5 Forms of PTSD Projection and How They are Reenacted

5 Forms of PTSD Projection and How They are Reenacted

PTSD Projection is mostly an unconscious process, and it can take considerable time to become fully aware of it, as it is often so woven into the structure of our character, that we perceive it as being normal.

Projection does lead to the reenactment of emotional patterns. What this means is that the emotional hardships (trauma) that you experienced earlier in life are repeated. The circumstances and the people involved might be different but the emotional content is the same, or it’s opposite, which is, by reflection, similar.

The Unconscious Patterning Leading to Projection and Reenactment

To make it more transparent as to how projection and reenactment flow together I will outline some examples and elaborate on them. These are meant to give you an idea of how projection and reenactment are commonplace.

  1. Jerry suffered severe neglect due to the emotional absence of both parents during most of his childhood. Both the hurt of not being loved and validated as well as his righteously indignant anger, due to the absence of his parents, are too much to bear. Jerry’s most dominant symptoms in response are anxiety and depression. Besides being anxious and depressed, Jerry projects his uncontained anger through continuous self-hatred and self-reproach onto himself which manifests as never feeling good enough – although well accomplished – and a severely adverse feeling about his body-image. The projection of anger through self-reproach and self-hatred reinforces his initial pain of rejection, and not feeling loved and validated. His prior outward circumstances though have now become internalized.
  2. Jim grew up with a father who wouldn’t abide any words of resistance; was highly demanding, incessantly making comparisons and belittling remarks. Jim, to survive and get his father’s approval, did his best to please his him by anticipating his projected needs and wishes, and trying to excel at school. His core hurt also rests on a lack of validation, love, and acceptance which he seeks to bridge by giving too much of himself to any situation, therefore lacking in boundaries and integrity. Jim gets married to someone who is equally overbearing, just like his father; controlling and narcissistic, towards whom he projects his need for validation through pleasing her. He attracts and reenacts the same dynamics that were present in his youth, ultimately leading to a mental breakdown, medication, and PTSD depression.
  3. James grew up with a mother who was short-tempered and would often shout at him and his sister. As a kid, he would often yell and fight back. James would also project his anger, at the same time, onto his sister and get argumentative and abusive towards her. Married, and now with two kids of his own, he swore inwardly, that he would never be like his mother towards his kids. As a result, he allowed too much space – projecting towards an opposite – and due to the absence of healthy boundaries they get involved, as teens, with recreational drugs and hanging out in “bad” company. In this scenario, the projection seems more complicated, or more natural to miss, because it involves a projection towards a compensating opposite for what he experienced. It also leads to internal conflict and frustration for James which is the continuing reenactment of his unresolved anger from his childhood days.
  4. John has a mother who was and still is overly attached to him out of her insecurity and lack of love. She gives him very little space, always wanting to know where he is, and not allowing him space to form relationships. These smothering attachment patterns with her doesn’t let him the space to grow into an entirely independent adult, making him feel afraid of women and sexuality resulting in delaying of intimate experience and eventually, leaving home. When he finally does meet his first girlfriend, he marries her, projecting and repeating a similar attachment bond that he had with his mother. His wife has a similar attachment need, and so they form a symbiotic relationship, as opposed to an interdependent relationship. They tend to be anxious, lonely and feel empty and lost without each other’s company.
  5. Jenny suffered severe physical and psychological abuse from both parents and sexual abuse by her father. She suffers from a lot of repressed anger that, as an adult, which she acts out as being severely judgemental and critical of everything and everyone, along with a strong sense of self-righteousness, fault finding and demanding justice. She separates herself from others, although when she does interact for a period, her inner conflict, through her outward projections and re-enactments of anger, quickly escalates.

These are some examples of how difficult complex reenactment and projection can become and how widely spread they are in our present society. It gives some idea of how projection and re-enactment further trauma through the generations and becomes hard-wired in our collective psyche.

Please keep in mind that the examples put forward are meant to shine a light on some of those patterns but in no way are they limited to only these five mentioned here.

Which of these five has resonated most with you? Leave your comment below.

