Monday, May 18, 2009

petrified to be god-like

I'm having a nice quiet day at the manor, after the bustle of a house
full of weekend guests. One of the things I like best about having
visitors, is the spirited evening conversation over a nice glass of wine
on the patio. The subject of one particular discussion this past
weekend, was the intriguing topic of psychological projection.

Most of us have likely experienced the unpleasant effects of this kind
of neurotic behavior. Projection is a psychological defense mechanism
whereby someone "projects" his or her own undesirable or
unacceptable actions, thoughts, motivations, desires, or feelings onto
someone else.

For instance, if someone is a pathological liar, they might continually
accuse others of not being honest, therefore transferring the
unacceptable trait away from themselves. Another example of
psychological projection is someone who feels a compulsion to steal
things and then projects those feelings onto others. She might begin
to fear that her purse is going to be stolen, that she is going to be
shortchanged, or the worst case scenario, actually falsely accuses an
innocent person of stealing.

In doing so, this projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression
of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the
conscious mind recognize these feelings, that would otherwise be
repulsive. Projection is a common attribute of paranoia, where people
project dislike of themselves onto others, believing most other people
dislike them.
So, in a practical sense, how can we deal with this sort of thing? To
work authentically with other people, avoid projecting your woes onto
others. When you see others in a negative light, think: are you
Also, understand that when others criticize you, they may well be
criticizing a projection of themselves. When others are using
projection, you can hold up a mirror to show them what they are
doing. As usual, unfortunately, this may well be met with other forms
of resistance, since they often feel they are the victims of an other's
thoughts or actions. Ultimately, it is the person who projects that
loses, because they never really come to grips with their own
disorders and continue to suffer socially.
I've been on the receiving end of this behavior. Someone has
projected their vices on to me. It has been very difficult, but I am
strong enough to know I do not deserve their judgement. But, it is
still very hurtful to see this happen. Any good advice out there in the
bloggyhood? Is there a kind and benevolent way to cope?
Petrified to be God-Like by Susie Suh
I fight my demons everyday
They come and go they up and flow
Like the ocean
You think you know me and you know me
But you don't know
How scared I am
So I like to make excuses, and I like to blame everyone else
And I like to point my finger at you
Rather then change myself
It's just each day goes by so fast
I cant seem to grasp them
And I tend to run away from my reflection
You see I am, so petrified, to be god-like
So I like to make excuses
And I like to blame everyone else
And I like to point my finger at you, rather then change myself
Ha-ah, ha-ah...So I like to make excuses
And I like to blame everyone else
And I like to point my finger at you
Rather then change myself
So I like to make excuses
And I like to blame everyone else
And I like to point my finger at you
Rather then change myself


  1. A very interesting blog Willow. I have heard criminal pyschologists refer to this as 'mirroring', where a person 'mirrors' their own shortcomings or character defects onto another(s).

  2. What a poem - powerful stuff Willow. I think it explains the terms projection and judgmental perfectly, xv.

  3. I make it habit to project only good thoughts towards everyone. Even mean-spirited people. I have come to realize that many people live in their own private hells, so I smile at everyone, and hope I have added something to their day.

    Like water off a ducks back, Willow. That is the way I live my life.

  4. I have been in that position & it's hard-- a kind of forgiving detachment such as Patty describes does work, but it can take some work to get to that point. Wishing you the best, since you don't deserve that.

  5. I've suffered from that myself, being the recipient of projection. Don't take it to heart. Just smile at them and say...'I'm sorry you feel that way. I've always tried to be...(fill in the blank).' It recognizes their feelings but does not admit any truth to what they are accusing you of, does not require you to own their feelings or to defend yourself. It sends it back to them where it belongs, makes the sentiment theirs.

    Is that making any sense?

  6. Hello Willow,

    Glad you're enjoying a nice quiet day after a pleasant weekend. That's precisely what I am up to. 1st there was a beautiful wedding in Annapolis Saturday. Then birthday celebrations with a trip to the Phillips Gallery Sunday. Then my father's 87th birthday fete earlier today! I'm beat! And I've missed you. I don't think you've dropped by to see me since you've returned. And I want you to see the painter Ken Buhler that I highlighted last week.

    All the best,


  7. We are all quite adept at sheltering ourselves, hiding and projecting, mimicking and minimizing. We didn't survive by being transparent and open. The fact that we value these qualities tells us that they rare and difficult to maintain pure.

    Good post, good conversation starter.

  8. Willow, to be a recipient of that type of behavior can be painful and frustrating, and about the only way to get through it or around it is to let go of all expectations that the other will change...and to not buy into the guilt usually sent out by that type of person....and to know that you, yourself, are OK and will not accept negative behavior into your "world."

