Perception is Projection in Relationships
‘Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world’
Perception is Projection is a common term used today to describe how we interact with others and project onto them, what we are refusing to acknowledge in ourselves.
With the recent focus on the emotional side of fertility treatment and the impact this causes on relationships, there is no better time to discuss this very important topic.
So, what does projection look like in practical terms and most importantly what are the preceding steps to help you identify if this is what you are doing currently. Ultimately, this a form of self-sabotage in your relationship.
Before you actually start projecting or blaming your partners, you begin by withholding and then withdrawing from them emotionally and physically.
- Project (Blame)
When you start withholding you may observe the following scenarios –
- You are angry about something your partner said
- You will not put up with that kind of behaviour
- You are unsure if you should be together
- You have been complaining about your partner to someone else
- You may want to go away on holiday on your own
- You may feel criticised and judged
- You are no longer attracted to your partner
As you start to withhold from your partner, you are hiding something important that needs to be addressed, a truth about you, that you are not willing to face. This creates a disconnect from your partner and you will find yourself putting up walls for protection, thereby creating more disharmony.
Withdrawal is the next step and although it does not have to be physically leaving, removing affection, attention and stonewalling are commonly seen behaviours. The term stonewalling means to refuse to communicate and be evasive.
Leaving a situation will only help in the short term, as you have not addressed the underlying problem, so the pattern will appear again, you will have the same response, create the same emotions, even use the same words … in a rinse, cycle and repeat pattern!
Many couples notice that their argument is the same one with only a slightly different trigger. If you notice this happening, it is a very solid indication that you are running an old program. And the reason you are struggling, is because that program is no longer serving you.
When we see this cycle along with the words, phrases and behaviour patterns, we call this being ‘in effect’.
When you are ‘in effect’ you will have excuses or reasons for everything, this is due to the fact that you believe everything is happening to you and furthermore, it is beyond your control to change it.
At the stage of withdrawal, you are essentially going into shut down mode and the survival instinct of ‘self and ego’ takes prominence. Ultimately you are creating distance in the relationship and this is counter-productive.
The final step is projection, when you have played out the previous steps of withholding and withdrawing, naturally you are going to be in a fairly unhappy place.
Our first instinct is to then blame our partners and those closest to us for our unhappiness. It is much easier to blame your partner, than to face up to the fact, that you may have to do some work on yourself.
When you blame someone or something, then you are removing responsibility from yourself and placing it on someone or something else.
Taking the focus off yourself and placing it on your partner, the system, your manager, your ex-wife, your ex-husband, the step mother, your father, is really just a form of denial, because ultimately the common denominator in all those problems you perceive, is YOU!
It is really fascinating here to watch your partners physiology; you can pick up the projection cues before they even say anything when you get really good at this task –
- Breathing – notice the chest, as your partner goes into this projection phase, it is fight or flight mode, breaths are shorter and come from the upper chest and neck.
- Voice – Listen to the tone of voice, when entering this mode, voice tone gets higher and shriller in pitch
- Eyes – Eye patterns, often times you will see eyes getting bigger, literally it is like that dear in the headlights look for some people, sometimes you will just notice pupil dilation
Lastly, of course is the actual verbiage. If you find yourself saying these statements to your partner, or they are saying these to you, this is the projection –
- It is your fault
- It’s the way you speak to me
- It the way you make me feel
- If you would only stop nagging/lecturing me
- If you had not interfered
- I am in this position because of you
- Things would be different if only
- You will never change
- I will never change
- I love you but ….
Your partner is like a mirror and you project onto them all the things that you are refusing to see inside of you, that need attention.
It is almost as though your partner is able to shine a torch into those dark places inside you, that you do not want exposed to the light!
If you have not dealt with your ex-husband, guess what, this will cause problems in your next relationship. Boundary problems are common in these ex-partner scenarios and until you take ownership of your role in this problem, you will continue to create disharmony in your current relationship.
