What are the differences between abjection and psychological projection?
This question was asked shortly after I released my first video on abjection, where I painted a grim picture about how abjection functions in the way we order our reality, how it affects norms and customs, relationships and how it influences bullying, racism, various phobias and is akin to being a snob.
The difference isn’t apparent immediately as abjection is difficult to grasp as a concept, but if we think of abjection in a less negative sense and take into account how it is a process of individuation, we can then compare it psychological projection, which is always negative. An interesting starting point is the prefixes of these terms. “Ab-” means “away from” and “pro-” means “substitute”. The suffix of both terms, “-ject” means “to throw”.
Abjection sits in between the object and the subject. The object is defined as “that is that outside”, the subject is “I am this inside” and the abject is “that what I am not”, which indicates how it is neither subject nor object, but it does inform what the subject is through negation.
Kristeva describes how she is repulsed by the skin on boiling milk, which is something of substance, an object, yet it does not have anything to do with her subjectivity. That being said, given her rejection of it, her prohibition of this object, she is defining her subjectivity, “I don’t like the skin on milk”, is talking about an object that the subject is rejecting – therefore it is abject. By extension, her parents don’t mind the skin on boiling milk and through this abjection, she separates “away from” her parents as an individual.
The abject defines borders and boundaries, we draw a line between our subjectivity and certain objects through rejection – this is the abject. It stems from disgust, vomiting and nausea are biological expressions of the abject. Kristeva asks if we can exist without borders, or more specifically, can “I” exist without borders. Without the abject, we could not be individuals. We can experience abjection when we encounter bigotry, racism and bullying – we draw a line between the substance and the subject to express our disgust of these actions.
Projection on the other hand is not based on substance and is subject related. If I personally lie all the time and presume that everyone must lie from my experience, thereby declaring that “Everyone is a liar because I too lie”, that is projection. It is more abstract and concept based, rather than something of substance, material or objective. More extreme forms of projection can be seen when a woman accuses a childless mother of being a bad mother, in order to shift the blame from her own failings, or a religious person measures atheists by their own standards. Projection “substitutes” and diverts our values onto others.
Put in even more simple terms – projection diverts boundaries, whereas abjection subverts boundaries. Projection causes (someone or something) to change course or turn from one direction to another and distracts (someone) from something, where abject will undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution), overthrow, unsettle and destabilise the presumptuous, or (of a person or their behaviour) failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.
Abject seeks to be definitive, where projection refuses to meet agreement.
This is my attempt to show abjection in principle, where it is a necessary function of our individuality, it defines the self and the other through negation, which then creates the affirmative as a result. The next phase of my inquiry leads to how abjection is related to snobbery and tribalism, excessively defining what we are not, can be seen in a negative view, which either produces empathy, in which case transference and projection can become problematic, or tolerance, which is better described as apathy, lack of care about the other, but not being aggressive towards the other, or ignorance and violence towards the other.
Projection is something that we are and others are not, the abject is what we are not and others are.