What Is Reverse Projection?

Those of us who have experience with narcissists understand projection.  That is when the narcissist accuses you of doing what she is doing.  She lies regularly, but calls you a liar.  He is critical & judgmental, yet accuses you of the exact same behaviors while denying he is that way.


So what is reverse projection?


I’m honestly not sure it’s even a known psychological term, but the name does describe the behavior well.  Reverse projection is when the victim tries to project her own good qualities onto her abuser.  She tries to see the good in a bad person so hard, that she says the abuser is the good things that she really is.  She claims her abuser can be very caring & compassionate when the truth is she is the only caring & compassionate one in the relationship.  Or, she believes her abuser is as honest as she is, when the fact is the abuser is a liar.


I believe reverse projection may be pretty common in those abused by narcissistic mothers.  Not only have I done it, but have known other victims who have as well.


It seems to be a coping skill.  I told myself growing up that my mother was overprotective because she loved me so much rather than face the truth that she was extremely controlling, & not out of love, but because I was there to serve her as she wanted.  If the victim in the throes of abuse can believe the abuser is abusing them out of love or is basically a good person, it makes the abuse more tolerable.  Believing what is done is being done for you own good or out of love makes you willing to tolerate it because it’s a display of the love you’re so starved for.  You also take the blame off of them for abusing you, & accept it onto yourself.  You begin to believe you deserve those terrible things done to you, so in your mind, the abuser is absolved of responsibility.


While these things may help you to get through a traumatic situation, it’s not good to hold onto the beliefs!


Reverse projection means even if you’re no longer in relationship with your abuser, you may still thing well of her rather than face the truth- she abused you.  Being realistic will help you to accept that yes, you were abused, yes, things were bad & yes, you have been adversely affected by it all.  Once you admit these things, & only then, can you begin to heal.


And if reverse projection helped you to accept responsibility for being abused, that will create plenty of problems in itself.  It’s unhealthy to accept responsibility for being abused because you did nothing wrong!  Doing so creates a root of toxic shame inside, & toxic shame creates so many problems.  It destroys your self esteem, it sets you up to be abused by others, it makes you unable to accept help when you need it & more.  You also are carrying the abuser’s shame when it’s not yours to carry.  That shame needs to be laid square on the abuser, never on the victim.  Whether or not the abuser carries her own shame is up to her, but it is never your responsibility to carry it!


Accepting responsibility for being abused also takes it off of the abuser.  The abuser is the one who needs to be responsible for her actions, no one else.  Chances are, she won’t accept that responsibility.  She’ll blame you for making her do those things or flatly deny they even happened.  She may even accuse you of making things up just to hurt her, & make herself into a victim.  Even if she does such things, that still doesn’t mean you need to accept responsibility for her actions!


Whether or not you’re still in a relationship with your abusive narcissistic mother, I would like to encourage you today, Dear Reader, to start looking at her realistically.  Is she really caring?  Honest?  A good person who just has some bad moments?  There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking at someone honestly.  In fact, it will help you a great deal!


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

8 responses to “What Is Reverse Projection?

  1. I wish that 1) I could get my siblings to read this article and 2) that they would finally open their eyes and see the truth about our dysfunctional family and abusive, negligent parents. At my fathers funeral the utter refusal of anyone to tell the truth about him, that he was an alcoholic and malignant narcissist, was sickening. If you hadn’t known him you would have thought that he was a paragon of virtue and the best husband, father, and grandfather who ever lived. And the same reverse projection continues in regard to our NM. No matter what she does or who she does it to, no matter how much drama and pain she causes, my siblings continue to treat her like a queen and excuse and explain away all of her abusive behavior. How is it that some see the truth about their narcissistic abuser and others continue to suffer in blind, self-imposed ignorance while claiming that they are somehow more virtuous for tolerating him or her? I think that it goes back to either cowardice or a lack of understanding that evil must be called out and exposed and not covered up, explained away, or tolerated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sad, isn’t it? Granted, it’s very hard admitting your own parents don’t love you & are narcissists, but it’s so much easier than continuing to live in the delusions.

      You may be right about those reasons why some don’t face the truth. Cowardice is the only guess I’ve ever had. Too afraid of facing the facts, ,afraid of having to accept the truth. It’s ugly after all- no one wants to face it. Some people prefer pretty lies over ugly truth though.

      From what I see, your situation is extremely common though! Many other adult children of narcissistic parents have similar stories. My best friend is going through it now. Her father was mentally ill & very abusive to her & her siblings growing up. He just passed & her siblings & mom are talking about what a great man he was. She’s the only one who isn’t saying such things because she knows the truth. She also sees now her mother is a covert narcissist & no one else does- they just buy into her martyr act. And sadly, her family acts like she’s the crazy one!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Learning Every Day – Mama Bear Blended Family & Stepmother Support

  3. EmpathOnFire

    Thank you for writing this gem! You’re mentioned in my blog!


  4. anon ymous

    How about inverse projection


  5. Pingback: What Is Reverse Projection? – Parental Alienation

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