Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is Idealization actually Positive Projection?

… or does positive projection create idealization? I stumbled upon this train of thought while writing about positive projection the other day and I wanted to look into it further because (not to pat myself on the back) but I believe it has some validity. I couldn’t find anything concrete to support this theory specifically with idealization, but I did find this article on Positive Projection that I found to be quite interesting.

"When desirable qualities such as creativity, sensuality, or leadership ability are incompatible with one’s self-image, they often get projected onto others..."

Many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder have such a negative sense of self-perception and such a low sense of self-worth it’s easy for us to magnify our “failings” and almost impossible to recognize our better qualities. To the point where acknowledging our achievements and giving ourselves credit can feel shameful or embarrassing. I still struggle with this. I can certainly see how we could project the traits that we subconsciously feel are worth something onto another. If they actually do have some of these traits, I can see how it would be easy to magnify the importance of these traits, really latch onto how meaningful they are, because it’s easier to recognize and support a quality in someone else than it is to support ourselves. It’s a way to subconsciously give ourselves a greater sense of worth. It would also make the abandonment or rejection of something we value so greatly that much more devastating. It would almost be like a rejection by a part of ourselves. Proof that there is not something in us that is worth that much.

For Friend and Evil-Ex this has come in the form of artistic expression. They both had a lot of creativity and artistic flare which is something I valued greatly. In fact, it’s one of the things I lament most that Tech Boy does not have and I wonder if it’s why I don’t have such an intense connection with him. I’m sure it’s not the only reason, but in the former two we would become so wrapped up in our artistic fantasies and creative outlets that it was like I’d found my soulmate (not that I believe in souls). Something to ponder.

"...Positive projection is frequently an integral part of falling in love. Carl Jung maintains that all impassioned, almost-magical relationships between people involve projection. The other person becomes the object of great love or loathing, and sometimes both.

We usually don’t see our own projections, because they stem from the unconscious, and because they get cast onto someone with a suitable hook. But we can distinguish projections from objective observations, because projections are accompanied by considerable heat or emotion found in the feelings of awe, adoration and reverence...."

In retrospect I can see this as true. I would be so overwhelmed by the love, heat, and passion they would inspire in me because of our “connection” over a few things, that I would utterly ignore or rationalize all the other glaring points of contention. The abuse, the being married, the lack of true personal strength, the inability to show reciprocity in caring. Things that were truly important, were easily overshadowed by the heights of the more “important” things.

"The problems with projection include the following:

1. Prevents objectivity. Projection often prevents people from being perceptive and objective about themselves and others.

2. Prevents personal development. Unconscious content that is projected onto another person becomes less accessible for personal integration. “She’s the articulate one.” “He decides where to vacation.” “She handles the finances.” Often people will hold back from developing the admired qualities in themselves.

3. Too much dependence. A person may get into an excessively dependent relation with the person who is the object of these positive projections. “He’ll handle the finances; he’s good at that.” “She’ll speak to the children; she’s good at that.”

4. Deep disappointment. Sooner or later the person on whom one is projecting admirable qualities won’t be able to live up to one’s expectations, which can lead to deep disappointment, frustration, and loathing. So, we must refrain from expecting our partners to do what we can do for ourselves."

Deep disappointment is an understatement. I think this is probably where the quick devaluations come in. We put so much stock, so much of our own self-worth, into the idealize projections of ourselves into this other person, that when they disappoint us, it’s like an affirmation of our own failure and disappointment of Self. It’s the disappointment in ourselves that is the real hit, or the realization that if someone that we believed, projected, to be SO GOOD, can fall, than we can’t be all that good either. If we can’t be all good, what’s to keep anyone around. It’s one small step away from rejection and abandonment. The choices left are: Reject before we can be rejected, latch on for dear life, or deny and rationalize the disappointment. All extreme when the healthy thing to do would be to realize that they’re human. Humans make mistakes. It’s okay. And that goes for ourselves as well.  

"...We cannot avoid having projections. Yet, we can pay attention to our projections and thereby learn what we can develop within ourselves. Projection provides a great deal of value when we realize that that which inspires us in others has been in us all along. For instance, the heat with which you admire his “amazing intelligence and ability to speak” indicates that you value but disown those attributes in yourself. Being aware of your projection lets you know that something in you is seeking to develop your intelligence and eloquence...."

I really like this as sort of an advanced exercise in Self-Awareness.

~~ Identify the abilities/skills/traits you idealize in someone else; the things you think make them the perfect person for you. Is this a trait unique to them in the relationship? Or is it something you value in yourself as well? Do you have this ability too? Be honest with yourself.  

~~ Pursue those things further. Pick one trait and work to develop it in yourself. 

It might turn out that you deserve to give yourself a lot more credit where you have formerly been denying it. Of course, it may turn out that it’s not something you have a natural proclivity for and it’s something you value highly and wish you could embody. It’s okay if you don’t have the same skills. In fact, this may indicate that it’s not a projection and something you truly value in the other person which is also an excellent byproduct of this exercise in self-awareness.

Again, these are just my thoughts and theories on the subject and where my mind roams, but I think it makes sense. 


  1. This is really helpful to me, Haven. Thank you.

  2. Omw. Lol. too true! We humans are such strange creatures. Im so doing that exercise. Thanx.


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