There's nothing inherently wrong with experiencing anger, but it's important to ensure that anger is directed toward the appropriate source at the appropriate level, so you can express it and resolve it healthily.
In society, this type of anger is often referred to as "misplaced anger," but is also known as "displaced anger" or "misdirected anger." In many cases, relationships, opportunities, and life have been negatively impacted because of misdirected anger.
A Brief Overview Of Anger
Typically, anger occurs when someone feels threatened, hurt, or provoked by a specific source. Anger can also serve as a defense mechanism that conceals more vulnerable emotions, such as sadness, envy, overwhelm, or disappointment. Sometimes, anger can occur in addition to other feelings or as a result of unresolved issues that linger beneath the surface.
There's nothing wrong with being angry sometimes; as a matter of fact, anger can motivate people and encourage them to move forward in areas where they might otherwise falter. However, whenever anger is misdirected, the results can be detrimental for you as well as whomever the anger was directed toward. Currently, it's estimated that 7.8 percent of the U.S. population has poor anger control.
What Happens When Anger Is Misdirected?
Anger is misdirected when it's focused on a person or source unrelated to the source of your anger. Instances of displaced anger occur more often than most people realize; situations are not always what they appear to be, and, sometimes, it can be challenging to see beyond our own emotions to rationally identify a source of anger.
Displaced anger can alienate people in your life if it happens often or in an intense enough scenario. Furthermore, when you misplace your anger, the actual cause of your anger often goes unaddressed, which can cause emotions to fester and potentially explode at a later, inappropriate time.
Misdirecting anger never solves the problem, but depending on the circumstances, it can make things worse or even create new problems altogether. For this reason, it is important to avoid displacing anger and instead focus on understanding why we feel angry so that we can properly work through it.
Manipulation Of Misdirected Anger
There are many reasons why someone might misdirect anger, but in particularly dark circumstances, people are sometimes manipulated to direct their anger toward sources that do not deserve it. When someone is angry and less able to look at things from an objective perspective, they may be more vulnerable to manipulation from others.
The best way to avoid being manipulated into displacing anger is to keep a cool head. Those who engage in the manipulation of others often exploit confusion and emotions. Being aware of the situation at hand, including which parties are involved and the roles that everyone plays, is an excellent starting point. Knowing yourself, keeping your anger in check, and calming yourself enough to think more objectively can all help mitigate possibilities of your anger being manipulated by others.
Instinctive Displaced Anger
Sometimes, an angry individual instinctively, unintentionally misdirects their anger toward a person who doesn't deserve it as a coping mechanism. Think about someone who has a rough day at work and then lashes out at their spouse when they get home.
One of the best ways to avoid instinctively misdirecting anger is to find ways to remain in control of your emotions. Typically, this means having the courage to dig into whatever it is that’s truly upsetting you and start taking steps to solving or alleviating the issue. Most of us will experience anger at one point or another, but this doesn't mean that it’s alright to lash out at people (or animals). Displacing anger like this can negatively impact relationships and generate a series of problems that can make a bad situation worse.
When you're feeling angry, it's always a good idea to be mindful of the way you conduct yourself or take some time alone if needed to assess your thoughts and feelings.
The End Result Of Misdirected Anger
When it's all said and done, displacing anger can have myriad negative results, especially when it happens over and over again. If you're angry about a situation in your workplace and you consistently take this out on your spouse, your behavior may drive a wedge between you and create unnecessary friction. Alternatively, if you've been manipulated into misdirecting your anger toward an innocent person because you're not seeing a situation clearly, then you could lose out on a potential friendship or future opportunities that could have benefited you.
What If I'm Receiving Displaced Anger?
If you find yourself on the receiving end of anger which is neither fair nor justified, particularly from a loved one, this can be very challenging, as well. At the end of the day, however, you cannot control how another person conducts themselves; you can only control your own reactions and behaviors.
Depending on the nature of the relationship and the circumstances involved, you may be able to get through to this person, so it's worth trying to have a direct conversation. When attempting to talk to someone who has misdirected anger toward you, timing is everything. Trying to talk to this person while they’re actively upset is unlikely to have constructive results because their (and possibly your) ability to think objectively in the moment is impaired. Instead, wait until the dust has settled and see if they're willing to talk and listen then.
It may be helpful to write out some notes of what you’d like to discuss so that you can both remain focused and calm during difficult points in the conversation. Make sure to similarly give them space to talk about their thoughts and concerns, as well. If things become heated, take a break until you are both calm and objective again.
What If I've Misdirected Anger Toward Someone?
If you find yourself in a situation where you've displaced anger toward someone who doesn't deserve it, then you should apologize. This shows character, respect, and that you're willing to admit when you've made a mistake. After all, this kind of thing can happen to anyone; no one is perfect, and very few of us are immune to anger. Apologizing and attempting to rebuild the relationship, if at all possible, is helpful for both parties.
Managing And Releasing Anger
Anger that festers and goes unresolved is much more susceptible to misdirection. For this reason, it's important to practice managing and releasing anger in healthy and constructive ways. Learning to process anger in healthy ways is an important life skill that can benefit us for our entire lives.
