Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Spotting Projection: Pinning the Tail on the Wrong Donkey

Here's a way to spot projection even when you haven't enough direct knowledge of a controversy to know through observation where the truth lies. It's something I suppose only a writer would notice about human dialog. One of those things we notice about the way people talk that we use to make fictional characters realistic.

Projection is of course intellectual dishonesty. People may project their own character off onto a another person, or they may project the character of one person in a conflict onto the other. In the second case, people are siding with the bad guy, such as the bystanders do when they blame the victim.

A sure sign is their diction - word choice. It's always ironic. Why? Because they're always busy "cleansing" their guy of wrongdoing with their talk.

So, to erase any glaring character flaws coming through in his behavior, they (perhaps almost subconsciously) dump a label for that very character flaw ON THE OTHER PARTY.

Do you see what they're doing? It's a little mental trick of wiping that dirt off the bad guy's image and smearing it on the good guy's.

The result is farce. Which easy to detect if you're paying attention.

For, if an honest person were talking, someone who honestly felt the other party was at least somewhat to blame, he or she wouldn't totally reverse reality this way.

This is how, for example, you get people characterizing the abuser as, of all the things, the victim. Enough to make the head spin. Getting things that backwards is no accident: it's projection.

We saw a perfect example in the case of the BBC's Raging Sweeney. Clowns called HIM, of all things, the "victim." Now, an honest person might be critical of the Scientolologist in that conflict, but no honest person (a person not thinking with lies) would get what happened THAT ass-backwards.

Of course, Sweeney played them like a fiddle for it, just like a narcissist does, by following his rage with a face-change into a "poor-little-ole-me-wouldn't-hurt-a-fly" act, but "I was so picked on that I lost my poor temper."

Not. He turned it on and off like a light switch, so he wasn't really provoked. But people invested in the message want to side with him, so they ludicrously misplace the labels of "abuser" and "victim" in this affair.

That isn't just wrong: it's a farce. That exactly REVERSES reality. They are just playing the shell game with labels.

To see through them, all you have to do is look at the video: which party is the abuser and which the victim couldn't be more obvious. That is something no honest person can get backwards.

So, projection is easy to detect if you just notice the labels people put on others. Just ask yourself which party that particular label is more fitting for. When you are hearing projection, you will immediately see that the person handing you this line is playing "Pin the Tail on the Wrong Donkey."

Here's another example. Another glaring thing about that video is that Sweeney just blows up suddenly, out of the blue. In other words, his rage is an outburst.

Therefore, no honest, clear thinking person would attribute the "outburst" to anyone but Sweeney.

But a projecter will. Since "outburst" is a perfect word for characterizing Sweeney's behavior, a projector will lay that label on someone else, instead. Projectors will call someone else's reaction to Sweeney, of all things, an "outburst."

Why would a projector choose that exact word? To remove it from Sweeney's account and put it on someone else's.

They are just pinning that tail on the wrong donkey.

Who are they trying to fool? Good question. Usualy themselves more than you.

Projectors thus give themselves away by always dumping the appropriate labels on the wrong party.

In this case, it's their way of cleansing Sweeney of his misconduct and smearing it off on someone defending against it.

They'll do the same with the hate. They don't lay that label on the bigot, they lay it on the offended party for answering the slur. The offended party must take the hatred of bigotry in good grace and with a smile or be guilty of ... you guessed it, "hate." Not a word from the projector about the hate in the bigot's slur.

What hate? He or she didn't detect any hate there.

One wonders what it's like to live in a head as cock-eyed as that!

In short, projectors are always getting the actor and acted upon reversed, the offender and offended reversed, the abuser and the victim reversed, the hater and hated reversed. That's why I call them clowns, for the original meaning of clown was someone with a foggy head.

Narcissists do this 20 times a day, and they are expert at manipulating the bystanders to do it, too.

So, watch for this in the diction of others. Pay attention to their diction, the labels they put on others. Is it a bridge too far? Does the word they choose to describe someone or something with seem peculiar? Do you wonder where it came from? Check it. Does it pin the tail on the wrong donkey?

Is it downright ironic in the light of what you know first hand?

If so, you are listening to someone deluding themselves. Don't let them delude you too.

An honest person may be wrong. But an honest person never reverses and makes a farce of reality.

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At 12:30 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Are there ways to hear this before it's as obvious as the example you're giving? My own Narcissists (the ones I was born to) are much more subtle than this unless things have gotten out of hand.

