What is psychological projection?

Written by Christie Inge, 5/2 Splenic Projector, born in the LAX of the Clarion 2 (57/51. 62/61) and creator of the Human Design Map

NOTE: My Human Design content is my personal interpretation of mechanics and is always written through my heretical + alchemical lens. It often does not align with traditional HD perspectives. And this post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking one of my affiliate links, I may make a commission. 

In this first post from the deep dive series on Human Design and projection, you will learn the six different types of projection outside of the Human Design context, what psychological projection is, and how psychological projection relates to the shadow

But first, let’s talk a bit more about why these definitions and distinctions matter in the first place. 

The Intersection Between Human Design and Projection

Projection means a lot of different things. The dictionary alone has six different definitions: 

Projection Etymology: Six Ways to Project

(not to be confused with the various ways we see projection in HD)

Projection | noun

​​1. an estimate or forecast of a future situation or trend based on a study of present ones.

2. the presentation of an image on a surface, especially a movie screen such as:

  • an image projected on a surface.
  • the ability to make a sound, especially the voice, heard at a distance.

3. the presentation or promotion of someone or something in a particular way such as:

  • a mental image viewed as reality.
  • the unconscious transfer of one’s own desires or emotions to another person.

4. ​​a thing that extends outward from something else.

5. In Geometry, the action of projecting a figure.

6. the representation on a plane surface of any part of the surface of the earth or a celestial sphere.

And, then, under all of that we have the Latin roots of the word, proicere which means to throw forward.

The Types of Projection in Human Design

In Human Design, we also throw the word projection around quite a bit. As mentioned in this series introduction, in HD, we use projection to mean quite a few different things. We have:

  • projector types
  • projected gates and channels
  • projection fields of 2nd and 5th profile lines 
  • the double projection field of the 2 /5 and 5/2 profiles
  • projection fields of 2nd and 5th lines for gates outside of the incarnation cross.

And, while the specific language of projection isn’t always used directly, it is often implied with reflector types, too.

Projection, Psychology, and Human Design Confusion

In psychology, and even neurology, you’ll also find the word projection used quite often. 

As we collectively heal patterns of codependency, to prepare us for the background frequency change in 2027, the awareness that humans “project their shit” has been on the rise. In fact, according to Google Trends, the term psychological projection has been on the rise in the last 15 (ish) years. 

I personally first heard about psychological projection when I started my deep dive studies of shadow work. And when I came into Human Design, I was quite surprised to see certain mechanics of Human Design confused with psychological projection so often. 

And, even more disturbing was how people in the Human Design space were using projection as a weapon against themselves and others. 

That is because psychological projection has (incorrectly) taken on a bit of an “immoral” tone. People make it bad and wrong to “project” and that has made its way into the Human Design space. 

Not only is projection a completely normal human phenomena, not to be shamed, but when used correctly, it becomes a powerful tool in expanding one’s consciousness. 

And, listen, I am a 5/2 profile, in the “double projection field” where I am projected onto constantly – and sometimes in intense and gnarly ways. Dealing with projection is my karmic role. I’ll talk more about all that as this series progresses. 

But for now, just know that if I am telling you that projection isn’t really a problem, it really isn’t. It is only a problem when you don’t know how to work with it. 

That said, it is very important to know that in some Human Design contexts, projection has absolutely NOTHING to do with psychological projection (projector type, projected gates and channels). 

And, even when the Human Design language does relate to psychological projection (projection fields, reflecting), the terms aren’t meant to be applied in a broad way. 

Again, I’ll cover this in much more detail as this series progresses, but for now, the “projection fields” of the 5th line and 2nd line DO relate to psychological projection. BUT very specific things are being projected ONTO the person with those profiles/lines. It isn’t just a firehose of psychological projection happening. 

And the same is true with reflectors. As I’ll discuss in later posts, reflectors are often projected upon, too. They are actually reflecting back the psychological projections of others. 

All that to say, I understand why it gets confusing. 

Learning Human Design is like learning a whole new language. And it gets me super fired up because, in the confusion, the beauty of the energetics and mechanics gets completely missed.

And, since I’m not having any of that, I’m going to clear it up for you in this series. It’s a whole can of worms and there is no way one post could do it justice. Even with multiple posts, we’ll just be scratching the surface.

If you are a Human Design Map client, feel free to hop into the portal at any time to talk more deeply about any of this. 

For now, let’s take a deeper look at psychological projection. 

What is psychological projection?

As mentioned above, there are six, yes six, different definitions of projection from Oxford Languages. (I mean, seriously, that is a lot of meaning packed into one word!)

These definitions are not in the context of Human Design or even psychological projection, they are simply what comes up when you look for the definition of projection.

But, they are important to understand because just knowing the word means so many things help us see why it can be confusing. 

And, they help us tease apart some of the language in Human Design, when we look at the mechanics of the chart.

All that said, psychological projection is a concept created by the well known psychologist, Sigmund Freud. 

When you are projecting, in psychological terms, you are basically taking an unconscious aspect of yourself and attributing it to someone or something else. It is a defense mechanism of the brain to protect your ego. 

You may be surprised to learn that it didn’t always have the negative connotations it has today; it was seen as both “positive” and “negative.” He proposed that both empathy and hatred were the results of projection.

