From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
Jump to: navigation, search

The term is widely used in both psychoanalysis and clinical psychology to describe mechanisms that relocate elements of the psyche in the external world.


In psychoanalysis, projection is used to describe the process that enables the subject to expel feelings, qualities or objects it refuses to recognize in itelf.

[[Projection] makes them appear to be external objects rather than internal parts of the psyche.

For Freud, projection is not a purely pathological phenomenon, but a normal feature of, for example, superstitution and religious beliefs; demons and ghosts are projections of "evil" unconscious desires and impulses.

In so-called projective jealousy, the subject wards off his desire to be unfaithful by projecing jealousy onto his partner, and thus deflects attention away from his own unconscious desire.[1]

Projection is an important aspect of paranoia, and Freud's clearest descriptions of the phenomenon come from his account of the Schreber case.[2]

The statement "I hate him" is transformed by projection into the statement "He hates me and is persecuting me."

The paranoiac's initial impulse to hate can thus be justified as a rational defence against aggression.

According to Anna Freud (1936), projection is one of the ego's defence mechanisms.

The projection of hatred characteristic of paranoia relieves, that is, the ego from the guilt it feels over its hatred of an object.

Anna Freud thus assumes that the ego already knows the difference between "inside" and "outside."

The mechanism of projection is basic to the play-therapy technique developed by Klein: it allows the child to act out internal conflicts by projecting them onto the toys it has been given.

In psychoanalytic terms, projection is the antithesis of introjection.


In clinical psychology, projective tests such as Rorschach tests are used to diagnose personality types.

The patient is given an unstructured set of stimuli, such as visual iamges, that cna trigger a wide range of responses.

A correct interpretation of the stimuli is an indication of adaptation to reality; analysis of the fantasies and emotional responses that are simultaneously projected provides insight into the individual personality of the patient.

The underlying thesis is that an individual's response to the outside world is governed by the state and the structure of his or her inner world.

Projection is a defence mechanism in which an internal desire]/thought/feeling is displaced and located outside the subject, in another subject.

In a general sense, the term projection denotes an operation that consists in the displacement of something from one space to another, or from one part of a single space to another.

Cutting off what the [superego]] perceives as "bad" aspects of oneself (e.g. weakness or homosexual desire) and projecting them onto someone else "over there" where they can be condemned, punished, etc..

For example a person who has been (or who feels) unfaithful to his partner may defend himself against feelings of guilt by accusing the partner of being unfaithful.

Sigmund Freud

Freud and many other psychoanalysts use the term 'projection' to describe a mechanism which is present (to differing degrees) in both psychosis and neurosis.

Jacques Lacan

Lacan understands the term 'projection' as a purely neurotic mechanism and distinguishes it clearly from the apparently similar phenomenon that occurs in psychosis (which Lacan calls foreclosure).

Whereas projection is rooted in the imaginary dual relationship between the ego and the counterpart,[3] foreclosure goes beyond the imaginary and instead involves a signifier which is not incorporated in the symbolic.


Lacan also rejects the view that introjection is the inverse of projection, arguing that these two processes are located on quite different levels.

Whereas projection is an Imaginary mechanism, introjection is a Symbolic process.[4]



Projection takes one's own anxiety-arousing impulses and attributes them to someone else.


A husband finds himself attracted to a charming and flirtatious woman at work. Instead of acknowledging his attraction, he becomes increasingly jealous of his wife and worried about her faithfulness to the marriage. Freud would say that the jealous husband is simply projecting his own feelings onto his wife in an effort to reduce the anxiety he feels about his own unacceptable feelings.


  1. Freud. 1922b.
  2. 1911b
  3. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.145
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.655
  1. Muller, John P. and William J. Richardson. Lacan and Language: A Reader's Guide to Ecrits. New York: International Universiites Press, Inc., 1982. Projection, 34, 46, 51, 54, 62,116,169, 199,200,203,204,227,228,240, 241,254