My husband can hear it -- he calls it "It's all just fishing around for the best or your veins to tap into -- like a vampire." My son calls it that too. Everyone else can detect it, but I can never hear it until it's too late, and I'm in full blown whatthehell?! mode.

Any hints?

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Hi Stephanie, I think you posted while I was updating to make the point more clear with the analogy of "pinning a tail on the wrong donkey."

I know of no way to detect it other than to question everything before you let it into your head. Does it square with sense and logic and what you know first hand? We should do this with everything, because otherwise we are letting others do our thinking for us.

When someone is pinning a tail on the wrong donkey in an affair, that becomes obvious the moment you ask yourself which party that label better fits.

Even when the projection is subtle, you will see that the label/tail is getting pinned on the wrong person - not the one it MANIFESTLY belongs to.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

You know what's weird? I can read your answer and agree with it completely ... and then try to imagine myself using my OWN (not inconsiderable) mental prowess as a filter for everything coming to me from those people (as I do with everyone else all the time), and I short out.

So - I figure - this is a good indicator that you've hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Bill said...

My X-N wife has pinned the tail on me to my adult kids. This is after she had an affair with our pastor and invented some horrific stories about me to justify her behavior. How do you approach correcting this? I just learned about the M-N stuff at this site and it has thankfully explained the madness I lived in for 15 years. Any suggestions on righting the character assasination wrongs?

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

You can't, Bill. You can only be the kind of person that reasonable people can respect, and then let the chips fall. If you stubbornly refuse to engage in the throwing of the crap, after awhile other people figure out you're not one of the monkeys.

At 12:15 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Stephanie, it would be nice if what you say were true, but it almost never holds.

If you have been accused and do not answer, do not defend yourself, what does that say to people? You might as well publish a false confession.

Second, you shouldn't characterize telling those people the truth as "throwing crap." Yes, what you will say about your character assassin is bad, but that doesn't make it crap. It's the truth. You do it in self defense, not just to badmouth anyone like your accuser does. You have no choice but to show that the N is projecting by showing that those same accusations belong on the accuser's head, not yours.

The worst thing you can do is remain silent. People must know that you protest your innocense.

It is never wrong to defend yourself. If you don't, you will soon hate yourself for "bending over for it."

Not that I would waste much breath on bystanders. Because they will believe whatever they want. If they have listened to slander about you, they will deny it.

If they have fallen for ridiculous lies about you, they will never admit that stuff was lies, because that would amount to admitting they are fools for believing such lies.

Juicy lies.

But the difficulty here does not mean that you should lay down for it. You need to defend yourself for your own self respect. And you need a defense on record. Otherwise you have essentially admited that the allegations are true.

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

PS, this is why you should never act like it ain't happening. You should never pretend you are on good terms with the N.

For the same reason. What does that say to people who see you act like nothing is wrong in your relationshipo with the N? Think about it. It is evidence against you. It tends to make them believe the Ns lies.

This pretense is a lie in deed anyway, and it is a lie that testifies against you.

You should make it clear to the whole world that you are angry with the N, that you will having nothing more to do with him or her. That at least makes people what your side of the story might be.

So, if she lands in the hospital, don't go visit. If she dies, don't go to the funeral. Be honest in deed about your relationship with the slandering N - that you are enemies. Pretending to be friends just says that you have no grievance against her = you are guilty of her accusations.

Self defense is not only your right, it's a necessity.

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

If you make a life out of "righting the wrongs" of the character assassination being done by an obviously vicious person, then the vicious person eats your whole life that way. It's one thing to tell the truth to someone in a personal conversation, or to testify in court -- it's another to spend your life's energy trying to make everything "true" or "right" in the world.

So I didn't mean to go along to get along. I meant that I think we have to tell the truth and ignore the liar as much as is practical to do. I don't have to stay near the liar - or the person who insists on assigning motives to my actions - or any other narcis. person. But I've seen people obsessed with clearing their names - and they just end up wasting their lives saying what reasonable people already know - "that one's a liar." People already know it.

I just meant to say that this is another way the black hole can consume you. No matter what you say or do, they won't change. So you just have to walk away once you've done and said what is reasonable.

But I do see what you're saying about not pretending that it's not happening. I agree with that. I'm learning to do that - with enough clout that the NPD people in my life are beginning to back away from direct assaults and become smarter and more clever and aware that I'm not the least resistant path for their egos. But I don't keep talking once I've said it. That's all.

