Sunday, 5 November 2017

Let's Talk About Projecting...

It's been something of a weird week.

You know how every now and then (daily, if you're really "lucky"), you encounter someone on social media, who is clearly intent on doing nothing of note with their lives, beyond attacking anyone whose views differ to theirs and who takes their trolling to weird, obsessive levels?  Well, I "met" one of those people, this week.

I had read - with horror - someone calling themselves a "Christian" on Twitter, thanking Kevin Spacey for conflating his coming out as gay with his being accused of preying on a minor.  The "Christian" was thanking Spacey because, in their words, he had "proved that all gays are paedos."

Now, I had quite a visceral reaction to that tweet.  So, I wrote about it, reminding anyone who might read my response that equating gayness with a predilection for assaulting the under-aged is enormously harmful and is nothing more than an outdated, homophobic stereotype.

When you use social media to try to make a serious point about something that polarises people (and, sadly, we still live in a world in which there are plenty of vile, homophobic people around, who genuinely view anything that even comes close to equality for the LGBT+ community as some kind of personal attack on them), it's no surprise that you'll end up with pretty drastically different responses from both sides of the argument.  And so it came to be that the following morning, I awoke to various tweets of agreement with what I'd said, as well as several angry "religious" people, telling me that being gay is unnatural and that therefore I shouldn't be defending "people who are often child molesters."

It was your average case of "like" the supporters, "block" the haters.

And then I encountered someone else.  This was a person who'd set themselves up as Kevin Spacey's chief cheerleader.  Their profile was littered with "TEAMSPACEY" nonsense and their tweets were largely attacks on Anthony Rapp's version of events, combined with effusive praise for Kevin Spacey's acting abilities (which have no real bearing on his personality outside of film sets, but hey, those straws are just too pretty not to clutch at, right?!).  I entered into a very brief debate with this person, but quickly realised that this was either a troll who'd set up a fan page purely to annoy or upset anyone who believes Anthony Rapp's story (truly pathetic, if so), or a genuinely obsessive fan who either can't or won't listen to both sides of the matter (truly sad, if so).

I thought I'd blocked them, but I guess I didn't, because a couple of days later, when I retweeted someone else's comment regarding the enormous problem Hollywood seems to have with sexual harassment and abusive behaviour, the weird fan/troll reappeared in my mentions.

I'm going to cut a very long story short here and just say: After I blocked the account, this freak decided to set up a Twitter page pretending to be me, fill it with homophobia and racism and tried to discredit me as a children's author.  It took several days and multiple reports to Twitter as well as a conversation with the police to finally get it taken down.  All that palava, simply because one seriously messed up person was angry that I had spoken out against Kevin Spacey's "I don't remember assaulting a minor, oh and by the way, I now choose to live as a gay man" pathetic excuse for an "apology."

The thing is, the freakish troll/obsessive fan did get me thinking about something.  They got me thinking about the way we project ourselves and our flaws onto other people when we're feeling cornered.  The way too often, people can't acknowledge their own mistakes, so apply them to someone else, instead.

See, there were multiple other fake accounts this troll was using to attempt to harass and attack me (giving her/him/itself away in the process, because we all know trolls are incredibly stupid).  One such account accused me of writing vile homophobic things and said they were going to report me for it.  But by this point, having done some digging and discovered that the homophobic and racist tweets this weirdo was trying to attribute to me on the Twitter page they'd set up in my name, were actually written years ago under a different name, possibly by the troll themselves, I realised that all they were really doing was projecting their own grossness onto me.  And as one of my lovely friends put it, anyone from Twitter HQ could scroll through my tweets right back to the very first one I ever posted and they would never, ever find a single instance of homophobia or racism, because that's the exact opposite of what I am.  But if they checked that troll's various fake persona accounts?  They'd find it in spades. 

In short, they couldn't attack me with anything, because I was talking sense and I hadn't done anything wrong.  They only thing they could use against me was their own vile opinions, rewritten as though I had said them.  They had to take their own inner ugliness and try to force it onto me, to make me the bad guy in the situation.

