Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Displaced Aggression

Displaced Aggression

We all loose our tempers and that is seldom a good or useful thing to do. Loosing our tempers at people who have done nothing to deserve our wrath is always a bad thing for us to do.

After all, the innocent victim of our angry tirade has no idea why we are angry at them. They did nothing that would justify our anger and so they are mystified, confused, or baffled as to why we would be so upset with them.

This "perfect storm" of psychological trouble is a powerful destructive force within families and other human relationships. It is called displaced aggression.

Displaced aggression occurs when we are stressed, troubled or frustrated by something or someone (work, money, friends, relatives, etc.) and our response is to avoid confronting and dealing with the actual source of the stress, trouble, or frustration. Instead, we find a "safe object", person, or animal to take our anger out on. When we displace our anger or aggression onto some safe and innocent victim, it provides a release for our pent up tension and that can provide a relief for us in the moment. But displaced aggression always hurts the ones we love and care about the most. They are normally our "safe" victims because they love us and are willing to forgive us in time. But displaced aggression is an awful and damnable trap for all involved.

There are huge problems with displaced anger and aggression.

* Children assume that our anger is caused by them...even if it clearly is not.
* Adults can feel guilty, angry, or hurt by our unfair treatment of them.
* Unfair anger or aggression can lead to the loss of love or respect of us.
* Our victims can come to fear and be anxious around us.
* Over time, our innocent victims will withdraw from us and resent us.
* Victims of displaced aggression show many forms of psychological problems.
* Over time, displaced aggression will destroy our friendships and our loving relationships.

The truth is that we are all prone to displacing our anger and aggression onto innocent victims. Our best defense is knowledge of this human frailty and a mindful and strong dedication to avoid these costly mistakes.

When you detect that you are under pressure, stressed, or otherwise upset, simply think about avoiding displaced aggression and its damages and rehearse how you will treat your friends and loved ones kindly, in spite of your troubles.

Often is is very helpful to just tell them that you have had a bad day and that you "are not yourself". Perhaps you can discuss your troubles with them: talking to others about a problem can be very helpful. In any event, it is then your responsibility to do the best you can with your stress...without taking it out on innocent others.

If despite your best efforts, displaced aggression continues to be a problem, I hope you will seek the help of an experienced Psychologist.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

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