The Law of Projection

rockwell_mirror1When you express yourself you are highly likely to express your “self”.

Recently I was in a very crowded pub where I watched a woman pushing a man around, she had him by the collar of his shirt and was shouting “you’re pushing people you’re drunk, you’re knocking people over, you’re being a dickhead”. She appeared very drunk as she pushed him into the crowd of people behind him and started knocking people over as a consequence. Almost to the word, each of her criticisms applied to her as equally as they might have him. His only response was to try and laugh it off but the woman, who I’m not sure he knew, then stormed off furious at the man’s response shouting “I fucking hate people like you, you’ve no consideration for other people, you never listen to what they say!”. There, with almost perfect symmetry, was the idea I’m about to try and explain with this blog entry.

The first time I noticed criticism often tells you more about the critic than the criticised I felt like I’d unlocked some kind of weird cheat-code to life. If I can convince you of this truth with this little blog entry and you look out for it over the next few days I believe it’s a revelation that genuinely could change your life for the better, forever.

It will be demonstrated over and over again to you once you become aware of it. When people express themselves, about anything, they tend to express their selves in the process. So, when you speak, your words say something about you.

That’s what you’re looking out for and once you spot it there will be a period where you feel like EVERYONE IS A HYPOCRITE…

Notice, for example, that it’s the fat and lazy person in your office who is always the first to complain about someone else being fat and lazy. The friend of yours in your social group who ‘hates liars’ usually has issues with telling the truth themselves. Ever noticed that homophobic people often seem to have issues with their own sexuality? This is because they are often gay and often hate themselves as a result. The preachers who rant about immorality in society only to be caught hunched over a whore with a bag of cocaine in their hands? Same deal.

More than a few times I’ve met local ‘hardman’ who put over their side of the story by saying: “I just hate bullies”. Gasps of surprise from victims who see him as a bully but the criticism has revealed the critic. He knows all about bullies and how awful they are because he is one, whether he recognises that quality in himself or not.

Recognition requires previous experience and the more familiar you are with something the more you will recognise it.

It’s this mechanic which allows someone who is addicted to drink or drugs to be the first to spot someone else who suffers from the same problem.

So, the first possible use for this little rule is, if someone argues with you and criticises you, try turning their words back on them, you’ll be surprised at how useful that can be. Assume their criticism of you might fit them also and work from that hunch.

Secondly though, list all the things you often criticise other people for, handy list of your own faults, right in front of you.

This idea is very old and people often claim it is embedded in the classic phrase “judge not lest ye be judged” from The King James Bible. I’ve been told it’s part of the ‘secret teachings’ of ‘ancient mystery schools’ and that it has been guarded and obscured by occult groups over the ages. That seems a little silly to me. Thoughts?

Nick Margerrison

Nick Margerrison

I write on Disinfo for fun, I've been a fan of the company for years.

In the real world I'm a freelance TV/radio presenter. I've worked for LBC, Kerrang Radio, The Bay, Edge Media TV, Hallam FM and The BBC.

My podcast is here:

54 Comments on "The Law of Projection"

  1. Hadrian999 | Nov 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

    Bring back dueling and we will have a civil society

    • Is there a thumb wrestling option?

    • Matt Staggs | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm |

      Would that lead to a “might makes right” social culture?

      If I’m crap at swinging a sword or shooting a pistol and both are considered acceptable, legally endorsed means of resolving social disputes, then I’m not free to speak my mind for fear of provoking the fatal wrath of an expert gunslinger. As it is, my neighbor might beat me up or kill me on the basis of a dispute, but there will likely be far-reaching legal consequences. Because of this, I can argue with my neighbor and be relatively sure he’s not going to strike me or run me through with a rapier.

      I’m a pretty nice “live and let live” guy most of the time, anyway, so this is all hypothetical.

      • Hadrian999 | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

        is a social culture of whoever can shout the loudest wins any more desirable.

        • Matt Staggs | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

          Sure! if my choice is between that and death then I’ll take the shouting. I can always pick up and go to a more quiet room, right?

      • Eric_D_Read | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

        Easily solved.
        The person issuing the challenge does not pick the weapons, the person accepting it does.

        • Matt Staggs | Nov 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

          Sweet! I pick Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. First person to “tap” loses. Competitors shake hands and everyone goes out for beer afterward.

          Wait. Are you talking about a fight to the death? To hell with that. I quote Tyrion Lannister on how he wants to die:

          “In my own bed, with a belly full of wine and a maiden’s mouth around my cock, at the age of eighty.”

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm |

            Duel by fellatiated drunken senescence. Superb.

          • Eric_D_Read | Nov 3, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

            I don’t see why it would have to be to the death. From what I understand, that wasn’t the result of all duels even when it was popular.

  2. Joshua Simpson | Nov 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm |

    I agree with this completely! It’s where the cheap saying ‘takes one to know one’ comes from!

  3. Whoever see’s muck is muck – Aliester Crowley in 777

  4. If one is aware of this within themselves, could intention transform this into a gift while communicating with others?

    • Calypso_1 | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:34 pm |

      You sir have just discovered the idea of cultivating transference/counter-transference dynamics.
      : )

      • You are very smart

        • Calypso_1 | Nov 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

          int (properly functioning ego)
          I am informed to a degree in such matters & will provide a starting point that could further this person’s self-discovery if they wish to receive it, even though I am aware such offerings may result in a display of ego defenses.
          if ego defense then evaluate counter-transference & determine motivation & responsibility to continue interaction else continue information exchange as available resources allow.

