An aspect of heated religious discussions: Psychological Projection


In some heated discussions with ntCatholics (non-Traditional Catholics), my wife and I noticed that our interlocutors would accuse us of a particular action or fault. A fault that, upon later reflection, we relaised they were themselves guilty.

This behaviour has a name: Psychological Projection.

Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia article:
Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.[1] For example, a person who is habitually intolerant may constantly accuse other people of being intolerant. It incorporates blame shifting.
As noted, in my experience, in the heat of the moment, we don't usually realise that a person is 'projecting' a behaviour on us.  Everytime that I've realised that this was happening it was after the discussion ... or after a series of discussions.

This is similar to a behaviour that I've noted in people diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Nothing is their fault, everyone else is to blame. 

So now that you know that 'projection' is a thing, how do you deal with it?

An excellent question. 

Here's my thoughts:
  1. Stay calm during arguments and try to stay 'above' the drama.
    1.  In some cases there will be anger, lashing out .  Look at the bigger picture.  This should be easier if you've had a number of discussions with the person.  
  2. Point out the facts to the individual.
    1. This may or may not work.  If the person has a strong belief (see cognitive dissonance) they are going to go to great lengths to protect their perception of reality.
  3. Watch for patterns in the discussion.
    1.  This is where it is helpful to have a series of discussions.  In cases where we successfully realized that 'projection' was at play, the discussions were over a period of weeks or even months. 
  4. Watch for wild accusations violent 'thrown' at you like verbal darts. 
    1. The goal seems to be to put you off balance.  Take a breath and ask the following question: I don't understand, what prompted that question / accusation.
    2. You'll probably need to probe a number of times to get to the real reasons (5 why's might help and here's another article Root Cause Analysis 5 Whys).  Although, to avoid a defensive reaction, I suggest rephrasing the question without the word "WHY".

Just some thoughts!



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