Chapter 3 – Projecting


Certain people have a strange belief that they can read the minds of others and accurately evaluate their degree of honesty and maturity. They assume they can understand a person’s character by a brief glance of them.

Yet, these individuals are neither psychic nor accurate because they foolishly base their judgments on superficial factors and their small horde of stereotypes. Sometimes their study of others consists of the briefest observations or only a hearsay story about questionable behavior. They tend to make too much of momentary lapses of behavior that do not reflect the usual demeanor of individuals.

The habit of leaping to conclusions is a hallmark of those who too readily project their assumptions onto others. For example, when they encounter people who are cautious and hesitant, they will assume these are indecisive or ignorant individuals instead of being thoughtful because of past experiences of being deceived. If they meet strongly opinionated people, they will likely view them as biased instead of knowledgeable. Consequently, a significant amount of miscommunication occurs that will be difficult to repair. 

Projecting our assumptions about people can cause significant problems beyond being a simple idiosyncrasy. There is a strong possibility that the relationships they develop with people and situations will be based more on what they assume instead of actual conditions and behavior. 

The most common version of this blind spot of projecting our beliefs onto others is in intimate family situations. Many parents never completely grasp the fact that their adult children are no longer the simple children they used to be. Others are disappointed about the older person their spouse has become instead of the mature and stable person that is present.

The problem inherent in these examples is that we may be reacting to what we assume are accurate assessments of people and situations. Yet, what we see is partially made up from our projections and assumptions. In other words, we often respond to what we expect instead of what is real.

Discerning the authentic qualities of people can be difficult. Part of this problem is that most people try to display their best behavior when involved in public activities. One way to bypass these efforts to hide genuine habits and qualities is to observe individuals when they are not motivated to maintain their public image. The actual character will be apparent when the individual is involved in unofficial duties or is tired and stressed. These unguarded moments will reveal much more than we gain by jumping to conclusions because we know their skin color, gender, age, or politics.  

What are the signs that we are projecting assumptions? 

Remember that blind spots operate to divert us from recognizing our bad habits and immature qualities. This minor deception allows us to be confident when we project our habitual expectations and stereotypes. By doing this, we can continue to believe we are in our usual comfort zone and accurate in our opinions of others. 

Still, we will have the recurring problem of seeing mainly what we expect to see in people and situations. We struggle to fit the fragments of our observations into a box of labels formed by our prejudices and stereotypes. Of course, most will deny any such accusations and instead think of themselves as modest but perceptive observers of life. This is how blind spots work to distort or block awareness.  

These are the signs that we are projecting our beliefs onto events and people instead of seeing what is genuinely there.

  • We tend to make too much of appearances and style instead of substance and merit. Thus, we can be manipulated by those we consider charming and attractive.
  • We assume everyone is as kind and trustworthy as we are, and then we are bitterly disappointed by some people.
  • We assume everyone is as nasty and devious as we are, and then are surprised that some people are not that way at all.
  • We find it difficult to see the differences between opinion and fact. We might even assume that everything is subjective to a personalized point of view. Everyone’s opinion is questionable except, of course, our own.
  • We hide our mental laziness by presuming what we don’t know is either unknowable or is information irrelevant to us. New ideas are unimportant and views contrary to ours are almost always automatically wrong.
  • Anyone who appears or acts like those who have betrayed or wounded us in our past is regarded as someone we will never fully trust.
  • Anyone who criticizes us is regarded as judgmental rather than someone who might be honest and correct about their observations.
  • We have an extreme reaction to others with the same bad habits that we deny having. If we are arrogant, opinionated, hesitant, and uncertain, we will think poorly of others who act like us, usually without recognizing why we have become so intense about it.
  • We fail to recognize the kindness and sincerity of people who appear outwardly plain and straightforward.
  • We refuse to treat our children as the grown adults they have become and still see them sometimes as undeveloped teenagers.
  • We find it difficult to relate comfortably with other immediate members of our family who have changed so much from when we first knew them.
  • It is stressful when we must interact with those who are smarter and more talented than we are.

The signs of our spiritual blind spots 

Our habit of projecting our beliefs onto others does not stop with those around us. It also continues with how we perceive and interpret all things divine, including the nature and laws of God. Here is a short list of how this blind spot can distort our spiritual life.

