Displacement is a defense mechanism whereby a person directs their negative emotions and frustrations onto another object in order to get rid of the negative feelings. In this PsycholoGenie article, we will understand this concept further, and provide examples of the same.
Did You Know?
A rebound relationship is also considered to be a form of displacement.
Human beings deal with varied negative emotions by making use of defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are subconscious coping techniques that are used to lessen the intensity of anything that is unpleasant, threatening, or unacceptable. A very common defense mechanism that is used in everyday life is that of displacement. Displacement comes about when a person directs or displaces their negative emotions, impulses, frustrations, and reactions onto a less threatening subject in order to avoid negative consequences.
In this following PsycholoGenie article, we will understand the very interesting concept of displacement in greater detail and give you examples of the same.
What are Defense Mechanisms
It was Sigmund Freud who first proposed the concept of defense mechanisms and went on to explain how they were an integral part of a person’s unconscious psyche. He said that without the aid of these mechanisms, a person would constantly be dealing with varied levels of negative emotions in all their intensity, which could cause irreparable damage to his mental health.
In order to protect oneself from the direct onslaught of these emotions, defense mechanisms act as sort of buffers or shock absorbers to lessen the pain and aid a person in dealing with the negativity.
What is Displacement
Displacement comes about when a person directs his negative emotions and frustrations onto another, less threatening subject. However, the subject/object that the emotions are targeted towards is not the source of the frustrations, he is simply chosen because he is less threatening and less harmful. Displacement occurs because a person anticipates negative consequences if the negative reaction is directed towards the source, which is why, a less-threatening source is chosen.
For displacement to occur, even the slightest trigger suffices to bring about this negative reaction towards the target. Moreover, when studied objectively, the intensity of the reaction is usually not justified by the cause or trigger―which is relatively mild in comparison to the reaction that comes about.
So, by using this defense mechanism, a person gets rid of his negativity and rising toxic emotions by directing them onto another person, and thereby gains some form of mental peace back.
For example, say you’re about to go meet a friend, and right before you leave your apartment, you have a tiff with your landlord, setting in a sour mood. When you reach the meeting place, your friend has still not arrived and is 15 minutes late. When she’s finally there, she explains that she was stuck in traffic for the last 30 minutes. You then proceed to give her a earful saying that she has no consideration for anyone else’s time except her own self.
This is displacement at play―where, in spite of being backed by a genuine reason, you still give her a earful because you cannot say the negative things to your landlord with the fear of being evicted.
Displacement often plays itself out as a chain reaction and does not usually stop at one incident. For example, when you shout at your friend, the friend will in turn get angry at her boyfriend, and the boyfriend at a waiter and the waiter at a stray dog. Thus, the chain reaction continues and only a slight trigger suffices to bring about the reaction.
Examples of Displacement
The following are certain displacement psychology examples that you can go through to understand this concept more clearly.
The math teacher shouts at you in front of the whole class for not completing your homework. While entering home after school, you almost trip over on one of your little brother’s cars and you hit him hard. Since you could not have said anything to the teacher, you come home and displace your anger and frustration out on your little brother who cannot hit you back with the same intensity as you can.
You get shouted at by your mother for not taking out the trash, you displace the anger by slamming the door hard on your way out because you can’t talk back to your mother.
Your boss shouts at you for not having kept a report ready on time, you can’t shout back at your boss fearing you will lose your job. Once home, you get an opportunity to take the frustration out on your husband because he has forgotten to pick up the milk.
Displacement is one of the most common defense mechanisms that is comes about very subconsciously. Now that you know what this entails, it will be easier for you to identify the occurrence of the same if ever and whenever you’re in a situation like this.