What Is a Displaced Anger?
Displaced anger definition is as follows:
Displaced anger refers to aggressive behavior that cannot be directed towards the actual source of the provoked emotions. Instead, the anger is directed towards a different person or sometimes, towards ourselves.
For instance, if a person had a bad day at work, but could not be direct about it with their boss, they might come home and be rude to their spouse or kids. This is a classic case of displaced anger.
How To Deal With Displaced Anger?
Displaced anger is essentially a defense mechanism that people use when they have a lot of pent-up negative emotions inside of them. If you are feeling that this applies to you, you can seek the help of a therapist a counselor that can help you find the best method of dealing with displaced anger.
There are some other ways that you can deal with displaced anger on your own. Below, we will discuss a number of techniques you can use to evaluate your own behavior and put an end to displaced anger in your life.
Check out our round-up of the best anger management classes on the web in case you have trouble controlling your anger.
First things first, you need to learn how to observe your behavior and actions towards the person you are displacing your anger towards. Sometimes, it can be very hard to understand that the emotions you are feeling are nothing more than displaced anger.
At the assessment stage, it might be helpful to seek the help of a therapist. They will be able to assess your behavior patterns and identify situations that can provoke the displacement of anger. For instance, you can tell your therapist that you don’t mind your partner having his friends over every Friday evening. However, your body language might say the opposite.
The next step toward dealing with displaced anger is reflection. This strategy is used by therapists to help you recognize when you are using defense mechanisms, including displacement.
With reflection, your therapist reflects your feelings back to you, which makes you aware of what you have done or said.
As an example, imagine you are telling your therapist about expressing anger at one of your coworkers. In the process, you can unknowingly reveal one of the worries that have been on your mind – your new boss does not recognize your efforts. Instead of expressing your feelings to your manager, you are displacing your anger on a colleague.
During this stage, you should have already recognized your episodes of displaced anger at work or at home. Here, you are looking for ways to change your thought process and behaviors. For instance, during a heated argument with your spouse, you realized that these emotions you are feeling as just pent-up anger from work. You stop, step back and take a deep breath to get your emotions under control.
Anger Displacement Treatment
Another important part of displaced anger management is learning how to prevent having pent-up emotions in the first place. You can learn new strategies for dealing with hurt and frustration, which often result in anger.
If you are feeling positive about taking on this challenge to find ways to prevent this type of anger from building up, there are a few ways you can go about it.
Sometimes something as simple as changing your environment can do wonders in helping you deal with your emotions. By moving away from a person that is triggering your negative emotions can be very healing and can help you calm your nerves and reorient.
While it might be challenging to permanently distance yourself from such a person, creating a physical distance between you two even for a short amount of time can help deal with your emotions.
Sweat It Out
Being physically active will not only take your mind off the anger but will also help you get rid of that negative energy you’ve been holding inside. Choose an activity that you really enjoy – it can be hiking, swimming, running, weight lifting, or boxing, and go with it.
You will notice how your internal anger is literally melting away along with all the tension and anxiety you’ve been holding in. As an added bonus, you are investing in your body and health and the same time.
Try Cognitive Restructuring
You might have heard about a popular method of dealing with mental health issues called cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive restructuring is one of the techniques used in the course of this therapy. The key principle behind cognitive restructuring is to challenge your thinking and replace your negative thoughts with reasonable ones by asking yourself questions about those thoughts.
Once you challenge and replace some negative thought patterns in your mind, the mental shift will help you use logic during arguments and have control over your reactions.
Commit to Relaxing
Relaxation exercises can have a world of difference when it comes to managing displaced anger. If you commit to practicing some relaxation techniques on a daily basis, in one month, you won’t recognize yourself.
Some of the most effective relaxation exercises include yoga, abdominal breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. Give every single one a try and stick with at least one of them for a whole month.
One way of dealing with pent-up anger is to express yourself in art. You can paint, dance, or sing – whatever your heart desires and whatever makes you happy. Pour your emotions into something beautiful and creative – it can be liberating.
How Do You Handle Displaced Anger?
If you are on another side of the story and are suffering from someone who is displacing their anger at you, there is a way to deal with it.
