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The Psychological Defense Mechanism of Displacement


By Dr. Perry, PhD

“Turning feelings into words can help us process and overcome adversity.” ~Sheryl Sandberg

Our emotional responses to everyday life events do not always take a linear path from perception to a reaction. Every day we encounter an endless assembly line of external stimuli that we must quickly access, process and classify. Our brains must categorize these happenings and life moments quickly in order to respond appropriately. Often our subconscious will identify some event as potentially threatening to our sense of self and to our place in the world. Our subconscious will respond by redirecting the impulse away from ourselves towards an external object. This object can be a person, animal or inanimate object. We can also redirect our impulse to an activity. This redirecting of our original impulse is known as psychological displacement.

According to Sigmund Freud, “The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its…

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