When a narcissist attributes their own feelings and motivations to others, we say that they are projecting.
The term “projection” was first coined by Sigmund Freud, who used it to describe one of the ways the ego defends itself from injury. Narcissistic projection is thus a defence mechanism used by the narcissist to avoid suffering further narcissistic injury.
Projection is a defence mechanism that we all use from time to time. However, it becomes problematic when it’s used excessively or when it’s used to defend against something that is actually true. It is even more problematic when deployed by a narcissist.
Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory
In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, projection is a defense mechanism that involves projecting unwanted or unmanageable feelings and desires onto someone else. By externalizing it, it becomes easier to deal with. This way we avoid the shame of having to admit (even to ourselves) that we had such emotions.
For example, a man who is attracted to his boss but afraid of being rejected may instead project his feelings onto her and believe that she is attracted to him. He therefore protects his ego by telling himself that it’s the other person who wants him, not the other way around.
Another example is a woman who is angry with their spouse. She may project that anger onto her husband and believe that he is the one who is angry. This way, she avoids feeling any responsibility for the conflict.
People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) already have a massive narcissistic injury at the very core of their sense of self. This means that they will be even more protective of their damaged ego than the average person.
As a result, narcissists resort to projection A LOT.
They do it to deflect blame for their own failures and shortcomings and to avoid feeling any responsibility for their own actions.
Narcissists also use projection to attack other people. They often accuse others of doing or thinking what they themselves are doing or thinking. For example, a narcissist who has been caught cheating may accuse their partner of being unfaithful, or a narcissist who is unemployed may accuse their family members of being lazy.
Narcissistic Projection – a dangerous game to play
Narcissistic projection can be harmful to both the narcissist and those around them.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of narcissistic projection, it’s important to remember that it’s not about you. The narcissist is simply projecting their own issues and insecurities onto you. Try to avoid taking it personally and instead focus on taking care of yourself.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, or if you have one in your family or circle of friends, it’s important to come up with strategies to deflect the narcissist. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that there is help available. Contact a therapist or counsellor who can help you understand and deal with the narcissist in your life.
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