Chances are if you are reading this article, you have already committed yourself to the path of awakening and awareness. And nothing is more important on the path of awareness than self-awareness. He who sees himself clearly, sees the world clearly because each is a mirror for the other. But as you know, there are some barriers to self-awareness. Today, I’m going to talk to you about one of them. I’m going to talk to you about the coping mechanism of deflection.
To deflect something is to cause that thing to change direction by interposing something. This turns it off of its straight course in another direction, even back in the original direction it came from. The best way to imagine this is to think of animation that involves laser beams. If one character shoots a laser beam at another character and he picks up his shield, the laser beam is deflected off in another direction, or ricochets back towards the one who shot it. This may be a good defense tactic when it comes to laser beams. But what if the “something” that is being sent in your direction is a plea or a piece of information that you have to take very seriously. Or even an opportunity for you to see yourself clearly.
As if applies to our conversation today, deflection is when something someone communicates causes someone to feel triggered and as a result, instead of taking it in, they either ignore, deny or turn away from it. Or worse, turn it back towards the other person. This is done to avoid painful memories and painful emotions and painful thoughts, but it also prevents the person from being self-aware. Deflection is different from projection which when a person cannot accept a quality or aspect of their own personality because it is incompatible with their self-concept, so they project it out of their awareness on to another person. The angry person recognizing anger in others, but thinking they are peaceful for example. However, once people learned about projection, it became a super common deflection technique. And it goes like this: In order to deflect something that someone tells you about yourself which triggers you, simply tell them they are projecting.
Before I continue, I must say that people, whose default defense mechanism and coping mechanism is denial, use deflection as a mechanism of denial. For this reason, I want you to watch my video on YouTube titled: Denial (And How to Get Out Of Denial).
Deflection is a defense mechanism that is designed to preserve self-concept. It is a form of projection when it is used to deflect blame. Essentially, when the fault is in fact with us, we project the blame and fault onto someone else. We feel we cannot take responsibility or blame for something and feel positive about ourselves at the same time. We are unwilling to feel guilt or shame. Our kids exhibit this behavior sometimes. For example, they spill something and blame it on the cup. In adulthood deflection can become much more insidious. Such as the abusive husband who blames the wife for provoking him by not having dinner ready on time despite what she promised.
Here are some other examples: A person who says things to hurt someone and when they defend themselves, blames it on the person being too sensitive. A person whose behavior leads to a group intervention and then says everyone has turned him into the enemy. A person who is told they are being manipulative and says “it is just you projecting”. A man who gets criticized for something he did and who thinks “she’s just on her period.” It’s the person who is destroying a relationship and says, “It always takes two”. It’s the friend who does something hurtful and says “she’s just triggered because of her own childhood”. It’s the guru that fails to help someone and says it’s because they are too unconscious still or are too attached to their pain. It’s the partner who does abusive things and when their partner gets angry at them, says they are in an abusive relationship because of the other partner’s anger. A person who causes emotional distress in another person and who drives them to a psychologist to figure out what is wrong with them. And the list goes on and on.
What you can see in all of these scenarios is that feedback from the world that would challenge the person’s positive self-concept is not allowed to sink into the consciousness, instead it is deflected. If this is a common defense mechanism that someone uses, people around them will begin to feel like it is literally impossible to get through to them or to get them to own and stop doing something that they are doing which is painful.
There is a common childhood pattern that involves deflection, which has the potential to destroy families and even lives. In this pattern, a parent is not able to parent their child in a way that soothes the child’s distress. When the child becomes unhappy with the parent, the parent cannot deal with their feelings of inadequacy. Their inability to feel and own up to the shame they feel, makes it so that they deflect that shame back onto the child. The child in this family then becomes the family scapegoat. The deflection technique that is used in this scenario is that the parent decides that the reason the child is unhappy with them is because something is wrong with the child. The parent then goes on a mission to try to figure out what is wrong with this child and to fix this child. The parent now assumes the role of the benevolent rescuer of this child, trying so selflessly to find out what is wrong with the child and fixing it instead of realizing that their own behavior and style of relating to the child is what is wrong with the child.
The child is literally locked in a paralysis of emotional abuse because they are in fact being gas lighted. Gas lighting is convincing someone that what they perceive is not what they perceive. What they feel, they don’t feel. What they saw, they didn’t see. It is a complete invalidation of a person’s reality to hide what someone is actually doing. The parent first hurts the child with their behavior and when the child becomes upset, the parent deflects that blame on something being wrong with the child inherently and then flips into the loving rescuer trying to solve whatever is wrong with the child. They tell the child they are doing this because they love them. So the child is now mentally and emotionally destroyed in confusion. The very person who hurt them is now the person saying they love them and because of that will help them to solve whatever is wrong with them.
