What Is Psychological Projection and How to Find If Someone Is Using It on You

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psychological projection

Narcissists are renowned for using psychological projection to blame other people, even when it is entirely apparent that they are the ones in the wrong.

Whichever way they can, they will project the blame, stating that the other person made them do it, was responsible for their own bad behaviour or simply did not do what they asked.

What is psychological projection?

It was psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud that first coined the term projection, describing it as a way in which an individual projects their own undesirable thoughts and beliefs onto someone else.

Examples of psychological projection:

  • Parents who have not achieved their goals in life demanding that their own children succeed.
  • Fearing your partner will cheat on you is often a reflection of how you view yourself.
  • Believing someone hates you could be signs of your hidden intense dislike for that person.

With regards to the narcissist, they too can have deep and repressed feelings, this is because their view of the world is so cut off from real life. It is often the case that a narcissist will blame their partner when their boundaries or rules are challenged. When this happens, a narcissist will suddenly experience a loss of control that threatens the very façade and world they have created.

It is not that a typical narcissist fails to know the difference between right and wrong. They do, it’s that when they themselves fail, they feel such an incredible sense of shame that they cannot deal with it. Their delicate ego has to be protected at all costs and so the blame for the failure has to be directed elsewhere.

This leaves the other person in a constant state of anxiety because the narcissist’s reasons for blaming them are so irrational and ridiculous.

A few examples of psychological projection might include:

  • I performed badly at work today because you wanted to watch that late night film last night.
  • I was late for an important meeting because you asked me to collect the children.
  • My presentation sucked because you didn’t clean my shirts properly.

A narcissist will blame his or her significant other for every single thing that is wrong in their life. They are extremely judgemental and command total perfection from their loved ones. This, however, is certainly not reciprocated.

If a narcissist does something, however small and insignificant that is deemed to be a mistake, and they are caught out, they explode with a rage that is entirely inappropriate to the situation.

Ways in which a narcissist will use psychological projection on you:

  1. A narcissist might be particularly rude or abusive towards you, but when you get upset and call them out on their behaviour, they blame you for overreacting.
  2. A narcissist might cheat on a partner first and then blame the partner, saying they knew they would cheat so they did it first.
  3. They will avoid the problem then blame the partner for bringing up upsetting feelings.
  4. Give out silent treatment for no apparent reason and then blame the partner for some minor incident that happened in the past.
  5. Manufacture a problem and then refuse to discuss it, then blame the partner for wanting to talk it through when they say it was nothing to worry about.
  6. Leaving the partner saying that their partner was going to leave so they got in first.

It is unreasonable to expect anyone to be able to live under these shifting boundaries and rules. You are constantly in a state of free-floating anxiety, trying to live up to your partner’s unrealistic expectations that change by the minute.

Never knowing when the bomb will drop and your partner will explode about something that was never in your control in the first place. And inevitably, if you get the courage to leave a narcissist, it will always be your fault.

But this type of personality doesn’t sound like a very good romantic prospect, so how do people get sucked into dating a narcissist in the first place?

Experts in the study of relationships believe that narcissists target people who have very high emotional IQs.

Narcissists also focus on people who rate highly in characteristics such as empathy, integrity, ability to compromise, authenticity, accountability, and the capacity to love on a mature level. These just happen to be the exact characteristics a narcissist is lacking.

A narcissist is basically an empty husk of a human being who manufactures an attractive exterior in which to fool the people around him or her. Narcissists do not know how to feel love, pain, empathy or guilt, and seemingly surround themselves with people who have the exact qualities they lack.

A narcissist cannot continue putting up their mask to the world on their own forever. They need constant reminders of what it is really like to function as a normal human being. So they look for these types of people and emotionally entangle themselves with them.

However, even mixing with high-functioning people doesn’t allow them to keep up their façade. Eventually, they will go through the typical cycle of devaluing and discarding their partner before moving onto their next victim.

If you are involved with a person that is always projecting the blame onto you, you might be better off looking for love elsewhere.


  1. https://blogs.psychcentral.com
  2. https://www.mdjunction.com
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Janey D.

Janey Davies has been published online for over 8 years. She is the head writer for Shoppersbase.com, she also writes for AvecAgnes.co.uk, Ewawigs.com and has contributed to inside3DP.com. She has an Honours Degree in Psychology and her passions include learning about the mind, popular science and politics. When she is relaxing she likes to walk her dog, read science fiction and listen to Muse.

Copyright © 2018 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.


  1. Sardar Hamid February 20, 2017 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Well It feels like I am a kind of Narcissist myself……… 🙁

  2. Mary Kingsley February 21, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

    A very clever bit of writing but on this site, it’s as though narcissists are being singled out, attacked and segregated, rather seeing just how much narcissism is a component of everyone’s psychology today – because we are programmed into being narcissistic from birth.

    Narcissism is not so black and white. To understand it means we have to take a good hard look at ourselves. I say this as an ex-psychotherapist who has taught on this subject and who has been in mental health for over 30 years. OK, narcissists can wreck havoc but if you work in-depth, it’s plain that they are suffering greatly.

    Today, there are too many short essays and not enough deep research going on. Neither is enough guidance/help for those suffering.

    Well done for trying to bring certain issues to light, though. But instead of using the term narcissist, how about focusing on the collective psyche of humanity which is now highly programmed and in a real mess.

  3. Randy April 4, 2018 at 8:42 am - Reply

    I agree
    “Suffering greatly is an understatement “

  4. Hitesh April 9, 2018 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Hello, great article. Really insightful. I have a question as I thought the following is a form of Psychological Projection as well.

    Lets say, someone is narcissistic, and they cause issues, where they are the instigator and I call the police. Now, lets say I press charges, and they get in a mess, and if I try to reason with them, and say it is because you bullied and assaulted me and they reply with something crazy like “Well you called the police on me”

    Now is that Psychological Projection as well or is that something else?

    This is a common scenario among narcissists, no accountability. They will always place blame, like if you only listened to me etc.

    Please let me know.

  5. Missy Butcher July 10, 2018 at 9:05 am - Reply

    So by labeling a person as a narcissist is not the one placing the label actually projecting their own narcissistic tendencies onto the other person? Isn’t the above described behaviors exactly what all of the so-called “victims” of their personally labeled narcissist do? In fact, isn’t “playing the victim” a labeled narcissistic manipulative behavior/tactic? Yes it is. These people, then, are not the “victims” of the narcissist – THEY ARE THE NARCISSIST.

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