Projection is a common bias that we all fall victim to at times. It’s the opposite of empathy – when we take what’s going on in our own minds and mistakenly assume that’s what other people think too.
Projection is the tendency to mistakenly associate our own thoughts and feelings with those of others.
This is a type of cognitive bias that is often carried out unconsciously without us realizing it.
For example, a person who is highly self-critical and has a negative perception of himself is more likely to believe that others are critical of him and have similarly negative perceptions.
During projection, “internal” becomes “external” – we assume what is right for us self also which is automatically correct for another.
In many ways, the projection is in front of of empathy.
Instead of truly understanding someone, we accept what happened in ourselves and us project that into the lives of others; it is a type of mind reading where we mistakenly assume we know what is going on in someone’s head (without asking or clarifying).
Projections can take many forms, dangerous examples include:
- Passing the blame onto someone else for doing something you’ve already done.
- Assuming your partner is cheating on you while you are cheating.
- Bullying someone for the things we don’t like about ourselves.
- Assuming the other person is dishonest or lying in situations where we lie.
- Believing that others judge us negatively for things that make us insecure.
- Calling out someone sensitive when you attack after being hurt or offended.
- Think “everyone is selfish” because you are selfish.
The general pattern behind all of these examples is to transfer what is true about yourself to someone else.
Projection is often seen as a type of “defense mechanism” to protect our ego. Instead of confronting our problems, shortcomings, or insecurities, we try to find them in others to take the focus off ourselves.
As Carl Jung once said, “Everything that annoys us about other people can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
He believes that the “shadow” aspects of us or the darker sides of our personalities tend to give rise to projections, both on a personal level and a societal level, because they are the things we most want to deny or ignore.
It’s easier to blame others than to face the things we don’t like about ourselves.
For example, someone who says something wrong might get yelled at as “Fool!” by someone who is also afraid of being called “Stupid!” by others and had similar experiences in the past being made fun of.
When someone gets under our skin or bothers us, it can be helpful to ask, “What does this say about me?” It’s possible that the person reminded you of something you don’t like about yourself.
Projection is not always dangerous or dangerous. It can also take innocent forms like assuming that people will like a certain movie or restaurant just because we like it.
In general, people perceive others as similar to them.
In psychology this is sometimes referred to as “social projection” (or ). fake consensus effect), in which we mistake our thoughts and behaviors as “common” or “normal” for most people.
Of course, our personal experiences are the first point of reference for how other people feel. The idea, “I wouldn’t like it if I were in their shoes” is the basic building block to empathy.
By nature, we have a lot in common with each other, especially when it comes to basic needs like wanting to be safe, loved, and respected. Acknowledging those commonalities is important for feeling connected and recognizing our basic humanity.
However, genuine empathy requires acknowledging both of them similarity and difference from the other.
Humans are diverse, so we cannot expect that everyone will be exactly the same.
People can live very different lifestyles and still be happy. An introverted writer who prefers to stay at home is likely to have a hard time living as a rockstar musician who is always on the move and putting on shows for the masses.
Both will have a hard time empathizing with each other unless they are open to different perspectives and different types of people.
The simple confession, “I’m the type of person who prefers to be alone, but this person thrives on being with other people” is recognizing difference while remaining empathetic and understanding where someone is coming from.
This is why self-awareness and empathy are so closely linked. Not everyone is like you. Often we have to learn how we “stand out” from others to better understand them (and ourselves).
As an example…
- If you are naturally shy or introverted, you may have difficulty empathizing with someone who is more outgoing or extraverted.
- If you only enjoy classical music, you may have a hard time understanding someone who only listens to metal and hardcore music.
- If you are married with children, it can be difficult to empathize with someone who chooses to be single or not start a family.
None of these things are “right” or “wrong,” it’s just the different ways people choose to live.
This choice often makes a lot of sense to other people, even if You can’t relate or You wouldn’t do the same in their shoes.
To empathize, you must temporarily let go of your biases, prejudices, and personal preferences in order to understand the other person.
It’s not easy, but if you can do it, you’ll be better off minimizing projection in your daily life.
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