Projection as a defense of the Self

David Holt
Projection as a defense of the Self

"The mind has the ability to free itself from part of the self and place this on another object." Margaret mahler


  • What is the Projection in Psychoanalysis?
  • Why do we project?
  • The delusional projection
  • What do you project about yourself to others?
    • Conclution
    • Bibliographic references

What is the Projection in Psychoanalysis?

It is called projection when the individual attributes his desires, feelings, drives, instincts, motives, needs and qualities that he represses to other people or external agents; This, due to the anguish produced by the pressure and constant conflict between: the Superego, the Id and the Ego, the three basic structures of the personality.

In this way, it protects the self from undesirable, prohibited or unpleasant personal characteristics for its sociocultural context. It is another type of defense mechanism against neurotic and moral distress. The objective of this transmutation is to convert: an internal threat of the id or the superego, into an external danger, since it seems easier for the ego to handle it that way. "I don't like you" could become: "You don't like me." In this way, he transforms his neurotic or moral anguish into an objective anguish. Thus giving the subject the opportunity to express what he truly feels.

It is important to raise children being responsible for their own actions, so that they can be more purposeful adults and agents of change, both within themselves and within society. This defense mechanism is very common, because at an early age the infant was not taught to look for the reasons and causes of his behavior, but they looked for it in external agents to “reduce burdens”; In this way, the child learns that he can avoid the consequences of his actions, as well as the reprimands or reproaches, both from others and his own, elaborating plausible arguments or justifications and putting the cause in others, for acts that he should not commit..

Why do we project?

It is said that a person tries to alleviate a certain "discomfort", projecting or attributing its cause to the outside world. A person who thinks that he is being persecuted, for example, can justify himself with this belief to attack the person who is supposedly threatening him, and thus satisfy his destructive and hostile desires..

He gets a certain pleasure in feeling guilty, because in this way he can believe that his attack is justified, since "he is protecting himself from the aggressions of others", which can be done hand in hand with rationalization, to elaborate justifications with evasions, pretexts and other tricks for evade responsibility in their actions and thus blame other people, for something that the superego condemns, thus releasing a certain tension.

Some people who are extremely charitable; Sometimes they do not act motivated by kindness, in many cases it turns out to be the product of a moral conscience that feels guilty or simply by the desire to be socially recognized for their compassion towards others. The person who projects or rationalizes is usually not aware of this process, otherwise he would not act as an emancipator of anguish. Only when a non-defensive projection comes into play can understanding with others be generated, as part of the empathic process.

When the person's superego is weakly integrated, it is more willing to blame other external agents; thus acquiring the character of victim; which can make it impossible or diminish the individual to make the pertinent changes in his own person and modify his reality, because according to his point of view: "what happens to him is not his fault", thus diminishing his own power to change.

In defensive character projection, the individual shares his thoughts and feelings with others. Generalizing it with that of others: if the person is dishonest or corrupt, he can justify himself by saying that so are everyone else; If you have the belief that "most people tend to have forbidden love and sexual affairs," you may be using that argument to give in to your drives and instincts. A person fearful of his own aggressive and sexual impulses receives some relief in his anguish by attributing that hostility and sexuality to another.

The delusional projection

"When the objective is to avoid oneself, trying to reduce the process of self-knowledge, the pathological process is inescapably present." Erwin singer

There are defense mechanisms that involve a split from reality, such as delusional projection, where personal traits, undesirable feelings are attributed in a delusional way to someone else. This also happens as a response to the anguish, conflict or stress that your feelings, thoughts or even behaviors that are unique and strange to many, protecting the self from recognizing personal characteristics that are not pleasant..

What do you project about yourself to others?

They say that "beauty is in whoever sees it", but also the darkest instincts and drives that we glimpse and sometimes condemn so harshly in others, can be a shadow or projection of ourselves. Our peers can serve as a mirror, how do you see yourself and how others see you? Sometimes what is most abhorred and not tolerated in others is precisely because they are characteristics so undesirable or prohibited for the individual, that he cannot realize that he shares many traits with that person.

Remember that when you point your finger hard at others, three of your fingers point towards you, giving you the triple signal that before judging others, it may be better to try to turn towards yourself. Make the projections aware and be responsible for our person, actions and consequences.

The person who is afraid of his own conscience and feels upset, can find comfort in the idea that other people are the ones who are disturbing him. It is wise to learn to deal with your fears objectively. Psychologists can provide accompaniment and therapeutic support in this process of self-knowledge, and that the patient transfers many aspects of this type to the conscious, the subject can change his position of victim, martyr or even victimizer, and begin to see himself as responsible of his own motives and consequences ... Declare himself the owner of his own energy, his person and his actions! Which is a sign of maturity and growth as a human being.

"A person generally has more opportunities to learn to cope with their objective fears, than to acquire the ability to master neurotic and moral distress." Calvin S. Hall


Projection is one of the most archaic or primitive defenses of the self and one of the most common; If the observer is not aware of his own emotions, drives or impulses, he attributes them to other people or agents outside of him. Thus he remains unconscious of said manifestations, taking responsibility for himself, for his actions and their repercussions; but also weakening the power to transform himself, since he can be seen as a victim of circumstances or people; since the main feature of this mechanism is that the subject of the feeling is changed, which is the same person.

Bibliographic references

  • Freud, Sigmund (1981). Complete works. Volume II. 4th. Edition. Spain: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva.
  • Bleichmar, N. M .; Lieberman, C. and Cols. (1989). Psychoanalysis after Freud. Mexico: Eleia Editores.
  • Hall, Calvin, S (1990). Compendium of Freudian Psychology. Mexico: Paidós.

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