Projection into gestalt therapy – how to return to reality

The concept of projection into gestalt therapy: the meaning of the psychological phenomenon, positive and negative sides. The danger of projection for humans. Features of pathological projection and methods of dealing with it.

The ancient people used the projection mechanism when they endowed human qualities with the forces of nature. The idea of ​​“negotiating” with the Gods allowed reducing the fear of uncertainty and trying to control what is beyond our control. Modern psychoanalysis considers projection as a way of protection. A person delegates a part of his qualities to objects of the outside world, relieving himself of responsibility and reducing tension. Projection into gestalt therapy is a break in contact with the outside world. How it works?

The meaning of the projection

Projection itself was born from the features of our perception of the world. By contacting people, we try on oursleves their character traits or a priori endow them with our own. So we choose friends and fall in love, plan our future and create something new. Getting into a certain situation, we compare it with our past experience and try to try the existing pattern of behavior. This is normal. But the trouble is that people often do not know the steps in this process, because it is so much calmer and easier. Then the real world is increasingly being replaced by “made-up”, woven from our own thoughts, feelings, and past experience. Pathological projection is of three types:

  1. Mirror. A person completely transmits his qualities to the outside world. That is why an envious person is jealous of everything around him, a deceitful person is being deceived by everybody around him and “nobody can be trusted”, and a good person can trust a frank scoundrel.
  2. The projection of catharsis. Surrounding people are endowed with those qualities that are rejected in their own person. Most people have absorbed the dogma that anger, betrayal and sycophancy is bad. With the projection of catharsis, they see in others only such qualities, without noticing the real positive traits of a person’s character.
  3. Additional projection. A more complex mechanism is when a person is inclined to attribute qualities to others to justify their own feelings and actions. For example, “everyone steals, so I can take lays badly”, “the husband is without feelings, and is interested only in TV” – a favorite phrase of wives who have lost interest in their second half.

A common feature of all types of projection is the avoidance of responsibility, and its transfer to external circumstances. Often the truth is so heavy that the mind  protects itself from potential stress. But the projection happens also “with no serious reason”, when a person has stayed in his childhood and simply cannot make adult decisions regarding his life. These are defects of upbringing with hyper treatment until the age of majority.

Many psychologists for clarity, compare the projection with a compass. These are the guidelines that have already been formed in our personality on the basis of upbringing and past events. But a trained traveler never focuses only on the compass, because this is a device that over time can simply begin to lie. It is more correct to periodically check the data on the map (in our case, according to moral and ethical standards) and ask the locals for directions, which means, to contact a real person, and not to explain his actions with your own stereotypes.

Which is dangerous

Up to a certain point, the projection is to our advantage. It helps to perceive the world more quickly and respond to it. But the absence of regular “checks”, about what we talked earlier, leads to a complete break with reality. A person begins to live in a fantasy world and often sincerely wonders why so many problems fall on him. And this is just the result of an incorrect assessment of the situation. Let’s give an example. A boy who grew up in a family with a despotic mother, was accustomed to receiving her love only in the case of his obedience. After becoming a man, he projects this model on a relationship with a woman. He tries to “be obedient,” transferring the initiatives to his partner with the sole purpose of receiving her love. But as a result, he gets the offensive nickname “rag” and the break-up of the relations.

Another danger is that when a person begins to live according to the stereotypes invented by himself, once again “making sure that he is right” about something. Thus, a woman who considers all men to be strolling necessarily gets a betrayal, and a person who is afraid of robbery will surely become the victim of an attack. For such people, their own installations, projected into the outside world, are more important because they give a sense of security and confidence. They unknowingly begin to behave in such a way as to once again reinforce their illusory conclusions.

How to determine

To determine how much a projection harms a person, one needs to know the limit of the norms (creativity, fantasy, self-expression) and pathology (detachment from reality, violation of interaction with people). Here are some signs that distinguish the pathological projection:

● Systematic. The reaction always occurs and is characterized by stereotypical behavior, independent of external conditions..

● Appearance regardless of the behavior of others.

● Tendency to generalization.

● Permanent use of the pronoun you, instead of me.

The following phrases are characteristic of the pathological projection: “they never understand me,” “you are not listen to me,” “you must be tired”.

How to get rid

When the projection has completely captured the personality, it is possible to get rid of it only with the help of a psychotherapist. The first method used in gestalt therapy, works in a group. At the same time, the pathological attitudes of a person are dispelled by the specific behavior of other participants. In the group it is very clear. The technique of role-playing games also helps, when the dramatic situation is played out with the change of roles between the patient and the doctor.

During the individual sessions, the psychotherapist, step by step, debunks the installation of the projector, constantly returning it to the situation here and now. So gradually a person gets used to the real world, which does not seem so hostile and dangerous.

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