Disclaimer: This article is written to educate you on a method those whom you critique may employ to silence you. This is not an advocacy of a method to use in silencing your critics.
Psychological projection is a term used to describe a person’s tendency of attributing their own (often negative) traits to others.
An example can include individuals who assume others to be operating with the same envious feelings they operate with themselves. Such individuals assume those around them to be envious of their successes simply because they, themselves, are easily triggered by the successes of those around them.
As such, individuals who project in such a manner can either do so unknowingly, or tend to seek the affirmation / reassurance of their own feelings existing in others.
The possibility of our critics projecting their own unattractive traits and insecurities onto us with their critiques is an attractive one. That line of thinking rids us of needing to seriously mull over criticisms of our actions and work. We can dodge responsibility for our actions if we can successfully counter the critique coming our way by labeling it a psychological projection.
It’s safe to assume that criticisms coming your way are not automatic projections of the inner workings of your detractors’ minds. You will miss opportunities to improve and do right if you believe every critic to be battling their own subconscious.
When you’re the critic however, you can find yourself being silenced with claims that you’re projecting. Your valid criticisms of others can be weaponized to discredit you.
This article shines a light on why claiming that our critics are projecting is an effective way of silencing them.
Being Tasked to Defend the Attack You Conjured
Being the one to voice a critique is a vulnerable position to assume. The vulnerability stems from ensuring your critique is not only valid, but resonates with any third parties in their analysis of the context at hand. Voicing a critique not only with which your target disagrees, but which the audience doesn’t back either, is understandably an unfavorable situation.
What makes such a situation worse, is if the person you’re critiquing successfully makes the audience believe that your criticism stemmed from a projection of your own issues. At that point, not only would your attack on another individual be rejected, but it’ll be turned right back at you to defend.
A “projection” label will put you on the spot to disprove being what you accused others of being.
For example, your accusation that someone’s allowing their political biases to influence their reporting of the news can be turned against you by labeling you to be projecting. That projection label would hint at you watching the news with a political bias of your own and assuming everyone else as having one.
Before you know it, you’ll find yourself stuck in needing to defend yourself from the very criticism you thought was a good idea to voice about someone else. Such a criticism is often harder to defend than any other because it is layered in you being its author. All the thought processes you mulled over prior to criticizing someone else will now work against you.
In continuing with the example above, you’d now need to consider what you thought made the news reporter to be biased and apply those parameters to yourself. Could their alleged biases have been exacerbated by your own biases which lean toward the opposite political spectrum? Were they presenting in a biased manner, or were you watching from an assumptive perspective?
A label of you psychologically projecting with the criticisms you voice is a scarily effective method to force you into a defensive position. Since the criticism you voiced was birthed from your own cognition, you’d already start off on the wrong foot. You’d need to assure others that your critique wasn’t related to the subconscious thoughts which drive your cognitive processes.
An Effective Critique Becomes Evidence Against the Critic, When the Critic Is Projecting
A critic’s negative perception of others is difficult to cement in factual truth. A criticism is the subjective interpretation of an objective event, action, fact, or piece of dialogue. Even though criticisms are influenced by the outside world, they are born not in the world outside the critic’s mind, but inside of it. A well known, and truthful fact in this world can both be celebrated and criticized at the same time.
There are people who critique philanthropists to be acting selfishly, and praise greedy businessmen to be acting selflessly. That subjective interpretation of the events around an individual is the aspect of their personality which is highlighted when they are labeled to be projecting.
As a person is labeled to be psychologically projecting their subconscious thoughts onto those they critique, their criticism itself will be used as evidence in support of that label. Their description of those whom they’re so against will be easy to parallel to their own behavioral tendencies. Especially if an individual embellishes while they critique, their words will become evidence for the possibility of them assuming that those around them think like they do.
It takes a person who has the knowledge necessary to successfully rob a bank to help prevent bank robberies with their knowledge. If you elect to criticize what you believe to be an injustice, your knowledge would need to encompass information about how to act that injustice out first. That knowledge / understanding of what you criticize is what a label of psychological projection attacks.
A negative interpretation of a seemingly neutral happening says more about the individual making the critique than the things they are critiquing. Their own critique becomes evidence into how they perceive the world, and to things they may do if nobody else is watching. Should that perception be highlighted by labeling them to be projecting their own issues onto others, it is a difficult hole for them to dig themselves out of.