Ever hear someone say “kill the referee”? It’s very common and rather normal for someone to say : “I’d like to kill the boss” or “If you do that one more time I’ll kill you” when they are simply expressing anger, frustration or in the name of good manners having to sit through another false verbal attack without meaning they are going to or even that they would act on their remarks. Often people say “That’s killing me” when they react to a joke or a prank or hear something they actually like. Normal people use the word kill when they mean quit or turn off something like “kill the lights”.

But when some people hear the word kill they project their own feelings of rage and see themselves as someone who would want to act on their impulses. They are saying, psychologically “in this circumstance I’d kill that person”. It’s called projection. Psychological projection is not a mental disease but an unconscious psychological mechanism used by people to protect themselves from dealing with unconscious feelings or forbidden impulses.

On a personal level I witnessed an 89 year old female in a nursing home tell a waiter “If you put those beans on my plate I’ll murder you.” Weighing no more than 90 pounds she had no idea to murder someone but she was expressing frustration at having to get something on her plate she didn’t want.

Yet we recently heard a citizen react to just such a remark as though their life was threatened. Stop for a moment and consider the possibility that the speaker actually wanted to commit murder. Why announce their intention to others?

A retired police officer during his campaign for District Attorney told me he never worried when someone with a gun said they were going to shoot him because he reasoned if they wanted to shoot him they would have done it. He walked up to a man who had made those remarks and talked him out of the house because he knew the man had a problem that he wanted solved, not to shoot anyone. When he was applauded for bravery he said he knew the man wouldn’t shoot because the officer had studied people and knew he was in no danger.

But there are people who are afraid of others because they project onto them their own reactions. They know they would like to kill and they know they must work hard to keep that emotion out of sight. Their problem is psychologically they announce their seriously distorted sense of reality when they announce their life is being threatened. 

A local man swerved his car and drove it towards me twice. I reported the incident to the police. If that person announced he wanted to kill someone I would take it seriously as compared to hearing the same comment from a person who had not physically assaulted others.

At the public meeting it would be almost impossible for a person who would be in fear of being killed to avoid making a police report but that’s what seems to have happened. No report to the police. That itself suggests some motive other than personal danger was being animating him. Even more strange was the person who claimed to be in fear for their life purposely went into a small room in the close company of those people from whom he allegedly said he was being threatened. That can only mean the entire act was just a public stunt from a person who in the past has been the perpetrator of many such stunts. Since the actions of the person who claimed his life was threatened were the complete opposite of a person who believed their life was in danger, the obvious conclusion is he didn’t believe himself and with good reason. Many of his ideas have been demonstrated by events to be impossible to believe.

That’s why reputations are important. It allows people to predict the expected behaviors based on past behaviors. To claim a remark to a waiter was a murder plot by an 89 year old woman would be silly. But, as we have seen recently in Northampton there are people whose personalities are in denial and who feel the world is a threat to them. They would harm others so they project their distortions onto others. They need two kinds of understanding. They need to understand others better but more importantly they need to understand themselves.  

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