What should I do when they treat me like that?

By Dr. Karin Luise

It is said that the way people treat you is a statement about them, not about you. I think it goes deeper than that. I believe that the way people treat others – entangled in words, actions, behaviors and beliefs – is a direct mirror of how they truly feel about themselves.

In psychology, we call this behavior “projection.” That is, when a person unconsciously places unwanted feelings, motives or beliefs about the self onto another person. By doing this, the person is using a coping mechanism that deflects dealing with hidden emotions, instead putting the shame of them onto someone else.

An example of this can come from a person who knows they are often deceitful with others. When threatened in a relationship – even mildly – this person might immediately assume that the other person is lying and then project accusations of deceit. This, of course, prevents the projector from seizing the opportunity to recognize what is truly happening in their own psyche and grow from increased reflection and awareness.

This can be very painful for the innocent party on many levels, and I want to explain why.


So, there you are in the middle of a healthy disagreement, when you feel a shift in the energy. You realize you are being accused of being someone you are not. In fact, it is the trait that you clearly see in the person pointing a finger at you. If they are really masters at this tactic, they become mental magicians at trying to convince you that you are the unstable one.

You know the truth is being twisted, but attempts to defend yourself are unsuccessful and even used against you. The stress hormone cortisol starts coursing through your veins.

You feel adrenaline rise out of your gut, into your chest and onto your shoulders. This is your body’s chemical reaction to stress. Your sympathetic nervous system sends signals of danger throughout your body, commanding a release of substances to protect itself. These physical sensations create a mental reaction that makes you want to defend yourself, cueing an emotional reaction of internal disharmony.

On a deeper level, these internal signs are lining up with the soul part of you that is called to honor your truth. Your systems are reacting with fervor because your reality is being turned upside-down. You are being dishonored.

Your spirit – through all of your body’s sensations – is trying to tell you that what is happening is completely out of alignment with who you truly are. The Human Self wants to defend your truth, the Higher Self wants to dismiss you from the experience, while the Emotional Self wants to find a way to feel better. I say, be purposeful and revere all parts of you.

To honor your whole being, you can create a space where you speak your truth, remove yourself from the negative experience and restore harmony in your body. You are not there to change the other person – because you cannot. You are not there to take on the negative beliefs of the other person – because they are not yours. You are there to remain a self-preserving, valuable human being, standing in your own truth and self-worth.

Try not to return the pain by flipping the projection around, further engaging in the insanity. Instead, speak your truth with an insult-free “I statement,” (e.g., “I am an honest person. I know who I am, and what you are saying about me is incorrect.”). Calmly and respectfully remove yourself from the situation.

By refusing to engage in the battle, you are not only diffusing emotion and taking the high road, but you are honoring yourself by not allowing the negativity to inform your self-worth. It is now up to them what they will do with themselves – not you.

Take deep breaths, inhaling in positive reminders of your true worth. Stay grounded in the foundation of your truth. Never, ever, let the negative words of another person define you. It is the positive light that is within you that is supposed to be in charge of that.

Dr. Karin Luise is the award-winning co-author of “The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses & Reclaiming Our Lives.” She is an integrative therapist and inspirationalist. Visit her website at DoctorKarin.com. Connect with her on facebook @Dr.Karin, on Twitter/Instagram at DoctorKarin, or email her at Karin@DoctorKarin.com.