Is she lonely or projecting?

“A woman came in suicidal and depressed because she was lonely. She goes to the gym, some guy says hello. She thinks he is trying to pick her up and rejects him. When he sits by the entrance, she thinks he is waiting to pick her up again. When he talks to other girls, she thinks he is trying to make her jealous. Eventually she complains to management, who say they can’t cancel his membership because he’s done nothing wrong. The day after she claims that the whole gym gives her dirty looks, and she “knows” that man found out about it and told the whole gym to hate her.
She talks with venom about all these people, sitting up straight but no sighing, so I’m guessing it’s splitting. We have been able to get her to contain her anger without acting it out, to feel it inwardly without criticizing herself, and she is making progress there. But now I’m just stuck!”
Your patient is lonely because she projects her rage onto others. Then she feels angry or sad in reaction to the projections she places on others. Unable to differentiate others from the projections she places on them, she thinks they reject her. In fact, she rejects her anger and love, places it on others, and then is reacting to projections. As a result, she is lonely, surrounded by her projections.
Angry with a man, she gets anxious, projects that he is angry, giving her dirty looks, and then becomes sad in reaction to the projection. Desiring a man, she becomes anxious and projects: he desires me. Then she gets angry at this projection and tries to get the gym to push this projected desire out of club. Then she projects her anger onto him, and then becomes again fearful and sad in reaction to her projection.
She projects anger onto others, and then reacts angrily to these “angry” people who are now all bad. Being angry at the projections, there is no anxiety rising. You see, anxiety rises when the patient feels mixed feelings of rage and love toward someone. Your patient cannot tolerate the mixed feelings within herself. Either she projects her anger onto others and then fears them or is angry at the projection. Or she projects her desire onto him and then is angry at or judges her disavowed desire.
You can’t work with current relationships because all the people she describes are viewed through her projections, and her reported feelings are in reaction to her projections. Work exclusively in the T, helping her see her projections, helping her see the feelings underneath the projections, and helping her bear those mixed feelings without using projection or splitting. Abbass’ new book has some nice vignettes on how to cognize about projection and splitting with severely fragile patients.






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