Two common psychic tricks which predictably undermine a healthy relationship if not recognized and avoided are: Kicking the Dog and Taking it Personally.

Kicking the Dog is transferring emotional reactions from one arena where expression is threatening, to another seemingly safer place. For example, a man might get angry at his boss who can fire him, bite his tongue at the time, then come home and take it out on a non-threatening pet; hence the name. Or, unfortunately, on a spouse or child if no dog is available.

This psychic trick, usually done unconsciously, tends to be used when one's natural emotional expressions, either in word and/or deed, seem threatening at the time and are temporarily suppressed (often for very practical reasons); but in other circumstances, where one feels safer, previously denied feelings may be resurrected (brought to the surface) and transferred to (projected onto) other innocent "objects"–such as, pets, people, or even walls (as in cases of displaced male aggression).

The psychic device is a modern version of ancient scape-goating, where innocent goats were made bearers of human sins; or later punishing, even killing the messenger who brings bad news. Now this old use of projection, before psychology was invented, may be moved from goats in the wilderness and runners in the kingdom to spouses in the house.

Taking it Personally is erroneously assuming ill will of another to be about yourself, rather than a revelation of another person in your presence. Often we may in fact believe our feelings are caused by others and may consequently project blame externally, as in saying, "You make me angry (etc.)." But this psychic trick involves falling for such a projection, "taking it on," as it were, rather than standing present, seeing and/or hearing someone else exposes their emotional self.

When, for example, a husband takes a wife's projected emotions personally, he unwittingly volunteers to be the proverbial innocent dog getting kicked.


In advanced forms of Kicking the Dog, deeper personal pathology, well past simple emotional expressions, may also be repressed within and predictably projected onto loved ones with whom a disturbed person feels safer.

In such instances, for instance, a wife may be nicer, kinder, more accepting of everyone else, even anonymous clerks at the supermarket, than to those she consciously loves. Or, of course, a husband likewise.