Projection in Therapy


Hi folks,
I hope everyone is keeping safe and healthy in these strange times.

I would like someone to help me a wall I am facing in therapy. First without divulging much I will say I did not grow up in western culture just to give context of childhood, background, approaches to live. I know this is vague but please just play along.

Now, I find often in my personal life and in therapy, I am quite conscious not to project. This does not mean I do not project, it means I am *often* conscious of it especially when the feeling is negative. I am not too concerned when the feeling is positive even though in the past, I used to over project all goodness to people and were depleted; and in order to actually grow and heal, I had a breakthrough to become conscious of this positive vipe giving all the time at my own expense so I, somewhat, I kept some good feelings to myself and can see when I am projecting good, hope, love, concern etc to others. But this is not the issue today.

The issue today is what is the story about a person who is very conscious not to project negative? The trick is I would take the feeling back to me (at my own expense) and then process it as to see it is truly my feeling or it was a projected feeling. Then, if I feel truly it was mine, I will be more compassionate to myself and if I feel this was something the other person threw at me ( put a seed in me sort of), then I will acknowledge and depending may or may not follow up with the person. Most of the time, I do not follow up if it does not come back again cause the time has lapsed and I move on.

Hope this makes sense as I am struggling with this now.

Now, I know in therapy is the place to let go and be vulnerable and even allow regression, but I am facing a phase where my aversion to project to the therapist is too conscious for me to pass through. So I said to her, I have a fear of projection to you. I am too conscious of this. (as I write this I am noticing the flip side of I should then express the feeling I am holding on my own but that did not happen). I just expressed that I had aversion to project in therapy ...I am very sure I did in the past when I am unconscious. Or maybe my aversion is the real issue not the actual projecting...

It seems to me, and I hope someone can relate to this and give me their own story so I could understand further. That I am owning my own feelings as an infant, in a very regressive state (I have a lot of fear and terror), and I am projecting (the attributes of my mother - hostility and threat) to the therapist but I am also attempting not to project my mother's interjections out to the therapist. So I am in essence, self suffocating myself to hold all. Why cant I allow to project my mother to the therapist? I feel and often I voice that the therapist is not my mother and does not deserve to carry that burden so I am protecting the therapist but yet aware of it...again suffocating here! Even I acknowledge protecting the therapist may be euphemism for protecting my mother or my infant self but again I am conscious of this so I can see it as pure transference...and do not walk around the world as having a chip of protecting others unnecessary!

My feeling is we are told projection is very old mechanism and primitive in child development but we do not know exactly how it develops or works in the infant or at least precisely. My strong fears in therapy sessions, and conscious processing is telling me that even as infant, I probably resisted more projections from my mother otherwise, I would have been more hurt than I am now (if possible)...maybe even this level of breaking down projection in my inner mind is the real trauma that I carry.

My therapist said it is natural to project and I agree of course (trust me I am married there is a lot of projection going on in real life both good and bad) but in the hour in therapy, as I regress, my intensity to avert projection intensifies. My feeling that perhaps I feel the therapist does not agree is I do not project when I am unsafe or in regression and this is probably what I experienced as a child. I stopped projecting to my mother and closing off her projection to me (I am just realizing this and not sure if it is a thing). The theory of projection is though the infant projects and this is a very primitive defense! I am experiencing a constipation level of emotions and the inability to project so I am confused.

My question after this stream of consciousness post is: Does anyone ever experience anything similar or during a deep regression experience they did not project as a child/infant or remembered aversion to projection from body memory?

Ultimately this feels to me, due to my fault projection, perhaps I did not love my mother and my mother stopped loving me (as I closed the door). This feeling has come and went in my life over the years but I have no any other way of explaining or understanding. It feels to me if I *broke* the negative projection mechanism in order to survive, then I inadvertently broke the positive projection mechanism as well. I need to explain my thoughts to my therapist to make more sense. I feel I am traumatized in this developmental phase very deeply but do not have intellectual understanding of the process...just going by feeling and emotional processing here.

Sorry long and dreadful post.

A question that lingers in my mind is what did I do to overcompensate my aversion to projection over the years? I do not know that yet.

