Displacement (psychology)

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In psychology, displacement is a subconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind redirects affects from an object felt to be dangerous or unacceptable to an object felt to be safe or acceptable. For instance, some people punch cushions when angry at friends; a college student may snap at his or her roommate when upset about an exam grade.

Displacement operates the mind subconsciously and involves emotions, ideas, or wishes being transferred from their original object to a more acceptable substitute. It is most often used to allay anxiety.

In scapegoating, aggression is displaced onto people with little political power, such as minority-group members.

Displacement can act in a chain-reaction, with people unwittingly becoming both the victim and perpetrator of displacement. For example, a man is angry with his boss, but he cannot express this so he hits his wife. The wife hits one of the children, possibly disguising this as punishment (rationalization). The child kicks the dog. Or suppose one is angry at a child. He cannot hit the child so he might hit himself.

Though displacement is usually used to refer to the displacement of aggressive impulses, it can also refer to the displacement of sexual impulses.Template:Psych-stub