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Stress Reduction: Are You a Projector?

By Blogger
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I recently met a woman whose husband was dealing with stage four colon cancer. She was very upset about how miserable he was after his chemotherapy infusions and thought he should be doing more work with holistic healers.

She found herself quite stressed until she realized SHE was the one that would have wanted holistic treatment had it been HER that was ill. Her stress was due to projecting her feelings onto him and then reacting accordingly.

How often do YOU do that? How often do you react as if someone or something else felt the same way you do when, in fact, they are perfectly happy just the way they are?

We don’t do this just in situations with illness. I know that sometimes I do it when dealing with our animals. I feel guilty about leaving the dogs home when I go somewhere, and I realize that it’s because I wouldn’t want to be left alone if I were in their position. I am projecting my feelings onto the dogs.

The truth of the matter, however, is that they are dogs, not people, and they may be upset at being left alone but then they go to sleep after a minute or so and that’s the end of it. Studies have shown that dogs have no sense of time, so they feel the same if you leave them for 5 minutes or five hours; they are always hysterically happy to see you. In fact, my office is downstairs and whenever I come upstairs for lunch, one of our poodles, Emma, jumps down and runs over to greet me. Her tail is going a mile a minute and, more often than not, she brings me a toy as well. It seems a bit extreme, but there I go again projecting my feelings on to her. *I* would be happy to see me, too, but not THAT happy and not THAT often!

Another example; Alzheimer’s patients. The loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients are so distraught about the situation, often because they feel sorry for them. Guess what? The patients themselves are usually just as happy as they can be in their own view of the world. Of course it’s sad that this has happened and it is terribly hurtful when your own mother doesn’t recognize you, but don’t feel sorry for them; THEY’RE happy and feel no pain because they don’t know what they have forgotten.

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Thank you for your comment, Pat. I have always said that the "Golden Rule" is backwards. It says to treat others the way YOU want to be treated ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"), but you should treat others the way THEY want to be treated.

This is a huge problem for us dealing with cancer or any other major illness for that matter.

March 23, 2010 - 6:33pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Dave, you've touched on a problem that seems to affect most cancer patients - people imagine what THEY would feel like with cancer and then project it onto the other person instead of asking the patient what they need and then simply letting them talk and express what's on their minds. Another way this occurs is when people make their own favorite comfort food for the patient and don't bother to find out if there are any special diet restrictions or favorite foods that would truly help the patient recover. Thanks for providing this information.
Take care, Pat

March 23, 2010 - 6:19pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.