... “It’s a common psychosis!”
At least according to Dr. Greta Pinder-Schloss, the absurd character within a character in the classic (and utterly delightful) 1991 movie The Addams Family. The false doctor explains to Gomez he is suffering an affliction called Displacement. Before his brother, Fester, disappeared decades earlier, Gomez betrayed him in matters of the heart. Now someone claiming to be Fester has returned and Gomez feels guilty about the manner of their parting. Dr. Pinder-Schloss explains to Gomez he has displaced the guilty feelings and identified his discomfort as mistrust for Fester instead.
In the movie, one unacknowledged source of uncomfortable feeling is overlooked in favor of an alternate (and ultimately inaccurate) explanation. If the displacement was allowed to persist unexamined, the mis-explained feelings could not resolve. In that case, actions based on the inaccurate explanation would likely cause misunderstanding, hurt, and prolong suffering for everyone involved. A great volume of fiction exists to explore this very phenomenon, The Addams Family just happens to be one of my favorite examples.
In the real world, this is also an unfortunately common occurrence. How many times have you seen someone act-out rashly in response to the reason they think someone did something before bothering to confirm their assumptions? It happens between strangers, it happens among family and friends, and it describes a lot of modern political rhetoric. Republican politicians have become quite well-known for accusing political rivals of horrific things like pedophilia while excusing actual, known acts of pedophilia perpetrated by fellow party members.
This is part of the problem with conservatism: if you're in it, you can't make mistakes. So if you do err, it better a) not have happened, or b) be someone else's fault. That leads easily to an awful lot of displacement. It also means it's impossible to learn from any failure or to grow in any way. It's also very difficult to actually solve any actual problems, which could explain why they keep manufacturing new problems to solve instead of tackling the ones that already actually exist.
I am personally committed to owning all my mistakes because they are part of me whether I acknowledge them or not. I would much rather be acquainted with all the parts of my self than expend the mental and emotional effort to pretend the pieces I'm not proud of don't exist. I also want to give myself the gift of being in-process. I don't have to have it all figured-out flawlessly because I'm still working on it. I'm continuously working on becoming a more whole and complete me. This practice doesn't mean I am free of all displacement tendencies, but at least I am more likely to recognize when it's happening.
In fact, this week I experienced an altogether different kind of displacement. Last week my partner and I were out of town visiting family. Mid-visit, my partner came down with Covid. We came home and they isolated in our bedroom, feeling awful. I took my still-packed suitcase to the office and set up camp with the guest bed situation. I made soups and teas and cared for my sweetie from a distance. Their illness and isolation are a challenge for them for obvious reasons. The whole experience has also been a challenge for me in ways I wasn't expecting.
I can't bedroom in my own bedroom. I can't bathroom in my own bathroom. I can't office in my office (as it has temporarily become my bedroom). Everyone else in the house has to reschedule their laundry since there is now a person sleeping above the (very loud) washer and dryer. We postponed our Xmas celebration a couple days, but my partner was still not fully recovered so they still had to open presents with us by video. And all the ordinary life things still need to occur, even though nothing can happen in an ordinary way.
I have been feeling displaced in my own home, and without my usual life anchors for support through the stress. That feeling seems to be going around. A lot of the people I talked to this week are experiencing upheaval. Some physical, unable to be in places they usually occupy. Some mental, unable to find solitary space in a house abnormally full of holiday visitors. Some emotional, unable to avoid reminders of prior painful moments amidst all the holiday traditions. It's a time ripe for displacement.
As of 2022 has been full of chaos, unknowns, and upheaval. As it comes to a close, please remember to take care of yourself. If you can resolve whatever displacement you may be experiencing by yourself or with support, please do. Give yourself the gift of starting the year running away from yourself a little less. Embrace wherever you are mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, professionally, and geographically. That's the first step. Then you can review it all and decide if and how you want to make adjustments for 2023 and future.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.