Do you catch yourself hiding your blunders or passing the buck for things you do onto other people?
There are a few reasons you might do this, such as to seem better than you actually are (a narcissistic trait), or it could be a defense mechanism developed over time.
Alternatively, maybe someone in your life always causes anxiety or guilt, and you’re not sure how to deal with them.
People often choose to live in denial rather than accept responsibility, but why is this?
There are a few reasons people might deflect blame, so let’s explore the psychological approach behind it.
What is deflection?
Deflection is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person avoids facing difficult feelings or realities by instead redirecting their focus elsewhere.
For example, someone who is feeling guilty about something they did may try to deflect their feelings by making others feel guilty.
Or, someone who is afraid of failure may deflect attention away from their own shortcomings by pointing out the failures of others.
In some cases, deflection can be helpful in dealing with difficult situations. However, it can also lead to further problems if it becomes a way of avoidance.
When used excessively, deflection can prevent people from addressing their underlying issues, which can ultimately lead to even greater psychological distress.
Deflection vs projection
Deflection and projection both involve redirecting emotions, but they differ in their intentions and how they are acted out.
With deflection, the person may consciously or subconsciously divert attention away from their own feelings or actions.
On the other hand, projection is a defense mechanism in which a person attributes their own emotions or traits to someone else.
For example, someone who is feeling anger may project it onto someone else and accuse them of being angry.
While both deflection and projection can be used as a way of avoidance, deflection tends to involve redirecting attention from oneself, while projection involves attacking or blaming others.
How does deflection impact relationships?
Deflection can have negative consequences on relationships. It includes:
Avoiding taking responsibility for mistakes or harm caused to others
Mistakes are an inevitable part of life, but how we react to them can have a significant impact on our relationships. When we make a mistake, it’s natural to feel guilty or ashamed.
However, these negative emotions can prevent us from taking responsibility for our actions.
Instead of admitting that we made a mistake, we may try to deflect blame onto others. This can create tension and mistrust in our relationships, as well as damage our own self-esteem.
Difficulty being vulnerable and admitting faults
In any relationship, it is crucial to be able to communicate openly with one another and feel comfortable being vulnerable.
This means being willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake or done something wrong.
Unfortunately, this can be difficult for many people. We often don’t want to admit our faults for fear of judgment or criticism.
However, by openly admitting our mistakes, we are actually showing our strength.
It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and put yourself out there, but it is essential for building trust and intimacy in a relationship.
The difficulty facing difficult emotions and addressing underlying issues
When we are feeling overwhelmed by difficult emotions, it can be tempting to either stuff them down or lash out at the people around us.
However, neither of these options is really helpful in the long run.
When we stuff our emotions, they have a way of resurfacing later, often at inopportune times. And when we lash out, we only end up pushing away the very people we need the most.
A better option is to learn how to defuse our emotions in a healthy way.
This doesn’t mean burying our feelings or pretending they don’t exist. Instead, it means acknowledging them and then finding constructive ways to address the underlying issues.
Blaming others for problems or conflicts in the relationship
Deflection is a common relationship problem because it causes people to blame others for their own problems or conflicts.
This can occur in two ways: either by attributing negative qualities to the other person or by denying responsibility for one’s own actions.
Both of these behaviors create tension and mistrust and can eventually lead to the breakdown of the relationship.
How to respond to someone who deflects?
If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who consistently deflects, here are some tips to respond.
Recognize and validate their feelings
It can be difficult to know how to respond when someone you care about deflects their feelings. You might feel like you are walking on eggshells, and it can be tough to get them to open up.
The best way to respond is to recognize and validate their feelings.
Acknowledge that they might be feeling overwhelmed, and let them know that it is okay to feel that way.
Don’t try to fix their problems or tell them how they should feel. Just let them know that you are there for them and that you support them.
By doing so, you will create a safe space for them to open up and express their feelings.
Encourage open communication
Encourage open and honest communication in your relationship.
This includes being willing to admit mistakes and taking responsibility for them.
It also means addressing conflicts or issues instead of avoiding them.
When someone starts deflecting, try calmly bringing up the issue and discussing it together in a non-judgmental way. This can help build trust and strengthen the relationship.
Remember that change takes time
If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who consistently deflects, it’s important to remember that change takes time.
It may not happen overnight, and it will require patience and understanding from both parties.
Talk openly about your concerns and offer support while encouraging them to work on their behavior.
Ultimately, it is up to the person to make the conscious decision to change.
By being open and supportive, you can create a positive environment for growth and change in the relationship.
When it comes to discussing deflection, it’s important to remember that this defense mechanism is often employed unconsciously.
People who deflect tend to do so in order to avoid addressing their own issues or shortcomings.
In some cases, deflection can be used in a healthy way – for example, when someone graciously accepts compliments.
However, when deflection is used excessively or in an unhealthy way, it can create problems in relationships and lead to feelings of isolation and frustration.
If you find yourself regularly deflecting, it may be worth exploring why you’re doing so.
Talking to a therapist or counselor could help you to understand your behavior and make positive changes.