Everyone gets angry from time to time, but displaced anger can cause serious harm to you and your relationships. It looks like directing anger at someone or something that has nothing to do with your source of anger. It perpetuates negativity and can lead to a cycle of fights. Anger displacement is a defence mechanism used to self-soothe. While almost everyone has likely experienced a few episodes of displaced anger, it’s important to recognize if there’s a recurring pattern. It’s more common than you think, but it’s essential to get on top of it and make healthier choices to deal with your emotions. Here’s how to manage displaced anger with 7 tips.
What Is Displaced Anger?
Displaced anger is when someone gets angry at someone or something other than what initially triggered the anger in the first place. For example, your friend did something to make you upset and you take your anger out on your partner who has nothing to do with the situation. Or perhaps you’re upset about something your boss said to you at work and you take it out on a co-worker. Displaced anger is a defence mechanism, something the mind unknowingly does to protect itself against a threat or perceived threat. It’s also possible for people to internalize their anger, which can be just as destructive.
Displaced anger is often rooted in adverse childhood events that disrupted healthy development and emotional regulation. This could include physical or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, divorce/separation of parents, or being involved in or witnessing domestic violence. As a coping mechanism, children minimize their own feelings so they don’t have to deal with them. Overtime they learn to displace their anger internally and externally. Due to poor coping skills and an inability to regulate emotions, they channel pent-up anger at individuals or situations that are unrelated to the source of their anger.
Displaced anger is also known to have a ripple effect. For example, it could start with a husband who had a bad day at work and takes his anger out on his wife, who directs her anger toward her children, who take it out on their siblings or friends. It’s a toxic pattern that can have lifelong effects if it’s not dealt with properly.
9 Signs of Displaced Anger
- Directing anger at something or someone totally unrelated to the source of stress in your life
- Low impulse control
- High aggression
- Expressions ranging from mild frustration to explosive, violent episodes
- Feelings of shame, guilt, self-loathing, or self-blame
- Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress
- Using others as an emotional punching bag
- Constant issues in your relationships
- More fights with others
How to Manage Displaced Anger
1. Call a Friend
At times when you’re feeling overly engaged with a situation, it can be helpful to call a friend to talk it out. Give yourself some space and seek support from a friend or family member. Talking the issue out with someone else helps give you perspective and can help you approach the situation differently. It also helps you to not internalize the anger and keep it bottled up inside.
2. Find a Healthy Way to Process Your Anger
Find a healthy way to express your anger or channel it into less self-destructive habits. This may mean going for a run, taking a boxing class, or signing up for a pottery workshop. By dealing with your anger and letting it go, you’re less likely to misdirect it. Exercise is a great way to manage emotions and get your anger under control. It releases chemicals in the brain that promote calm and make us feel good. Art therapy is another good way to release anger and channel it in a safe way. Find what works best for you.
3. Take Space from the Conversation
Talking to someone in the heat of the moment can do more harm than good. It’s not productive and may actually worsen the situation. If possible, take time to remove yourself from the conversation that got you heated. Before coming back to it, ensure the space you had away was enough. You probably want to apologize and let them know you realize you were wrong and that they shouldn’t have been the recipient of your frustration.
4. Talk to a Therapist
If your displaced anger is affecting your relationships, work life, or ability to function, it’s likely time to start seeing a therapist. They’ll be able to help you figure out a treatment plan and can recommend other types of therapy for anger management. A therapist can help you cope with feelings of anger in a healthy way and can teach you tools for communication. They’ll help you develop a plan to better regulate these difficult emotions so you can start feeling better.
5. Practice Meditation and Relaxation Techniques
Calming yourself down after a burst of anger displacement is key to understanding the situation and moving forward. Allow yourself to feel angry, upset and hurt but try not to let it fester. This could mean doing deep breathing exercises, a guided meditation, a short walk, or yoga class. These methods can help reduce angry outbursts, mitigate reactivity, and urge you to think before you speak or act out in anger.
6. Consider Their Perspective
When you feel anger or frustration building up, try to take a step back and see the situation from the other person’s perspective. This can help you to understand their feelings and motivations better, which can diffuse displaced anger. Ask yourself questions like “do they deserve your anger?” and “is your anger toward them justified”. When it comes to displaced anger, the answer is probably no.
7. Self Reflect and Problem Solve
If displaced anger is causing continuous issues in your life and relationships, it’s time to do some self reflection. Displaced anger can sometimes arise because you don’t know how to deal with your anger or frustration and you don’t have the tools to cope. Instead of taking your anger out on someone who doesn’t deserve it, consider addressing the source of your anger head on. If a problem with one of your friends is causing your anger issues, sit down and have a rational conversation with them to try to work it out.
If you experience displaced anger, try these tips to manage it.
This post contains affiliate links.
Did you find this post on how to manage displaced anger helpful? We’d love it if you shared it on Pinterest!
Looking for more mental health help? Make sure to follow our Mental Health Board on Pinterest!