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Psychological projection

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Psychological projection is the act or technique of defending oneself against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in oneself, while attributing themto others.
For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.
Although rooted in early developmental stages,
and classed by George Eman Vaillant as an immature defence,
the projection of one's negative qualities onto others on a
small scale is nevertheless a common process in everyday life.
◾ 1 Historical precursors
◾ 2 Psychoanalytic developments
◾ 3 Theoretical examples
◾ 4 Practical examples
◾ 5 Counter-projection
◾ 6 Clinical approaches
◾ 7 Criticism
◾ 8 See also
◾ 9 References
◾ 10 External links
Historical precursors
A prominent precursor in the formulation of the projection principle was Giambattista Vico
(23 J une 1668 – 23 J anuary 1744), and an early formulation of it is found in
ancient Greek writer Xenophanes (c.c. 570 – c. 475 BC), which observed that "the gods of Ethiopians were inevitably black with flat noses while those of the Thracians were
blond with blue eyes." In 1841, Ludwig Feuerbach (July 28, 1804 – September 13, 1872), was the first to employ this concept as the basis for a systematic critique of religion.
Psychoanalytic developments
Projection was conceptualised by Freud in his letters to WilhelmFliess,
and further refined by Karl Abrahamand Anna Freud. Freud considered that in projection thoughts,
motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one's own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else.
What the ego
repudiates is split off and placed in another.
Freud would later come to believe that projection did not take place arbitrarily, but rather seized on and exaggerated an element that already existed on a small scale in the
other person.
(The related defence of projective identification differs fromprojection in that there the other person is expected to becomeidentified with the impulse or
desire projected outside,
so that the self maintains a connection with what is projected, in contrast to the total repudiation of projection proper.)
Melanie Klein saw the projection of good parts of the self as leading potentially to over-idealisation of the object.
Equally, it may be one's conscience that is projected, in
an attempt to escape its control: a more benign version of this allows one to come to terms with outside authority.
Theoretical examples
Projection tends to come to the fore in normal people at times of crisis, personal or political,
but is more commonly found in the neurotic or psychotic
—in personalities
functioning at a primitive level as in narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.
Carl J ung considered that the unacceptable parts of the personality represented by the Shadow archetype were particularly likely to give rise to projection, both small-scale
and on a national/international basis.
Marie-Louise Von Franz extended his view of projection, stating that: "... wherever known reality stops, where we touch the
unknown, there we project an archetypal image".
Psychological projection is one of the medical explanations of bewitchment used to explain the behavior of the afflicted children at Salemin 1692. The historian J ohn Demos
asserts that the symptoms of bewitchment experienced by the afflicted girls were due to the girls undergoing psychological projection of repressed aggression.
Practical examples
◾ Projection of marital guilt: Thoughts of infidelity to a partner may be unconsciously projected in self-defence on to the partner in question, so that the guilt attached to
the thoughts can be repudiated or turned to blame instead, in a process linked to denial.
◾ Bullying: A bully may project his/her own feelings of vulnerability onto the target(s) of the bullying activity. Despite the fact that abully's typically denigrating
activities are aimed at the bully's targets, the true source of such negativity is ultimately almost always found in the bully's own sense of personal insecurity and/ or
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Such aggressive projections of displaced negative emotions can occur anywhere fromthe micro-level of interpersonal relationships, all the way up
through to the macro-level of international politics, or even international armed conflict.
◾ Projection of general guilt: Projection of a severe conscience
is another formof defence, one which may be linked to the making of false accusations, personal or
◾ Projection of hope: Also, in a more positive light, a patient may sometimes project his or her feelings of hope onto the therapist.
Jung writes that "All projections provoke counter-projection when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject."
Thus what is unconscious in
the recipient will be projected back onto the projector, precipitating a formof mutual acting out.
In a rather different usage, Harry Stack Sullivan saw counter-projection in the therapeutic context as a way of warding off thecompulsive re-enactment of a psychological
trauma, by emphasising the difference between the current situation and the projected obsession with the perceived perpetrator of the original trauma.
Clinical approaches
Drawing on Gordon Allport's idea of the expression of self onto activities and objects, projective techniques have been devised to aid personality assessment, including the
Rorschach ink-blots and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).
Projection may help a fragile ego reduce anxiety, but at the cost of a certain dissociation, as in dissociative identity disorder.
In extreme cases, an individual's personality
may end up becoming critically depleted.
In such cases, therapy may be required which would include the slow rebuilding of the personality through the "taking back" of
such projections.
Later studies were critical of Freud's theory. Research supports the existence of a false-consensus effect whereby humans have a broad tendency to believe that others are
similar to themselves, and thus "project" their personal traits onto others. This applies to good traits as well as bad traits and is not a defence mechanismfor denying the
existence of the trait within the self.