  9. Since you don't say exactly what you mean, I take it that someone on here has been nasty? If that's the case then I would write it off as jealousy. Sticks and stones etc.
    Blessings, Star

  10. I read a book once that discussed people who try to do what she called "triangling." In other words, bringing you into someone else's messes with other people--wanting to make you a part of their mess somehow. If I recall, the author said it's difficult, but you need to remember it's a game you can choose not to play. Just ignore and go on to other things when someone starts it. It will frustrate that other person and eventually, that person will move on and try to "triangle" someone else and give up on you. I do think there's truth to that, if that makes sense? Good luck. We each have enough difficulty in life without taking on others' problems, don't we!?

  11. You have perfectly described my crazy stalker.

    I have no advice, except to try not to get caught up in the other person's drama. Easier said than done, I'm afraid. Like Patty wrote, I too try to nurture positive thoughts, even about those who want to hurt me. In the end, we become what we focus on.

    (Hear that, me? Hear that??)

    Great post. Glad you've had a quiet, enjoyable day!

  12. Well, I would say to not react negatively, and try to stay in the Now. But then I'm reading A New Earth by Eckhart Toole.

    From a psychological point of view - what they want is for you to react in such a way that feeds their neuroticism. See through it and don't get drawn into their drama.

    Good post, Willow.

  13. I have worked "with" and studied criminals all my life.

    Some can be "helped" a vast majority cannot.

    Pray for those that cannot be helped and turn away.

    I hope this can be understood.

  14. I'd say the reaction to such behavior depends upon who is projecting, their physical age relative to yours and their kinship,work related or friendship status.

    If it's a parent towards a child or a sibling to another sibling ... those are quite different than if it's a co-worker or boss ... each would require a different response.

    Certain people you can walk away from and others are like cobwebs - difficult to brush off.

    I suspect that as one ages and still receives someone's projection, the recipient will finally say, "enough" no matter who is the other person.

    Simple responses rarely work, ie, smiling or being otherwise passive.

    I also believe what is called closure is just a hoped for conclusion - I don't think closure works for all situations, our memories and emotions don't work that way.

  15. Hi Willow,
    projection is a fascinating topic.
    We all do it. - and not only negative stuff. We project onto others how we think or would like or understand things to be, our own needs and wants - using our own reference points, ideals and personal history.

    When you are on good terms with the person you can ask questions of them to clarify their feelings and thoughts and understandings.

    When you are not on friendly terms you may be able to simply state your position and feelings and leave it at that. It is their issue.
    So go for the broken record technique to avoid being enmeshed in someones else's problem.

    Happy Days

  16. wow really interesting Willow.I'm learning about such a thing existing,it's like when you catch up energies around you.We may have all do it even unwillingly as we may have all received it once in a while.I do believe that the mind is really powerful but I've never seen it on that perspective.Only those days I realise that.Thanks for bringing up such a great subject.

  17. Generally, I believe in being kind even to people who treat you badly, but I have learned the hard way that it may not be the best reaction to pathological behavior.
    Depending on how close that person is to you, I would consider consulting a professional.

    Good luck and hugs!

  18. I believe in tactful confrontation. Let the person know that what they are saying/doing is causing you to not be comfortable. See if they are willing to have a dialogue - if not - excuse yourself and let them know how they can reach you when they learn how to deal.

  19. moving poem...but i don't think you need help, this post sounds like you've got the right 'know'--just apply it...i hope you and your friend, or family member, or co-worker, or companion or whoever is projecting on to you...can work it out...the person needs you more than you need to defend or protect yourself...sometimes a good face-to-face, one-on-one helps...try to help him or her instead of how to get away from the dilemma...sometimes people do things as a way to seek help...

    i am glad your weekend was good...i'm sun burnt to the max because we were at the flea market...i feel like a golden french fry, in some areas... a rosy one!

  20. Fascinating post, Willow, with equally interesting comments made by readers. I am enduring a similar situation that also includes the person going into a screaming fit when told I disagree with something. Being nice to them despite the problems doesn't always work.

  21. Hmmmmmm- fascinating post and great poem. I would myself aspire always to Patty's philosophy although I can confess this works for me most often in theory only. I tend to take everything in life far too personally (a big Eckhart no no). That said I'm sure I also do my fair share of project-ing and am known to completely wither when being project-ed. xo from les Gang.

  22. intriguing post. there comes a point when it is much healthier for you and them to walk away. if you stay you only support the neurosis and allow them to continue. i would start with honesty and if they can not deal with it, i'd walk. you don't deserve to be someones emotional punching bag.

  23. Fascinating topic, Willow!
    I agree with Delwyn. Projecting is something we all do. Describing it only in terms of a person being "neurotic" is not, in my opinion, helpful. That makes admitting that we project tantamount to admitting we are a pathological manipulator or something like that, and THAT just makes all of us less willing to examine our own hearts.
    As someone said (I think it was C.S. Lewis), we view the world through the lens of our own minds. To the degree that our character is bad, we are looking at the world through a dirty lens.
    Having said that, I repudiate the idea that preconceived ideas of any kind are bad. The human mind was designed to work with preconceived ideas, and cannot do otherwise.
    Anyway, how do we avoid projecting in unhealthy ways? I suggest we pray continually for the gift of the humility and imagination to be able to see other people as they actually are ... through the lens of love.
    "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth."

