Leadership, Love and Projection

Teenage girls love their popstars. Young men love their action heroes, and adults can project a type of love on their leaders.

For example, Donald Trump appeals to a certain audience. I remember a particular TV interview of a woman wearing an oversized MAGA hat, saying, “He loves God, he loves the constitution, he cares about us and he will fight for us.”

She was clearly in love, the kind of love where one positively projects perceived qualities upon another person.

Leadership, Love, and Projection

Psychologist, Carl Jung maintained that all impassioned, almost-magical relationships between people involve projection. The other person becomes the object of great love or loathing, and sometimes both.

We usually do not see our own projections, because they stem from the unconscious, and because they get cast onto someone with a suitable hook. Positive projections are accompanied by the emotions found in the feelings of awe, adoration, and reverence. We do not realize that our projection is a protection mechanism for our own weaknesses or fragility. The projection makes us feel safe because the person, will protect us and make it all right.

Trump has consciously or unconsciously played on this projection by telling his adoring fans that everything will be OK when he is in charge, even saying the Coronavirus will magically go away. The alternative will be a world of pain. He acts like a manipulative lover, constructing co-dependency, and telling you that you will never find another like him.

Of course, Donald J. Trump is not the only political leader that has benefitted from projection, and projection isn't the only reason his supporters love him, I reference him here because he is in the news every day.

The Problem with Projection

The problem with 'projection' is that it prevents objectivity. Information, however compelling, contrary to the projection, cannot be processed and is likely to be met with denial and aggression.

A secondary issue is that projection prevents personal development. Why would an individual need to grow, develop, and take personal responsibility when the object of their perception will do it for them. Just like in a co-dependent relationship, “He’ll handle the finances”, “She will take care of the children”.

The likely outcome of projections is a deep disappointment.

No human is infallible and one day they won’t live up to expectations. The anger, frustration, and self-loathing for being fooled, can be extremely painful.

We cannot avoid projections, but we can notice what we admire in others, such as their ability to do business or speak in public and develop those in ourselves. We can develop our self-leadership and move to more healthy and constructive relationships.

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