In Freudian psychology, displacement (German Verschiebung, 'shift' or 'move') is an unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind substitutes either a new aim or a new object for goals felt in their original form to be dangerous or unacceptable.
A term originating with Sigmund Freud, displacement operates in the mind unconsciously, its transference of emotions, ideas, or wishes being most often used to allay anxiety in the face of aggressive or sexual impulses.
The psychoanalytic mainstream 
Among Freud's mainstream followers, Otto Fenichel highlighted the displacement of affect, either through postponement or by redirection, or both. More broadly, he considered that “in part the paths of displacement depend on the nature of the drives that are warded off”.
Eric Berne in his first, psychoanalytic work, maintained that “some of the most interesting and socially useful displacements of libido occur when both the aim and the object are partial substitutions for the biological aim and object...sublimation”.
As he himself put it, “in the case of Verschiebung, 'displacement', the German term is closer to the idea of that veering off of signification that we see in metonymy, and which from its first appearance in Freud is represented as the most appropriate means used by the unconscious to foil censorship”.
The aggressive drives - mortido – may be displaced quite as much as the libidinal. Business or athletic competition, or hunting, for example, offer plentiful opportunities for the expression of displaced mortido.
In such scapegoating, aggression may be displaced onto people with little or no connection with what is causing anger. Some people punch cushions when they are angry at friends; a college student may snap at his or her roommate when upset about an exam grade.
Displacement can act in a chain-reaction, with people unwittingly becoming both victims and perpetrators of displacement. For example, a man is angry with his boss, but he cannot express this so he hits his wife. The wife hits one of the children, possibly disguising this as punishment (rationalization).
Transferential displacement 
A subsidiary form of displacement within the transference occurs when the patient disguises transference references by applying them to an apparent third party or to themself.
Cultural examples 
A John Aubrey anecdote about Sir Walter Raleigh describes the latter striking his son in the face at a dinner table; whereupon the latter, rather than retaliate directly, struck his neighbour, saying “Box about: 'twill come to my father anon”.
Later writers have objected that whereas Freud only described the displacement of sex into culture, for example, the converse - social conflict being displaced into sexuality – was also true.
See also 
- Eric Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (1976) p. 399
- Salman Akhtar, Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis (2009) p. 82
- Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (PFL 2) p. 49-50
- Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (PFL 1) p. 208
- New Introductory Lectures p. 49
- Sigmund Freud Case Studies II (PFL 9) p. 120-1
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 163
- Fenichel, p. 199
- Berne, A Layman's Guide p. 78
- David Macey, Introduction, Jacques Lacan, The Four Funadamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (1994) p. xxviii
- Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection (London 1997) p. 160
- Berne, p. 80
- Selma H. Fraiberg, The Magic Years (New York 1987) p. 151-3
- P. Schwmeister, Less Legible Meaning (1999) p. 88
- P. Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (1990) p. 151
- Quoted in G. Legman, Rationale of the Dirty Joke Vol 2 (1973) p. 371
- Jonathan Dollimore, Sexual Dissidence <1991) p. 184
Further reading 
- Arthur J. Clark, Defense Mechanisms in the Counselling Process (1998) Chap. 3 "Displacement"
- Mark Krupnick, Displacement: Derrida and After (1983)