People do them all the time and many times have no idea that they’re doing it. Projecting on to someone is placing onto someone or something what you hope they are or hope they will become for you. We all do it to some extent—for better or for worse—but when we ignore what’s there (or not there) that it becomes a problem. This is something I had to learn the hard way.
Humans are beings of hope. Hope is a major motivator in our lives. A friend once told me that without hope, she has nothing. I believe that’s true. If you think your life sucks, I suggest you read a book by Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”. While the reader sits there taking in the horrors of the Soviet political gulags in Siberia, Ivan keeps talking about how this is a good day. What keeps him going is hope.
Projections are when we see someone as being what we want and what we believe we need, frequently while not being aware of the reality of the situation. We think this person will make us happy, that this person can sooth our loneliness, that they’ll fill this aching hole within us.The big problem with projecting on someone is that we even ignore what the other person says.
Projecting usually also happens when the projector thinks they know better than the person they are projecting their hopes and desires upon. They’ll think things like “you don’t see this in yourself, but I do.” Maybe that whatever you see is them, but it will come out when the person is willing and ready. If you try to twist or pull something out of someone when they aren’t ready for it or even asking for it, you can cause the person mental damage to where they shove that part of them aside and bury it because the cost or pain was too much for them to bear.
Another more subtle aspect of projection is glossing over someone’s true nature, like thinking this person is kinder than they are or exactly what you want in a relationship. This is when you ignore all the red flags going off in your mind where you see how they treat other people like trash or are making promises they never keep. If your were to stop projecting your hopes onto the relationship, you’d start to see how things really are.
One little known aspect of projection is the exact opposite of what I’ve been discussing—projecting one’s fears and past relationships or interactions upon someone else. If you’ve been burned in the past or hurt by a mother, father, or significant other, you can just as easily project what crap happened in the past instead of accepting them as the truly are. If the person you’re projecting onto the other person was abusive, you’ll be fearful of their words and actions, thinking (usually unconsciously) this person means to hurt you just like the person haunting you still. Just because your ex lied to you doesn’t mean this new guy or girl will. If you project onto them past crappy relationships, you can miss out on something better or greater.
You can also project the person they were in the past onto the person they are now. It’s true that most people don’t change much, but it is possible. If you used to get into arguments a lot with them because they always had to be right, you might project that every time they disagree with you. Just because your relationship used to be one that was amazingly beautiful in the past (or problematic), doesn’t mean they haven’t grown since then.
That’s the thing about projecting on someone—you can miss out on something truly wonderful with someone if you took them as they present themselves. When you start seeing them as being something other than what they are, want to be, or are trying to be, then you can lose the chance for a great friendship or relationship, or possibly realize you’re making a big mistake by ignoring what’s really there.
The person in front of you or that you’re reading about isn’t your abusive father or craptastic ex-boyfriend, so don’t interact with them like they are. That woman you’re talking to isn’t that porn star you saw online (well, okay, it could be in our community) or that dream woman you screwed up a chance with all those years ago. Treat the people you’re with without putting all your baggage on them and deal with them as unique individuals.
The past is something to learn from, not to keep reliving. Our dreams and hopes are there to inspire us, but if you aren’t grounded in reality, you’ll step on or completely miss that which you are looking for because your head is up in the clouds. Being present with the person you’re with allows you to deal with themselves as they are, not some nightmare or fantasy of yours.
Something I heard in a movie trailer I saw recently was about how people project on new relationships how they want themselves to be sometimes. Ever meet someone new and you choose to project this image of how positive a person you are or how outgoing you are, even if you normally don’t feel or behave that way?
It’s very possible to project who you dream of being in a relationship. Sometimes, it can help move you toward becoming that, but if you don’t bring that to the table in all aspects of your life, old friends can bring you back to your old self, thereby undoing your hopeful movement toward a new (or different) you.
Projecting can take you away from what’s right in front of you and cause you to lose sight of what honestly can be if you aren’t careful. Sometimes, it can help, but many times, you lose touch with reality through it—for better or for worse.