Narcissistic Projection * How does narcissistic projection work?

What is Narcissistic Projection?

One of the main areas in which narcissistic personality disorder causes problems is relationships. Although problems can arise at work, school, or in financial instances, it is relationship with other people — romantic, platonic, familial — that individuals really have issues. People with narcissistic personality disorder can struggle to find a satisfying relationship as each feels unfulfilling. In addition, others may not like being around the person exhibiting narcissistic traits and Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome has been well documented.

Relationships are a major issue for narcissistic individuals and projection is one of the major tools they use that causes problems in romantic or friendship scenarios. Narcissistic projection is a major defensive mechanism that narcissistic personality disorder sufferers use. Narcissistic projection isn’t only used by sufferers of the mental health disorder as abusers, addicts and individuals with personality disorders also rely on the defense mechanism.

Projection is used to defend the actions and words of a person. A person may use it to defend themselves against impulses and traits they do unconsciously. People who project put thoughts and feelings onto someone else rather than themselves. It is a way to feel better about certain aspects of life or decisions made.

How does narcissistic projection work?

Experts consider narcissistic projection as a primitive defensive strategy. The use of it distorts reality and ignores the facts of the situation. This allows a person to function and feeds their ego despite the reality of the situation not aligning with the false narrative.

When narcissistic projection is used by adults, it shows a lack of maturity and poor emotional development. This is because it is a defensive tactic that children often use.

Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Require constant admiration/praise
  • A need to be recognized as superior without reason
  • Exaggerate their achievements and talents
  • Preoccupied with fantasies related to success, power, brilliance, looks or the perfect mate
  • Believe they are superior
  • Claim they can only associate with people equal to them
  • Dominate conversations and belittle or look down on people they believe are inferior
  • Expect special favors
  • Demand unquestioned compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get their way
  • Possess an inability and unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of other people
  • Envious of others and believe others envy them
  • Act in an arrogant manner, come across as conceited and boastful
  • Insist on having the best of everything and brag about it

Projecting onto others

By projecting these ideas onto others and accepting them as facts, a person complicates their relationship, building problems. When an individual projects a belief onto their partner, the projection is validated when the significant other accepts the idea. An abuser gains control of the relationship when their projection is accepted by the other person. In turn, it can send the significant other’s self-esteem plummeting down when the projection is accepted further compounding the relationship.

A person in an adult relationship with an addict and/or abuser, may self-sacrifice to avoid conflict. At the same time, their self-esteem may be lowering do to accepting the projections put upon them. A person that is a narcissistic projector can easily abuse, exploit, and manipulate a partner.

How does a narcissist project and attack another person?

  • Calling you names/making assumptions/accusing
  • Mimicking and exaggerating
  • Project their own views of themselves on others
  • Play the victim
  • Turn the tables/the ‘it’s you’ defense

Set boundaries

Examples of a boundaries include phrases like:

  • “I don’t see it that way.”
  • “I disagree.”
  • “I don’t take responsibility for that.”
  • “That’s your opinion.”

One of the most important responses to a narcissistic projection is not to argue with the person and not to become defensive. This only adds fuel to the fire and validates the projectors feelings in their own mind. By simply leaving the conversation, the narcissist is left to deal with their own emotions.

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Originally published at on May 26, 2020.



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