Post No.: 0131
Do you think you’re only ever angry with other people because they’ve directly annoyed you, yet other people are often only angry with you because they’re taking something else out on you?
Sometimes when frustrated, we can either withdraw, display inward aggression (beat ourselves up), display outward aggression directly towards the source of our frustrations in retaliation, or display outward aggression towards another target via displacement. ‘Displacement’ is when, if direct retaliation would result in direct punishment, we’ll harbour that anger and displace our hostilities towards ‘safer’ or more ‘socially acceptable’ targets (e.g. throwing or kicking inanimate objects or snapping at one’s partner in the privacy of one’s home when humiliated by one’s boss at work). It is usually as a result of an incredibly trivial trigger too (e.g. your partner didn’t put the remote control back in its place).
People who are angry about their own failures also tend to displace their anger onto other people or groups, particularly those who are perceived to be easier and more vulnerable targets (immigrants and minorities are classic easy targets). Losers can therefore often be aggressive (fear, such as of a dashed self-esteem, is at the root of all aggression) and cowards are those who take things out on ‘safer’, innocent targets.
Prejudice often offers an outlet for anger by providing someone to blame (i.e. a scapegoat). Conversely, severe defeats can create submissiveness. Naturally, one can be directly vengeful towards the original attacker or source of frustration, but ‘an eye for an eye’ risks creating a vicious circle of violence too. And it can also be the case that when people get into arguments about something, they may end up bringing up issues that are irrelevant to the initial grievance. So anger can be contagious via displacement, it can snowball onto issues unrelated to the initial grievance, and therefore it can create a harmful vicious cycle. Acts of aggression, for whatever reason and against whatever target, therefore beget further acts of aggression (see Post No.: 0111).
So humans are very good at displacing their anger towards innocent targets rather than the true or initial sources of their grievances (which is sometimes their own shortcomings), and bringing grievances out of the woodwork that weren’t related to the initial question or grievance at hand – even though perpetrators may attempt to rationalise their targets, grievances and behaviours afterwards in order to try to justify them (e.g. that it really is the fault of immigrants, for taking ‘our’ jobs and using more public services than they pay in taxes, despite being presented consistent evidence to the contrary. Or even if they accept this evidence, they’ll try to rationalise another reason why immigrants still must go nevertheless; hence their displacement behaviour persists).
One way that frustrations can be productively expressed though is via sublimation. ‘Sublimation’ is a strategy of converting socially unacceptable impulses or idealisations into socially acceptable behaviours (e.g. expressing one’s violent or sexual urges in ‘higher’ culturally or socially useful or acceptable ways, such as via the creation of art or music). It is a form of displacement and a defence mechanism but one of transforming unwanted impulses into something less harmful. Woof.
Research shows that taking one’s fuzzy frustrations out by hitting inanimate objects – although better than hitting people or other living things – may give someone a temporary feeling of relief, but in the long-term it reinforces a violent and aggressive default habit in the wake of any frustration. Hitting or destroying anything shouldn’t be the answer to one’s frustrations – after all, it doesn’t actually do anything to solve the root of one’s problems (e.g. it doesn’t fix the unreliable computer, one’s debt problems, one’s relationship), unless one’s problem just so happens to be something like ‘that wall is in my way’(!)
Displacement can be a factor in cases of domestic abuse, when a perpetrator takes his/her stresses out on a ‘safer target’, who is hit in private and won’t hit them back, and won’t likely run away or tell the authorities either for having few options themselves (hence exploiting the victim’s lack of (perceived or real) options). This may help explain why domestic abuse occurs more in households that have a low socio-economic status (SES) because of the stresses, and having no perceived better alternative options than to stay in an abusive relationship, that come with being poor and/or marginalised. Too many people looking from the outside assume it’s easy for domestic abuse victims to ‘just walk away’ from their relationships, but their money and home may be tied up with their partner, for instance. Alcohol abuse is also more common in households that have a low SES because of misdirected efforts to self-medicate and ‘escape’ from one’s stresses – being poor or marginalised in society is very stressful and life-limiting, thus raising the SES of the poorest in society and eradicating poverty may solve or reduce a lot of various problems in society.
So be aware and be careful not to take your frustrations and stresses out on others just because they’re (slightly) in your way. This is far easier said than done though when your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) has activated in a ‘fight or flight’ response. But you can at least learn to realise it after you’ve calmed down and to apologise and explain that your shouting or aggression was not personal, to repair any other damage done, and learn to anticipate the signs of frustration and personal triggers for snapping for the future so that you don’t do it again. For example, it might tend to happen after a bad day at work, so recognise this is a personal trigger, and if you feel your breaking point is coming close after a bad day at work then remove yourself from other people or fragile things and take a few of your deepest breaths or otherwise calm down before seeing them. Get some regular physical exercise and surround yourself with more nature too.