Projected Stress is Leading Us to Emotional Bankruptcy

Gillian Sisley

The psychology of the socially acceptable practice of “stress projection”, and how it is ruining our lives.

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I’m planning my wedding, which is in four months.

My partner is relatively inactive in the process (he would love to be just as involved, but with his current schedule, it’s not possible), so a lot of the responsibility falls on me.

People assume I must be stressed out of my brain.

I’m not.

I’ve actually found the wedding planning process to be fairly low-key and enjoyable, when left to my own devices.

We got organized early on, securing the important and big details (venue, photographer, dress, suits, etc.) and since then it’s been tackling a few things, here and there, every month or so.

When people insinuate how “stressed I must be”, and I respond that I am in fact not, they’re always surprised.

They then make it seem like something is seriously wrong with me.

I started to ponder why my lack of stress seems to so deeply offend some people, and what science has to say about the psychological practice of “projecting stress”.

Here’s what I found:

There are societal expectations for particular circumstances to be stressful.

Wedding planning is supposed to be one of those really stressful experiences.

Running a business is also supposed to be one of those insanely stressful experiences, as well.

Don’t get me wrong, there is stress in the business I own, but for the most part, I’ve created an environment which allows me to thrive and move forward relatively stress-free.

When a member of society is in the depths of a situation which is perceived to be “stressful”, and is not appearing to be experiencing said stress, that (oddly enough) is seen as problematic.

This is because we all carry pre-conceived expectations, whether we are aware of them or not, based on our own personal values and world experiences.

When hearing about the situations of others, we try to imagine how the other person is feeling in that particular circumstance, and we immediately consider our own pre-conceived expectations, and how they would affect OUR behaviour were we in that person’s shoes.

If the other person’s choices do not align with our own personal expectations or what we would choose to do, we experience stress.

Some are able to keep that stress to themselves, recognizing that it has nothing to do with the other person.

Others make an active habit of taking that moment of discomfort and projecting it onto other people, as means of feeling better about themselves and their own insecurities in the moment.

Projection is a defence mechanism.

To protect ourselves, people expect that certain situations should be stressful, and try to encourage that belief in others, under the guise of being helpful.

Science simply proves that projection is, at its core, a self-centred act.

Knowing that I’m a planning, and I tackle things early on, I created circumstances within my wedding planning process which were setting me up for the least likely amount of logistical stress.

It’s worked — pre-planning, knowing my whole to-do list, breaking it up into assigned months, has led to a relatively stress-free process.

Until I talk to other people, like my mother, or my friends, or random people who expect me to be stressed and seem distraught by the fact that I am so laid back.

This just doesn’t line up for them, and red-flags pop up everywhere. Panic ensues.

I MUST be forgetting something important. I must have slipped or made an error, because in their minds there is no possibility to make it through a socially expected “stressful experience” without I myself be crushed under the weight of crippling stress.

When, in all reality, the only thing they are projecting is their own expectations of what my experience should be like — rather than acknowledging or appreciating the actual truth of my experience.

The poor planning or lack of productivity of another person does not equate to yours or my own personal crisis.

The psychology of “projected stress”.

“If a bride-to-be is not stressed, is she even really planning a wedding?”

The problem with projecting stress onto others is that we are actually actively projecting our belief that this person will fail, regardless of whether or not that has shown to be the case.

And even if it is, that is simply not society's business.

This is founded entirely on our own perceived expectations and views of the world, neglecting to take into account the expectations or views of the person we are projecting our stress onto.

An additional psychological downside of projection is that:

“Projection makes us feel superior to everyone else because it allows us to overlook our own faults and inadequacies while simultaneously honing in on what we perceive to be imperfect in others.”

This proves that, in actuality, projecting stress and worries on others speaks to our own sense of insecurity and fear of failure, rather than speaking to the well-being of the person we are projecting upon.

Final word.

While it is important to recognize if you are guilty of projecting your own stress and expectations upon other people, it is just as important for us to recognize when someone’s else’s stress is being projected onto us.

We are not responsible for experiencing the stress of another person, simply because they believe we should be behaving or processing the world in a certain way.

Their own pre-conceived expectations of what is and is not stressful is their own responsibility, and not a burden we are required to carry and share with them.

When we allow another person’s projected stress to affect us, we are leaving ourselves to the whims of others expectations, rather than trusting and appreciating that our journey may be unique and different.

Making a habit of letting other’s stresses and expectations affect us directly is a one-way ticket to emotional upset, burn-out and greater stress in our own lives.

Each individual journey is different for each and every person.

Some people don’t find wedding planning particularly stressful. That does not mean something is intrinsically wrong with them.

Be firm in your own walk, be confident in how you are processing your own emotions and sensory experiences, and empower yourself to be the master of how you choose to receive the world.

How you are feeling and processing the world around you is enough — don’t feel obligated to live your life based on someone else’s expectations.

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about trending news, viral Reddit content, and anything else that tickles my fancy.

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