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Rescuing Yourself From White Knight Syndrome (4): Reclaiming Your Relationship Projections


Unhealthy relationships

Rescuing Yourself From White Knight Syndrome (4): Reclaiming Your Relationship Projections

Changing yourself and your direction involves building your strengths and correcting your weaknesses. You can start by reclaiming what you have been trying to avoid acknowledging about yourself by stepping back and looking at yourself and your relationship with honest eyes. We found that the people whom we considered to be white knights projected onto their partners their own fear of inadequacy or weakness; their own longing for loving support and validation; their own wish for empathic responsiveness; or their own shame, need for perfection, and self-criticism.

Although your partner is a separate person, you may regard her as an extension of yourself. One tarnished white knight, for example, assumed that any decisions he made that were good for him would automatically be good for his partner too. If the boundaries between you and your partner are blurred, idealizing your partner’s qualities is self-serving.

Projecting a part of yourself onto a partner, that is, ascribing to her your own thoughts, feelings, or needs, may have been a way that you’ve managed your anxiety about your own vulnerabilities. The greater your anxiety, the greater your tendency will be to have another person serve as a proxy to help you cope with your own psychological needs. Conveniently, your partner may have vulnerabilities similar to your own, making the process of identifying yourself in her easy so that when you rescue her, you vicariously rescue yourself.

Starting Points for Reclaiming Your Projections:

Consider what you project onto your partner. Is your preoccupation with your partner’s flaws an avoidance of your anxiety about your own imperfections? What do you consider to be your flaws or the ways in which you devalue yourself?

Talk to your partner about his needs, desires, and preferences. Accept that what works for you may not necessarily work for him.

Whether your partner’s behavior embarrasses you or leads you to feel more important, your sense of self may hinge upon his identity and behavior. Think about the qualities in your partner that you believe enhance your status or devalue it. Make a conscious effort to recognize your partner as a separate being, one who can be responsible for his own behavior.

Rather than ignore the feeling that you have failed to live up to your ideals, acknowledge it to yourself, and reflect on the sources of your shame.

This blog is in no way intended as a substitute for medical or psychological counseling. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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Dr. Mary Lamia is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who works with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens in her Marin County private practice. She is a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. Extending psychological knowledge to the public has been her endeavor for thirty years. Dr. Lamia’s opinion has been sought in hundreds of television, radio, and print media interviews and discussions, and for nearly a decade she hosted a weekly call-in talk show, KidTalk with Dr. Mary, on Radio Disney stations. Her books include: Emotions! Making Sense of Your Feelings; Understanding Myself: A Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings: and, The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself From Your Need to Rescue Others.

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