Is Your Partner Using Projection in Your Conflict Style?

Baggage. We all have it from previous relationships. Some of us bring personal sized, others carry-on. The rest of us, we tend to check more baggage than a family of six traveling international. So, when we present ourselves into new relationships, it’s inevitable that our past has a piece of it that will come along for the journey. 

It was the middle of the night. A conversation that started referencing a scene in a film took a plot twist and turned into a 90-minute dialogue that escalated fast, and with fire. 

“I’m not your ex, so stop projecting him onto me.” 

Image by @livefreemediallc

My response, “It’s not projection; I’m applying the lessons I’ve learned from my past and what I’ll tolerate in the present for communicating.”

Becoming aware of projection and understanding what it means exactly in the moment it’s happening can be difficult to understand, let alone swallow. However, used to its demise, projection can be toxic and incredibly harmful in a relationship, as someone else is being blamed for a situation that is based on a previous incident or trauma, or that the person doing the projecting is actually experiencing — not the incident, nor person, in the present moment. 

On the other hand, learning lessons and relationships are the benefit of living through, and learning from in order to grow into healthier ones moving forward. Applying lessons learned — such as what is projection, manipulation, someone merely in pain or just having a bad day — is incredibly useful to better communicate and problem solve as a team.

Therefore, how can you tell when someone is projecting, versus applying lessons?

Some tools I’ve learned a few years ago was first, I beefed up my psychology vocabulary and studied how it applied to my own life, relationships, and even career as an actor. 

Journaling is an incredible tool that I use time and time again to recall, not just the painful moments, but also to apply the lessons learned. See, in any conflict or situation that challenges us is an opportunity to grow. 

When I start to perceive projection coming up in a conversation, I can take a step back from the moment and ask for five minutes to let things cool between us; but, also to take a step back to attempt to understand from a third perspective what is really happening, and if I’m at fault, what I can do about it. 

Sometimes the best thing we can do about it is to create space from the conversation, situation, or relationship in its entirety. You can only grow amongst others who are willing to grow as well. And, if that individual is you, then take this opportunity to absorb some responsibility — it takes two to tango — and learn some greater lessons for another opportunity moving forward. 

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