Counting to ten, exercising, and walking away are each great ways of managing and releasing anger. You can also make certain lifestyle changes to eliminate triggers, such as minimizing social media use if you notice that it tends to provoke anger. Of course, different methods will be appropriate in different situations. For example, you may not always be able to walk away from something that upsets you, but you can silently count to ten in your head or take a few deep breaths almost anywhere.
Similarly, you may not always be able to release your anger right when it appears, but you can wait until the proper time to go for a jog or work out to help release some of the negative energy while subconsciously processing it through exercise. By dealing with your anger and letting it go, you are much less likely to misdirect it.
Some people make use of cognitive restructuring techniques to help them overcome anger. This involves replacing angry thoughts with more positive ones in order to change the way that you think and react to a situation. This is often an important aspect of anger management strategies.
Using humor can also be an effective approach to satiating your anger. If you feel anger welling up inside of you, then you might be able to release it by using your own sense of humor to turn the situation into something funny. Humor and laughing release feel-good endorphins while lessening stress hormones like cortisol, which in turn can help to alleviate anger, though one study found that humor’s effectiveness at improving wellbeing can depend on one’s “humor style.”
Consider Reaching Out To An Online Therapist
If you find that you're consistently struggling with anger or are misdirecting it, then you may benefit from working with an online therapist at BetterHelp. In many cases, displaced anger is a manifestation of underlying issues that need to be resolved. This is where working with a professional to discover the true source or sources of anger can benefit you in both the short and long-term.
While you can work with your counselor to find the right therapy approach for you, one common therapy type for anger management is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy style first helps you identify unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. Then, your therapist can help you work to replace them with healthy thought patterns and behaviors. One recent publication summed up the findings of 2,594 studies to conclude that online CBT is just as effective as traditional in-person CBT.
Additionally, online therapy can be utilized from your home or wherever you have a stable internet connection, so you don’t have to deal with the frustration of a long drive or traffic. If you’re worried about cost, online therapy is typically less expensive than traditional therapy without insurance.
Continue reading for therapist reviews from individuals seeking help with anger.
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What is an example of misplaced anger?
Misplaced anger or displaced aggression is taking out feelings of anger on someone who is unrelated to the cause or source and doesn’t deserve to receive it. It can sometimes be described as using someone as an emotional punching bag, whether it’s a family member, partner, friend, coworker, or even a stranger.
An example might be snapping at a coworker because you’re frustrated with your boss, or being cold to your spouse because you’re upset about something that happened at work. Getting a tendency toward displaced anger under control can be important in protecting your relationships, well-being, and the well-being of those around you, since it can potentially lead to serious harm such as domestic violence as well as other less-serious but still damaging forms of hurt.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance.
How do you deal with someone's displaced anger?
It’s one thing to vent to a trusted friend or partner and ask for emotional support about a situation that’s making one angry, but it’s another to engage in anger displacement that negatively affects them. Being on the receiving end of a person’s anger or aggressive behavior about a topic or situation that’s unrelated to you is unfair and can be difficult and even harmful.
If this is happening to you, having a calm, honest conversation with the person about these angry outbursts and how they’re affecting you and your own feelings can be a good place to start. Supporting the individual in learning healthier ways to display anger and regulate emotions could also be helpful, such as reading about anger management techniques or engaging in talk therapy with a therapist or other types of mental health professionals.
What is displaced anger in psychology today?
Today, psychologists usually speak of displaced anger as pointing to a failure or inability to release anger in a healthy and appropriate way. It could be a result of past trauma, mental health conditions, or simply a lack of tools or strategies for handling negative feelings like anger appropriately.
What are the signs of inward anger?
Signs of inward anger could include feeling angry much of the time, punishing oneself, showing limited outward emotion, and feeling physical signs of tension such as headaches, stomachaches, and muscle aches.
What is an example of a misplaced emotion?
An example of a misplaced emotion could be acting angrily toward your spouse when getting home from work after your boss said something that made you upset. Your spouse doesn’t deserve to be the repository for that emotion that you’re feeling about what happened with your boss.
What is misdirected anger in the workplace?
Misdirected anger in the workplace could take many forms. It’s generally characterized by someone feeling an emotion like anger or aggression and taking it out inappropriately, particularly on someone who doesn’t deserve it. For example, yelling at an IT professional at work because you’re having trouble with your internet connection qualifies as misdirected anger. It may be a result of poor coping skills for negative emotions or a mental health condition. If you’ve been behaving this way, learning to manage displaced anger could be imperative for protecting your job, your relationships, your reputation, and your emotional well-being as well as the well-being of those around you.
What is another word for misplaced anger?
Misplaced anger could also be called displaced rage or misdirected aggression.
How do you express anger without blaming?
Expressing anger without blaming could look like taking some time to cool off before having a conversation about what’s bothering you, speaking in “I” statements, and engaging in active listening to hear the other person’s side of the story, if applicable.
Why do I shut down when I get yelled at?
It’s not uncommon to feel yourself “shutting down” mentally or emotionally when you're on the receiving end of angry behaviors like yelling. It can be a coping mechanism in order to protect the brain and body during stressful situations. For some people, it could also be a learned behavior from childhood or past relationships.
What does displacement mean in behavior?
Within the context of human behavior, displacement can refer to the misdirecting of strong emotions. For example, displaced anger is when a person feels angry because of one reason or individual and unfairly takes their emotions out on another.
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