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Projection-What to do about the people we can’t stand.

At one point in our lives or another, most of us have had to deal with people who behave in ways we simply can’t stand. It could have been something they said or something they did, or in some cases, their very essence, but we didn’t like it. No, we hated it.  You might even say we were repulsed by it.  

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If we are able to shrug it off, no problem! We experienced an unpleasant interaction, nothing more.  What if we can’t let it go?  What if we must interact with a certain person regularly because they’re family or a coworker? What if their behavior or words hit a nerve and we keep replaying the interaction in our head?  Either way, it’s disruptive, affects our mood, and can really create a domino effect that could impact other areas of our lives. 

That is why, in today’s article I want to:

  • Explore the phenomenon of people who get under our skin

  • Take a deeper look at the underlying cause 

  • Discover a new way of looking at the experience

  • Offer steps to help you take advantage of the situation

Have any of you ever heard this statement or something like it? 

“What we hate most in others is what we dislike within ourselves.”

If you’re like me, the first time you heard it you were like “No way! I’m nothing like that jerk.”

I totally get it, and that's why I would like to invite you to suspend what you know for a few short minutes while we explore a very different way of looking at those people that get under our skin. 


First, some background on how human beings develop relationally to their world. Every single human is socialized and therefore goes through this process. 

As babies, we are born helpless, and dependent on our caregivers to survive. Our caregivers, and the society in which we are born, immediately set about molding us, through conditioning, into what they deem to be good and acceptable. 

We quickly learn that some of our characteristics are approved of, and some are not. Both the positive and the negative characteristics we are born with are either rejected or accepted by the people around us. 

In the name of survival, we suppress characteristics that are deemed unacceptable and exaggerate those deemed acceptable so that we will continue to get the love, safety, and belonging we need. This is our first act of self-betrayal, when we reject these parts of ourselves, and it happens very young, causing a split within us. 

As we grow up denying those parts of us even exist, we become blind to them, but they haven’t actually gone anywhere. We just lose our conscious awareness of them.  We cannot see our denied characteristics clearly, but others may be able to. 

Luckily, we live in a mirroring world. We attract people and situations that reflect all our various parts back to us, both the good and the bad, the seen and unseen. Sometimes it’s reflected to an extreme, so we take notice of them and make the necessary adjustments.

When we notice the positive characteristics we have suppressed in other people, we fall in love.   When we recognize an aspect within someone else that we have made “not ok” we react to them much in the same way we reacted to that aspect within ourselves. We reject it.  We are repulsed by it. We hate it. In a way, we are re-rejecting that part of ourselves.

Now that we know we are reacting to the suppressed aspects of ourselves, we can breathe a sigh of relief. We had no control over the other person or their behavior, but we definitely have control over ours. Now we can see this annoyance for what it is; a signal that we have work to do. 


Every human being born has parts that are owned and parts that are disowned, creating the empty feeling of something missing that so many of us experience. The only solution is to be whole again, so it’s imperative we notice and accept the things we’ve disowned about ourselves. 

Below you will find the steps each of us can take to identify, accept and reintegrate the characteristics we suppressed long ago. 

To identify and better understand what characteristics we’ve disowned. 

  • Look for negative characteristics in others that we don’t like. Especially our significant other. 

To lessen our negative reaction to those people, ask ourselves:

  • If we could imagine a positive intention behind the behavior we hate, what would lead this person to adopt that trait? Try thinking about them as a child, trying to keep themselves safe. 

  • Why was it dangerous for them to be the opposite of the negative trait they adopted? 

This process allows us to grant these people grace because we can see how creating this habit was essential to their survival growing up. 

Next let’s see how we accept and reintegrate these disowned aspects of ourselves. 

  1. Be open to recognizing and accepting that these “negative” traits were once, and quite possibly still ours. 

  • Either we express them unconsciously, or we’ve suppressed them so fully we actively avoid them to an unhealthy degree. 

  1. Recruit the help of others we trust. Have them reflect to us how they actually see us. Have we heard similar feedback from more than one person? 

  2. Ask ourselves:

    • Why would it be dangerous for me to possess these “negative” traits as a child? 

    • What could be the danger in possessing the opposite of these traits?

    • What positives can come from possessing them? 

    • Consider how we could adopt these traits in a way that benefits us. 

This can be done with our positive attributes as well!

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  • Determine what you admire, envy, or fall in love with in other people, especially your partner, kids, and idols. 

  • What was the positive intention for suppressing those things inside of yourself? 

  • Why was it dangerous to have those positive traits? 

  • Find ways you can express those traits in your life. 

When we take the time to reintegrate our rejected characteristics, we take important steps towards feeling whole again. When we feel whole, we are happy, confident, and much less likely to allow the behavior of others to get under our skin.   

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr Martin Luther King



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