One client recently had his ex-wife calling, texting and emailing him constantly, the relationship ended 4 years ago and even though they had a child together (an unplanned pregnancy on his part), there was simply no reason for the constant barrage of interference in his life. If the boundary problems were addressed earlier on after the breakdown of the relationship, this poor man would feel more in control, have peace of mind and less meddling in his current relationship.
Boundaries once set, will take care of your own needs first and determine how others will treat you.
Unresolved problems from your past will cause disruption to your current relationship, if you have not dealt with the past properly. What lessons do you need to learn, so you can release the negative emotions and finally let it go?
A friend of mine put it very succinctly recently with the following statement – you cannot use the bricks from your past relationship and expect to build a different house in your current one!
This is very common in relationships; people go from one relationship to the next and rarely take the time in between to work on themselves and heal the wounds from the previous one.
When this happens you just continue your old patterns in the new relationship.
The most important relationship that we have is the one with ourselves, when this is our first priority, all other relationships will be better as a result.
I often have conversations with women who have partners, however they are asking me about donor sperm options; not because their partner has any issues with his sperm, but because the relationship is strained and they believe they will need to continue treatment on their own in the near future. Back up plan B is already being investigated before the relationship has ended!
It is really important when you are undertaking any form of fertility treatment to ensure that you have emotional support. Most clients I speak with were completely unaware of the huge impact that trying to conceive would place on their relationship. Pregnancy and parenthood were expected to be an easy process.
Relationship mastery is something that you will need to work on continuously. There is no couple in the world that will tell you relationships are easy, they are tricky and have challenging moments, often. When your relationship has to cope with fertility treatment as an added pressure, most couples are not prepared to handle this dynamic.
So, what can you do when you recognise a projection pattern in your own life?
Reach out for help, ideally you need someone with coaching or counselling experience to help you find the root cause of the problem, that you are being called to work upon.
Rarely when you talk about your presenting problem, is that the real issue though, most times there is an underlying ‘root cause’ which when solved, removes the problem entirely.
To give you another example, one client had problems with her husband’s interfering mother. Mother in law problems are common in marriages, however when we looked a little deeper, the issue for the husband, was failing to set boundaries with his mother. The interference into this couple’s life over the years, had taken a huge toll on the marriage, with family functions ruined, holidays hijacked, a great deal of animosity and emotional turmoil. So, unless the husband was prepared to put boundaries in place, which is a decision only he could make … the only other option was for my client to do some work on herself.
Whilst this client worked on her inner strength and acknowledging the areas in her life that she could control, the pressure on the marriage was somewhat relieved as the focus was elsewhere. Will the marriage survive? Who knows, however the wife will be able to thrive regardless of the future, as she is taking ownership of her own emotions and changing what she can, which is herself!
Often times when you do the work on yourself, everything around you changes, it is the ripple effect.
The inner work that is required will get you out of the spiral, take the pressure off, prevent you from drowning and pull you out of the pit … there is no greatness down there, wallowing and deeply rooted in the problem!
Looking at the diagram below, we can see where you are when you are ‘in the problem’, it is very hard to see anything but the problem, in that position.
You cannot solve a problem using the same thinking that created the problem – Albert Einstein
It is said that humans have to get to a point of suffering to instigate any change. In coaching we say that you normally ‘breakdown’ right before your ‘breakthrough’. Suffering however is a choice and you can decide to change this choice in an instant.
Whilst projection is a normal process that we all do throughout the day, it is ultimately our partners though, who experience the heightened emotions in close range.
The coaching techniques that we use are designed to specifically target the problem areas of your life with laser focus and get you back on track. There is no problem that is unsolvable and nothing that cannot be transformed, it all starts with wanting to change.
So, if you find yourself in the projection tangle, you couldn’t not want to change to better your relationship and yourself, could you?
‘Creating healthy relationships, starts with the relationship with yourself first’
IVF Coaching Clinic