A common reaction to stress is to project it onto those close to you.
It goes something like this:
I’m stressed/anxious/angry/sad, so I create an expectation that others will understand how upset I am or be equally as offended as me.
I relive the upset I feel by either venting/over-explaining my anguish, or silently waiting for someone else to step in with a solution to make me feel better. I get upset when I am misunderstood and nobody can live up to the expectation I’ve created to have my stress healed by someone/something outside of myself. I relive and perpetuate my stress by projecting it onto the current situation I have created.
This is really a snowball of stress I have rolled uphill by myself, all the while not really dealing with what actually stressed me out in the first place (hint: it’s ME).
Now we’re all very familiar with how this plays out in our close personal relationship (whether we want to admit it or not). Think about how it plays out in our workplaces. When we’re sharing a common goal or task we often expect others we’re working with to think, feel and work like we do. The projection cycle I’ve just described is activated when there’s tension on the job because we expect others to be in line with us, our work, values and expectations.
Instead of using healthy communication tools and getting to the core of what bothers us, we avoid sitting in the discomfort of our stress and project it onto others, either making it their fault or being subconsciously angry with them for not fixing it.
This plays out as getting angry that others aren’t doing their jobs properly, upset they’re making yours more difficult, frustrated management isn’t doing anything about the problem, etc etc. At the root of these bigger problems, you can usually find personal stress or a small miscommunication between one or two people that got projected back and forth so many times it became a thing.
Projecting is a natural response to stress, albeit an unhealthy one. Let’s normalize actually feeling our stress and dealing with it.