What exactly is projection and how does it relate to psychopaths? How and why do psychopaths use projection in their everyday relationships?
Projection is a term in psychology which refers to a tendency to attribute to others impulses or qualities which we don’t like in ourselves. It is a psychological defense mechanism which represents a person avoiding in themselves something they don’t like by putting it onto other people eg. a selfish person saying others are selfish.
Projection also incorporates blame shifting and is therefore a very important concept to understand when dealing with psychopaths and other toxic characters. It is a defense mechanism they use all the time
The video above tells you pretty much everything you need to know about projection, and how it relates to a psychopath. It is psychological defense mechanism used to put bad feelings about ourselves onto others.
In a nutshell, that pretty much defines the entirety of a toxic relationship with a psychopath or narcissist. They are projecting or “dumping” their internal poison onto you, their target. Hence why projection is such an important thing to understand for people caught up with these character types.
Most people use projection to some degree at some point in our lives but psychopaths use it incessantly to an extreme extent. It will become insidious as your relationship with them deepens. They do not want to face the toxicity that lies within them so they constantly project it onto others.
Common Signs of Projection With a Psychopath
Here are some different ways projection can manifest in all toxic relationships, but they will be especially pronounced in a relationship with a psychopath. It is defense mechanism they constantly use and do so to an extreme degree, so it will show up a lot.
- Nothing is ever their fault, even when it clearly is.
- Constantly blaming you for things which are their fault.
- Constant gas-lighting, where they say things didn’t happen when they did or vice versa.
- Attributing to you things which are actually true to them (eg. lying, cheating, not taking criticism, lazy etc).
- Regular situations where you find yourself apologizing or making up for something when it was their fault in the first place.
- A constant sense of an inverted reality, where you are seen as the bad person while they walk off scot free.
- Situations constantly flipped on their head so they are never the one at fault eg. a perfectly normal and justified reaction to something unacceptable they do or say is flipped around so that you are over-reacting, they didn’t say that, or some other distortion of reality.
- More generally, whenever there is any conflict, it is always you that is the problem, never them. There is always something wrong with you, never them. They never take any ownership for any problems in the relationship whatsoever. It is always the other person.
- Erosion of your identity and self belief as with all the gas-lighting, projection and distortion you start to question your own judgement and don’t know who you are anymore.
Recognizing what projection is and how psychopaths constantly use it on others is the first step towards defending against this behaviour. Understanding who a psychopath is and why they constantly feel the need to project onto others is the second piece to put into place to realize you need to simply get away from any relationship with them as quickly as possible.
It is not a behavior pattern that will ever change in them, since there is a constant mass of psychological toxicity and poison inside them that they cannot stand to confront and they therefore constantly need to offload onto others. It is par for the course with them.
This means ending any friendships or romantic relationships with them, and searching for a new department or job if it is your boss who is psychopathic and constantly projecting onto others.
The quickest way of recovering from the twisted reality they draw their victims into, where nothing is ever their fault and everything is always the victim’s fault, is to get away and return to normal, sane relationships again.
The books in our Resources section will also help you understand the psychopath’s abusive behavior patterns in more detail, and put into words an uneasy feeling you no doubt will have had dealing with their twisted mindset.
Projection and Character Disorder
Another way of looking at this is to use the simple framework that M Scott Peck used in his classic book The Road Less Travelled. In this, he presents character problems on a scale of whether the person over or under accepts responsibility for their actions. In simple terms he puts it like this:
“Neurotic people believe they are always at fault; character disordered people believe the world is always at fault”
M Scott Peck
So you can imagine this as a spectrum or continuum, with neurotic people on the far left – people who always tend to blame themselves for everything, no matter what, even if the evidence doesn’t support they are at fault. They are prone to always taking all the blame and responsibility for something onto themselves.
Then you have character disordered people on the far right of the spectrum, who always believe everyone else is at fault, never taking responsiblity or ownership for their actions. It is always someone else that is to blame, never them.
