This is a defence mechanism that is no different to any other, in that it allows the ego mind to ensure its own survival. If there is a situation where the ego mind perceives that it is unsafe to express an emotion or to behave in a certain way; the ego mind will have to suppress what is happening.
So instead of someone speaking there mind or expressing how they feel to someone that has made them feel compromised or abused, it will have to be hidden from others. Here one may put on a face that is the complete opposite to how they really feel. Or one might say something that is the polar opposite to what is going on inside their head.
As a result of this it will mean that these feelings, emotions and words will have to come out somewhere. And how they are expressed, will depend on numerous factors. They will only be expressed in an environment or a situation, where the ego mind feels safe.
So let’s take a look at the situations where displacement can take place.
The Work Environment
If one is in a work environment where there is an abusive boss for example; it might mean that one can’t express how they truly feel towards that person. Here the anger or frustration could be taken out on a fellow co worker. Or it may stay hidden and get taken out on ones partner, friends, children or pets.
The School Bully
Another strong example here is of the abusive caregiver who physically or emotionally abuses their child. Due to the child not being strong enough or feeling safe enough to stand up to the parent; the child has to hold in and deny how they are feeling.
The child will then go to school and come across plenty of people that are physically smaller and weaker. And are therefore the perfect individuals to express their suppressed anger and frustration on.
This is completely different to observing the mind; where there is an awareness of one’s thoughts and emotions. Here it is possible to listen to and feel them; without needing to repress them or to act on them unconsciously.
We are only human and there will be times when it is not possible to simple sit with our emotions and thoughts. This is especially true for the younger child that is being abused in the example above. During moments like these, displacement is the only option available to ensure ones survival.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.