James Stabler



The Stress of Dual/Duel Relationships

One of the most stressful areas of daily life can be our relating with friends, coworkers, relatives or spouses/partners. There are many reasons for stress in relationships but all too often the reason is PROJECTION. We all do this from time to time and it means putting our thoughts and feelings onto another. Once we project onto another, a dual/duel relationship comes into existence and is definitely a recipe for stress. In other words the other person is no longer just who they are but also who we have made them to be; they are now two persons and if they project onto us we are now two persons.

There two types of projection;

1. Transference or the unconscious projection of thoughts and feelings originating from our past onto another person.

2. Projective Identification or the attributing one's own impulses or wishes to someone else.

Transference often occurs with spouses, for example, when the husband comes home late and faces the ire of his wife. While his wife trusts her husband and he does have a legitimate reason to be late, explains and apologizes, his wife's reaction is over the top. She is angry, hurt and tearful and her husband tries to console her to no avail and eventually he gets mad and an argument ensues. Once calmed down the two can't explain what happened let alone figure out what they were really fighting about.

Projective Identification occurs all too frequently in many relationships. For example, John is having a poor month in sales and is feeling inadequate, frustrated and angry. He cannot take it out on his customers so in a meeting with his coworker, Sally, who is making lots of sales, he projects his own feelings onto her until she becomes angry and frustrated. There is the old story of the angry client who sees his Psychiatrist and makes the observation that the Psychiatrist is angry. The Psychiatrist denies this but the client keeps interjecting his opinion until the Psychiatrist responds with anger, proving the client's assertions.

Transference and Projective Identification can occur in any relationship. It definitely occurs in ongoing relationships but it can also occur the first time we meet someone. Transference is the projection of the unresolved past, often childhood, onto another person. Once this occurs, the other person is not only who they are but may also become mom, dad, brother and so on. This creates a dual relationship that leads to a confusing verbal and behavioral duel between the parties.

Similarly, Projective Identification creates a dual relationship or perhaps more to the point a dueling relationship as the receiver defends himself or herself from the projected thoughts, feelings and impulses.


How do you remove or at the very least minimize projection in relating with people in your daily life? Some of the ways include the following.

1. Awareness of and understanding of your own transference or projective identification.

2. Resolve the issues maintaining the projection.

3. Recognize the triggers or stimuli that sets off the projection. 

4. Cognitively restructure the content of your projected thinking.

5. Behaviorally learn to act independently of your projections.

6. Reprocess the past through psychodynamic interventions.

7. Learn to remain present by learning and internalizing how to "Dialogue" with the other person.

8. Identify and remove the schemas or "hard wired" belief systems that perpetuate the projecting.

9. Change lifestyle or environmental factors that maintain the projection.

10. Learn not to take on other peoples' transference or projective identification.


If you think Projection causes you stress:

1. Gain awareness of who, what, when, where and why.

2. Talk with a trusted friend, family member or professional.

3. Send me a comment or question. 


Other Posts

RSS Feed