Projection is a defense mechanism, there are many different ones and everyone employs some of them at one point or another. There are some that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) seem to favor and projection is one of them. In an article on Lifescript, Jennifer Beaumann writes: Psychological projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings. The article has several good examples that help explain what psychological projecting is. If we cannot own our negative feelings or admit our negative character traits to ourselves, we may project them onto others, meaning that we assign those negative feelings and character traits to that other person. For example, I may judge an acquaintance harshly for “being judgmental.” I would say something like, “Oh I can’t stand how Jane is always judging everyone! She thinks she is so much better than everyone, always looking down on them. It’s such an unattractive habit.” Yet I’m judging and looking down on Jane, exactly what I say that I hate.
This short article on GoodTherapy.org also explains it well. It gives the example: A person with narcissistic traits who does not respect their partner may say to the partner, “You don’t respect me or see my true worth.” I have seen that Cruella takes this a step further; she doesn’t just assign her negative feelings to other people, she flat out begins to believe that other people have done the horrible things she has done or said the awful things that she herself has said. I believe this is a combination of projection and gaslighting that is not uncommon with narcissists. (I will write a future blog post about gaslighting but you can read more about it now on Narcissistic Behavior Net.)
Cruella will do something and then months later, she will say that Sebastian or Bruce actually did or said the thing that she has done. So not only is she gaslighting by denying that it took place, she turns the tables and blames them for what she actually did or said. Here is a great example of an actual recent event. Over the weekend, Cruella sent a message to Sebastian, in which she accused him of refusing to give her our new address when we all moved in together, which she claims she asked for. In actual reality, Sebastian tried to find out where Cruella and Harley moved to and Harley told him she “would get in trouble” if she told him where they were living. For several weeks, we had no idea what state or city they were in. Sebastian, on the other hand, emailed Cruella our new address because that’s what the divorce papers state each parent is supposed to do within two weeks of moving. This has been a slow progression toward eventually projecting her bad behavior onto him. First, she claims she asked a month before we moved. She both did not ask, and also we had not moved so we weren’t obligated to provide the address until after Bruce was residing there. She said “you knew where it was going to be before you moved.” Ok, but still not sending her the new address prior to moving is not the same as refusing to tell her. (This is typical of narcissistic reasoning though, I didn’t do what I legitimately was supposed to do based on some sketchy pretty much unrelated thing that you did or didn’t do. The narcissist’s actions are always YOUR fault.) Now, she’s flat out claiming that Sebastian refused to give her the address when she asked AFTER we moved, a complete and total lie, but it’s what she did. Projection and gaslighting: what actually happened didn’t happen, and what I did you, actually did.
Projection also allows a narcissist to protect themselves from the consequences of their own actions and behaviors. From around a month after she sent The Letter, Cruella began insisting that Bruce wanted to talk to her but Sebastian was actively preventing it. In spite of the fact that over the last year Bruce has told her: on the phone, in writing, and face-to-face that he does not want any contact with her, because she is incapable of admitting she could do or say anything wrong, she defaults back to this “you are keeping my son from me/influencing his behavior/alienating him from me/actively keeping him from talking to me.” In spite of the fact that she showed up at a school function two weeks ago and he completely ignored her she is still insisting that he wants to talk to her and we are stopping him. So yet again the poor kid had to send her another message telling her he doesn’t want to see or talk to her and the only reason for that is HER and HER BEHAVIOR. Of course, the way she projects, this likely means she is keeping Harley from talking to her father as well as actively turning her against him. Which we know she has done in the past.
Now, the latest thing since she is back in the area is her attempting to bully us all and force us to force Bruce to spend time with her. Which is sick and we would never do! I try not to be bothered by it, but it really pisses me off when she acts like she can force us to do what she wants. She sent a message informing us that she was going to be coming to one of Bruce’s therapy sessions so we had better get ready. Um, no. That’s not how this works! She can’t force his therapist to talk to her or force herself into his session. What’s great is that we were able to get him in to see Cruella’s former therapist, so she knows exactly what kind of a sick person he is dealing with. She wrote a letter to the court about how being forced to spend time with his mother would psychologically damage him! I guess I just have a stubborn personality because unless you’re my boss at work, you’d better not TELL me to do anything because that’s the best way to make sure I won’t do it! She also apparently wants me to be on this “our family wizard” website, probably because I refuse to interact with her and she wants to force me to. The thing that’s sad about narcissists is that once you’re onto them and their games, they’re pathetically obvious. Insidious, but not subtle at all.