Psychological projection

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According to the theories of Sigmund Freud, psychological projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one "projects" one's own thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings, and so on onto someone else (usually another person, but psychological projection onto animals and inanimate objects also occurs). The principle of projection is well established in psychology.

Peter Gay describes it as "the operation of expelling feelings or wishes the individual finds wholly unacceptable – too shameful, too obscene, too dangerous – by attributing them to another". (A Life for Our Time, page 281).

The concept is anticipated in the Gospels and in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
- Beyond Good and Evil
"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
- Matthew 7:3 King James Version of the Bible

Psychological projection is the subject of Robert Bly's book A Little Book on the Human Shadow. "Shadow" refers to the projected material.

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See also:


  • Peter Gay. A Life for Our Time (Papermac, London, 1989), see page 281
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