In this post we will focus on understanding what is the psychological defense mechanism of displacement, why we use it, how it can lead to certain problems and the steps that a therapist can use to help the client who is facing issues due to displacement.
A young girl recently called for therapy. When asked what is it for, she said, “My work is affecting my family life, I lose my temper at work because of my boss, he shouts and insults me like a moron and I remove all the anger on my younger sister at home, and now, it is affecting my relationship with her, please help!”
Haven’t we heard similar stories or even experienced this?
Well, this is a classic example of the defense mechanism of Displacement.
In Freudian psychology, displacement (German: “shift, move”) is an unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind substitutes either a new aim or a new object for goals felt in their original form to be dangerous or unacceptable.
Displacement involves shifting your true feelings from the original, anxiety-provoking provoking thought to a target that is less harmful or non-threatening (based on individual perception).
Displacement occurs when we shift our emotions and actions from the actual desired target to a substitute target:
Like in the above example, the girl gets extremely angry at her boss, but she can’t do much since she fears losing her job, so in effect the anger is directed at her younger sister who she perceives as a safer target.
The purpose of this unconscious defense mechanism is generally to release the pent up emotions by directing it elsewhere, thereby causing less harm or many a times no harm at all to the person feeling those emotions.
However, if we are unaware of this displaced anger, or even if we are aware and the behaviour is often repeated, it could cause serious complications and issues in the person’s life. In the above case, this had already started to happen, as her relationship with her sister was indeed getting adversely affected.
Like every defense mechanism, displacement is good in the short run, however it can lead to major complications when this continues in the long run. It is for this reason very important to channelize it in a healthy manner and come up with alternative solutions.
If you or someone you know has been using the defense mechanism of displacement and is seeking help to improve your current life situation either in personal or professional life, call us on +91-8080-2084-73 or use the contact us form.
When a client has been using the defense mechanism of displacement, there are two basic possibilities:
All the techniques mentioned in this post and a lot more is what you learn and practice during the Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy™ Program. It is the first and the only course that seamlessly integrates different approaches to psychotherapy (cognitive, behavioural, psycho-dynamic and humanistic) with techniques from Hypnosis, NLP, Metaphor therapy and Mindfulness.