With my work as a lawyer on complex child custody cases, I have seen in many of these cases the phenomenon of “projection.” My work as a member of APA and a frequent researcher and contributor on issues concerning personality disorders in child custody and with Parental Alienation cases, brings my clients often into situations where they are being accused of behaviors that are actually resident in the disordered parent.
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human psychology defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. These traits can be seen with some people with personality disorders, such as NPD or BPD. For example, a person who is habitually angry may constantly accuse other people, often their intimate partners or spouses, of being angry. In some cases, the abusive spouse will actually seek out domestic violence support, falsely claiming that they have been abused.
Dr. Michael Bone, a clinician and consultant on PA cases comments this way:
“Parental Alienation Q&A: Is it coincidental that the Target Parent is often represented as having qualities that the Alienating Parent has?
No, this is not only coincidence. Very often, what this represents is the primitive Psychological Defense of “Projection.” Projection is the largely unconscious assignment or Projection, of one’s own qualities onto the other, in this case the Target Parent.
In effect, when this is going on, the Alienating Parent frequently provides a laundry list of what they are all about, in their accusations about the Target Parent.
In other words, a very controlling alienating parent will accuse the targeted parent of being controlling when they are not at all. This process is actually very common in these cases.”