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DEF: PROJECTING (a CD=cognitive distortion) – Imagining one or more bad / painful / disastrous things will always & inevitably happen in the future, in general or re. a specific person or situation (victim mentality / ‘learned helplessness’ / scapegoat).
NOTE: This is not the same as correctly knowing who someone is & what to expect of them. EXP: “My whole life my mom has said mean or insensitive to me or about me. She’s never changed, so I know any time I talk to her in the future it will be the same.”
Not the same as Projection – a defense mechanism (via Freud), in which a person:
a. Unconsciously rejects one or more unacceptable qualities they have – or believe they have – AND attributes that same quality to another person, animal or situation. Often the other does not have that quality.
b. Attributes actual negative characteristics of their dysfunctional family members on to others, who may not have those characteristics.
EXP: My father was a mean abusive so-&-so, therefore all men are bad
“Psychological Projection” // “Projecting Self-doubts on Others”
Positive OR Negative scenarios
In business it’s called forecasting, looking at all possible outcomes based on previous performance, a “what if” exercise that is done at a higher level of abstraction, with a ‘what is hoped for’ & “what could be” perspective. CHART
However, ACoAs almost never project that things will work out, that we’ll be happy, that we’ll get what we asked for, that our relationships will be beneficial, that we’ll get the job we want…. No-o-o-o! We assume the worst – only projecting negative outcomes – pain, disappointment, suffering, disaster.
a. our childhood was filled with endless suffering & deprivation
b. we have unconsciously, but consistently been reproducing that original chaos & abandonment in our adult life. (Repetition Compulsion). Unfortunately, it’s the WIC’s way of staying loyal to the family system, even tho’ it was harmful to our parents & continues to harm us.
WHAT is the underlying belief / assumption?
• That we have no choice but to be trapped in bad situations (Toxic Rule: “If you don’t like it you have to stay”)
• Therefore we have to figure out all the bad things that will for sure happen – could be to us, or to a loved one, a family member, a beloved pet, the new job, house, neighborhood….
• the more we prepare for the inevitable, the more we can protect ourselves
Secondary assumption – based on S-H, also a defense mechanism:
➼ Since everything bad that has happened & is happening to us (or our loved ones) is our fault, we have to figure out how to correct the problem in order to stop the pain
• If we fail, it just proves how worthless & stupid we are, & therefore unworthy of anything good
We are in a Double Bind when: (see post on ACoA Double Messages)
A. we think that if we’re prepared for the worst, it won’t be so painful, we’ll know how to fix things, be able to manage, won’t be so effected….
At the same time:
B. we aren’t allowed to make things better (Toxic Rule) AND therefore can’t even imagine viable options, much less implement them, can’t ask for appropriate & useful help, much less to leave an unsuitable person or bad environment
Always keep in mind:
• it’s the WIC who is doing the scary projecting, based on actual childhood (& many adult) experiences, and who still believes the PP voice (negative introject), & its cruel family Rules: “Life is only hardship, You can never be happy, You have to keep struggling, You can never ‘get there’, You have no choices, Don’t ever risk...”
• the difference between Feeling (emotion) & THINKING. Negative projections are always CDs (cognitive distortions), which are the beliefs / thoughts (Ts) of T.E.A. Scary projections DO fill us with painful emotions (Es), such as anxiety, hopelessness & despair, but are generated by the negative thoughts. See post: “Feelings aren’t facts”
NOTE: Projecting is NOT the same as Planning Ahead. Planning ahead starts with the assumption that things are possible, & that we have options. It can be: evaluating a current or potential relationship, a new job or living space, picking a pet, a diet, a doctor, a vacation…..
• It includes having or getting enough information so we can do a ‘cost-benefit’ analysis (pros & cons), and making an inventory of our assets or liabilities – in order to fill in what’s missing (if possible).
• It does NOT include unrealistic expectations, denial about what is not possible, nor narcissistic entitlement (to what’s not rightfully ours.)
Whether you’re having trouble with a person or situation OR going to try something new / different, OR making a change:
• KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! – in general, as well as specific to the issue (posts: My Rights // Healthy Rules // Recovery Thoughts // What Recovery IS)
• Develop the ‘UNIT’ to be in charge of the WIC, correcting the CDs as they surface. Set a healthy boundary with the Bad Voice: “Stop scaring my kid!” (posts: What just happened? // Noticing painful events”)
• Use Positive affirmations. Come up with your own – they work best. They need to be directly opposite the specific beliefs your WIC is holding, or a replacement (“No one can ever love me” becomes “—– & —– & —– & me & HP already love you”)
• Get help (if you need it) TO:
— identify what you really want & need in a situation
— figure out the most useful opposite beliefs
— learn what legitimate options there may be
— list realistic pros & cons
(See charts in Why are you stuck?, and What to Do when confused)
• For anyone with a spiritual bent, read healing literature, meditate & pray for guidance – for ‘right thinking’ & to heal the underlying terror all ACoAs carry from childhood.
NEXT: 4 Parenting styles