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Comments

  1. Rebecca  January 28, 2018

    Number five hits the nail on the head for me. One of the most difficult things to overcome in recovery was acknowledging my self righteous narcissism. Recovery is a terrifying and vulnerable process of becoming humble, yet assertive, and then striking a balance between the two.

    reply
    • Roland  January 28, 2018

      Very well said and thanks for being honest. Allowing vulnerability while also setting healthy boundaries is indeed challenging.

      reply
    • Cherie  January 29, 2018

      #5 for me too… Love the way you described recovery… I describe it as ‘learning what to say Yes to and what to say No to’ and it’s an ongoing journey of discovery for me

      reply
      • Roland  January 29, 2018

        Great! Indeed healthy boundaries of “yes” and “no”.

        reply
  2. Jacqui  January 28, 2018

    number 2 is most similar. I still struggle with actually allowing myself to think the parent was ‘mean’ and abusive in her neglect. shoot forward 3 decades to divorced from my kids father and the relationship is kind of ok now with ex. Mother really hates my ex but cannot recognize herself. I attracted another narcissist recently and it was quickly ended (by he) his anger was harsh. I fell into a deep void following that brief experience.

    reply
    • Roland  January 29, 2018

      Thanks for your comment Jacqui. We error, we learn.

      reply
      • Jacqui  January 29, 2018

        Thank you for your comment Roland.

        reply
  3. Rikko  January 28, 2018

    Roland, as usual superb stuff!
    BTW— Your #1 + #5 explains me to a tee! Is it possible to have a combo or is everyone just one or another?

    reply
    • Roland  January 28, 2018

      Hey Rikko. Combos allowed. There are so many different ways of how we cope, project and reenact.

      reply
  4. Lesley  January 28, 2018

    1. Jerry emotional abandonment rejection

    reply
    • Roland  January 28, 2018

      Thanks for sharing Lesley.

      reply
      • Lesley  January 28, 2018

        I am stuck right now in a pity party of rejection. Nothing seems to be working out. I am usually strong and positive can’t seem to shake of of it. Just so sad at the moment

        reply
        • Roland  January 29, 2018

          Also, this will pass. Stay with the sadness of it without letting it dissociate into self-pity. This way you will be able to move through it quicker, as you are meeting what is.

          reply
  5. Nicole  January 28, 2018

    I can find myself in all of these, although I haven’t gone through the adult reenactment of #2 (I tend to choose gentle, non-overbearing partners who break the parental mold, thankfully).

    reply
    • Roland  January 29, 2018

      I think we share many patterns of thought and action in different periods of our lives.

      reply
  6. Eleanor  January 28, 2018

    Number 1 hits home for me. I was emotionally neglected by both my parents. My mom was a very self-absorbed alcoholic (still is) and my father was absent emotionally. I battle depression and anxiety. I’m extremely hard on myself and at times myself hate myself. I often feel like I don’t deserve to be loved, that I’m not good enough, and that there’s something inherently wrong with me.

    reply
    • Roland  January 29, 2018

      Thanks for sharing. See if you can allow yourself to connect with the underlying anger of it and hold that. What I mean to say with that is not to indulge in that feeling/emotion nor escaping from it but holding your awareness there while you face anger as it is.

      reply
  7. Bevery  January 28, 2018

    This makes relationships sound as if people are bouncing around and colliding with each other all the time using each other to work out their particular angst
    I recognise this since my recall of childhood traumas, and that for me is the key knowing what makes you tick so that the damaging effects of past traumas can be separated from the here and now and avoid as much as possible more abuse and falling into old patterns.
    This takes lots of unravelling and deep self analysis

    reply
    • Roland  January 29, 2018

      Indeed it takes work and the ability to differentiate between “then there” and “here now” is an important one.

      reply
  8. Rose  January 29, 2018

    #2 At 63, just learning not to be a people-pleaser, always try to get people to like me especially the ones who are mean, dismissive, and rude. Try to get their attention and then go overboard. Spent decades humiliating myself, so sad.

    reply
  9. Susan  January 29, 2018

    What about PTSD that is suffered by those in the military? ?

    reply
    • Roland  January 29, 2018

      Just as valid. I think there are a lot of websites already out there who focus on military trauma.

      reply
  10. Hannele  January 29, 2018

    Well, #5 is very much like me, but I also have a harsh inner critic, oversensitive nagging conscience, lots of shame and feeling guilty pretty much all the time. Still, I don’t think I hate myself.

    Disappointment in people and judging their actions in my mind is followed by “who do you think you are to judge others” -guilt trip. Anger and irritation are ever present in my heart… injustice that I see and experience triggers almost unbearable anger again and again.