Instead, Newman, Duff, and Baumeister (1997) proposed a new model of defensive projection. In this view, people try to suppress thoughts of their undesirable traits, and
these efforts make those trait categories highly accessible—so that they are then used all the more often when forming impressions of others. The projection is then only a by-
product of the real defensive mechanism.
See also
◾ Animism
◾ Anthropology of religion
◾ Displacement
◾ Giambattista Vico
◾ Identified patient
◾ Introjection
◾ Participation mystique
◾ Psychoanalytic theory
◾ Psychodynamics
◾ Rationalization (making excuses)
◾ Reaction formation
◾ Regression
◾ Repression
◾ Scapegoating
◾ Transference
1. ^ Sigmund Freud, Case Histories II (PFL 9) p. 132
2. ^ Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society (1073) p. 240
3. ^ R. Skynner/J . Cleese, Life and how to survive it (1994) p. 54
4. ^ Wade, Tavris "Psychology" Sixth Edition PrenticeHall 2000 ISBN 0-321-04931-4
5. ^ Harvey, Van A. (1997). Feuerbach and the interpretation of religion
id=KdsKpZ6eJ WMC). CambridgeUniversity Press. p. 4. ISBN 0521470498.
6. ^ Cotrupi, CaterinaNella(2000). Northrop Frye and the poetics of process
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division. p. 21. ISBN 080208141X.
7. ^ Harvey, Van A. (1997). Feuerbach and the interpretation of religion
University of cambridge. p. 4. ISBN 0521586305.
8. ^ Feuerbach, Ludwig (1841). The Essence of Christianity
9. ^ Mackey, J ames patrick (2000). The Critique of Theological Reason
( ames-
Mackey/dp/0521169232). CambridgeUniversity press. pp. 41–42. ISBN 0521169232.
10. ^ Nelson, J ohn K. (1990). "A Field Statement on theAnthropology of
Religion" ( ejournalofpoliticalscience.
11. ^ J ean-Michel Quinodoz, Reading Freud (London 2005) p. 24
12. ^ Case Studies II p. 210
13. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 146
14. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Psychopathology (PFL 10) p. 200–1
15. ^ Patrick Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (1997) p. 177
16. ^ Otto F. Kernberg, Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism (London 1990)
p. 56
17. ^ HannaSegal, Klein (1979) p. 118
18. ^ R. Wollheim, On the Emotions (1999) p. 217–8
19. ^ Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society (1973) p. 241
20. ^ Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time, page281n
21. ^ Glen O. Gabbard, Long-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (London 2010) p. 33
22. ^
a b c
Carl G. J ung ed., Man and his Symbols (London 1978) p. 181–2
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23. ^ Marie-LouiseVon Franz (September 1972). Patterns of Creativity Mirrored in
Creation Myths (Seminar series). Spring Publications. ISBN 978-0-88214-106-0. found
in: M. Gray Richard (1996). Archetypal explorations: an integrative approach to human
behavior (
id=F23WJ 8altDUC&pg=PA201&lpg=PA201&dq=wherever+known+reality+stops,+wher
2C%20there%20we%20project%20an%20archetypal%20image&f=false). Routledge.
p. 201. ISBN 978-0-415-12117-0.
24. ^ Demos, J ohn (1970). "Underlying Themes in theWitchcraft of Seventeenth-Century
New England". American Historical Review 75 (5): 1311–1326 [p. 1322].
J STOR 1844480 (
25. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Psychopathology (Middlesex 1987) p. 198
26. ^ Paul Gilbert, Overcoming Depression (1999) p. 185–6
27. ^ Patrick Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (1990) p. 142
28. ^ Patrick Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (1990) p. 122
29. ^ General Aspects of Dream Psychology, CW 8, par. 519
30. ^ Ann Casement, Carl Gustav Jung (2001) p. 87
31. ^ F. S. Anderson ed., Bodies in Treatment (2007) p. 160
32. ^ Semeonoff, B. (1987). "ProjectiveTechniques". In Gregory, Richard. The Oxford
Companion to the Mind. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 646. ISBN 0-19-
33. ^ Traumaand Projection (
34. ^ R. Appignanesi ed., Introducing Melanie Klein (Cambridge2006) p. 115 and p. 126
35. ^ Mario J acoby, The Analytic Encounter (1984) p. 10 and p. 108
36. ^ Baumeister, Roy F.; Dale, Karen; Sommer, Kristin L. (1998). "Freudian Defence
Mechanisms and Empirical Findings in Modern Social Psychology: Reaction Formation,
Projection, Displacement, Undoing, Isolation, Sublimation, and Denial". Journal of
Personality 66 (6): 1090–1092. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.00043
37. ^ Newman, Leonard S.; Duff, Kimberley J .; Baumeister, Roy F. (1997). "A new look at
defensiveprojection: Thought suppression, accessibility, and biased person perception".
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72 (5): 980–1001. doi:10.1037/0022-
3514.72.5.980 (
External links
◾ Projection ( (
◾ Roger Perron, Projection (
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