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 that at some point 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 gets 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 controlling and narcissistic relationships.
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, a low sense of self-esteem or self-worth. We all project at times. But, 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 the confusion, guilt and shame.
‘You’re so lazy.’
‘I’ve never met anyone so judgmental.’
‘You’re so self-centered 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]
In Integrative Psychosynthesis, we call those repressed, denied and often projected parts the ‘Shadow’; the parts which are cast off but still stubbornly following 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 to 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?’ In 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?
- 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:
- 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. By seeing your partner as who they are and not as someone else, this gives space for not taking responsibility for other people’s wounds. Instead…
- 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 move 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.
- You can be a catalyst for change in your relationship as opposed to demanding change. Just like when you let the air out of a balloon the shape changes, as you shift your perspective and begin to communicate 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, feeling less anxious, or more anger and sadness 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 need to 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 inwards, 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 your first counselling appointment.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood 2019
Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and single women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create great relationship.
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