16. HOW AND WHY WE CHOOSE OUR PARTNERS
4. THE CONSEQUENCES OF PROJECTING AND BLAMING WITHIN A RELATIONSHIP
Following on from my last blog with regards what we call the ‘Unconscious Contract, during my relationship couple training I also learnt how one partner can consciously or unconsciously project issues onto one another.
In other words although one partner may become depressed, the depression may not actually ‘belong’ to them. It may belong to their partner who finds being vulnerable or depressed hard to do. It’s as if one partner has tried so hard to suppress what they really feel, and yet it somehow seeps out into the other person. And if two people have chosen one another as discussed in my earlier blogs, due to what they share emotionally, one partner might be able to ‘carry or feel an emotion for their other partner, because they can more readily identify with that emotion.
I often said that, “It’s only when you sit in the therapist’s chair that you are able to understand the issues that people present. Sitting in that chair with the understanding I had gained was quite an eye opener”.
This projection of one’s feelings onto another, this sharing of inner feelings, that the other cannot bear to feel, occurs in most relationships at some time or the other.
We usually don’t even realise that we are even doing this. We project our unconscious or conscious emotional feelings, especially those which we haven’t dealt with, onto our partners. It’s easier to manage uncomfortable feelings even thoughts, by projecting them onto your partner.
All people in intimate relationships provide a holding function for one another’s feelings. Often couples who have been together for a long time, describe their relationship as feeling ‘as one’. What has occurred is that respective emotions have become shared and it feels like they act and behave as one entity. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. This is how long term relationships survive. What might however be a problem is when one partner develops or grows emotionally differently from their partner. Eventually the partner may decide to stop holding or containing their partner’s emotions or feelings any longer. This is when the relationship becomes uncomfortable and it’s when the couple start feeling that they are growing apart. If this continues the couple may then split up and/or divorce.
How do we expect our partners to carry our emotions for us?
Going back one step, if however, there is something – a feeling, a trauma, which is unresolved, you then carry these issues, into your relationship. These issues may be unresolved either because you don’t really know that they are there, or you fear dealing with them because it’s easier to look the other way. Or maybe it’s just too painful.
But hidden suppressed, unresolved issues have a way of rearing their ‘ugly heads’ and this can effect how you relate.
And it can affect your relationship too. If you don’t want to address your emotional stuff, it’s easier to find a partner who can. You then project your stuff onto them.
You could also then blame them for what actually belongs to you, so that you don’t have to take responsibility for the issues that are yours, not theirs.
This can be obvious or very subtle.
What happens is that what should have been addressed and maybe addressed in childhood, remains dormant and then gets expressed in adulthood via the conduit of relationships.
So finding a partner who will take the blame is a way of ‘acting out’ the suppressed feelings. Each partner attracts within the other, that which is most feared within themselves.
For example if the projector partner feels like an idiot, he or she then does something to make their partner feel like an idiot.
Couples who are engaged in repetitive projection cycles often have similar issues such as anger, abandonment, self-esteem and so on. Often the receiving partner gets induced into indentifying with the projected feeling without even realising it.
If nothing is said and the partner accepts the projection then all is well and the couple can continue in their shared unconscious contract. And this is called Projective Identification.
But if the projection seems unfair they might get angry and so arguments begin. And if this receiving partner rejects the projection, then the projector will feel misunderstood and unloved leading to friction and distance.
Or if they hold onto the projected feeling, if they identify with the feelings being projected, they can then begin to believe its value. And said frequently enough and depending on their original self-belief system this can begin to damage their self-esteem and confidence. And this too can lead to friction and distance.
So it would seem that the best choice would be, ‘to put up and shut up’ in order to keep the peace. But if this begins to eat away at your self-esteem then you may have to seek alternative ways of dealing with the problem.
Couples are often caught up in recurring patterns of conflict and misunderstanding. They collude to avoid experiencing frightening feelings of vulnerability. And often these patterns or habits are deeply ingrained.
What’s subtle is the blame and accusations, which accompanies the projection. No one likes to feel a failure. No one likes to be blamed. And invariably this causes arguments, misunderstandings and unhappiness within relationships. And getting past the anger that projection incites can be very difficult.
Many of the couples who have come to see me, have issues which revolve around blame and accusations – that their partner is always, doing this or that. And then, I have to look at where the blame actually lies or who really ought to own what is being blamed. And in some cases, I have to ‘look’ at the person doing the blaming to see where the source or origin of the problem really lies. And then too, I look at what the couple share, their Marital Fit or their Unconscious Contract.
So once again I repeat, ‘Learning to watch yourself like a hawk, understanding what your issues are will help you take responsibility for what you own and this will certainly enable your relationship to be freer of projections and blame. Each partner will also then be freer to focus on their life goals without feeling that there is something holding them back.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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