Black male twins - 3 Reasons Why It’s Important to Own Your Projection - Sandra Harewood

3 Reasons Why It’s Important to Own Your Projection


When you struggle with your partner, you’re struggling with yourself. Every fault you see in them represents a denied weakness in yourself. – Deepak Chopra

I’m not sure that I agree with the use of the word weakness, but I understand where Deepak Chopra is coming from.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t wanted something about their partner to be different.

Don’t Squeeze the Toothpaste!

Whether it’s wanting them to be more emotionally responsive, attentive, reliable or financially responsible, or maybe your partner simply doesn’t squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, it seems that we can spend years trying to get our significant other to be different. We want them to be more of this or less of that. We find faults and want them to change to fit in with our needs.

I imagine there are things about your partner that really get under your skin. And sometimes…that’s perfectly reasonable.

At times, things need to change, for example, if there is an unexplored or unresolved addiction or if the relationship is unsafe, as in the case of domestic abuse. The basic need to feel safe is paramount.

However, does it feel at times that your partner is caught up in what and how you are doing things? Are you blamed for things that have nothing to do with you at all? Are your limitations pointed out to you endlessly?

Projection plays a crucial role in all relationships. It’s part of the human condition. When not recognised, it has a particular resonance. Combined with other defensive behaviours, such as deflection and intellectualisation, it contributes towards unhealthy power dynamics.

Looking in The Mirror

Projection is what you do with the parts of your personality that you find difficult or are struggling with. It’s a brilliant form of self-protection.

Projection is an entirely normal unconscious reaction to childhood experiences when, at times, that child felt vulnerable and had low self-esteem or self-worth. We all project at times. However, what was once a useful strategy in childhood to deal with emotional wounding and ensure emotional survival is not so helpful in adult relationships.

Here’s how it works – troublesome parts of the personality are ‘dumped’ elsewhere so that whoever is projecting doesn’t have to think or do anything to engage with feelings. Any discomfort about being angry, dishonest, jealous or violent is separated so that shame, repulsion or self-hate is not experienced. It’s no longer about them; it’s about you. Now, it’s your problem. You’re left with confusion, guilt and shame.

‘You’re so lazy.’

‘I’ve never met anyone so judgmental.’

‘You’re so self-centred and selfish.’

‘I hate the way you’re always gossiping.’

‘You’re so controlling.

‘I wish you were more confident and stood up for yourself.’

‘You’re a liar and a cheat!’

You’re so needy.’

Nobody likes you.’

‘But you… [add what resonates with you here]

Shadow Projection

In Integrative Psychosynthesis, we call those repressed, denied and often projected parts the ‘Shadow’; the parts which are cast off but still stubbornly follow you around, casting shade onto the light in your life.

It may well be that there are aspects of you that are those things. We all have a Shadow side.

The Shadow is not always about negative qualities; there can be equally positive ones. So, you might have a critical, judgmental, controlling or intolerant part of the Shadow. And you may also have lost connection with beauty, artistic, compassionate and generous qualities, seeing them only in others.

So, in a controlling or narcissistic relationship, you must ask yourself honestly, with kindness and compassion, ‘Whose stuff is this? Is it mine, or is it theirs?’ At that moment, who is projecting? And if it’s someone else’s baggage, someone else’s shame, you need to hand it back.

Handing Back the Projection

So, how do you know if your partner is projecting?

Ask yourself:

  • Are they the only one who notices this particular quality about you?
  • Have other people described your partner in the same way that your partner is defining you?
  • What’s the energy behind what they are saying to you?
  • How is the comment made? Are they insulting, abusive or defensive?
  • When is the comment made? Perhaps it comes after an argument; you’ve said no or held them to account. Are you being asked to do something you don’t want to do?

If you have answered yes to any of these, there’s a good chance that your partner is projecting.

You can also ask yourself, does what they are saying resonate with you?

Taking back and owning projections is an integral part of couples counselling and can lead to lasting healing in the relationship. Controlling and unhealthy narcissistic people struggle to do this because it means being vulnerable.

Understanding Your Projections

Take back and own your projections.

Here are the 3 main benefits:

  1. Owning your projections allows you to see your partner as who they authentically are. When you peel off the mask which you have put on them, you have a more accurate image. Seeing your partner as who they are and not as someone else gives space for not taking responsibility for other people’s wounds. Instead…
  2. It allows you to heal your childhood wounds. By noticing what sits beneath what you want from your partner, you can begin to reconnect with your own story, developing a greater understanding of who you are and moving towards self-acceptance. This allows you to reclaim your power and strengths. As you heal your inner child, you know you are an adult who, from your core, can look after and keep yourself safe.
  3. You can be a catalyst for change in your relationship instead of demanding change. Just like when you let the air out of a balloon, the shape changes; as you shift your perspective and begin communicating more directly and authentically, something in the relationship can also change. That change might be you setting clearer boundaries, letting others be responsible for their actions, or feeling less anxious or more angry and sad as you grieve things you might have lost because of the change. Change might mean letting go.

What Irritates You?

Perhaps I prefer the following quote by Carl Jung. He said:

Everything that irritates you about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.

Your partner can be an opportunity for your healing and growth.

To do this, you must be willing to allow the relationship to be your teacher. What your partner tells you irritates them about you might just be letting you know more about their vulnerabilities. What irritates you about them tells you what you might need to heal for yourself.

The more you challenge your projections by turning your attention inward, the less power they will hold and the less of yourself you will give away.

It’s a commitment to you and your growth.

Over To You

When do you notice projection in your relationship? If you want to find out how to reject the projection in your relationship, get in touch and book a Discovery Call.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood 2023

About Sandra

Sandra has worked for the last 14 years as an experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor and relationship coach working with women and couples in crisis and stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Having had over 1OK client sessions, she clearly believes relationships are precious gifts that provide both the opportunity and the potential for growth. She knows healing does exist for couples and individuals emerging from crisis. As well as being deeply knowledgeable and passionate about her work with relationships, Sandra’s skill is balancing honesty and directness with care and compassion.