It's exceptionally common to come across someone who does this in an argument.  Sometimes, it's someone who doesn't know you (like the freak from Twitter), who believes they can drag down your character by projecting their own vile opinions onto you, despite those views being the polar opposite of your own.  In fact, that form of projection happens a lot on social media, when strangers who are losing a debate suddenly decide that attack is the best form of defence (never works, when what you're trying to defend is indefensible, but it's the last measly weapon they have, so they sling it your way, just the same).

But sometimes, it's people who do know you.  People who know what your weak spots are and can therefore hit that little bit harder (or at least try to).

From the friend who is always late, who might moan at you for arranging get-togethers at awkward times (thus making their tardiness somehow your fault), to the person who has dropped you like a stone and yet claims it's the other way around, most of us have experienced some form of projection at least once in our lives.

Prior to Kevin Spacey's most deluded fan, the last time someone projected themselves onto me was actually right here on this blog.  I received a comment from someone telling me that I "have never once acknowledged (my) own behaviour" in the argument I had with a friend, almost exactly a year ago.  I copied that line and sent it to various family members and friends, because it was honestly hilarious, as were the responses from said family and friends when they read it.  It was hilarious because not only was it not true of me (I've opened up about the mistakes I made so many times, it would be pointless to rehash all that again, now), it would definitely be fair to say that the person leaving the comment had never really considered the consequences of their own behaviour. 

So, yes.  Projecting is something that most of us have encountered and to be honest, it's probably something that most of us have also done, whether we want to admit it or not.  And since my encounter on Twitter this week, I've been thinking about it a lot.

The thing about projecting is that it's very easy.  It's much, much harder to look at our own behaviour critically than it is to just shrug our shoulders and paint someone else as the baddie.  

And obviously, I know I'm not innocent.  I've had moments when I've thought "pah, that person is being really selfish/lazy/obsessive" or whatever else, when in fact it's me that's in the wrong and doing the exact thing I'm accusing them of, but I've not been able to see it, either because I've been too angry or upset to recognise it, or because I've refused to look at all.

Analysing our own behaviour isn't always pleasant.  It leads us to realise that we're sometimes guilty of things we know we shouldn't have done.  Accepting that is hard.  But it's vital that we do, otherwise we don't learn anything.  

Looking at a situation from another person's viewpoint isn't always easy, either.  We live in our own heads - we are the lead character in our own life stories.  It's hard to place yourself in someone else's shoes, especially when you're angry or hurt with them.  But it's important to try.  People's words and actions often make far more sense when you've tried to analyse what they must have been feeling at the time and why.  I can remember being really mad about something someone said to me for ages, until I thought about the emotional place she was in at the time and the way she was probably perceiving things and I realised that her words had come from a place of hurt, rather than vindictiveness.  Once I'd acknowledged that, the words that had hurt me so much, just didn't seem to sting like they had, before.  

At the end of the day, projecting is lazy.  It's a way of absolving ourselves of any guilt we carry in a situation.  It's a way of avoiding looking at ourselves, for fear of finding something we don't like.  Rather than tell ourselves "wow, I was really dishonest in that situation," why not call someone else a liar?  Instead of admitting "I'm being so selfish right now," we can just throw that out at someone else and never look inwardly.  

But when we project, all we're doing is throwing objects at a rubber wall.  And deep down, we know they'll all eventually come back and hit us in the face.

So, I'm making a vow to look inward, however much I might dislike some of the things I see about myself.  I'm making a promise to continue to acknowledge my mistakes and try to learn from them.  And to that troll on Twitter: I suggest you do, too.  Because the mirror you're holding up and trying to imply shows me, is actually just a big reflection of yourself.  And if you don't like what it shows, only you can change it.  Trying to cast that reflection onto other people is like trying to squeeze someone into clothes that don't fit.

They fit you.  And that makes you uncomfortable, maybe it's time to think about your own behaviour and stop projecting it onto other people.

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