Inappropriate Reactons (Projection)

Nobody likes to think that they are contributing to a struggling relationship, especially when a partner's behaviour is less than ideal at times. Unfortunately however, it is often the case – in the form of a unconscious Inappropriate Reaction which is the result of some aspect of childhood that now manifests itself by the unconscious 'protecting' you emotionally – although often unhelpfully. 

Childhood Experiences
Our adult reactions are all based on the parenting and type of love we received; our family interactions; our school; and our environment. These experiences define our behaviours, i.e. the coping skills we unconsciously developed in response to such experiences. Whatever we experienced in childhood will result in neural pathways – and many can be overly sensitive to certain situations that really shouldn’t trigger us beyond mild annoyance. And as a result, we respond with IRs. 

As a mature adult we may have great awareness of the past – but this doesn’t mean we have resolved it. IRs often only come out but when dealing with someone very close - our partner, our parents, or others where we have a relationship that is more than just a close friendship.

When they are triggered they take over, but after we have calmed down or received an undeserved apology, our mind cunningly covers them over, and as a result we don’t have any real awareness of them. Our partner will say we are in denial. Which is often true, but the problem is that denial is unconscous – a human psychological strategy to protect our own self esteem.

How Do They Work?
IRs are self protection mechanisms to us help deal with anxiety-producing levels of hurt, fear or rejection. They emotion felt is often inappropriate for the current setting, but we honestly don't (can't) see it for what it is. At the time they feel totally appropriate and justified – which is the problem. 

Are They Common?
As a couple counsellor these IRs are identified and discussed with amazing frequency. Probably 75% of couples who come to counselling act them out as part of their struggling communication and resulting conflict they are experiencing. Unfortunately NO children have perfect childhoods, yet due to the parent child relationship – we are often in denial and protective of that too. 

How Do You Know You Have Them?
This is the million dollar question. Because of their nature, you often won’t have great awareness yourself. In fact it is very hard for psychologists and counsellors to identify when you are going for personal therapy. They are often only identified during couple counselling … but still often denied. 


Righteous anger

Feeling wronged

Very slow to reconnect

Partner is always at fault

Can't say sorry but need it said

Triggered by small things

 Should I Be Worried?
YES … because if not acknowledged and dealt with your relationship will not survive.

What Should I Do
Firstly and objectively reflect on the some of the 'criticisms' your partner says. Examine them privately in terms of frequency, and strength in relation to the size of the triggers. Ask if a best friend behaved similarly would it be normal? Own them, and then find someone to start helping you work through them. Start by reading The Four Agreements.
Because they are often unconscious, it is not an easy process – but very freeing 
and a relationship savour.