Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Projecting emotions is something that just happens, especially if we’re stressed and anxious; but with awareness, we can control it.
Before having children, I have to admit I scoffed at the “you’ll understand when you become a mother” phrase that was often thrown my way, especially by my own parents.
Of course, everything changed when the kids were born. I can still vividly remember the first moment when I felt like my world had been turned upside down. I’ve never known worry quite like it. I’ve never known the kind of anxious fear mixed in with unfathomable love that came with watching them grow.
And while it took me a good long while, I know today that I have been projecting my own emotions (most often negative ones) on these innocent youngsters who really had no idea why I was so stressed or emotional.
Let me tell you a bit about my experiences with projecting emotions and how you can stop this troubling habit.
What Is Projection?
Projection is a kind of coping mechanism and it occurs when we assign qualities or emotions to other people when they are really coming from ourselves. For example, if we have a fear of heights, we may project it onto our own kids, preventing them from getting close to a terrace’s edge or looking down from a height.
We can project positive emotions, too, and view people as better than they actually are or as having a quality that they don’t actually possess, simply because we have it or want them to have it.
Why Do We Project?
Projection is an unconscious process. Psychologists believe that we project unto others the negatives we feel or believe about ourselves in order to better cope with a situation. If we are late for something, it’s not because we are bad at time management, it’s because the kids take ages to get ready, for example.
Instead of coming to terms with our feelings, we look for an outside cause and attribute those exact same emotions to someone else. If we are angry, we push the anger away and claim someone else is angry at us, which is what causes us to snap.
Projection and Our Relationships with Our Children
Our parenting style will depend on our own experiences more often than not. We will naturally tend to parent from our own worldview and inject a lot of our own insecurities and goals into the way we raise our kids.
We all do this. Don’t think of yourself as a horrible parent. But whenever you are making a choice regarding your children (how to react, what advice to give, etc.), try to give yourself a minute.
Take some time to determine what they need as opposed to what you feel.
Raising humans that are unlike ourselves can be very challenging. But if you get to know your child’s personality and work with it, you can overcome your own views over time.
How to Tell IF You Are Projecting
Having said all that, let me now also tell you how you can determine whether you are actually guilty of projecting.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do you often feel hurt, sensitive, or defensive about something someone has done or said?
Are you quick to blame others?
Do you find it difficult to be objective and gain perspective?
Are you reactive rather than proactive?
If this is the case, you are probably projecting your own emotions on current situations. Don’t worry — we all do it. It does sound rather serious, but you can master your projection.
How to Stop Projecting
In order to stop projecting, you first need to understand that you are doing it in the first place. You will need to be more mindful of your emotions and monitor how certain situations make you feel. For example, I used to get incredibly stressed when the kids’ exam period rolled around. I would snap at them for no reason, try to get them to revise more than they actually needed to, and I would generally be in a tense mood for weeks.
Today, I know that my goal is to relieve their stress and not add to it. I have learned to stop my spiraling worry in its tracks. When I start to feel agitated (or any surge of negative emotions, really), I will excuse myself and leave the situation. I usually claim I need to go to the bathroom. Then I look at myself in the mirror and talk myself out of the negativity.
Talking to a therapist can also help, but the key to eliminating projection is to understand yourself and the negative emotions you are feeling in life. By unpicking these knots, you can not only feel much better about yourself but overcome a lot of troublesome behaviors.
Emotional projection is nothing to be ashamed of, nor does it make you a bad parent. It’s a part of the human experience, and you need to treat it as such. If your projections are getting in the way, take my advice to heart, and start examining your feelings and reactions. You will get to the bottom of them in the end.
You may also enjoy reading Radical Responsibility: The Key To Moving From Suffering To True Agency & Freedom by Fleet Maull