Projection: What is it? Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own deeply ingrained impulses or qualities (both positive or negative) by denying the behaviours exist within themselves, while attributing them to other people. For example, a person who feels bad about themselves may accuse other people of being bad. Or an angry ex prone to stalking, may tell friends and family that they have to leave town because their emotionally healthy partner will stalk them if they stay. In actual fact, the narcissist is the stalker and has moved away so as not to give into his or her own temptations to stalk the ex partner.
Projecting onto children
Projecting a parent’s own deeply ingrained behaviour, or thoughts about self, onto a small child is one of the most disgusting things an adult can do. The parent who does this treats their child as an extension of themselves, and has poor boundaries. Devaluing phrases, projections of self onto a child, or constant criticism in childhood creates a false sense of self within the child – a bad, defective sense of self. Projection can be the difference between a successful or an unsuccessful life, a drug addicted young adult who is self-medicating to heal the pain of shame, and an adult whom is confident, self assured and can handle the things life throws at them.
Lives can be destroyed because of projection, and it is not unusual to read in the news that yet another bullied teenager has committed suicide, all because a pack of children projected their shortcomings onto somebody else. Narcissism is dangerous, bullying is dangerous, and projection can end lives.
Projection as an insidious form of rejection
A child is a canvas, and the adults’ in that child’s life are contributing to the state of their child’s psyche (the artwork) through their perception of the child, which will become accepted by the child as the child’s reality of who they are. Like paint, comments stick, and ruminate deeply within the psyche. These comments will either enhance the soul, and help the child grow into an emotionally healthy adult, or, these comments will eat away at the child’s soul like termites to a house.
Projection is rejection- and projection and rejection create shame. The narcissist is an angry volatile person, who can’t handle their own shame. So they accuse other people of being exactly like they are, in an effort to feel better about themselves when feeling inadequate.
What happens to the child’s reality?
The narcissist becomes the child’s reality of who they are, and the narcissist’s reality of who is the child is, is incorrect, because what the child doesn’t know, and won’t realise until adulthood is that the narcissist is crazy. So, the child accepts the narcissist’s reality of who they are. This false persona that they’ve accepted as belonging to them, affects their decision making, their ability to be assertive, their choice of friends, and often results in chronic hyper vigilance.
The story of a scapegoated child:
I have heard many tragic stories about the detrimental affects of projection from many an emotionally destroyed scapegoat. Recently, a very close friend of mine confided in me about her experience with projection from her narcissistic caregiver. My friend was told ridiculous lies about herself, and believed up until the age of 24 (up until she entered therapy) that she was dirty, evil, would push everybody away in her adult life, and was doomed to become exactly like the narcissistic parent’s vile caregivers.
Her narcissist still believes that she is a bad seed. These beliefs were the catalyst for years of suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-hatred, and deliberate isolation from friends and prospective partners through an innate fear that she was evil.
The above accusations absolutely destroyed this adult child, whom of course succumbed to drug use in adulthood, and acted out on the badness projected onto her.
The above example is a classic example of projection. The narcissist in this scenario was renowned for creating havoc in their own relationships, and projected their faults onto their own child, by predicting that their child would push everybody away in their adult life, by becoming a rendition of the narcissist’s defective caregivers.
”If I can convince you that you are like me, I will feel better about myself. And, if I can convince you that you are bad, you will do as I please.’
Common projections onto children of narcissists:
What is the problem with projection?
Children are sponges for information, and they require the approval of the adults around them. When they’re disapproved of, they persist and try to please the parent, to gain their approval. The adult is the child’s reality, and the adult’s perception of the child also becomes the child’s reality. If the parent projects negative traits onto a child, than the child ends up with a deep open wound filled with shame.
A child told that they are an angry person, will most likely suppress their anger, will see anger as a negative emotion, and will learn not to express anger. They may even stuff their anger, and could very well become passive aggressive as a result.
A child told that they are bad will believe that they are bad, and will most likely act out on that deep seated feeling of badness.
Instead of going to uni, getting a great job, and attracting lovely partners, the child projected onto loses themselves in their shame, in their self hatred, and in their pain, which can either temporarily, or permanently hold them back, sometimes for their entire life.