Behavioral projections are a common defense mechanism people use when they have uncomfortable feelings or repressed feelings. Those feelings are then redirected, projected onto a target. This happens often when feelings are hard to process, and no more stressful a situation than divorce to employ this tactic.
Projection is often used to justify bad behavior, and it is not always dramatic – and when it is not it is harder to identify being on the receiving end. People project because their feelings and/or desires are too hard to acknowledge, so displacing them on another person is a method to release that feeling or thought. Assigning it all to another person. Projection is used to justify bad behavior, or express a desired outcome. When fears, and insecurities are provoked, people tend to project rather than addressing the actual feeling or the root cause. It is important to be aware of your own tendency to project because this defense mechanism can become incorporated into one’s identity. When dealing with narcissists, especially during a period of acute stress such as divorce, because they especially cannot take accountability for behavior and blame others when anything goes wrong, and take full credit for anything that may work out well.
Projection statements and unconscious thoughts and feelings can look and sound something like this:
|Projection Statement||Unconscious Thought/Feeling|
|You’re a terrible person. I am the only|
person that will ever love you.
|I am the worst. If someone else loves me, they must be broken too.|
|You are the worst husband/wife in the world.|
|I feel like the worst husband/wife|
|You made me act this way.||I don’t understand why I act this way.|
person that will ever love you. loves me, they must be broken too.
You are the worst husband/wife in the world. I feel like the worst husband/wife
You made me act this way. I don’t understand why I act this way.
So how do you respond to projections? One way is to identify your boundaries and stick to them. You can answer with something that sounds like “I don’t agree” or “I don’t see it that way” depending on the person and the situation, this may deflect the projection so that the person projecting will reflect on their own statements.
If the projections continue, especially so in a contentious situation such as divorce, removing yourself from the conversation altogether may be the best bet.