Do not engage
You already know that people in anger usually “are not themselves”. That is why it is important to remember that the person you are dealing with is not entirely “online”. Their behavior is rooted in fear, and the fact that they are screaming at you typically has nothing to do with you in particular.
The logical part of their brain is shut off and is not responding. So, the best way to go about it is to not react or respond to the aggression. Instead, try to give them some space to cool down.
Take Care Of Yourself
Walking away from an argument is not easy, and never fun. However, once you disengaged with the angry person, try to take care of yourself. Their yelling or aggression might have triggered a negative reaction within you. It’s time to relax and let go of bad emotions.
Do some abdominal breathing or shake off your emotions. Meditate for 20 minutes, telling yourself that you are loved and taken care of. You can also try cord-cutting meditation or aromatherapy massage to let go of negative emotions towards that person.
If an aggressor is posing an actual danger, do everything you can to get away from him/her as soon as possible. If necessary, call the police.
If the situation is not dangerous, action is needed anyway. Once you’ve shaken off the built-up emotions, become present and focus on the moment.
The next step is to engage in something that takes your mind of the situation. You can call a friend, read a book, or listen to music. Taking a shower or a bath is also a great way to wash away the negativity.
The very last step towards addressing the situation is to actually speak to the person that has displaced anger issues and has been displacing their emotions on you. Once you’ve dealt with your own emotions, try to have an open conversation with the other person. Without blatantly blaming them for what they did, talk about the situation from your perspective – “I felt scared” or “I felt sad”. Let the other person know that his/her displaced anger is hurting your feelings and you’d like to help them find the root of their problem.
What Causes Displaced Anger?
Displaced anger is caused by the suppression of feelings towards the real target that caused the emotions. Continuous suppression of negative emotions can lead to increased irritability and displaced anger towards the new target that is not related to the initial emotions. Expressing your negative emotions towards a “safer” target, like your friend or relative versus your boss or colleague is a classic example of displaced anger.
What Are The Three Types Of Anger?
There are three basic types of anger a person can feel: passive aggression, open aggression, and assertive anger.
Passive aggression typically arises from a need to be in control. Passive-aggressive people do not like dealing with confrontation, so they do not openly express their anger. Instead, they are pretending that everything is “fine”.
When angry, passive-aggressive people are sulking and procrastinating. They can also become silent, as they try to mask their real emotions.
People that have open aggression can become verbally or even physically aggressive. They have a tendency to express their anger in a direct way, often lashing out, screaming, and bullying. These people can use sarcasm or blackmail, and they do not wait to criticize someone.
Assertive anger is the way to properly deal with and express your emotions. This includes controlled and confident talking, as well as listening. With assertive anger, people are being patient, they do not raise their voices, and they are open to discussion.
When you deal with anger assertively, you are able to build and nurture relationships. Forgiveness is a big part of dealing with anger assertively – it is important to truly listen to the other person and try to understand them.
Displaced Anger Childhood Trauma
As a child, you can suppress your feelings about certain events due to your inability to properly express and manage emotions. Just like with the classic example of displaced anger, pent-up emotions are the cause of the inability to properly express your emotions during adulthood if you’ve been suffering as a child.
When we restrain our feelings, the negative energy does not just disappear, it is going inward. The same applies to anger – if we suppress anger for too long as kids, we become angry at ourselves and we convince ourselves that we were bad. By not expressing emotions towards our “targets”, we are idealizing them and finding reasons why they are not guilty. This situation in childhood often leads to displaced anger in adulthood.
Displaced Vs Misplaced Anger
Displaced anger and misplaced anger refer to the exact same thing.
Displaced Anger In Grief
Being angry during grieving moments is not a rare occasion. Sometimes, we can be angry with the disease that has taken our close person, with the person that died or we may be angry with God for taking our loved one.
Regardless, when these feelings of displaced anger occur, it helps to express them to someone close. It is important to understand what is it that you really are angry with. Suppressing angry feelings during this period is not recommended as you’d eventually hurt someone by displacing anger at them.
Lots of adults are living their life without even knowing or consciously understanding that they are either dealing with displaced anger or they are displacing anger on someone else. Being caught up in everyday life makes us numb to whatever is going on inside of us, as we are living reactively.
It’s time to look inside of ourselves and get rid of all the negativity that has been piling up there. It’s time to cultivate positive emotions.