self-developments could be summarised as self-understanding, self-accountability, and self-restraint.



When things go wrong, I can sometimes feel myself scrabbling for ways to blame others.  When I am angry, I start fights.  When I feel victimised, I start throwing my weight around.  When I am upset, I make things worse.

It’s counterproductive.  I can see that nothing good ever comes of this kind of projection.  I guess it’s because its a form of deception.  I am not truly noticing, and accepting, what I am feeling.  I am not taking responsibility for managing my own behaviour, my own weaponry.  I can be damaging to others unless I Iearn to be peaceful.

But, when I am wise, I can learn to watch myself carefully.  I can learn to catch myself in my own safety net, and look after myself.  If I can do that, then I will have no need to project my faults onto others.

I can still be boundaried with other people.  But those lines of accountability will come from a kind, shared place.  When I am projecting, my controlling nature comes out, and hostility is a likely outcome.  When I am simply being kind, I am not trying to control, and friendship is a likely outcome.