Have you ever had someone accuse you of thinking something that was totally untrue, and which on reflection you think is likely to be a negative trait of theirs? I have, and it’s relatively easy to see in someone else.
We have all heard of cases where an unfaithful person is utterly convinced that that thoroughly loyal partner is cheating on them. Psychological projection is quite common, in fact we all have a tendency to dislike in others those negative qualities that we ourselves display.
As Simon Sheppard says on the website heretical.com,
Projection is the opposite defence mechanism to identification. We project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blame them for having thoughts that we really have.
Some of this comes about because we are taught to hide or suppress what we feel. In the words of Sandra Brosman on the website Thepowerofoneness.com,
Everyone you meet is your mirror
The traits we tend to dislike in others are usually the traits we do not like about ourselves.
Debbie Ford, in her article, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers says that
Whatever we don’t own about ourselves we project onto other people.
In order to escape or deny these traits, we tend, therefore to project them onto others. Clearly this does not change us. If we disconnect ourselves from our thoughts and feelings we are highly likely to project them onto someone else. This is not, of course, something that we do consciously, but we can make ourselves aware that we are doing it by taking note of the things that annoy us most in others and stopping to reflect on whether those traits are in fact present in us.
Kellen Vonhouser suggests that,
One really easy way is to look at people who we absolutely loathe. They represent something we loathe within ourselves, our shadow material.
As with anything, this can be taken too far, there can be many other reasons why we dislike particular traits; they may remind us of a situation of abuse, a bad relationship, or be opposite to traits that we hold dear, but it is good to reflect on why those traits irritate us so intensely.
As Carl Jung said,
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.