How do you feel? Is it okay for you to feel that way? An abuser will answer no, it doesn’t matter how you feel. The only time emotions matter with an abuser is when it is their emotions.
My ex took this concept to a new level. He didn’t restrict his projection to just emotions, but also to the physical. If I had a headache, he had a worse one. If I had a cough, he got bronchitis. If I was tired, he was exhausted. For him, the very thought that someone close to him was sick means that he will be ill within a day or two, and much worse than the original person. When we were together, this meant I had to set aside my own illness to take care of him, because he was so much sicker. It meant I stopped mentioning when I was feeling under the weather because if I kept it silent, he stayed healthy.
He didn’t limit his projection to health but projected his emotions and thinking on others as well.
Therein lies the problem for a victim. We don’t always know when projection is happening. It’s very confusing to be told how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Unreasonable jealousy is often projection, but leaves the recipient wondering how, or if, we are presenting an appearance of unfaithfulness or attraction to people other than our partner. Any feeling, emotion, thought-process can be projected onto someone else. Being told repeatedly that we are angry, unfeeling, distant…. these are attempts to draw us into a web of emotional control.
It is projection that also makes it difficult for others outside the relationship to see the abuse. The abuser takes normal, common interactions and twists them to make it look as if the victim is the abuser. Most people are not educated in the warning signs and red flags of domestic violence or abuse. It’s easy to miss them when you don’t know any better.
It is also extremely important to be honest with ourselves. We often project our own emotions onto others, our own hopes and dreams. My best friend is frequently heard to say that hope kept her in her marriage longer than she should have stayed. It is hope that holds us there. We keep hoping that what we see in our partner will be or become reality. We project our own vision of what a relationship should look like and cling to it for as long as possible.
Projection is just another way of living dishonestly. We need to be honest, with the good and bad about ourselves, in order to find true healing.
One of the biggest unfortunate things is that domestic violence and abuse are not extensively taught in counseling, ministry, criminal justice or other educational venues leading into a career of helping people. This means that only those who purposely seek out information and education regarding domestic violence are properly trained to recognize it in all its nuances. We must change this. We must research, educate and campaign for more education in these areas.
We must never remain silent. We must always remain honest and vulnerable in sharing our journey through domestic violence. Through telling our story, lives will be saved.