To create a physical analogy to represent this emotional injury, imagine that you break someone’s leg. But you can’t admit that you broke their leg because you can’t feel like a good person and accept that. So, as they are writhing around on the ground in pain and yelling, you say “Wow, your anger is really abusive and abusive relationships aren’t ok for me, but something must be really wrong with you because there is no reason for you to be writhing around on the floor right now and yelling after all, it’s such a beautiful day outside and I give so much to you”. I love you so much that I’m going to be the better person and I’m going to stop what I was doing here and what I wanted to do today to go find a doctor for you to figure out what is wrong with you so that you can enjoy this beautiful day and work on your anger problem so we can be in a wonderful relationship and enjoy this wonderful day together.”
The child grows up with the deeply imbedded concept that something is wrong with them and usually struggle with self-abusive and suicidal tendencies. They find their way into abusive relationships over the course of their lives in which insidious mind games are played where someone does something harmful to them and says they are in fact doing something good to them. Their adult relationships follow this same pattern. They find partners who do the same thing to them as their parent did. And because they usually reach adulthood with several diagnoses, deflecting is easily done.
So, it is obvious that deflection is a dangerous thing for our relationships as well as for our own awakening and path of self-awareness. Now, what do we do about it?
- We have to recognize the shame and guilt that we feel in order to not deflect. We deflect to save our self-concept. In order to awaken, we have to be able to see both sides of the coin about ourselves. Both our darkness and our light. For the person who deflects, this means in order to stop deflecting, we have to be willing to feel and see ourselves as not a good person in the circumstance we are in. We could engage all day long in a debate over good person vs. bad person and that there is no such thing. But the reality is that because we have already judged certain things as bad, we must be willing to see ourselves in this light and feel the feelings of shame in order to stop deflecting.
- Once we have allowed ourselves to feel the shame, we need to realize that down deep, shame is the core of our self-concept. We cannot admit to guilt because it causes this deep wound of shame to be triggered. All of our attempts to deflect are designed to shield the fact that underneath that shield, shame already exists in us. Then, I encourage you to watch my video on YouTube titled: How To Overcome Shame.
- Deflection is a coping mechanism. For this reason, watch my YouTube video titled: How To Let Go Of A Coping Mechanism and use the advice given in this video on deflecting specifically.
- The opposite of deflection is reflection. Hopefully, you can reflect and accept to see yourself as not the good guy in this situation. But if you can’t, for the sake of other people around you, you can go through the backdoor of this pattern by feeding your positive self-concept by accepting your negative aspects. Just decide that the person who is the best person is the one who really owns their badness. So, when you feel the tension of defense in any given situation, use the power of your own ego’s desire to see you as a good person (and a good person owns their flaws) to in fact look for what you did wrong or what you did to hurt the other person.
- We need to start facing our unpleasant emotions. The unwillingness to feel negative emotion is at the heart of our coping mechanisms. But pain is captivating because it is meant to be. It calls your awareness squarely to the place that is in pain. If we feel pain, our attention needs to go to that place. The pain is an indicator that we need to become aware of something that is there. Instead of deflecting or going into denial or eating or distracting ourselves, we need to go inward, towards the pain. In order to develop a method for doing this, I encourage you to watch my video on YouTube titled: How To Heal The Emotional Body.
- Be willing to ask yourself WHY from a place where you are willing to see and wanting to specifically explore painful truths about yourself in each circumstance. Painful truths about how you actually feel about what you are actually doing about why people are actually acting towards you the way that they are acting and about what you actually want and don’t want and about why are you really doing the things that you are doing. Down deep underneath deflection is an unwillingness to really be authentic with yourself and with others.
- Look at the most painful areas of your life, especially the relationship that is causing you the most pain. Look at the multiple excuses you have for why the other person is the reason that the situation is like it is. And ask yourself, what would be so bad if none of these explanations were true? What painful truth am I the most terrified to admit to if this situation is like it is because of me instead of them?
- Once you accept the painful truth about yourself, you have come out of denial and so you now have something REAL to work with in order to create change with people and to do things differently. So, when you are ready, communicate your new understanding and create repair to the relationships around you in this way.
The reality is that if someone in a relationship is deflecting, there can be no repair to the relationship once rupture is created because it is impossible to create repair when someone is unable to see themselves enough to see what they are doing enough to change it and is instead making it about there being something inherently wrong with other person. This is often the real reason that relationships with parents never get resolved. We have a common societal saying relative to relationships and it goes like this: “It takes two” or the blame is always 50/50. This is the idea that it takes two people to make a relationship work and two to destroy it. This is actually not true, due to the nature of a connection. If takes two people to make a relationship work because if one person doesn’t want the connection or nurture it, there can be no relationship. But if one person doesn’t want the connection or doesn’t nurture it, they can create a rupture regardless of hat the other person does or does not do. That is one reason why being in relationships is so powerfully vulnerable and interdependent. And the bottom line is, there is nothing more painful in life than un-repaired relationship rupture. So dare to reflect instead of to deflect.