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Projecting: Why people label others with false traits

Updated on November 25, 2013



There are times in a person's lifetime when they encounter someone who labels them in some way, whether it is a personality trait, behavior, description, etc... However the person on the receiving end of this does not identify with the label. In fact it seems that the person doing the labeling is the one who possesses the trait. This is known as projecting; basically someone becomes a blank canvas for someone else to paint with traits and behaviors that they do not want to own so they externally project them into the outside world. The certain trait may be disowned and projected because the person feels ashamed, embarrassed or because growing up that trait was shunned by their parents.

The projected trait is not always negative such as being biting sarcasm, arrogance, superiority, jealousy, shyness, insensitive. Sometimes the trait may be something positive such as competitiveness, assertiveness, or unbridled joy, but for some reason the person doesn't associate that in a personal way. Being with a person who projects a lot can be somewhat irritating because one begins to feel like they are not being recognized clearly and are instead an extension of the person who is projecting.

If this is a person that one cares about such as a family member or friend than it might be helpful to address this with them. Confronting someone about this phenomena might help them to shed new light on their own personal growth because it will allow them to begin seeing others as well as them from a clear perspective. Once a person begins owning up to their own behaviors or starts incorporating new positive traits that they previously disowned, personal spiritual growth will occur. Being honest with one's self will allow someone to live with a lot more integrity and dignity, because they are no longer hiding or lying with their own psychological states.

I had a situation occur where someone looked at me and told me that they were watching me because they knew that I am living unconsciously and commit evil acts. In fact this was far off since I live an honest life and try to help my fellow man when possible. This person was projecting their own dark side onto me; a few weeks after they said this they stole money from a friend of mine. It is an excellent example because this person is a shady individual who was attempting to project his own negative characteristics onto me in front of a group of people in order to slander my reputation and possibly shine a positive light on himself if I am the supposed "villain". In this situation it was impossible to show the person he was projecting because he was not living a life of honest integrity. He would of denied my allegations to protect his current image in the face of everyone around at the time. Some people simply cannot look at their own character honestly or they do, but won't openly admit they behave in a certain way.

Projection involves a converging of objective and subjective realities which skews the ultimate bottom line truth of a given situation. For example, I like tacos, but someone else hates tacos because they have gotten sick eating them. This persons subjective reality dislikes tacos, even though tacos may be pleasant for another person. The same concept can be applied to dealing with people. If a woman has many bad experiences dating men than she will view all potential dates in a subjectively negative light, even though the date may be a positive, caring individual.

© 2013 Dan Klein


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    • danielklein profile image

      Dan Klein 2 years ago from Rockaway, New Jersey

      I mean a murderer is a murderer, doesn't mean you are. An example based on my description of projection could be: I don't believe I'm this way, but other people are, whether or not the reality is true. Discernment is different than projection though you're right. I'm no expert in the field, so additional research would help to clarify.

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      Jane 3 years ago


      My question for this author though is how do you know whether you're just projecting or are being discerning/when they REALLY DO possess those negative traits/characteristics? How do you differentiate the two...this idea of projection is far too idealistic....sometimes there is danger in believing all the negative traits you're projecting onto other people...are yours...if I see a murderer and label him as a murderer, does that mean am a murderer...