Projecting Self-doubts on Others

"I must have deserved this."He “blamed” a restaurant after he lost his house.

Seth’s house washed away in a storm. He lost everything, including valuable paintings, antiques, and computers containing all his writings.

In the nineteen years since he designed and built his dream house, several floods have come close and terrified him. Recently he woke up to the sound of rushing water and began filling sandbags. All his neighbors evacuated but he stayed to fight. The neighbors, who had collected together in a safe place, thought he had died. Some scolded him for taking a dangerous chance.

After listening to the details of his experience, his friend Linette did Seth a favor, she thought, by telling him about the new take-out restaurant that delivers a hot meal in less than ten minutes for $6.00, thinking he could use such a convenience as he rebuilds his life. To Linette’s surprise, however, Seth became angry and attacked the restaurant: “This place is delivering food to 3 year olds who can’t cook it themselves!” he ranted. “Restaurants have to make sure they never run out of food, so they waste a lot of it. People these days don’t even know how to cook their own meals!” And he boasted that he only shops for food every two weeks. Linette felt his anger was directed partly to her, as if he was telling her, “I-have-all-the-answers-so-why-are-you-wasting-my-time?”

Perhaps Seth’s sudden burst of moral superiority was an unconscious attempt to feel better about himself after his loss. Suffering a natural disaster can result in feelings of self-doubt and shame. “I got picked on because I’m a loser.” Without quite realizing it, we try to feel okay by comparing ourselves to others, tearing someone or something down to inflate ourselves and prove our worth.

Linette felt Seth was browbeating her and calling HER one of those 3 year olds. She wanted to keep the peace, however, because Seth had just undergone a trauma. So she struggled to keep her mouth shut.

Seth seemed to be making sure Linette, and more to the point, HE (Seth), knew he was capable and could handle everything. In Enneagram terms, Seth, an independent 5-Observer, has a strong 4-Romantic wing and a need to feel special. He needed more attention than he was getting concerning his loss and his survival.

Linette eventually realized Seth had lashed out in response to  stress, fear, and shame. Scolding her and “her restaurant” was a projection—a way of scolding himself for putting himself in harm’s way. She realized his need to boost himself up had little or nothing to do with her. When she next saw him he was more in touch with his grief. Instead of lashing out he expressed his real feelings, that he was depressed and overwhelmed.

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