How would I go about telling someone that they may be using the defense mechanism of displacement without upsetting them?  Whenever this person is having a bad day, I get the brunt of the anger.  I do not want the person to feel as if I am making a false accusation.

The defense mechanism of displacement occurs, for example, when a person gets angry at someone who is not the cause of the anger. If someone is displacing anger onto you, then this is unjust and therefore you could start by trying to forgive the person for this. From a position of forgiveness, you then could try pointing out the reality of the pattern. When the person is annoyed at something or someone, you become the recipient of that anger. The person should not get too upset if: 1) you wait until the person is not in an angry state and 2) you bring up the pattern of displacement without accusing.  If the person nonetheless gets upset, then I would drop the issue and only bring it up again when the pattern of displacement emerges again (but I would not bring it up immediately in this new context). Eventually, if you can be non-threatening and only point out the pattern without using an accusatory tone, then the person may “get it” and stop the displacement.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness


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