So I agree with disallowing the behavior in my presence. I'm just saying that if you let Mr. or Mrs. Never-enough eat your life by making you seek and try to correct their lies all the time - stuff they've said to other people-, what have you gained? They've still eaten your life.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

P.S. Thanks for the practical advice about speaking up at the time of the aggression.

You said "What does that say to people who see you act like nothing is wrong in your relationship with the N?" I've finally figured this out in my life, and now hearing you say it is really helpful to me. In fact, I'm channeling all that self-control I learned over the years into a very controlled refusal to submit. It's quite effective!

Thanks again.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Thank you, Stephanie. It IS a Catch-22. As I was pointing out, there are terrible pitfalls in failing to defend yourself from lies. But as you point out, you have to know where to draw the line, because N's are eating away at you constantly and never stop.

You can't make them stop. They are machines. The only thing that stops them is adverse consequences.

The main thing is, to show by your actions, that you are not on friendly terms with the N. After all, that's just honest. Then people know that there are two sides to the story. That automatically makes them take everything the N says with a grain of salt.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous gh said...

It's the old Catch-22 again. If you take the "high road" and refuse to dignify the things she asys with a response, like Kathy observes, the bystanders will happily believe that the lies are true.

If you are openly hostile to the N, the bystanders will likely just take this as evidence that you are the nasty, hostile jerk the N has portrayed you to be.

Most of the time, they do just believe the lies without ever asking your side -- or even mentioning the lies to you. You can't respond when you don't know what was said.

But anyone who is worth having in your life will ask and those who don't, well, why should you even care what they think of you? They are as bad as the N...

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous gh said...

Ah, Kathy, I see you beat me to the point...

At 5:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy is absolutely right about not ignoring the facts about your N. That is one of the biggest regrets I have is the anger against myself for taking my "N" brothers crap for so long just to keep a "so called" family relation together.He had his chief enabler "Mom" saving his ass at all times and smoothing the problems over with Dad and all. When Dad died he could finally run amok.He surreptitiously had himself put on the deed to "Moms'" house as joint tenant. (upon passing title goes to the other tenant, supercedes will,no probate)Not a word was said but my suspicions were right.
P.S. My sister and I no longer have any relationship with him or my "Mother". The things he has done anger me but I am more angry with myself for allowing it. That is the hardest part to deal with. The most important thing though is getting these people out of your life. Unfortunately its harder when its "family".

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's something i need to vent about. my N hasn't been involved in the daily workings of the household for a long time. not truly involved. he's here and gets a lot of credit where it is not due, but really, i have to run everything. when i still loved him, i did it as a 'service' to my family. but slowly it turned into doing it to get it done- although it was still with love. but just not for him.
anyway-- my N will use pronouns in peculiar ways. others might notice if i could teach them how to listen for it. what i think i have figured out is this. he will say "are we going to ..." "because I have to make sure...". usually it aggravates the heck out of me. maybe if i tell you guys it will become comical. he is a list maker. when i first met him he was a hard worker and got a lot done. thoroughly even. i know folks get tired.(duh! I AM!!!) but you should hear how he talks! only now he doesn't at all do the walk. the minute he says something about doing anything- that is my sign that he absolutely will not be doing it. BUT- because it really is something that needs to be done- chances are good i will take care of it and then he will look good because "hey- we're a team" right?!!!NOT anymore.
it really shouldn't bug me anymore because he really does sound ridiculous to me. but it really does aggravate me what an incredible credit monger he is. it makes it worst when people tell me he is just trying to help, or just trying to be involved. MAYBE that's true of other spouses/people, BUT NOT OF MINE. he really is just a pathetic credit monger. and i bet some of you know what i'm talking about. jt

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

If you play your hard-to-get cards right, he will buy you a car just to get you to "put it behind you" (forget what you know he is) and trust him again!

Supply is really, really THAT important to them! They will do anything to re-cultivate an old source of supply when a new one is hard to come by.

But as soon as they see they've gotcha with your defenses down, the abuse starts in again. An N will do this with people in his or her immediate family time and time again - as often as he or she can sucker them.

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous martin said...

What's interesting is when the person who does the character assasination is a parent. When the person has, in fact, been at it your entire life. There really is no fighting back, but I can tell you the chips DO fall. Truth will out.


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