Psychological Defenses - Projection Identification

todangst's picture

(This is the first in a series of discussions of common psychological defenses exhibited in internet forums.)

Do you know what a 'projection-identification' is?

Projection identification is a common psychological defense exhibited in adversarial situations. The defense occurs when a person projects out their own anger, or fear of anger from others, onto others, with the unconscious desire that the other will attack them. This attack is then held as the proof that it is the other person who is angry.

Here's a nice chart to explain it:

Step 1: A person starts out with unconscious feelings of anger or hatred of the other.... ones that they disavow as really belonging to them.

Step 2: They then place these feelings on the other person, and then act towards this person in accord with their feelings. The "angry, hateful" person is treated as such a person 'deserves'.

Step 3: The object of this attack becomes defensive. He or she may respond in kind. This response is taken by the initiator as the 'proof' that the anger and hatred resides in the object. The person's inital belief is 'verified'. . The person is unable to see the self fulfilling aspects of their initial belief is the very cause of the problem.

It is good advice for people on both sides of an adversarial situation to examine their own role in the matter, to learn to what level they themselves are responsible for the outcome. The tendency to believe that most of the negative exchanges we have with others can be written off as a series of sociopaths attacking an innocent bystander is not only self serving, but self damaging. Those who still insist on believing that entire groups of people are 'evil' need to consider that there's really one only constant to be found in all of these interactions with these 'hateful people':


"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'

Hambydammit's picture

Thank you for putting this

Thank you for putting this down.  Understanding this pattern of behavior has been invaluable to me, not just on internet boards, but in real life.  It's a little harder to remember to run a social situation through this "filter" since I don't have time to sit and formulate each of my responses, but it definitely helps, even just having this knowledge in the back of my brain. 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin
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