Hurt people hurt people. Many years ago I worked in a high-secure mental health unit and we witnessed this daily. During one of our clinical supervision sessions, our supervisor explained this very concept about how hurt people hurt people. The offenders on our ward could be really cutting and mean. They would sometimes go out of their way to try hurt our feelings or upset us and many staff would take this personally. Our clinical supervisor advised us not to take this personally saying it said more about the person trying to upset us than about us.
When these offenders would be mean or try hurt us they were projecting their inner misery onto us. Think about it. Happy, calm fulfilled people don’t want to unnecessarily upset others. Sure they will be assertive and stand up for themselves if they need to but this is a health behaviour. They won’t go out of their way though to inflict unnecessary pain on another. When someone tries to hurt you or belittle you, they are giving you a huge insight into their inner state of mind.
Look at the source
Instead of making the sarcasm or criticism about you (meanness triggers our insecurities), immediately focus back on the person projecting the nastiness. Nine times out of ten, you will realise that the source is negative, unhappy and miserable. Sometimes (sadly), it helps unhappy people to feel a little better when they know they aren’t the only ones suffering. It’s a nonsensical approach though because it doesn’t fix the primary problem – the reason for the unhappiness in the first place.
This type of projection usually comes from people who are less able to problem solve their way out of an issue. They may adopt the unhelpful approach that they are in the mess they are in due to the actions of others. If they see themselves as a victim, they are far more likely to project their inner misery onto others. You are also far more likely to be a target if you accept this kind of behaviour from others in personal relationships.
Healthy behaviour to deal with the hurt
Those with good mental health and a balanced personality will tend to deal with inner misery more effectively. Instead of projecting hurt onto others, they will engage in problem solving and accept responsibility for their negative emotions. The buck stops with them and they will look at adapting rather than projecting.
We all have to deal with negative emotions at times and it’s fairly normal to sometimes feel the urge to project onto others. It’s an easy outlet but it serves no purpose other than to alienate those around you. It may also end up with you feeling shame and guilt.
If you are the victim of someone else’s unhappy projections, remind yourself that it says more about them than you. Think about school bullies – often when you dig deeper, you find thay have unhappy home lives or there is some underlying unhappiness. Younger individuals don’t always have the emotional maturity to deal with their inner misery and sadly, some children just cannot escape their own form of bullying from their parents. Negative energy has to go somewhere and those that don’t know how to deal with it, push it onto others in a futile attempt to feel better. This is an extremely short lived result though.
A happier, kinder world
If you are the one that projects negative feelings onto others, seeking out counselling may be the best way to learn how to manage your negative emotions more competently. If we lived in a world where we didn’t project our misery onto others, we would certainly share a happier kinder world. Just think – there would be less hate crime, less domestic abuse, less mean spirited comments, unwarranted gossip and less enjoyment of the failures of others. What we are all doing is just shuffling the bad feeling around from one person to another, creating further misery. Stop the cycle, get help and realise that hurting others will ultimately hurt you too.