Freud’s concept of projection is now part of the everyday English language. The average person is somewhat aware that everyone projects to some extent.
One way of understanding this phenomenon is to take the word project literally and see an imaginary movie projector inside a person’s personality. The inner phenomenon of the person can be seen as the film, and other people can be seen as the movie screen. People project their inner lives onto others and then perceive their projection, as opposed to seeing others as they in fact are!
We can see the re-creation of one’s family everywhere with the theory of projection. People project their family experiences onto others who may be nothing like their family members. The person doing the projecting then responds to this distorted view of others, and believes his perception is accurate.
We can see this activity of projection all around us. A person who chronically lies believes that everyone is a lousy liar (a harmonious rationalization for the habit). A gay man may believe that all straight men are bisexual. A person with racist beliefs may believe that everyone is racist. A religious person may believe that the most convinced atheist is really unconsciously a believer in God. A young, idealistic youth may believe that everyone is good, and there is no real evil in the world. And so on.
Jean-Pierre deCaussade tells us that whatever happens to us is the best thing that could happen. Using his cognitive belief, we can put on the conceptual eyeglasses of projection and use virtually any negative action by another person to our benefit! Putting on projection eyeglasses can help us understand the inner workings of the other person and, as a result, help us effectively interact with this person. We can turn a negative experience—such as a person projecting a false image onto ourselves—into a deeper understanding of that person. Making a habit of understanding people through understanding their projections can lead us to a deeper understanding of human nature in general. This can be called wisdom.
When someone treats you, for no rational reason, as if you had a negative personality characteristic, you can ask yourself this question: “What does this projection tell me about what is going on, even unconsciously, with this person? Is his denigration of me a projection of his internal self-contempt?”
Also, à la deCaussade, we can use this negative experience as a tool to work on developing virtues in ourselves, virtues such as patience, understanding, loving one’s enemy, and forgiveness.
The blank screen
With the conceptual tool of projection, we can see the wisdom of the therapist being a blank screen. By encouraging clients to project whatever they want onto the therapist, the therapist can better understand what is going on inside her clients. Since the therapist is a blank screen, virtually everything the client says reveals what is going on within him. Virtually nothing is caused by the therapist.
This process can also help the therapist develop a virtue— professionalism. The therapist can gradually learn to use negative responses of the client as a therapeutic tool and not take them personally.
 See pp. 201-211 in Foundartions, by RG Martin for discussions of deCaussade’s ideas.