    I avoid people so I don’t need to get disappointed and anger-triggered quite as much as when alone. And thus there’s less guilt (for the anger). I’ve isolated myself so totally that there isn’t a single person I keep contact with anymore. I feel I’ve become bitter, angry, hurting toxic human waste…

    I’d appreciate advice on how to start making a way out of this emotional dead end.

    reply
  11. Rose  January 30, 2018

    Hi Roland,

    I have a question? Why is Jerry’s anger seen as righteously indignant anger and Jenny’s anger is seen as “self-righteous”? Isn’t that exactly what her father took when he abused her, her sense of self? Wouldn’t it make sense that she try to reclaim that self? Why isn’t her anger seen as righteously indignant, he took her innocence and her sense of self! I think this is flawed psychology and it does a sexual abuse victim great harm by not allowing their anger to be as righteous as it ought to be seen !!!

    reply
  12. Gerri  January 30, 2018

    I am 1 and 2, and my name is Gerri. My husband (and I) are 4. I also relate to 5 to some degree

    reply
  13. Jennifer  February 3, 2018

    Number one seems to hit home the most for me, but I think I have a mixture of all of them to a degree. Very great insights!

    reply
  14. bernadette  February 7, 2018

    Tks for updates really helps me. having difficulties in my relationship, married an angry man like my father, does not want to admit it. I inherited fear and find it hard to connect. Trying to free myself from it, but not sure if the therapy I’m doing is helping??

    reply
  15. Shelley Head  February 13, 2018

    I’ve done this all my life but one particular situation that became a real obvious issue as an adult stemmed from an incident in childhood. An older girl took advantage of me at the Bowling Club toilets telling me we were playing “mummy and daddy”. I like the attention and so naturally looked for her the next time I went. Sure enough she was there sitting at a table with other people. She turned, looked at me, then turned away again. She ignored me and did not join me in the toilet again. The hurt, the rejection that I felt was tangible. As a result, years later, I had a fear of walking into a room full of people – I anticipated some form of rejection. I thought that after having prayer and forgiving this young girl (my abuser), it would no longer be an issue for me – but I didn’t know I had PTSD then or that I was projecting. I couldn’t understand why, why, why, it was still bothering me so much. So, how does one stop projecting?

    reply
  16. Momofspecialkids  February 27, 2018

    None of them really, I often find it difficult to find support for ptsd that has been caused by having my own child go through multiple surgeries and being in critical care NICU. Not many people talk about the post traumatic stress NICU and special needs parents suffer

    reply
    • Roland  February 27, 2018

      Agree! There isn’t a lot of info out there for those who are close to someone who suffers trauma or PTSD. Thanks for bringing that to attention.

      reply
  17. liz  March 1, 2018

    no.1 and 3 my mother died when i was 6 and i was passed from pillar to post – whoever was available to look after me while my father worked long hours- sometimes days sometimes nights- about 18 months later he remarried and the only way i can describe my step-mother was nasty . cruel and abusive but when my father was around she was sweet and kind

    reply
  18. Jim  March 2, 2018

    Well…i don’t relate to any of these. My situation was…odd. I slept in my parents bedroom until I was nearly 10 years old. Why? I have no idea. I asked my mom she said because I had high fevers and she didn’t want to run down the hallway. Umm. My sister’s bedroom was empty when she went to college. I was 4. So…it was 2 seconds away. My father died in 2004. I remembered all this suddenly after he died. I was 44.Guess I didn’t care or I blocked it out before that? My wife is neither like my mom or dad. But I am VERY dependant on her. I think by sleeping in their bedroom, I feel like I never grew up. I’m a 58 year old child? Hard to explain. I get angry, depressed, defensive VERY easily. Cannot deal with loss or the passage of time. I think my mom might have kept me in there…as a surrogate husband? I read it’s covert incest. And I will NEVER ever get over it. I had my own bed in there but…i was married to both of them it seemed I was a part of their marriage. Had a happy childhood though. They took me swimming, parks, department stores. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It’s making me tearful. I feel violated somehow, boundaries were crossed and…sorry I CANNOT talk about this. I feel sick.

