One of the antidotes of prejudice and discrimination
Prejudice and discrimination are everywhere in this world. Almost everyone of us has experienced some kind of prejudice or discrimination based on our race, sex, political affiliation, social class, or religion, etc. In psychological perspective, prejudice or discrimination can be explained by a person projecting one’s intolerable or unacceptable qualities onto the one being discriminated or prejudiced. The one who prejudices or discriminates behaves towards the other party as someone with the negative qualities one had projected. The one being prejudiced or discriminated may take in the projection and act as if someone with those negative qualities. For instance, a traditional Chinese father-in-law treated his daughter-in-law as if someone who is inferior in the family. The daughter-in-law then takes in the projection and becomes very submissive and accommodating as if she is inferior compared with other members of the husband’s family.
Why is someone more prone to prejudicing or discriminating against others? One of the reasons behind may be due to the childhood trauma the person experienced, causing one to have low level of self-awareness. For a person to have a stable and grounded sense of self, one needs to have a secure attachment relationship with one’s caretaker in childhood. The child in a secure attachment relationship is able to see oneself from the caretaker’s reactions and feedback. At the same time, the child learns to understand others’ mind in the relationship with the caretaker. People experienced childhood trauma may not develop secure attachment with one’s caretaker and may be unable to have the self-awareness enough for healthily relating with others. He or she may also have difficulty in understand the others’ mind or to take others’ perspectives.
Without a healthy sense of self, a person may be unable to see oneself as a whole with both positive and negative aspects. The person may not be able to accept one’s negative qualities and project outward to another person. For instance, sexual prejudice or discrimination may be one of the examples of the projection of one’s intolerable weakness to individuals in another gender. In fact, without a secure attachment with the caretaker in childhood, an adult may also be unable to understand others’ mind is different from one’s own mind. As a result, this adult may think that what he or she thinks the other person’s intention or thoughts are facts. He or she does not realise the other person’s perspective, intention or thoughts may be different.
One way to help a person with tendency to project one’s intolerable or unacceptable qualities to another individual is to let this person experience relationships that can provide them with secure attachment. In these relationships, this person’s point of view is being understood and he or she is gradually able to see oneself as a whole, with both positive and negative qualities. This person can develop a healthier sense of self and an awareness of one’s feelings and thoughts. Later, he or she can recognise, understand and accept that others’ have different perspective, intention and thoughts. As a result, the person can take back one’s intolerable or unacceptable qualities and these qualities can be viewed as belonging to oneself. These qualities will be no longer projected onto the other party and prejudice and discrimination can be prevented.
When we are emotionally triggered, there is potential for us to prejudice or discriminate others with anger and projections. We all need to cultivate self-awareness and perspective taking, so that we can have an objective sense of self and others. In this way, we can see oneself and others as a whole with both positive and negative qualities.