You can see the psychopath as residing right at the very far end of this spectrum, as being someone who has so projected their internal disorder and toxicity onto the world that they literally cannot ever see that they are at fault. It is always someone else, or the world at large, that is at fault, but never them.
Another thing to bear in mind when thinking of this spectrum is that people at either end of this spectrum do tend to pair off in toxic relationships, with psychopaths and narcissists drawn by their nature towards people who will tend to always blame themselves and over accept responsibility for problems in the relationship.
This fits perfectly with the psychopath or narcissist’s tendency to always project blame and fault onto others, and so the two often fit together hand in glove. Psychopaths do like to target high quality people, but also like targets who have this aspect of self blame and self doubt, since it makes them very easy to manipulate and gas-light.
They often start chipping away at the target’s perception and self belief and sit back and watch as the person self destructs. See Jackson Mackenzie’s excellent books on psychopaths for more on how this dynamic unfolds.
The Psychopath Projects Their Own Unhappiness Onto Others
Another context in which this tendency to project happens with psychopaths relates to the chronic underlying boredom they constantly feel, as well as their emotionally anaemic and deadened state. This leads to a chronic, low level disatisfaction and irritation with the psychopath, which they constantly try to alleviate wth drama, mind games, conflict, novelty or stimulation.
However their tendency to get bored very easily often leads them to very suddenly and coldly discard others in relationships, often blaming the other person for the breakup, claiming they were “boring”, “crazy” or something else.
However, even if the psychopath moves onto someone else who they find more interesting and exciting in the moment, they quickly get bored with them as well, in turn devaluing and discarding them and moving onto yet another target to start the whole process again.
In reality the psychopath is projecting their own internal unhappiness and boredom onto others, blaming them for the fact they themselves are never truly satisfied or contented. It is always other people’s fault they are chronically bored and unhappy.
When the latest “cool” or “hot” person they latch onto fails to make them happy just like all the others failed, they too are blamed and they move on again. They never take responsibility for their own unhappiness.
Victims will often absorb these hurtful messages the psychopath left with them but it is important to realize that nothing and no one can ever truly make the psychopath happy on a permanent basis.
This is why they so often bumble from one disastrous short term relationship to another. They are chronically unhappy people and are taking themselves with them wherever they go, projecting this underlying misery onto others because they don’t want to face it in themselves.
Psychological Dumping and Psychic Vampirism
Some deeper thinkers on this subject also suggest that this form of projection or psychological offloading can take an energetic or psychic as well as psychological form in more extreme cases.
In other words, there is not just a psychological offloading of toxicity but also an energetic kind of dumping as well, where the victim literally absorbs the psychopath’s poison on a psychic level.
This can be seen as an extreme form of projection where the psychopath is literally projecting their internal toxicity through the energetic field of the other person, not just through verbal abuse and blame shifting.
This can manifest in a number of different ways. Here are some more common ones:
- Feel disorientated or out of balance when around a certain person. Can often manifest as a clumsiness or ungracefulness that they don’t normally feel, constantly dropping things or making other mistakes.
- Feeling horrible when around a certain person and only them. The toxic person is literally offloading their psychic garbage onto them.
- Feeling like you are taking in or “introjecting” traits which are not yours. Feeling negative things about yourself that you never felt before you met this person.
- Feeling negative feelings, like anger, tiredness, irritability and depression, that you didn’t before you met the psychopath. Sleep disturbances and nightmares common as well. A general downward trend in your life since you met the psychopath.
Of course this doesn’t always happen right away, since psychopaths have to first lure their victims in with their glib, superficial charm. So they can seem like the opposite of toxic and poisonous at first. However, once their relatonship with someone becomes established, the more toxic dynamic of projection and dumping usually begins.
Many victims of more extreme psychopaths will indeed confirm this is a very real phenomenon. They find themselves affected over time not just psychologically but energetically as well by the psychopath’s constant “dumping”. Interested readers can visit the Psychic Vampirism site to learn more on this.