...the separation of emotion from its real object and a redirection of the [usually intense] emotion toward someone or something that is less offensive or threatening in order to avoid dealing directly with what is frightening or threatening
I have discussed at length this mechanism as the primary foundation of Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS), particularly in its vilest, most virulent form exhibited by otherwise relatively normal people.
Captain Ed today links to an article from Germany that gives us another textbook example of displacement at work:
The German political establishment, which will no doubt loudly lament the result of the poll, is largely responsible for this wave of anti-Americanism. For years the country's foreign ministers fed the Germans the fairy tale of what they called a "critical dialogue" between Europe and Iran. It went something like this: If we are nice to the ayatollahs, cuddle up to them a bit and occasionally wag our fingers at them when they've been naughty, they'll stop condemning their women to death for "unchaste behavior" and they'll stop building the atom bomb.
That plan failed at some point -- an outcome, incidentally, that Washington had long anticipated. Iran continues to work away unhindered on its nuclear program, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacts to UN demands with an ostentatious show of ignorance. The UN gets upset and drafts a resolution.
Another item on the Iranian president's wish list is the annihilation of Israel. But that will take a bit longer. In the meantime, just to make sure it doesn't get out of practice, the regime had 15 British soldiers kidnapped a few days ago. But it's still all the Americans' fault -- that much is obvious. ...
Not a day passes in Germany when someone isn't making the wildest claims, hurling the vilest insults or spreading the most outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States. But there's no risk involved and it all serves mainly to boost the German feeling of self-righteousness.
And, to add icing on the cake, the author, Claus Christian Malzahn, rightly points out the secondary gain that further enhances the psychological act of displacement as it improves the self-esteem of the person so engaged: it just makes them feel so good about themselves for speaking "truth to power".
Nevermind that from a psychological standpoint, it represents the psyche at its most cowardly, and deep in the throes of self-preservation. This is not necessarily a bad thing from a survival perspective. But what always gets to me is the high level of self-righteous, moral superiority and self-congratulation that always seems to go with the displacement.
The left practically have a corner on this defense mechanism these days. Their lack of insight and unwillingness to face either the truth about themselves (which is unbearable) or the real enemy that threatens their existence (which is too frightening).
Like a deer in the headlights, this particular form of denial keeps them immobilized and frozen, focusing on trivialities and blithely unaware of the lethal danger that is speeding toward them.
This reality and the consequences that go along with ignoring it are, of course, why displacement is considered neurotic and not a particularly healthy--or smart-- way of coping.