    reply
  19. Nicole  March 19, 2018

    All 5 , ( other than direct sexual assault), resonate with me, and all 5 scenarios have somewhat played out in my life/a relationship within my 35 years of age. I was diagnosed with C-PTSD and BPD which, my Dialectical Behavioral Coach/Director should be renamed and referred to as Child PTSD, so that it explains how this affects the person’s personality and would help with the abusive stigma related to the dianosis. I was only correctly diagnosed after I advocated for MYSELF at this age. I’ve sought treatment on my own for depression/anxiety on my own since I was 20. My abuse is still validated by my parents. Saying that I, “earned It, “they were “stressed”, “I brought it upon myself by fighting back.” I suffered a breakdown two years ago, after teaching in the Public Schools for 8 years. Too many negatives, weapons pulled on me, lay-off threats, never-ending hours, abusive letters from some of the parents with in small budget town’s. Now I’m scared and angry of everything. My marriage is over, lost my house. My three cats, my brothers. Can not receive Social Security because I paid into a pension for my whole career….but there are those who never work? I’m on my ex’s insurance, but I just want him to move on. Leave me. My brain doesn’t know how to love, feel safe, not break. Yet, my greatest fear is to be alone. I pray none of you have BPD, it is a prison of misery and self-punishment that you don’t realize isn’t ok, until you’ve pushed everyone away and killed everything good. You’re like Cinderella, you have to flee before people “see the real horrible you!” The one ingrained in your head by your parents. You have to dazzle them, bask in the happiness that you give them, thinking that the memories will be enough to live off of after the clock strikes twelve and you turn “Back into a pumpkin.” Aka, yourself. Which is fine, but you think it’s not. You’re left feeling emptier than before, because you’ve felt such joy with them……..and…..Now you’ve broken their heart too. You realize that this was wrong, and what you did too late. The pain is excruciating.

    reply
    • Janine  April 9, 2018

      Wow, I have ptsd and bpd too and what you described is how I feel exactly. It.is.soul destroying, one where you want the.emptiness but you want the fullness at the sane.time. You spend.most your life scared and pushing.people away until there’s no one…then have a self.pity party over it. Sorry to be blunt but that’s uow it is for.me z

      reply
  20. Charlene  March 20, 2018

    Several of these are a part of me. I am shaking and tears are running down my face right now. The hardest one to realise though is #4. What I have passed on to my daughter, because of my pain and fears has just hit me. All I ever wanted was to protect her. What I have done.

    reply
  21. Jeannie  March 23, 2018

    #1 and #5 for me. Oh my goodness, yes. These hit home for me. I was rejected by my father, beaten regularly by my mother and then gang raped. I am now in my 60’s and finally found an answer to what is “wrong”. Thank you so much for your helpful information.

    reply
  22. Anne  March 28, 2018

    I grew up with my parents constantly fighting. My dad was a drunk. I later married a very abusive man. Stayed married for 25 years. He beat me so bad one night I went into a women’s shelter. 5 years later I met someone. And they have turned out to be also abusive. I hate myself now

    reply
  23. David  March 30, 2018

    Number three describes me well

    reply
  24. Kate  April 3, 2018

    # 5. Not sure about sexual abuse but I do have emotional flashbacks that seem to suggest it might have happened. I am an opinionated, pretty judgmental, and quite angry person, and I hate that about myself. I’m trying to overcome it and become more loving/ objective/open- minded, but it’s pretty hard as it sometimes seems as though I have no control over what comes out of my mouth!

    reply
  25. Pam  April 6, 2018

    My PTSD is military related. How do I overcome that?

    reply
  26. Bridget  April 9, 2018

    I have been diagnosed with PTSD after my sister was murdered during a mass shooting. Although I wasn’t there that day this was the church I attended for years, and got my sister to start coming. I moved and encouraged her to keep going, as I had gotten other family members to start coming. I am usually an outgoing person, but now I have severe anxiety and can’t handle large crowds. I have panic attacks for seemingly no reason.

    reply
  27. Santie  April 17, 2018

    I associate the most with number 2. Due to criticism and rejection and abuse, I resorted to people pleasing and overachieving behavior. Needless to say my boundaries are sadly lacking, but on the mend. I actually chose my career because of these reasons that motivated me. So I became a veterinarian, of course because I love animals, but also so that people would see me as a success and accept me. Now at 40 years of age, I have ptsd, exacerbated by the euthenasias I have had to do. But understanding things better helps so much. Thank you so much Roland.

    reply
  28. Cheri  April 19, 2018

    #2 and 3 I never thought of the situation of #3 in this way before, but makes a lot of sense. It is also the one that saddens and hurts the most because it effects the people I was responsible for doing my best for.

    reply
  29. Virginie booth  April 19, 2018

    I will be more like number 1 jerry on the path of recovery after realizing that both my parents are narcissist and understanding that narcissists are unable to love l can free myself l suffered a lot for nothing wish l would have realized before but better today than never

    reply
  30. Cassie  April 20, 2018

    Number 1 really hits home, something I struggle with and have been working on. Have to stay present and aware all the time.

    reply

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