You Teach Others How To Treat You

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay

“You teach people how to treat you.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Many of us are living our lives repeating the same heartbreaking and unhealthy patterns. We appear to be stuck on replay unable to move forward while continually duplicating the chaos that caused us to leave our last relationship. Perhaps there is a belief that we have a “type” that we attract. We seem to get involved emotionally with the same type of person that inevitably turns out to be Mr. or Mrs. Wrong.

Looking at our past, we may realize that we are often at the center of a chaotic or unhealthy situation. Our belief may be that these situations keep happening to us. But, perhaps the real truth is that we are helping to create these situations by planting the seed of the behavior and nourishing its growth. Our subconscious beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in may have a profound impact on what we expect and accept from others.

We all have subconscious beliefs that affect our interactions with others. The term projective identification was first introduced by Melanie Klein and is a form of transference that describes the subconscious dynamics that occur in close relationships. These relationships may be romantic, professional, or familial and may occur between a therapist and patient. When projective identification occurs, one of the parties in the relationship will force their subconscious beliefs onto the other person. Essentially, what should be self-identified is instead identified in another person who begins to feel the effect of the projection. This may be done by actions or words which will subconsciously influence the other person to become the projection.

It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy molded by the psyche that allows us to manifest our subconscious beliefs into reality. Over time, the projection, which may be positive or negative, will begin to influence and affect the behavior of the other person without them becoming aware of what is happening. Ultimately, introjection will take place when the other person takes on the projection as their own belief and begins to respond accordingly.

For example, a person who has had unfaithful past romantic partners may subconsciously believe that they will never find a faithful partner because they are not worthy of love. Their subconscious negative belief that no one will ever love them will lead them to believe that their current partner is just another cheater who has yet to reveal their true nature. They will then begin to project behavior onto their partner to instigate the subconscious scenario. They may begin to distance themselves from the relationship as if their partner has already been unfaithful. They may cease all intimacy and encourage the other person to go out to bars alone. Unknowingly, the other person will begin to lose their sense of self and take on the projection becoming a version of what is expected. After a while, the person who has never thought of being unfaithful will begin to have thoughts of being unfaithful. Once introjection takes place the person will be unfaithful, fall out of love and thus become the physical embodiment of the projection. In a sense, the projector has controlled the behavior of the other person and has reaffirmed their negative core belief that they are not worthy of love.

Of course, this does not apply in all situations where one person in a relationship has been unfaithful. This is merely an example that helps explain the somewhat complex concept of projective identification.

It is important to have the self-awareness that how we subconsciously feel about ourselves or a situation will have an impact on our relationships. Many times, looking inward is the only way to make sense of what is going on in our world. You may not be aware that you are creating and reinforcing your relationships. Good or bad, you teach others how to treat you by the behaviors that you accept.

Please note that projection identification is different from psychological projection (click here to read my article about psychological projection) where we are projecting onto others our subconscious views and beliefs as belonging to them. Further, I have simplified the concept of projection identification and have discussed only one facet of this fascinating concept.

Thank you for taking a moment to visit my blog. I hope you enjoyed this post. I welcome your comments and would love to hear your insights on this subject.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology

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136 responses to You Teach Others How To Treat You

  1. Awakened One says:

    It seems to come down to self awareness. The mind is such a powerful machine and so many of us treat it with little respect. Thank you Dr. Perry. Great post.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. Kelly says:

    hi Dr Perry. Thank you for taking the time to explain a difficult concept in a way I can understand it. It’s really interesting! I love your blog

    Liked by 4 people

  3. delsenboisen says:

    Very interesting post Dr. Perry.
    I remember Ps. Charles Stanley in one of his sermons he mentioned ” let’s be careful as we might not know but we are actually influencing others.”

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Great post. I truly get so much out of your blog. It is a great reminder of the power of our often unconscious self perception and how that impacts our relationships. I’ve found that thoughts, beliefs and messages in our head can be the soundtrack of others in our lives that we internalize as our own voice. It’s not who we are but who we take ourselves to be through the eyes and voices of others. Thankful for your blog.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. TadraLife says:

    Great Read Dr. Perry I totally identify with this. Accepting and loving yourself first is the key to attracting the right people in your life.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. laronda65 says:

    I grew up agreeing with Groucho Marx, that I’d never want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. If a guy showed interest in me, I just assumed he was inherently defective, as demonstrated by his obviously poor taste. 😏

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Mina says:

    Dear Dr. Perry, I have printed out many of your articles and have shared them with my friends and family. I even put them on my wall too. I am so thankful for your knowledge please never stop writing💗

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I enjoy writing and creating. I hope to always have time to write. Have a wonderful weekend✨

      Liked by 1 person

  8. TheOneFromAfar💃🏽 says:

    Wow. I don’t know if I am surprised more by how fascinating this topic is or by the fact you wrote this in a way that I could actually understand. You have a gift Dr. Thank you!

