Working with other people’s projections

Besides projecting things onto other people, we can be on the receiving end of their projections. When we take time to stop and reflect on our responses to other people’s projections, it can be illuminating. For example, you say something that seems quite harmless and someone comes back at you saying you are judgemental. For some people this won’t trigger anything and for others it might trigger deep discomfort and a defensive response – ‘What do you mean, I wasn’t being judgemental.’ Whether it triggers anything or not there is an opportunity to stop and reflect. In the first instance you might work on the language you use and increase your awareness of how different words have different impacts on people. You hear their feedback very clearly and you realize they are having a hard time that’s being passed on to you. Your clarity about that allows you to have compassion and empathy for them or you know you could have chosen your words better and there was something thoughtless about it so you learn from your mistakes for the future. In the second instance where it really gets to you deep inside then there’s probably some truth in what they are saying. When we take things personally and it wounds us then it’s usually because there is some truth in it and a lot of the personality is trying to avoid anybody knowing that about us – often including ourselves. We can’t get the benefit we might get from someone’s feedback because it is triggering bad feelings we might have about ourselves. This sensitive response can provide us with useful opportunities to recognize parts of ourselves we might have hidden.

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