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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Projection as Psychobabble

Projection as used in psychology, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin, Boston and NYC 2000.
“a. The attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings or suppositions to others…. b. The attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings or desires to someone or something as a naïve or unconscious defense against anxiety or guilt.”

A leader generates a lot of criticism. Every action is scrutinized, especially if such action is contrary to the hearer’s belief or value system. A leader takes the criticism, evaluates it, makes changes if necessary, creates dialogue when possible, and ignores most of it. Criticism is grist for the mill, the very tools to harness to bring about change. Politicians get tons of criticism every day. Clergy get lots of it, too.

There is some California psychobabble that proclaims, “When I get criticized, the critic is projecting her attitude onto me. When I get criticized, the critic projects his own feelings of anxiety onto me. When I get criticized, the critic is projecting her own guilt feelings onto me.”

This is a not-so-clever way of avoiding responsibility for one’s self. “I don’t have to take their criticism seriously, as they are projecting onto me their own anxiety or guilt.”

It is also patronizing to people who dare complain or criticize. Their concerns are not considered important, as they are regarded as mere projections.

Such an attitude also is the blame game. It puts the blame on the person who dares have a criticism. The criticism has no value because it is seen as a projection.

When one says others are projecting on to them, I suppose that person is anxious and guilty. That person needs support.

Projection properly is used in a therapeutic session when the therapist carefully looks at a person’s thoughts and actions and they decide together if the patient is projecting. To talk about projection to people en masse is a misuse of the term and a way of patronizing people as well as avoiding responsibility for one’s own actions or inaction.

-The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey has been a priest of the Episcopal Church since 1956 and has been a licensed California Marriage and Family Therapist since 1971.

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