Who really bugs you? Like get-under-your-skin and keep-you-up-at-night bugs you? There’s a reason, perhaps, and it’s not pretty.
In this insightful article, “I Am the Reason My Husband Infuriates Me”, Christine Carter tackles an annoying problem–projection:
We project, psychologically speaking, when we unconsciously and unknowingly attribute our judgments about ourselves to other people.
See, the thing that drives me most crazy about myself is that I often make big elaborate behavioral plans and then I don’t follow through on them. For example, I’ve recently stopped meditating (again) after making a plan to meditate more over the summer. The perfectionist in me has been a mess of guilt and anxiety over this, something I didn’t consciously realize until I found myself dressing Mark down for not following through on our picky eater protocol.
We humans have blind spots. It is often hard for us to see our own failings, but it can be very easy for us to see what’s wrong with other people. The people around us, particularly our spouses, are like mirrors. We see clearly what we don’t like, but we get it backwards.
It’s not them, it’s us.
Martha Beck cleverly calls this charming human propensity “You spot it, you got it.”
But there is good news. If we stop and realize we are projecting, we can take our own advice–you know, the advice you spontaneously give that annoying person:
That doesn’t mean that we are always projecting when we see other people’s flaws, or when we see the ways that others can learn and improve. But when we feel particularly emotional about a situation? When we feel hooked and irrational or harshly judgmental about someone else’s shortcomings, rather than empathetic or compassionate? We are probably projecting.
Projection is an undeniable human tendency, and I think it is pretty wonderful, actually, because it allows us to see ourselves more clearly, to better understand what is causing us anxiety and stress.
The greatest thing about projection, to me, is that it comes with a set of instructions for our own growth and happiness. We’ll usually do well to do whatever it is we wish otherpeople would do (or stop doing).
So if you catch yourself unusually wound up and emotional about something, pause, and take a good look in the mirror. Is it possible that the infuriating behavior is something you do, too?