Criticizing others is a widespread “sport” among many people. We talk about how others dress, how they think, how they behave, how they run their lives

But… What is behind a criticism? What mechanisms make many people unable to suppress the impulse to judge others? The humanist psychology Gestalt promoted by Fritz Perls in the 1940s explains this phenomenon through a concept called “projection” .

Criticism of others and neurotic mechanisms

As a humanistic therapy, Gestalt is characterized by pursuing personal realization to develop human potential to the fullest. One of its pillars is self-knowledge to recognize the relationship between the bodily sensations that our emotions provoke in us and to link them to our needs in order to learn how to satisfy them.

When the person does not know how to give himself what he really needs , it is when, according to Gestalt, the neurotic mechanisms appear, which are all those disturbances both at the level of thought and at the level of behaviour that arise from the individual’s inability to do what he really wants in order to try to adapt and be accepted by his social environment. Projection is one more of these mechanisms and it is the basis of criticism of others.

What happens during the screening?

He who projects, rejects some aspects of himself and attributes them to others . What one person criticizes of another always has to do with the one who judges; it may be something he would like to do but is not allowed to do, or something in his own personality that he dislikes.

For example, if someone rejects another person’s extreme anger, he may not recognize that anger as his own, because he does not want or can express it, or because he does not like his own uncontrolled anger. When criticizing, he will sometimes be right, but most of the time he will be passing his opinion through the filter of his own experience and will make serious mistakes in judging others. In addition, he will feel powerless to change the situation, since the blame will always be external.

Therefore, to project or criticize is to attribute to something or someone our own qualities or feelings that we are not prepared to recognize as our own.

The role of dreams according to Gestalt

Another curious fact of the Gestalt paradigm is that according to it dreams are also projections . That is, what we dream is that part we do not integrate or have resolved about ourselves, so dreams can give us many clues about what we are, what worries us or what we need to solve in each moment.

This perspective on the dream world tells us that behind much of the criticism of others there are very deep psychological mechanisms that affect us even when our mind has “disconnected” from the immediate environment of the present.

Closing the cycle of our needs

Therefore, when we criticize others we are really talking about ourselves and this instead of becoming something negative and looked at from this new point of view, can help us to be more understanding and empathetic with what other people say or think.

On the other hand, it can guide our steps, since instead of staying in the criticism and always seeing the guilt of what happens in the others, it can indicate the steps that we have to take not to go by ways and decisions that do not correspond to us and to be consistent with what we feel.

Gestalt Therapy helps us to identify these neurotic mechanisms that prevent us from closing the cycle of our needs and being aware of where we cut off our desires, in order to decide whether we want to act the same way and continue criticizing, or whether we want to dare to be ourselves and not have to. One of the important objectives within Gestalt therapy is precisely to assimilate these projections, that is, to accept as part of our experience what we have rejected.

So when we feel the irrepressible temptation to judge others, it is more useful to stop and feel what is going on inside us and know how to take advantage of what our emotions and feelings tell us.