  24. Sometimes a calm, sympathetic response can diffuse the situation, Like saying, "It sounds like you're having a bad day."

    If it is someone very close to you, it can become a dance, where the person is trying to engage you in some kind of battle and push your buttons to get the response they want. I always ask myself what I need to do to take care of myself. Sometimes the only answer is to remove myself physically from the situation.

  25. Hi Willow,
    Wonderful post. I am fascinated by psychological phenomena such as projection as an ego-generated self-defense mechanism and I agree with you that most of what we experience as criticism is other people projecting personal traits that they dislike but are unwiling to come to terms with.

    As for coping strategies, I think the first and most crucial thing we can do is simply recognize what is happening when other people project their vices, anxieties and mental illnesses onto us. Taking that first step allows us to forgive them and cut them a little slack.

    Beyond that I'm not sure what a person can do to bring it to someone's attention, especially if the behaviour is hurtful. Perhaps, if you have access to a mental health professional through work, you could seek their advice on how to brooch the subject. Then again, from my own painful experience, if the person is in serious denial you simply cannot talk to them about it--as depressing as it sounds, he or she needs to recognize the behaviour for themselves.


  26. Like Wildeve, I've had to remove myself from the situation, not being dragged in AGAIN to the shouldas and couldas, my Mother is notorious, thank goodness I'm even tempered like my Dad...thought provoking post!

  27. Since this is a disorder and not a character trait, can you avoid dealing with this person? If you can't, I completely agree with Lover of Life, don't allow yourself to get drawn into their drama.

  28. sounds like a great discussion....

    ah people, can't live with them, can't....

    no seriously....

    must agree with patty project the positive!

  29. Interesting post - I'm sure I've done it and it's been done to me. Would love to sit and discuss this with others who are interested in thoughtful ideas.

    Guess this falls into the topic of "you rarely look behind a door you haven't hidden behind." One of the biggest liars I have ever known never failed to detest it and point it out in others and that always blew me away. I continued to point out this incongruity with mixed results but he is more truthful today than ever. Sometimes just stating the obvious can work if it's done with the right heart.

    Also, giving the person a book called, "The Sociopath Next Door" helps, too. Yeah, I also did that. LOL

  30. Very interesting post, Willow. I recommend reading, if you haven't already, Inner Gold: Understanding Psychological Projection by Robert A. Johnson. I read this book a while back and he offers some very interesting insights into this Freudian theory.

    Your blog is absolutely lovely!

  31. I once worked with someone who did that. She was constantly accusing me of theft, and I could not understand why. Stealing from my employer was probably the last thing that would have occurred to me. I soon found out that my co-worker had embezzled $50,000 from her previous employer, and was in the process of embezzling from our current employer. That was when I first understood the concept of psychological projection, or as we called it at that time, psychological mirroring.

  32. I have faced this a couple of time and the only way I could find was just to ignore it. But it is not always a luxury one can afford.

  33. If there is something that bugs me I try to project that in front of me and sort of "hold it in my hands". Then when, I think I am ready...I let go. I feel my life without that thought of the person or the moment, and I like it so I just let go. It's not always easy and if you have some heavy duty stuff it will take awhile, but eventually it goes away...

    "It's not what they think about you, it's what you think about yourself that really matters" is what a friend told me once. That made things clearer for me too.

    Thank you again for another extraordinary blog!

  34. Some people would like to bring you down to their level to make themselves feel better. Is there a solution, other than to limit your involvement with that person?

  35. Fascinating post. And a clip with a poem in Spanish to boot. You indulged me this time too much, my dear! :-)

    On the subject of psychology, you got my attention 100%. And I do think that we project our negative/positive vibes on to others. I have felt it.

    Many thanks for another brilliant post. Psychology is one of the courses I would be looking at doing when I eventually go back to university. Because I do want to go back at some point and get anothere degree in psychology, sociology and history. I love the three of them and how they interact with each other. The poem was another treat. I hope you have a more peaceful week.

    Greetings from London.

  36. Hello Willow,

    This seems to be a serious topic to which I can not offer any advice. But it did allow me to read the poem with greater understanding and I preferred it as a poem rather than the song. If the photo is yours it is great. Wonderful the way the particles are caught in the light and an excellent, as ever, illustration for the "god-like" topic.

  37. Wow. What can I say. You outdid me again.


  38. I believe what you refer to Willow is called "reaction formation". If you Google it you will find lots on the topic. Very common, very damaging... but easy to detect when you understand the concept.