    Liked by 6 people

  9. This is a great post. This is my whole life. I have finally surrounded myself with people who truly love me and accept me for who I am. I am finally embracing myself and my sexuality. I love who I am. I believe that what you give to others you get back. I’ve tried so hard to love others and treat them with kindness. So I give love and kindness everyday. I believe that’s what I get back. Awesome post. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Great post ! I’ve heard of projection before and how we seem to attract people where we repeat mistakes, but the concept of introjection is new to me. Fascinating. I’ll have to do some reflecting over past relationships with this in mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you! It truly is fascinating how our subconscious thoughts and beliefs can have an affect on those around us. Have a great weekend✨

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I can totally relate to this. You are so right in what you said about looking inwards to understand what is happening in the world around us. This is something I am working through in my own life. When we understand this, we can evolve from it and respond to it. Thank you for sharing this insightful and (as always) helpful post.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Emma_Kim says:

    I came back to your blog today to read this post again. I am seeing a lot of the things you describe in my own life especially in my romantic relationships. Thank you for shedding some light on this for me Dr. Perry. The things you share are invaluable to me. I appreciate you very much.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Lucas says:

    I love this post. I have never heard of projective identification but I feel I understand it after reading your post. The subconscious is so powerful!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Indeed! I am happy to hear this post helped explain projective identification. Thank you so much for your comment✨

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Austin says:

    Thank you so much Dr. Perry for this write up. I found the information both illuminating and thought-provoking, causing me to look introspectively into some of the seeming “recurring patterns” in my life and asking myself serious questions. Again, thanks for this. Would really love to reblog this! Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      You’re welcome! I am happy this post resonated with you. Feel free to reblog. Thank you✨

      Liked by 2 people

  15. It’s especially gut-wrenching when one watches their adult children repeat the same patterns, that we, the parents lived. Ugh!
    Thank you for writing this. ❤️🦋🌀

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Own Yourself says:

    You’ve articulated this concept so well. I truly wish more people had a deeper understanding of this. I see so many people who feel victimized by their experience of negative relationships, when what they don’t seem to understand is that people will treat you in whatever way you allow them to and that, as your quote from Oprah demonstrates, ‘You teach others how to treat you’. Our perspective on life is so very different when one understands this. Thanks for such a wonderful post. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  17. klrs09 says:

    Thank you for this post. Reading it I immediately connected my own behaviour to what you discussed. The question is: how do you stop projecting? Having been in therapy several times I know that I suffer from having EXTREMELY high expectations of not only myself, but everyone around me. I struggle all the time to control that aspect of my personality. It gets hard.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for your comment. If you have been to therapy several times without finding a resolution it is possible that an ineffective treatment model was applied or maybe it was not the right “fit” for you and the therapists.


  18. Crystal says:

    hi Dr. Perry! I am an email subscriber. I look forward to your posts. They are always so interesting! You are a wonderful writer! Keep it up. I see such a big future for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Betty says:

    I have never heard of projective identification. It’s amazing how our subconscious influences our our daily lives. Thank you so much for writing this🙏🏼

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Ian says:

    Thank you for taking to write such informative posts. I’m sure you are very busy with your work so not sure how you do it! Keep up the good work spreading positivity!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Ann says:

    I enjoy reading your blog especially after I have a bad day. It reminds me to focus on the positive❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  22. CattleCapers says:

    I find a similar situation with one of my older friends that doesn’t involve romance. Her family takes her for granted because she allows them to treat her disrespectfully. Then, of course, she reaches her breaking point and there’s a fight. I’ve tried to say something, but she doesn’t get that if she would just firmly and quietly demand to be treated properly, then the situation wouldn’t continually get to the point of fighting and more hurt feelings. She lets people walk all over her and then bitterly complains behind their backs that she’s mistreated, instead of having the courage to confront them honestly.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Freud Lover says:

    Hi Dr. Perry! Just wanted to say I love your blog. I am learning so much about psychology by reading your blog. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

  24. DaliaS. says:

    I love your blog Dr. Perry. It’s like I having my own personal therapist in my pocket. You’re the best and thank for all you do!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      I am glad you found this helpful. It is important to point out that my posts are meant to educate but they are not meant to be a replacement for therapy✨

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Bindu says:

    ‘ Looking inward’ is the solution. So true. I guess in most cases that ought to be the strategy, but then it’s easier said than done. Pointing a finger comes easier. Thanks for this insightful post.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Totally get this, and it makes sense. But, as you said when sit quietly and look inside we can see what mis happenening and break the negative cycle. And it is doable to break the cycles.

    Great post

    Liked by 2 people

  27. goroyboy says:

    Dr. Perry I enjoyed your thoughts. It reminds me of a recent read by Mark Manson (The Subtle Art of not Giving a ….) but you take it a step further. Manson seems to have a clear line of not accepting behaviors while you are proposing that once the behavior is not accepted (or perhaps accepted) the other person responds/is shaped accordingly. Basically the aftermath. Peace

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Interesting. I am not able to take credit for this thought. This post is about projective identification a form of transferance. This was first introduced by Melanie Klein. Thank you✨

      Liked by 2 people

  28. malikamai says:

    This perfectly described where I am at this point in my life. I’ve noticed that all my relationships although different are essentially the same and ended for similar reasons. I am literally in the process of being aware of my negative unconcious beliefs and changing them.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Beautiful post ! It is all about what we think, feel and believe . Our projections that we see on the screen only reflects on what is going on with us, it is said if you want to know about a person look around them, the life they have created with their sub conscious mind

    Liked by 2 people

  30. So true, I think my past experience with relationships has made me not to trust anyone again, this has constantly ruined ‘should be” beautiful stories for me but right now I am seriously working on it I pray it gets better for me

    Liked by 1 person

  31. For years when someone has asked if I needed help (even something as little as help with the dishes), I have always said no. I then end up feeling used or as if I am the only one that ever does anything. I can definitely see where projection identification comes in. I have trained the individuals to not help. Puts a different twist on things! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. As always, a great article. I appreciate your insights and your gift for explaining everything in an easy to understand manner. I have shared quite a few of your articles!

    Liked by 1 person

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