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Ah, projection. The fine art of making me guilty of your vices.
No one projects better or more frequently than a narcissist. They’ve practiced, honed and refined projection to a fine art.
Whatever they’re up to, by some mental “abracadabra,” suddenly they’re innocent and you’re actually the one up to no-good.
Deep In The Race
Since Eve ate the “apple” and blamed it on the serpent, projection has been a quintessential part of the human race. Since Adam ate the “apple” and blamed it on Eve, men have been projecting onto their wives. Wives have been projecting onto their husbands. Parents have been projecting onto their children. And siblings have been projecting onto each other.
C’mon, you know you’ve done it. I certainly have. And while projection may be elevated to a high art-form by narcissists, we’ve all done it or been tempted to do it. We’ve all got a little corner of narcissism in our souls. That’s why we understand them so well.
As I see it, projection proves how deeply and profoundly all homo sapiens, narcissists or otherwise, not only inherently know the moral code…but believe in it.
Envy of other’s innocence? Perhaps.
Avoidance of the result of wrong-doing? Now we’re getting somewhere.
The need to be perfect! Bingo + all of the above.
Gotta protect that fragile little ol’ ego, y’know.
Projection is the great equalizer. Everyone the narcissist knows is equally guilty.
Their children, especially the one assigned the role of “scapegoat,” suffer the most from being projected upon. Trained to be humble and submissive, brainwashed to feel false guilt, they take on their elder’s vices without critical thinking. Bearing the “sins of the fathers” as a burden like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress.
Spouses of narcissists suffer from a shit-load of projection too. They are in the unenviable position of being accused o’re and o’re of infidelity. Y’know, the infidelity the narcissists is actually engaging in.
Co-workers are also a dandy target for career projection. After all, fill-in-the-blank is never the narcissist’s fault, yet blame must be assigned.
Projection In Literature
In his charming books on veterinary practice in Yorkshire, James Herriot wrote a fascinating line about his highly, shall we say, eccentric partner, Siegfried Farnon. James is speaking to Tristan, the long-suffering younger Farnon brother.
You know the one thing I can’t stand about your brother, Tris? It’s when he gets patient with you. He gets this saintly look on his face and you know that any moment now he’s going to forgive you. For something he’s just done.
Oh, how I remember that vile, nasty saintly expression of condescending forgiveness for a wrong I didn’t commit. I also remember the hand-written notes left for me by my parent, forgiving me for the abuse I forced them to commit against me. Abuses like throwing a sheaf of my schoolwork across the room and yelling at me for half an hour. My crime: Ending a paragraph with a question, instead of a statement. Isn’t that awful of me!? (sarcasm)
Ah, but I was forgiven by the next morning.
As it turns out, the concept of a “scapegoat” is thousands of years old, with a rich history.
In Leviticus 16:21 it says, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away…into the wilderness…”
Most ancient religions have some version of this. Projection of sin onto a sacrifice.
Projection makes us the scapegoat, wearing on our heads the iniquities of the narcissist. Our self-esteem and innocence is sacrificed on the altar of their ego, so they can go on their merry way.
Right Runs Deep
I would argue this shows how deeply and profoundly narcissists believe in right VS wrong.
If they don’t know right from wrong, why project?
If they don’t care about right vs wrong, why project?
If they don’t have a functioning conscience, why project?
It could be for expediency. To avoid the ramifications of their actions. To keep the smooth sailing going.
But, how would they know what needed to be projected, if they don’t know right from wrong?
They know, oh, how they know!
And therein is their undoing.
I dunno about you, but most of my best ideas happen in the shower. (Or bed.) I’ll never forget the “discovering fire” moment under a hot shower when something went “click.” I finally got it. Let’s hope I can articulate it to you.
The Old Testament concept of the scapegoat comes to full circle in the New Testament concept of atonement.
There is one and only one setting where projection actually works! We get to project our sins onto Christ. It’s okay. Go ahead and project. And in exchange, through the shedding of His innocent blood on the Cross, His perfection becomes ours.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”, II Cor. 5:21
That’s why He came. He didn’t just come to be a great moral teacher. As C.S. Lewis wrote in “Lewis’s trilemma” in Mere Christianity:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Pretty deep stuff, huh. The age-old battle between Right vs Wrong. Mankind’s deep-seated need to be in the right, even if it means doing wrong (i.e. projection) to maintain the appearance of being in the right. And the profound paradigm of scapegoating, sacrifice and atonement.
Like the pieces of a puzzle, it all holds together. It makes sense. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, ”
“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?”
Above all, narcissists are logical. And, in a twisted way, projection is also logical. Twisted. Sad. Wrong…but still logical.
This guest article originally appeared on PsychCentral.com: Projection: Narcissists’ Favorite Trick
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