  5. Meecheroo | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm |

    I agree that it shows a lot about the critic. Although, it’s hard not to judge when your colleagues talk about sleeping around and not using condoms, ick.

  6. What is silly is the oversimplification with which this article treats this very serious subject matter.

    • Damien Quinn | Nov 4, 2013 at 11:11 am |

      Which you critique with one simple line…….people who disagree just for the sake of it drive me nuts…….

      • Not just disagreeing for the sake of disagreement. My criticism is directly proportionate to the actual content of the article.

  7. thisbliss | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm |

    “Takes one to know one” is another phrase that fits this. What we hate in ourselves we hate in others too I think. The fact it rankles us or we make an issue of something shows some kind of obsession with it wether we are guilty of it too. Id say 75% of time its true

    EDIT or im only 75% truthful with myself

    • oneironauticus | Nov 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

      Or perhaps, “I’m rubber, you’re glue…”

      More evidence for my theory that we really did already know everything when we were 5 and have been forgetting ever since…

      • thisbliss | Nov 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm |

        And learning the wrong thing. A 5 year old doesn’t need H&S training to lift properly!

        • oneironauticus | Nov 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm |

          Hm, I’m not sure if you’re being facetious or not, but my step-sister could pick up her dad when she was 8. (True, she was sort of a tomboy and my step-dad is kind of little) but my point is that she already knew to lift with her legs without being told. I hope that’s what you meant?

          • thisbliss | Nov 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm |

            ‘Please don’t drop me, please don’t drop me’!!
            Yes that’s what I meant, kids naturally lift like that, they don’t need to learn. Its only when they watch an adult or get lazy that they learn to lift by bending their back.

  8. Excellent post! I try to remember this whenever I get verbally attacked here at disinfo, and when I feel compelled to verbally attack someone here at disinfo.

  9. I use The Work of Byron Katie to identify where I am projecting. Part of the process asks us to “turn around” what we think the other person is doing. For example “so and so is rude” becomes “I am rude” and we look to see where in our life we have been rude, or even in that moment we judge we are being rude in that moment. We don’t have to match rude for rude. I might be 2% rude and them 50%, but it is not about the other person, it is about cleaning your own cobwebs for yourself.

  10. projection makes perception.
    I notice when i’m feeling especially critical of someone eventually I start to feel like crap and realize its because of unconscious guilt, which ive been taking out on the other. then I can choose to forgive them and a load is lifted from me. it doesn’t mean what they’re doing isn’t wrong and it may still be ok to confront them.
    its a balancing act to not judge others but not accept unacceptable behavior. knowing that projection makes perception can help you identify the bad things you may do but not notice. it doesn’t necessarily make you a hypocrite; as long as you repent of your own bad behavior and give the other some slack

  11. emperorreagan | Nov 3, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some occult groups have been particularly interested in this phenomena. It seems to me that the fundamental secrets are the techniques & practice, not the existence of a particular phenomena.

    That hyperextending an elbow can cause pain or disability is no secret, but maneuvering an opponent into a position and successfully hyperextending their elbow is something you learn through practice and developing technique.

    • Calypso_1 | Nov 3, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

      Occult as in intel agency psych group?

      • emperorreagan | Nov 4, 2013 at 10:16 am |

        Well Freud (I think?) named it and claimed it for psychology, so there’s ample cover to remove it from any ties to a concept that may have historically been of concern to occult practitioners, depending on the ideological bent of the intel agency.

        • Calypso_1 | Nov 5, 2013 at 9:18 am |

          It also underlies many of the techniques used by mentalists. Certainly a select and secretive group easily given to trappings of the occult. Who knows how far back the more codified endeavors go.

  12. Rhoid Rager | Nov 4, 2013 at 8:09 am |

    This is one more argument to reinforce my solipsistic fetish.

  13. This gives me the idea of using people one dislikes or disagrees with as gurus towards embracing one’s own shadow.

  14. The soft reply turns away wrath.

  15. Punctuated Colon | Nov 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm |

    Last night i saw a TV show where a guy was fucking a goat. I exclaimed to my heathen bitch “Check that fool! He’s a fucking goat fucker!”

    Does this make me a goat fucker?

  16. Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself

  17. oneironauticus | Nov 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm |

    Not just “judge not lest ye be judged”, but also “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” and “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”…etc.

    Kind of a theme, really.

  18. Lookinfor Buford | Nov 8, 2013 at 12:05 pm |

    In general, I hate generalists.

  19. This is along the same lines as an observation I made a long time ago: that the persona many of us project is actually an overcompensation for our secret fears and desires.

    For instance, nobody takes teenage boys too seriously, but teenage boys so crave legitimacy that they adopt the trappings of Captain Badass (heavy metal & gangsta rap, for instance) in an effort to be regarded as someone who is truly not to be fucked with… because people fuck with them all the time.

    For that matter, think about all the trappings of teen suburban rebellion: embracing the harsh, the transgressive… everything that that environment is *not*. Conversely, people from harsh environments often seek to escape that harshness with affectations of smooth, luxurious sensuality (R&B, etc).

  20. X-Ray Vision | Dec 2, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

    This article is so relevant to a friend that I’ve known for 30 years and have decided to work with this year. I’ve bitten my lip so many times because I haven’t wanted to ruin the friendship but finally let him have it. I couldn’t believe the crap he was coming out with was almost everything that I had a problem with in his behaviour. It was like he wss describing himself but spinning it around on me. I haven’t spoken to him since Thursday aandhave no intention of doing so. He can come to me. Fuck it.

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