In the vast majority of circumstances, anger is a secondary emotion, forming almost immediately and automatically in response to someone or something that brings up feelings of hurt, fear, shame, and inadequacy or of not being good-enough. Anger like this serves two important psychological purposes: it provides a sense of control when one is desperately needed, and it directs our focus outward, providing identifiable, external others, indeed, scapegoats, to blame. Displacement is a defense mechanism that unconsciously transfers unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or desires from a psychologically unsafe object to a more acceptable, less threatening substitute. A classic example is the man who is angry at his boss and cannot express it directly so he comes home and kicks the family dog or yells at his wife and kids. When we cannot confront the real sources of our anger, hurt, fear, and pain because they hold power over us, we tend to take it out on someone who is weaker and effectively “safer.” Children engage in displacement when it is too anxiety-provoking to consciously acknowledge and express upset at parents and other caregivers they are dependent upon for their survival needs. Instead, they tease the cat, bully someone at school, or lash out at younger siblings. Sublimation is a more “healthy” defense mechanism that channels or redirects unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and urges, into socially acceptable pursuits. It takes the energy of something potentially harmful and turns it to a constructive and useful activity. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).