Protection with Projection!


Human behaviour can be interesting and complex. Most people are familiar with the term ‘defence mechanism’ as it has become part of our common language. Did you realise that the origins are from psychoanalysis, a personality theory developed by Sigmund Freud as a way of understanding the conflicts within ourselves?

Take the idea of Projection for example.

Projection is a psychological defence mechanism. It is employed subconsciously as a way to cope with troubling feelings like anxiety or guilt. A person may attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person, as the alternative is to admit to or deal with those feelings within themselves. For example, you might behave selfishly and that creates guilt and anxiety. In order to feel better, you deny that you are the selfish one and blame someone else.

You can see how this can create problems, especially in our relationships with others.

Defence mechanisms are a normal part of human functioning and often don’t create too many long term problems. However, some people find that they are damaging relationships, at work or in their personal lives, because they are not coping with underlying anxiety in a more positive way.

Talking with a skilled psychological practitioner can help you become more aware of patterns of behaviour that are not serving you well. Perhaps you recognise that there are defence mechanisms at play in your own behaviour but don’t know how to change your response. Working with a professional will help you identify and shift unhelpful responses to ones that are more beneficial, and relieve the associated stress and anxiety.

Mr Angry and Mr Calm – a lesson in Emotional Intelligence


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Have you ever been fascinated observing arguments between other people? If you’re anything like me then the answer to this question is a resounding YES. Perhaps I’m just a bit nosey but I’ve always been interested in the ways people interact and what it tells me about the social skills of the people involved.

I was listening and watching just such a disagreement the other day between 2 guys I shall call Mr Angry and Mr Calm. They got me thinking again about Emotional Intelligence and how the ability to manage people and relationships is so important in both our careers and our personal lives. To be successful in our interactions with other people we need to be continuously learning how to be more flexible, adaptable and accepting. Even in the face of someone else’s criticism, misguided opinion or downright nastiness, it is healthiest to find a measured response, even when emotions may be running high.

In the disagreement I watched, Mr Angry was being rude and arrogant and belittling everything Mr Calm said. Mr Calm, despite the provocation, decided not to respond with similar anger but to remain calm and walk away. This diffused the situation and left Mr Angry dumbfounded. I admired Mr Calm – it is not always easy to stay in control when confronted with an emotional, unreasoned outburst. He had clearly practiced this way of behaving and it stopped any escalation of the situation. How different it would have been if Mr Angry had met Mr Angry instead. Perhaps like me you’ve witnessed Road Rage, Shop Rage or Childlike Tantrums – and they never end well! So what can we learn from this about Emotional Intelligence?

Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of 5 elements that define emotional intelligence:

Self-Awareness – Emotionally intelligent people understand their emotions, and because of this, they aren’t ruled by their feelings. People who are self aware confidently trust their intuition. They are also willing to analyse their own strengths and weaknesses so they can learn to improve.

Self-Regulation – Emotionally intelligent people are able to control their emotions and impulses, and typically don’t make rash decisions. They think before they act. People who self-regulate are thoughtful, comfortable with change, have integrity, and are assertive.

Motivation – Emotionally intelligent people are usually motivated. They recognize the value of deferring immediate results for long-term success. They are highly productive, welcome a challenge, and tend to be very effective in whatever they do.

Empathy – Emotionally intelligent people can identify with, and understand, the wants, needs, and viewpoints of others. They recognize how others may be feeling, even when this may not be obvious. They are excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and quick judgements, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.

Social Skills – Emotionally intelligent people are easy to talk to and are usually very likeable. They are typically team players who are happy to help others develop and shine rather than focus on their own success. They are excellent communicators who manage disputes well and find it easy to build and maintain healthy relationships.

So how do you measure up? Who is more familiar – Mr/Mrs Angry or Mr/Mrs Calm? Observe how you react to other people. Do you make quick judgements before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype people? Do you seek attention for what you’ve achieved? Do you know your own weaknesses? Are you willing to work on them? What are you like in stressful situations – do you get easily upset and emotional? Do you blame others before looking at yourself?

So what can we learn from Mr Calm – Mr Emotionally Intelligent?

The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued – especially in the workplace. Think about how developing this skill could benefit your personal life too. Wouldn’t you like to be able to keep your emotions under control even when things go wrong? Next time you are in a stressful situation observe how you think and behave. Practice taking a step away from your initial emotional reaction and consider alternatives.
When we take an honest look at ourselves and evaluate our habitual ways of reacting and responding we often find there is a better way.

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