  39. How I would love to sit on your patio and be part of those conversations. Very cool!

    When I taught with Reclaiming, part of our "shadow" work involved working literally with mirrors. Every time we felt like telling someone off, we were supposed to look directly into the mirror and give ourselves the same speech.

    Man, it was grueling, but also empowering. Part of the reason people project has to do with how hard it is to hold all our own power. People project "positive" stuff on others, too, of course. We do this a lot with movie stars. Little girls everywhere project their own desires and dreams onto the character of Hannah Montana, for instance.

    Many a time I've been the object of projection, and oh man have I projected on others as well.

    Sad isn't it to realize how little of what any of us do actually has to do with someone else?

    Oh well.

    Thanks for this! Fabulous post.

  40. Intriguing post, Willow. I'm sorry for your recent hurts, but am confident that you are coping with grace and honestly as evidenced by your thoughts.

  41. I am sorry you are going through this Willow. It is very difficult to deal with this kind of behavior as the person doing it might not even be aware. Hang in there.

    PS: Your header is stunning, your best one yet.

  42. Perfect video with perfect lyrics...this projection thing can be easy if a stranger but oh so difficult with a loved one.
    One of the best things in life...."a spirited evening conversation over a glass of wine on the patio".

  43. Interesting stuff willow and I don't think there is an answer. When this kind of thing happens regularly the temptation for me is to stay at home and not be sociable, to avoid seeing the person involved, to cut myself off. This is not a good idea because eventually one becomes a bit of a loner.

  44. Fascinating,this post, and all the comments.
    The only thing I can add is that as I've gotten older, I've learned to refuse to crawl into that box and share in the misery.
    Sometimes I've earned the description of 'cool,,aloof,,, or distanced',,,,but then that's all okay too. It's really none of my business what others think of me, knowing that we each deal with life from our own reality.

  45. Great blog! I admire the hard work and the exceptional results. Your theme presents a very uplifting vision of life. Since no one can please everyone, please continue to inform and entertain those of us who enjoy your efforts, because we exist in large numbers. Ignore the toxic, sour grapes of jealous people. My mother would have said juvenile, playground bullies exist at all ages and should grow up and play well with others.

  46. The kind and benevolent way to behave is to be kind and benevolent to yourself. Someone is being harsh to you, me too, by the've tried to solve doesn't work, they keep damaging you.. detach, walk away. Let them play their game..come closer every day to not absorbing their illness. You are yourself, after all.

  47. i imagine the manor is at its best...after the weekend of fun, when the last guest has left, and there is only silence. silence and memory...


  48. Great post, Willow. Talking about projection, I always try to be very conscious of my own projections, especially of my own dreams, in my kids lives, so that I refrain myself from influencing them to live my "dreams" instead of theirs.
    In a related topic regarding the power of other people's words over us, I always go back to a college professor I had for a communication class, Dr. Baker. He shared with our class a new paradigm of communication he was working on and it never left me. He alerted us for how easy it is for the comunication between two elements to be misunderstood. According to him, we should look at words coming as a message from some one with the knowledge that we have an active participation in their result. He said that words leave someone with an intention that might not necessarily be the one we perceive. Once those words enter us, we often give them the meaning we think the other person meant, which might not necessarily be the intended meaning. So, for instance, in arguments, when one says "that is not what I meant", and we think it is, we have to be aware that they might be telling their truth, while what we are stating is our own, using the words we received.
    So, I always think of this when someone says something that might be hurtful to me (especially when I think that I am being provoked for a reaction). I take control of those words, analize the charge I am giving them or that I think the other person intends them to have over me, and consciously try to annul their effect, especially if it is hurtful (perceived or actual). In a sense, it helps take the power away from the offender.

  49. Love reading the dialogue that's going on here. I've been the frustrated victim of this sort of behaviour many times myself. Once I recognized it for what it is I was able to handle it better.
    Forgot to tell you - Your new header is really clever. Love it!

  50. This is a hard one as I think I understand only too well having been in the same position as you.
    I believe other people's energies can change ours to theirs if you get me so it helps to be around happy positive people.

    If badly affected then walk away, put a white 'shield' around yourself, play music, shower, dance, sing, do anything to clear away any negativity. Then I find you can change the other person's behaviour and they sometimes adapt to your energy. Hope that makes sense.

  51. That's difficult. Maybe you can summon the Golden Girls approach and invite them over for cheesecake and coffee and talk it out. If not, oh dear... I think you'll just have to dig deep and either speak your mind or tune it out. I wish I had another alternative!


  52. Thank you for this particular post. It really confirmed something I have suspected for a long time in a very real situation that I am involved with as a third party. If that is confusing, don't worry - all I want to say is Thank you.

  53. Thank you everyone for all your thoughtful responses. I appreciate your valuable insight! ~x~


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)