Projection: Accusing Others Of What One Feels Guilty Or Ashamed Of

Projection is a common behavior in human beings, even in many who are aware of the behavior in themselves and others. It's one of those habits a lot of people pick up from others during childhood that can be hard to shake even when one becomes aware of it.

Basically, projection means we are "projecting" our own feelings, thoughts, actions and motives onto another person, like projecting a picture from film onto a blank screen. The screen is blank, there is no real picture on it, but when we put a beam of light behind a film, the picture on the film gets projected onto the blank screen, so it's as if the screen actually has this picture on it, even though it doesn't really.
It's still, in reality, a blank screen.

People who project their feelings, thoughts, motives and behaviors onto others often do this toward those whom they feel specifically angry, jealous, or envious toward, or whom they harbor resentment toward, or whom they have guilt or shame toward.

Projection is usually a process of denial. The person is attempting to take something off of themselves and stick it onto another person  so it's not "on them" anymore. When a person projects onto another it is considered rude, and is a control, bully, or gossip behavior. Feeling remorse and guilt, even shame  for the behavior would be appropriate, and therefore apology and amends would also be.

Some people project more than others, and some to an extreme degree.
Many seem to use it as a major defense mechanism, and may appear to be utterly unaware of it.

A very common example of projection is accusing woman who the person sees as "pretty" or "beautiful"  of being preoccupied with her own physical beauty. It is actually the person who is focused on her who is preoccupied with her beauty. Whether she is also preoccupied on it remains to be seen, in most cases, and even whether the woman herself shares the opinion of her appearance being "pretty" or "beautiful" is probably unknown as well to the other person. Many people seem to assume that any woman whom THEY think is physically attractive MUST share their view of her own appearance, and also must be arrogant about her looks.

This projection reveals THEIR OWN tendency toward arrogance and control-seeking, it has not much at all to do with the woman they are projecting their own feelings onto. She might think she's attractive, and she might not at all; she might even see herself as unattractive. And even if she has confidence in her appearance, that is far and away from being "stuck up" or haughty about her own looks. But how SHE feels is irrelevant; projection and assumption come from the OTHER person, regarding their OWN feelings, not the woman's.
In other words, THEY are the ones who would be arrogant if they looked like the woman, that's why they ASSUME that SHE is arrogant. It's what's in their own minds.

There are other types of projection as well, all based on the similar attempting to take something OFF of one's self and stick it onto another person.
Common examples include people who steal saying that "everyone is a thief", people who are sexually promiscuous saying or believing that "everyone" else is also promiscuous (some just try to hide it).

People who project take their own motives, feelings and behaviors and put them ON someone else.

So the cheating spouse accuses their partner of cheating, or at least thinking about it.

The projecting body builder accuses everyone else in the gym of wanting to be just like him "deep down", they just "can't handle it".

The projecting teacher who neglects the students might accuse parents of being neglectful.

The projecting "friend" may accuse the person who has helped them many times of "always needing someone to lean on" or "never doing anything on their own".

A classmate who frequently copies off of someone else's work may project "being a cheater" onto the person they copy from.

The professor who identifies him or herself as "the top expert" may often project "academic arrogance" onto a gifted student.

The mother who is envious of her daughter's youth may project her own hostility and jealousy onto her daughter.

The father who is envious of his son's youth may project his own hostility and jealousy onto his son.

The spouse who seeks to control and dominate their partner will often project their own control and domination motives onto their partner.

Projection is often seen as LITERAL accusations, and are often apparently believed by the accuser, which can be very confusing.

For example, Gina cheats on David with Scott, and then Gina actually accuses David of cheating on her with Sarah. As if Gina TOOK HER OWN MEMORY of cheating with Scott, and just STUCK IT ON DAVID, as if the memory was ACTUALLY of David with Sarah, NOT Gina with Scott.

Or, George at work who stole money out of a slush fund might actually accuse John of stealing money, EVEN THOUGH NO ONE WAS AWARE THAT MONEY WAS MISSING.

Or, a musician in a band who really wants to be the "star of the show" will often accuse anyone else who he/she fears is very talented, or who gets any positive attention from others, of being a "spotlight hog" or a "Prima Donna" or a "Primo Uomo".

A person who was drinking on the job might start rumors or make accusations about another specific person drinking on the job, regardless of whether the person drinks at all.

A person who is preoccupied with sex may project their own thoughts onto others, even their own relatives, accusing them of being "loose".

A person who has a drug habit may project being an addict onto others, again even in their own family, and in some cases even onto the children in the family.

Some projections seem to be purely purposeful attempts at trashing and sabotaging another person. But others appear to actually be believed by the person doing the projecting, as if they are seeing their own behaviors, feelings and thoughts in a mirror in front of them, but believing that they're seeing the other person feeling, thinking, and doing those things.

Memories from interactions with OTHER people can also be projected onto a person, for example a husband who projects may accuse his NEW wife of doing things that his EX wife actually did, but that the new wife HAS NOT EVER done.
Or a relative who accuses their nephew of doing something that their OWN SON did, not the nephew.   A stepparent accusing their stepchild of doing things that actually happened in their OWN childhood.

It can even be FROM TV or MOVIES. So for example a person who projects may accuse another person of doing something they saw a character do on TV last week.

Projections are NOT based in the reality of the person who is getting projected ONTO, so the origin of the projection could easily vary. It's not real, so no matter where it comes from, it's going to be fantasy anyway.

Since they are based in fantasy and not reality, a person who projects things onto others really does need some kind of professional help with this affliction. It is possible that their projection behaviors could be helped or even healed with the right therapy, for example helping the person to remember and review events in a grounded, realistic way, gently and slowly.

Like any other form of abusive behavior, whether the person doing it is aware or not, a target's priority needs to be their own safety and that of their children and other loved ones. If and when the target is safe, then if they want to, they can seek advice and help for their projecting loved one or friend, but only with keeping their own safety in mind first and foremost.