Remember when I said the magic is in knowing how to work with it? Well, when you do that, it actually increases empathy, compassion, and acceptance of others, not the other way around. 

Sadly, though, when we think about psychological projection, we tend to think more in terms of “negative” projection. We think about assholes who take no responsibility for their lives, narcissists, or people who play the victim in life. 

As with so many things, that is just one side of the story. When we look at psychological projection in the big picture, we see that it isn’t limited to assholes. All of us do it and it is such a powerful tool when wielded consciously. 

What is happening when you are psychologically projecting

When you project as a defense mechanism, there is a “part” of yourself that the ego rejects – these parts can be traits, emotions, needs, beliefs, desires, etc. The ego rejects them as a way to stay safe and protect itself. 

The things that get rejected are cultural; they are conditioned by the people around you and whatever they believe is bad and wrong. 

The ego does not want to be bad and wrong because, in our primitive brain, being bad and wrong = rejection from the tribe = dead. 

So, to keep yourself, and your ego safe, it locks those parts away and they “leak out sideways” by attributing those traits to others instead of yourself. 

You may tell yourself that they are “like that” but you aren’t. You are better “than that.” Or they are a terrible person and you are a good person. 

In other words, when we judge others, we are projecting our disowned parts onto them.

These parts are known as the shadow. 

(You’ll learn how to do shadow integration, as it relates to your Human Design, inside the Human Design Map portal. If you are already a map client, grab your map and head to the deconditioning toolbox section of the portal.)

Carl Jung and The Shadow

Carl Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud and psychologist behind the concept “the shadow” took the concept of psychological projection even further.

He proposed that, in an attempt to stay safe within our tribes, we disown parts of ourselves when we perceive that the tribe doesn’t approve of our behavior. We push these parts further and further into the unconscious until, in our own minds, we begin to believe that we don’t even have the capacity for them.

When a part is relegated to the realm of shadow, we in no way, shape, or form consciously believe that we are that

Those disowned and unconscious parts are our shadow.

Shadow, Projection, and Relationships

When it comes to our relationship with others, we become so distant from our shadows that we need some sort of “structure” to hold them all. 

We build those structures into other people. We will insist that we really know someone, even when we don’t actually know them at all. We assume that our shadow is them

This happens a lot with celebrities, our current influencer culture, and in many cases, is at the root of “cancel culture.”

We fill in the gaps of who they are with our projections. When we engage with that person, we interact as if our projections are objective reality. 

And, in many cases, it never even dawns on us that we are seeing our shadow in their image. We have taken that part of ourselves and put it completely into the “structure” of the other person. 

As is likely obvious, this kind of psychological projection creates all sorts of communication issues, conflicts, and chaos in relationships.

But, that doesn’t make projection “bad.” 

Projection Isn’t Bad or Wrong

Just like Sigmund Freud, Jung didn’t see the shadow as a purely “negative” thing. 

In addition to the parts of ourselves often deemed bad or wrong (what I call taboo shadows inside the map), Jung proposed that we also project our “Golden” shadows onto others.

Jung defined our golden shadows as our own creative genius that we attribute to others. We don’t see those “positive” traits as being a part of ourselves. Instead of owning those parts, we put people on pedestals, experience envy or jealousy, or compare and despair. 

In those cases, we have placed our “golden” shadows into the “structure” of someone else. 

Through his work with the shadow, Carl Jung paved the way to reclaiming our shadow parts and realizing our wholeness, our mix of light and dark.

And, in my experience, shadow integration is the absolute best way to transform shame and become more authentic. It leads to more genuine and intimate relationships. And stops “bad habits” in their tracks. We’ll talk more about that in future posts. 

By the way, in yourHuman Design Map, you’ll get a breakdown of the golden and taboo shadows for your type + strategy, authority, profile, and all four gates of your incarnation cross. You’ll also learn how to do shadow work inside themap portal.

Don’t Make Projection A Moral Conversation

Before wrapping up this post, it is important to note (again) that, when it comes to psychological projection, everyone one projects and everyone is projected upon. 

It doesn’t matter what your Human Design is or how enlightened your ego thinks you are. 

If you are human, you psychologically project. Probably even multiple times per day. 

We are NOT having a conversation about morals, right, wrong, good, or bad. We are having a conversation about humans being human. 

When I point out projection or shadow, whether in this series, in the map, or in the map portal, it does not come from a place of shaming you. You’ll understand why it might feel that way when I talk about the Projector type.

But, from where I sit, nothing has gone wrong. I’m simply holding up a mirror to show you where you have an opportunity to expand your consciousness by transforming shame into authenticity, integrity, and purpose. 

Remember that as you continue to read the posts in this series. 

That’s a Wrap

In the next part of this series, we’ll start talking about the contexts within Human Design that are unrelated to psychological projection.

For now, I encourage you to notice what is coming up for you as you read this post. Get curious about where you are judging yourself for projecting or feel envy or judgment towards others (either positively or negatively).

Those places hold clues to where you have an opportunity to transform shame into pure gold.If you are a map client, I encourage you to share your questions and insights in the Deep Dives section of the portal.

There is so much more where that came from:

If you loved this post, you will love the Human Design Map & Portal where Christie will explain the most important parts of your chart (Type + Strategy, Authority, Profile, and all four gates of your Incarnation Cross). And, you’ll get unlimited access to Q + A with her and her team. Get your map here

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