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Addiction and Projections

“You spot it, you’ve got it.” Ever heard that popular catchphrase? It means that the qualities you see in others – the ones that secretly drive you crazy – are the same ones that you have within yourself.

How does this work? The idea is that our soul is always trying to evolve, and when we refuse to look at our own faults and shortcomings, it brings them to our attention in other people.

The qualities we most reject and fear within ourselves are the ones that we see reflected in others. It’s the universe’s way of taking a big yellow highlighter over that particular area of our lives, drawing our attention so that we can heal.

What Are Projections?

Projections are when we put our own disowned qualities and aspects onto other people. Many of our judgments are actually projections. When we judge others harshly, it’s actually an indication that – surprise! – we need to pay attention to that issue within ourselves.

We get upset with them because we don’t want to face these attributes in our relationships with others, ourselves, or God. (We also may not want to acknowledge that, under the right circumstances, we have the capacity to exhibit the same behavior!)

For example, if we can’t stand how another person dominates conversations, it’s probably time to look at how and where we’re dominating in own lives.

Dr. Martha Beck sums up projections elegantly in her O Magazine article, You Spot It, You’ve Got It:

“Whatever we criticize most harshly in others may be a hallmark of our own psyche; what I hate most in you may actually be what I hate most in me.”

How Projections and Addiction Are Linked

Projections are linked to addictions because both involve disconnecting from our true selves. Projections are a form of repression, a way for us to blind ourselves to the truth of what’s really going on in our lives.

As Dr. Beck notes, “[Projections] occur when we do things that are in opposition to our own value systems. To feel good about acting in ways that are reprehensible to ourselves, we must repress our recognition that we’re doing so.”

When we disown and disconnect from ourselves, we set ourselves up to fall for all kinds of false substitutes. As humans, we’re wired to connect, so when we don’t have an authentic connection to ourselves and others, we get desperate. We reach for something – anything! – with which to bond.

We smoke pot and sniff glue and shoot heroin not because we are crazy or wrong or bad, but because we’re searching for something to help us feel plugged in, connected, and alive.

It can be life-changing to realize that there’s a positive aspect to addiction, a way in which your substance abuse serves as self-preservation.

Healing from addiction means letting go of the false substitutes for self-connection and getting back in touch with our deepest truth.

How to Let Go of Projections

In last week’s post, we talked about Addiction and Judgments, and how to forgive ourselves for the judgments we’ve held against others and ourselves. The work on projections is similar, because it also involves self-forgiveness.

Letting go of projections means forgiving ourselves for judging others, and forgiving ourselves for judging ourselves (through the medium of others).

Here’s a template for how to let go of painful judgments and projections:

“I forgive myself for judging ___________ {name of other person} as ___________ {your judgment/projection: wrong, selfish, bad, etc}, and the truth is _________________.”

Then, forgive yourself for judging yourself in the same way: “I forgive myself for judging myself as _____________ {your judgment/projection}, and the truth is _________________.”

To fill in the second blank, pass the microphone to the voice of unconditional love that you have within you.

Often what comes up here is, “The truth is that I was doing the best I could.” And as the wise Dr. Maya Angelou says, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Forgiving your judgments and projections sets you free to “do better” in all areas of your life. It allows you to bond and connect with your true self, rather than addictive substances … and that’s great news for your recovery.

Addiction and Projections

Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder and CEO of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife Betsy’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment.

He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life.

In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realized his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Addiction and Projections. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jan 2018
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