On any given day, we have a barrage of things coming at us. It may be people expecting things of us, us expecting things of ourselves, stressful or sad news. These things may cause us to lash out at whoever or whatever is closest to us. We may find ourselves getting angry at an innocent person or our pet due to the stress we are feeling. Maybe after a rough day of work, you hit the dog for jumping up on you.
What just happened? This is called displaced aggression. Anger and frustration in one part of life can lead us to lash out at innocent people (or pets) in another. The reason this happens is because we repeatedly re-live the negative experience in our mind, replaying it, reviewing it, and reinterpreting it. It plays a major role in depression, pushing people over the edge from a temporary sad mood into a major, lasting sadness. This re-living the event is a primary contributor in displaced aggression.
A healthy outside starts from the inside.Robert Urich
As you mull over the details of an enraging episode, you may think you’re trying to get more information out of it, a new understanding. But you’re not really learning anything new. As you continue replay the action, you keep the frustration and anger fresh and etch the incident into your mind. Hours later, even though you might no longer feel physically angry, these painful thoughts are still in the back of your mind. You can’t retaliate against your boss, since he’d fire you. You can’t take it out on the traffic, since there’s nothing to be done about it. So when faced with a trivial annoyance, like a clumsy dog, you go ballistic.
When this happens, we need to turn into ourselves in order to not chastise the other person or pet. Go inside, not outside. When challenging moments happen, stop and take a breath.
Some techniques to help avoid displacing your anger:
- Distract yourself – try and take your mind off the events that caused you to be angry in the first place. If you are getting angry at traffic, listen to a good talk-show.
- Comedy – try and find something funny to entertain yourself with. Hard to stay angry when you are laughing.
- Don’t hold grudges – the only person you are hurting is yourself if you do not let the anger go.
- Allow yourself to feel the hurt and pain that is causing you to feel angry – this will help you keep it where it belongs and move on.
- Think before you speak – take a breath and make sure you want to say what is about to come out of your mouth.
What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Turn to the inside instead of lashing out. Learn to live inside out.