Projection: Analysis

Freud saw projection as a defence mechanism, a way of dealing with the thoughts and ideas that make someone anxious. By subconsciously attributing these unwanted thoughts and ideas on other people, one may be comforted by the false fact that they are not alone, or that there is someone else they can direct their anger towards instead of themselves. While I don’t disagree with this approach to psychoanalytic theory (I’m generally a Freudian up until his ideas on developmental life stages), this is a much more severe, and less common, form of my experience with projection.

Projection (or projection bias) can be defined as unconsciously assuming that others share the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values, or positions on any given subject.

In this case, the fault lies in the assumption, and the assumption is based on the fact that many believe others to be like themselves. One may present this as a deductive logical argument, like so:

Premise 1:
I have felt this way in a certain situation / I would feel this way in a certain situation
Premise 2:
Someone else is in this situation
Conclusion:
Therefore, that person must feel the same way that I felt / that person must feel the way that I would feel

Although audiatur et altera pars is not necessarily seen as direct proof of a fallacy, the implicit premise involved in this argument is also the most important one.

Implicit premise:
All people think the way I do when put in the same situation.

This happens to be the premise that is false. It is also often implied, not on purpose, but because (and I’ll hazard an opinion here) humans are naturally egocentric. Many make solid judgments on things that are purely subjective, taking their view as Word. An example of this is someone saying, “This song is good”, instead of, “I think this song is good”. Sometimes this is the innocent result of laziness (of which I can be guilty), but in many cases, it’s due to the fact that the person actually refuses to believe anything else to be true.

It’s in the case of the latter that assumptions can lead to projection, what I find to be an extremely frustrating thing to deal with. If I don’t talk to someone, that doesn’t mean that I never want to talk to them again. For someone to assume this to be true of me, based on their own thoughts and ideas in the same situation, and then call me out on this, is ARROGANT. When I’m freshly out of a relationship, I feel stronger and inspired. For me, this is an inherent side-effect of breaking up. A break-up occurs due to the fact that there is unhappiness in a relationship, and when the relationship ends, there is a tremendous freedom from this unhappiness. For some people, the opposite is true, and for one of these people to “comfort” me because they think I feel worthless and doubtful is INSULTING.

I’ve worked hard to be a better person, to outgrow the weaknesses and faults that I’ve grown up with. For someone to believe that I have a weakness or fault that I’ve cast aside, simply because they haven’t yet, is just plain sad. This one hits me especially hard because it trivializes the tremendous amount of effort I put into self-improvement.

And as a result of what? Careless assumption. I’m not egocentric enough to believe that others think the way I do.

All I ask is that others do the same.

4 comments

  1. What would the technical term be for when someone gets angry at an individual but holds his anger in, only to release it on someone else later? Is that a type of misguided projection?

  2. That’s another defence mechanism, called Transference. In a sense, they’re both a “projection” of thoughts and emotions (as most defence mechanisms may be viewed), but Projection has it’s own specific meaning: “Attributing one’s own emotions or desires to an external object or person”. Transference is “Either positive or negative – transfering feelings created by previous experiences from their source on to someone else”.

  3. wow so intelligent! :) I really like your site, its fabulous :)

  4. I have to say that I never practice this thing you define, this “projection” mainly because I prefer to think that no one else thinks the way that I do, because I am unique. I am better than anyone else. That is the way I see it.

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