I had just gotten home from a long business trip. It had been weeks of being on the go. Multiple cities and different continents. The jetlag, the late meetings, the social dinners where I needed to stay “on.”
It was the evening time, and as always, I sat at my computer after putting my baby to bed. I needed to get a few things done before some big presentations and budget meetings. My partner at the time walked into my home office, I could tell he was unhappy. He proceeded to comment on my travel schedule and called out I had been gone 23 days out of the month (but who’s counting!). He felt I was neglecting the family, that I was abandoning my responsibilities as a mother and wife. I reminded him we jointly agreed I would take this promotion and we discussed the sacrifices I would have to make to become the main breadwinner. I also reminded him how supportive he was at the time, and now there was a problem.
The argument turned into a fight where he accused me of having an affair with an executive. I was appalled.
My work required me to work closely with several senior leaders, but that didn’t mean I was spreading my legs for them. I was sad and hurt. He dished out a cheap punch below the belt because he wasn’t getting his needs met. He acted like a seven year-old boy who’s been told it’s dinner time and doesn’t want to put his damn videos game down.
Climbing the corporate ladder sucked and the person who should be my champion and number one supporter made me feel I wasn’t good enough. In fact, he made me feel like a slut not worthy of a leadership position in my company.
I retaliated in anger. I reminded him of a Mexican saying, “como se vive, se juzga” - translated to “how you live is how you judge.” I asked him if he had something he wanted to tell me instead of accusing me. The fight ended, seemingly I had hit a nerve. Not long after that fight, the relationship ended. He was engaged within a few weeks of the divorce, got married within five months and had a new baby within 8 months.
I’ll let you figure that one out...
In episode 10 of the Feisty Mermaids Podcast (Coming February 24), I talk about the concept of Projection. Projection is the process of displacing someone’s feelings onto a different person, animal or object. This concept first emerged in Sigmund Freud’s work on defense mechanisms and was further refined by his daughter Anna.
Dr. Grant Brenner explains in an article on Psychology Today that in essence, projecting is usually a defense mechanism to deal with uncomfortable feelings and emotions. A common example is a bully who may be projecting his feelings of low self-esteem to a peer.
The relationship with my ex was an endless cycle of projecting which continued well after the divorce until I called him out on it and firmly asked him to stop treating me like his punching bag. He projected his fears and insecurities on me. It would take me years to begin the journey of self-healing and eventually understand that the way he was treating me was a direct reflection of how he was feeling about himself, and had nothing to do with me. Of course, I internalized it, feeling like I wasn’t good enough and trying very hard to give him everything he wanted and thought he needed until I was depleted.
Here are some signs to help you identify projecting in any relationship:
Pay attention when your fears and insecurities are provoked, you may project as a defense mechanism.
Recognize when someone is projecting on you if they react very strongly to something you say or there doesn't seem to be a reasonable explanation to their reaction.
I found the image below on iheartintelligence.com - which I think sums it up nicely.