Any and all feedback are welcome.


Are you sure you aren't over thinking it @grit?
Can you try just breathing into your heart and feeling what's there?

You are going to figure this out. It's probably coming from fear and self judgement, but in your heart of hearts YOU KNOW what this is about.

I'm not sure projection should be desirable, at all, isn't it better to want to know exactly what's there without
involving other's, it might make your relationship with your therapist messier ?

Intuition is good. And we all have that ability and the ability to develop that faculty. It involves taking in ALL the information pertaining to whatever it is and using our hearts knowing to make sense of it.

You can do this. You can figure it out. And you don't need to tie yourself in any knots to heal.

I had a therapist ask me to project, too, and I couldn't do it. I stopped seeing that therapist. I think it felt wrong because it wasn't a helpful strategy for me. My feeling is it makes things messier and more complicated than they need to be.

Things need to flow in an easy, comfortable way. Projecting just makes things more confusing, in my opinion. But you have to trust yourself, on this one, and every one.

EDIT: ok, not necessarily comfortable, but still, flow. Not be us tying ourselves in knots, is what I mean.


Thank you for sharing your experience. I am just as curious of the process of healing intellectually just I am healing the heart. Vi really appreciated your input. I also thinking asking consciously to project of anyone is problematic. But I am more forgiving of the process.
Edit.. Thanks for the reminder of the power of our intuitions.
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My mother was very emotionally distant to her family (it was her way of avoiding intimidation by my father), and I was physically abused by my father when I was very young. For me to reach out to either of them was terrifying, and then this became the pattern of my life. I craved touch and closeness, but could not imagine a world where that could happen.

I had a non-trauma therapist for a while that I deeply projected onto as a mother. It was messy, but only because it took me down the path I really needed to go on--being able to trust someone. But I don't think I would be receptive to a therapist asking me to project; I think it's something normal that sometimes happens. I can see that it can be a distraction, and I can also see that it can be deeply healing. My trauma therapist that I go to now says the most important thing is to be open and not ashamed of my feelings, including projection.


Thanks @Wendell_R

I think everything we do (all the good and the bad) are just as natural as anything else out there from gorgeous ocean waves to scary tsunami. I am in therapy to heal and learn but also I want to become therapist myself so I need to know how the mechanics of therapy work. If I cannot understand it by utilizing while I am also cognitively learning the craft, I will not practice therapy on others and this is why I often mentioned culture cause I did not grow up in culture that has western style therapy. So sometimes when I post here I am definitely struggling emotionally with something that I am also trying to learn it is not an easy process.

I think projection is very interesting to me. I can clearly and vividly see in my personal relationship with my husband the good and the bad side of it...and I am sometimes fascinated and other times frightened of its power. It is a major (probably underestimate here) way of communication positively and negatively.

I think I got spooked feeling that as an infant (just my sensation and feelings), I may have shut down so far and stopped projection both ways with my mother and hence, developed dissociation to overcompensate. This is my personal feeling and experience during deep regression in therapy. i think the therapist to ask me to project to her was a mistaken "help and caretaking" impulse on her part cause no one can truly take my trauma and carry for me...concern and general support yes but ultimately my story stays in my flesh until I flush it out myself one way or another...but maybe she was trying to correct course of having me project than shutdown...but even during this I was conscious enough (some parts) to ask her "play along" rather than drive the experience...I am so proud of myself on this...little smiles...because I could see my intense fear sensation and slipping...but I felt also no fear externally...I guess that would be I felt safe outside but frightened inside.

One thing you reminded me though is I do (and did even more so in the past) always having an older female friend. Perhaps that was one way of feeding into my mother like figure gratification but honestly these friendships were just amazing and some still are but also now that I am thinking about this...I had similar with older men too...I love to learn so I am always attracted to elders to learn from them...I just love their stories from then to now...and they also seem to love me so I feel the relationships were reciprocal but perhaps the initiating part were based on the lack of motherly/or strong fatherly figure in my past. But is not that such a life though!

Thank you and @mumstheword for giving me a feedback. I know it is hard to intellectualize while healing but I am doing this for my own gain as well.