What is projection?
Projection is when someone attributes their negative qualities or experiences onto another person. This can include personality or character traits, emotions, or actions.
Victims of psychological abuse might endure projection from time to time, and this experience can be very confusing and damaging.
The person experiencing projection might fall into a pattern of self-blame and accepting the responsibility for the wrong doing of others. The person experiencing projection might become overly hard on themselves and overly accepting of poor treatment from others. The person experiencing projection might consider themselves to be worthless, unlovable, and incapable.
The person experiencing projection might begin to take on the projected attributes as actual pieces of their identity and character—thereby turning into the person who was projecting themselves onto the victim.
As projection continues, the damage worsens. Therefore, it is important to recognize projection and learn how to deal with it.
How does one know if someone is projecting onto them?
The first step is to become re-acquainted with yourself. This can be hard to do if you have experienced long-term psychological abuse. Take some time to look at yourself honestly. What are your core attributes? If your nature has changed over-time because you adapted the projection as your reality, then think about who you once were.
Reconnecting with your true self can be very difficult, but this is necessary. Once you begin to form this connection, you can then ask yourself if the projections are true.
Are you truly the things another person says you are? If not, then you are probably dealing with projection.
Why do people project?
It can be difficult to know why a person does anything, but the theory is that a person is unable to come to terms with their own shame, so they project undesirable parts of themselves onto others. People can also project painful experiences with an abusive person onto a non-abusive person.
Once you recognize projection, you can begin to deflect these attacks and recognize that the person who is projecting is dealing with a deep sense of shame and self-hatred.
Their projections provide you with some insight into the hidden world of your abuser. This can be useful in helping you establish reality for yourself because people who project often have a dual personality—one that is for show and one that is reality—and long-term exposure to such a person can cause you to question your reality in many ways.
Could I be projecting?
It is possible for trauma and abuse victims to project their pain or faults onto others subconsciously. Pay attention to your accusations of another person, and do a reality check. Is this a fair accusation, or could you be reacting out of fear because you worry that this person will hurt you in similar fashion to a past abuser? Is this a fair accusation, or are there things within yourself that you don’t want to face because someone in your past made it impossible to be faulty without causing you deep pain?
One Christian Perspective on Projection
As a Christian, I know that all people are innately faulty. No person is perfect, and we are all basically the same. Sure, some people might be more harmful than others, but the scriptures have taught me that we are all tempted in like manner.
If someone has made you to feel like you are especially worse than most people, then realizing that you are just like everyone else can open you up towards honest self-reflection.
As a Christian, I know that no sinner is too far gone for Jesus to love and forgive. Experiencing His grace is freeing. There is a person who loves us despite our flaws. This unconditional love can feel foreign to victims of abuse and it can be hard to accept, but once we grasp His love for us, we can find freedom from toxic self-hatred and unforgiveness.
As a Christian, I know that repentance is important. Repentance places us in good graces with God through the blood of Jesus, and repentance prepares our heart for change so that we can find freedom from damaging behaviors. I cannot repent if I am not looking at myself honestly.
As a Christian, I know that Jesus can see my heart already, so I cannot hide from Him. It does not matter how many people I fool; He knows. He knows it all and if I have faith in Him then He loves me anyway. Trusting Him with my darkest self is a huge relief, and I know He will not leave me in chains to my damaging self.
As a Christian, I know that Jesus will free me from all things that steal, kill, and destroy—especially things within myself. I know that the more I learn about Him and make Him the focus on my life, the more freedom from destruction I will find, and I will change into His likeness overtime.
As a Christian, I know that Jesus also projects Himself onto us—and this is a good thing! The projection that Jesus provides is grace and mercy. Though we are sinners, we wear Jesus Christ. We stand before God blameless, and this allows us to do all the above without shame or fear.
As a Christian, I know that the ultimate scapegoat is Jesus. Though I have endured projection, I know that Jesus willingly took my sins onto Himself and died for them. In like manner, I know that scapegoating myself at times will free others, allowing them to see their sin if I attribute that sin to myself and openly repent (which is not hard to do because we have all sinned in like manner in some capacity).
As a Christian, I know that I should forgive because I was forgiven, but I also know that Jesus is patient and He understands how difficult it can be to find forgiveness for those who hurt us deeply. He will help us, and sometimes forgiveness also includes walking away so that we can focus on our own healing.
As a Christian, I know that Jesus will avenge. Those who seem to get away with destroying others will face the Light one day, and I would not want to be in the place of someone who never came to terms with their darkness but instead projected that onto others and harmed others. As Jesus said, “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
As a Christian, I am thankful for time and opportunity to learn and grow, so that we can find freedom from the complicated and deeply negative effects of projection.
I am not a mental health professional, but life has taught me much about trauma. Jesus, who is Life, has taught me much about recovery. There is a lot of information out there for victims of narcissistic abuse, but there is a lack of Christian perspective, so I want to bring my experience and insight to the table. I hope this will be helpful. Feel free to reach out if you want to discuss your own trauma and recovery journey.