Understanding the Defense Mechanism of Projection

Due to what we may call ‘observational bias’ we tend to attribute intention and motive to others that we ourselves have internally and project our internal response onto the other party, without knowing exactly what the cause of their action may be from their standpoint. Some of this is due to the mind ‘filling in’ information that is missing based on the facts it is able to perceive, something that occurs all the time and leads to both the ability to judge situations with little data, and the mistakes that can occur as a result of a ‘too prompt’ extrapolation. In other cases, we have an ‘interpretation bias’ which occurs when we fit in the facts we observe to our past remembered experiences and mindset. The use of past experience to judge a present or future event is a tremendous power, but has similar downsides to the ‘observational bias’. Both of these occur for everyone without any implication of bad will; however, there are also projections that can act as a means of active defense for a party who has consciousness of guilt, when they try to deflect away their own actions by impugning the integrity, motives or actions of others with the same standard that they have themselves employed in their ‘guilty’ action’. For instance, someone may accuse another party of a theft to cover up the fact that they are themselves stealing. They project their own actions onto others in order to ‘muddy the waters’ or make it seem like ‘everyone is doing it’.

Dr. Dalal notes: “Another example of a defense mechanism is that of projection, by which we tend to attribute a feeling or motive to another person who, in fact, does not have that feeling or motive. Such a phenomenon is due to the fact that the cognitive functions of perception and judgment are, in most human beings, strongly influenced by the feelings and impulses of the vital. As the Mother observes:”

“The sense organs are under the influence of the psychological state of the individual because something comes in between the eye’s perception and the brain’s reception. It is very subtle; the brain receives the eye’s perceptions through the nerves; there is no reasoning, it is so to say instantaneous, but there is a short passage between the eye’s perception and the cell which is to respond and evaluate it in the brain. And it is this evaluation of the brain which is under the influence of feelings. It is the small vibration between what the eye sees and what the brain estimates which often falsifies the response. And it is not a question of good faith, for even the most sincere persons do not know what is happening, even very calm people, without any violent emotion, who do not even feel an emotion, are influenced in this way without being aware of the intervention of this little falsifying vibration.”

“It is only when you have conquered all attraction and all repulsion that you can have a correct judgment. As long as there are things that attract you and things that repel you, it is not possible for you to have an absolutely sure functioning of the senses.”

Dr. Dalal continues: “What is called a projection in psychopathology is simply an exaggeration of the everyday distortion of our perceptions and judgments by the vital mind alluded to in the above-quoted passage.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Introduction, Disturbances Associated with the Mind, pp. xiv-xix

4 thoughts on “Understanding the Defense Mechanism of Projection

  1. All of it interesting…this: “It is only when you have conquered all attraction and all repulsion that you can have a correct judgment. As long as there are things that attract you and things that repel you, it is not possible for you to have an absolutely sure functioning of the senses.”

    This idea is a familiar component of eastern thought….to go beyond attraction and repulsion. What differs from what some teach is the idea of “correct judgment”… and reference to “functioning senses”. Are these not terms relating to the (ego) mind, whereas going beyond judgement is to have attained a state of consciousness unrelated to conventional sensory apparatus? The ‘no mind’…is-ness? Unity. Spontaneous response to frequencies without thought. Following.

    • in the context of disturbances of mind, the issue of the vital force of attraction/repulsion implies that the mind is subject to bias through this vital interaction. I do not believe the intent here is to go beyond the issue of addressing disturbances of the mind, so not sure that the idea of “spontaneous response to frequencies without thought” would be the intended result. Thought could occur, if somehow the person overcame the vital bias implied by attraction/repulsion, and be “clear” and “correct” if the bias is removed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.