  • We assume connecting to the divine should be as effortless as everything else in life should be. Thus, we prefer to believe the primary way to encounter the sacred is to turn off our personalities and make our minds as empty as a used soup can.
  • Since our God is a God of Love, we assume that we would never be asked to do something we don’t want to do. 
  • We need not feel guilty about anything because our love and commitment to God means all our sins are forgiven.
  • Once we feel the bliss, see the Light, or sense the electricity in our head and spine, we can claim to be enlightened.
  • Most evil is just an illusion, which means it doesn’t need to affect us after recognizing it is a hoax. Naturally, we never act with evil intentions.
  • Efforts to be helpful to others are just an ego trip, and it is not necessary as part of our spiritual life. Our spiritual work should concentrate on being absorbed into the divine.
  • What we think is our truth. It does not require any further justification. The beliefs of others are irrelevant.
  • We are reluctant to recognize any good qualities in those we judge as inferior.
  • We sometimes evaluate others using a standard that is the equivalent of judging a squirrel for how loud it can quack and a duck for how fast it can climb a tree. This is how we justify our low opinions of the talented people we dislike.

How the collective influence of this blind spot impacts society

Large numbers of people who happily project their assumptions and prejudices on others can have a significant impact on society. Here are some signs of how our culture and narratives in mass consciousness are affected by this habit of projecting our assumptions and then acting as if they are real.

  • We can make too much of appearances, race, religion, and gender. Many prejudices exist around these issues, and they are easy to incorporate into how we evaluate individuals before we get to know them.
  • Recognizing unusual talents and abilities in others can be blocked by our prejudices that specific types of people are unlikely to be gifted.   
  • In an effort to compensate of these prejudices, some will view specific groups as needing special protections and indulgences to thrive in society.
  • Personal issues due to lack of responsibility, indolence, and poor choices are overlooked in favor of the usual narrative about oppression and prejudice.
  • Our low expectations of specific types can smother the life and potential of large groups of people.

The core problems behind these excessive projections 

People who tend to be eager to project their assumptions onto others often  have significant deficiencies in their ability to recognize, discern, and evaluate what they see and hear. In addition, their naïve confidence allows them to fill in their considerable gaps of understanding with speculations. These are the qualities and abilities that are too weak.

  • We have not adequately developed our powers of observation or discernment to be effective in evaluating most people or society. 
  • We lack critical thinking skills and are too easily convinced by the propaganda of those who want us to accept their dogma and narratives. 
  • We assume we are adept at mind-reading, which allows us to skip the hard work of thoughtfully examining the significance of what people think and do or fail to do. Of course, what is occurring is that we are projecting our favorite stereotypes instead of reading minds. These projections are a convenient and self-serving solution that falsely validates our beliefs. This habit makes it exceedingly difficult to admit we might be wrong. 

How do we heal these problems? 

We must practice searching for the second and third correct answers to questions about people and situations. This type of inquiry begins with our usual quick assumptions as our first answers but then continues with pondering additional thoughts of other possibilities and explanations. 

In addition, we need to challenge our knowledge by questioning what we truly know and how we know it is true. We may have overlooked significant facts or how some of our assumptions have arrived without evidence. Be ready to discover that some people we distrust may be acceptable and vice versa.

We can also conduct a search to broaden the list of personality characteristics we admire. Are we making too much of being kind, gentle, and polite and not enough about intelligence, creativity, and productivity? Does “being nice” compensate for being ignorant, dishonest, and self-indulgent? Maybe we are the ones with tunnel vision that examines only the virtues we deem essential. Perhaps we have ignored that integrity, competence, and good works can compensate for a minor lack of charm or social graces.


Ultimately, we need to understand the difference between our assumptions and facts. Much of what we know is based on subjective observations and judgments. However, we can demand that we have some solid evidence before we leap to our conclusions. We do not want to build a life based on our stereotypes and assumptions. 

We can do better than this. An accurate assessment of life is usually more enriching than disappointing as we drop false beliefs and learn to embrace what is authentic, dependable, and fulfilling. 

Points to ponder 

  1. If we are so clever and insightful, why have we been duped by those who are experts at deceiving us? Please think of how those people we assumed to be as kind and honest as we are, betrayed us in the end. 
  • The danger in projecting our beliefs is readily illustrated in those who automatically assume everyone is as nasty and dishonest or as kind and helpful as they are. Recall how they generated problems in all their relationships.

Think about the idealists you know who failed to think through their wishful thinking and then suffered great disappointments. We may need to consider that some of our assumptions are blinding us to the reality we need to recognize.

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