Are You Trying to Fix Yourself? The Defense of Projectizing, Part 1
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Fix Me! Fix Me!
Many of my clients seek counseling after having been in therapy for years and suffering without any significant symptom relief and without lasting healing after multiple therapists have failed. After a few sessions with me, they say, “I’ve felt a freedom here that I never experienced in three years or even three months with my other therapists after just three sessions with you! How do you do that?”
My response is simple: “I’m not trying to fix you.”
As humans, we have an innate need to improve in life, work, and relationships which directly impacts our conversations with others, how we view ourselves, and how we approach healing. When life becomes hard and scary our need for safety overrides our ability to think clearly and as a result shows up as an intense, obsessive need to fix ourselves. Although this automatic approach may seem helpful, this mindset creates unnecessary suffering to an already painful situation.
This week we are taking a brief pause in the series on dealing with toxic relatioships to bring to light a new series on how we “projectize” ourselves to cope with painful emotions, fear, and insecurity that is prevalent among my clients and in my own life.
When our relationships and circumstances suddenly change for the worse, we find ourselves desperately trying to cope with unexpected pain and hold it all together. Whether it be the sudden loss of a job, onset of illness, or a relationship ending, we suffer silently, ashamed of our struggles. Consequently, issues like depression, loneliness, anxiety, sleep problems, and stress become our constant companion - after all, everyone else seems to be fine.
One of the scariest places to be is having no answers, no relief, and no change no matter how much you know, how hard you try, and how often you pray. Continually struggling with the same issue over and over with no hope of change can show up as shame and feelings of inadequacy.
Yet the truth is that everyone experiences painful and challenging times.
The distinction is this: Which battle are you fighting:
Do you beat yourself up for having problems or on-going issues to begin with because deep down you believe you’re at fault, broken, responsible, and flawed?
Or do you accept pain, hardship, and imperfection as an inevitable reality of life?
For example, you experience anxiety because of additional work stress and instead of validating how scary the new responsibilities are and how hard it is to balance life, you believe your anxiety means you lack faith in God or you have made a wrong decision or you have failed in some way. Rather than seeing your anxiety as a signal, you view it as an inherent flaw.
A Deeper Form of Perfectionism
Projectizing = Making oneself a project that needs to be fixed
Due to this reoccurring patten I see among my clients, I developed a term, “projectizing,” which is a psychological defense mechanism — a deeper and more dangerous form of perfectionism. A defense mechanism is a fancy, “clinical” word for the ways we lie to ourselves to avoid painful emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, and grief. They are unconscious yet destructive ways we seek to protect ourselves from facing the reality of our difficult circumstances such as a painful breakup, the loss of a dream or loved one, or getting fired from work.
Perfectionism is having unrealistic high expectations for yourself typically related to work, status, appearance, and performance whereas projectizing reaches the core of our soul because we attack ourselves for experiencing even the most basic human emotions in the first place. We do not give ourselves permission to suffer and struggle without demanding a reason.
Projectizing is making oneself a project that needs to be fixed. When we make ourselves a project, we disconnect from our true self because we do not know who we are or what we want, need, and feel. We are anxiously trying to fix ourselves instead. Essentially, you attack yourself for things that are beyond your control because you intrinsically believe you are flawed. You are fundamentally being mean or cruel to yourself!
Projectizing is a form of self-attack and is rooted in shame because if we truly loved and accepted ourselves, we wouldn’t treat ourselves as a project. Rather, we would view ourselves as a person in pain deserving grace, forgiveness, and kindness.
You are not a problem that needs to be solved, you are a person worthy of love and compassion.
Projectizing also prevents us from asking for help because we believe we should know what to do or have the answers. Or we do not want others to know we are struggling because it means we are incapable or inadequate.
Obsessively overthinking separates you from obtaining the wisdom you need to help face and resolve difficult and painful issues. Trying to fix yourself creates anxiety and takes you out of the present moment situation and into your head rather than into your behavior. With projectizing we believe the lie that if we fix ourselves, we will be okay and no longer struggle. In reality, we are operating in shame manifesting itself in anxiety, bouts of depression, sleep issues, fatigue and stress.
The truth is: Just because something in your life is painful or hard, doesn’t mean you did something wrong or that you’re broken.
An Unhealthy Relationship with Ourselves
One of the most toxic relationships we endure is the relationship we have with ourselves.
Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, so it’s biblical and apparent that we are to love ourselves. How can you love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself? Loving yourself means you show compassion, care, listen, and feel.
Imagine a loved one saying to you, “I’ve been feeling anxious lately and I can’t sleep at night. I’m really struggling. I dread waking up in the morning, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the day without collapsing. I feel off. This has never happened to me before. I’m usually such a joyful person.”
Would you respond, “You need to fix that” and have absolutely no empathy and emotion toward that person whatsoever? Would you only entertain an intellectual dialogue with them not allowing them to share their heart? I doubt it. Yet that is often how we treat ourselves.
In this blog series, we are going to look at how to overcome our tendency to obsessively fix ourselves, prioritizing knowledge over relationship, and demanding answers over self-acceptance.
Next week, we will explore the struggles of a woman desiring marriage and how she makes herself a project to be fixed by diving deep into her story of shame around her singleness and confusion around her faith.
**The content for this blog post has been taken from chapter 8 (When You Become A Cuckoo, Making Yourself a Project to Fix) of Andrea’s book, The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking, and Self-Sabotaging Behavior
The photo accompanying this article was sourced from Unsplash and is in the public domain.