The Psychology Of Displacement And How To Deal With It

Displacement defense mechanism

3 min readSep 21, 2022


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What Is Displacement?

Displacement is one type of psychological defense mechanism. The person using this mechanism usually shifts an unpleasant emotion from its source to a less dangerous target.

One of the common examples of this defense mechanism could be displaced aggression. For instance, if a person is angry and unable to take out their anger toward the source without negative consequences, they may try to take it out on something or someone less threatening.

Some of the scenarios that demonstrate the displacement defense mechanism

  • An employee receives bad reviews from his/her employer for poor performance. In this scenario, the employee might take out their frustration on other people for instance, after work, the employee may go to a restaurant to eat and behave rudely to the waiter over a small mistake.
  • A person who feels attraction toward his/her partner’s best friend might not show their feelings directly because that would be disastrous. However, he/she might try to show it indirectly. For instance, the person might show similar preferences in things as the spouse’s best friend. Such as wearing similar glasses as the spouse’s best friend

How to Deal With Displacement

There are certain ways to deal with displacement defense mechanisms and these ways are most helpful while practicing with a therapist or counselor as part of psychotherapy. Some of the steps for instance,

i) Observing & Evaluating

You first have to observe your behavior and identify whether the displacement is the reason behind your behavior. Usually, it is advisable to do this with the help of a therapist.

The therapist can observe and evaluate your behavior from an outsider’s perspective and will help you to understand things from an impartial standpoint.

ii) Reflection

The reflection technique can be used by your therapist to identify when you are using a displacement defense mechanism. With this…




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