What is Misplaced Anger?
Misplaced anger is when we are angry at one thing or person. But take it out on another. We do this for a variety of reasons, including inability to control what we are mad about. Or fear of standing up for ourselves with the person we are mad at.
It is easier to take it out on another person or situation than to face the reality. In psychology terms this is referred to as displaced anger.
The Problem With Misplaced Anger
The problem with this is twofold. First, you are not getting your real legitimate anger taken care of. Thus, you can't heal what is bothering you. Creating a situation where you are stuck in a cycle that create anger.
Second, you are taking out your emotions on someone. This creates stress on that relationship. And it is abusive. If they have nothing to do with the situation, but take your anger for it, they are harmed.
No one wins in this situation.
How to Deal with Misplaced Anger
If You Are the One Misplacing Your Anger
There are two steps to begin to manage your misplaced anger. The first is awareness. You can't gain an understanding of why you are misplacing anger until you know that you are doing it. Unfortunately this is one of the hardest things to do. To see ourselves in the light, is difficult and scary.
The second is beginning to understand why you are misplacing that anger. When you begin to see where the anger should be going. And then uncover why you are not facing that issue. You can then start to put together a plan for how to handle your anger going forward. There are some journal prompts below that can help you with this.
If You Are the Victim of Misplaced Anger
First and foremost, if this anger puts you in a dangerous position, you need to immediately seek help. Then, take steps to get in counseling so that you can understand how to set boundaries. And if need be permanently get out of the relationship.
From there you have two choices. The first is helping them see the anger. The second being setting a boundary around what you will tolerate and moving on from there. Below I will briefly walk through how those might look.
If you feel safe, and are in an emotionally stable position, you can begin to work on calling them out on their anger. Beginning with acknowledging that they are angry. Then begin to clarify where the anger is coming from, gently pointing out that you have nothing to do with the situation.
Please keep in mind, this is difficult and can quickly turn into a bad situation. It is hard for the person misplacing their anger to see it, they will want to deny it. Especially if they have no clue that they are angry at something else.
If this is the case, the final thing you can do is to leave the situation. Calmly place a boundary that you will not take being yelled at, or whatever boundary is appropriate. Then enforce the boundary and leave. You are not required to handle anyone else's anger.
Misplaced Anger Journal Prompts:
1. Pick a situation where you are angry with someone?
2. Was the real cause of your anger triggered by them? If not, what triggered you?
3. Why does this anger you?
4. What are your feelings associated with the why?
5. Begin to explore what in your past can be triggering this.
6. Do you control the situation?
7. Is there anything you can do to influence it?
8. How can you heal the personal aspects?