I was looking for the manual for the stove today and found it under a display of old graniteware that decorates my kitchen. (Yeah, that’s how often I need to contemplate using the stove). But way up on that shelf propping up other kitchen collectibles was a “Handbook of Freudian Concepts”. I opened the book to the section on Projection and it says: “When the Id cannot tolerate a truth or attack on its vulnerability the Ego will assist by turning it around to the Other.”
The example: When I hate someone, but my ego wants to believe I am too nice to hate anyone (I’m such a good person) projection will ensure that I stay safe and “ego intact” by believing that she hates me.
Similarly, when I cannot tolerate a fantasy of my own I will project that onto the Other as well.
Example: I might find myself attracted to someone other than my partner but I want to believe I’m better than that so projection can help me fix that uncomfortable thought by doing an unconscious switch-er-roo and voila!: “He must be attracted to someone else”. That bastard!
I can’t buy all of Freud’s ideas--according to Freud feminine masochism is a woman’s destiny—Uh, no thanks. But he did give us some real gifts in describing the process of projection and other defense mechanisms.
Ken Wilbur, philosopher, analyst, scientist and writer gives us this handy diagnostic tool for sussing out our projections:
“If someone’s behavior informs us it’s information. But if another person’s behavior affects us—it’s projection.”