Displacement: Pour in the Good to Remove the Bad


Do you have any bad habits you’d like to really kick? I know I do. I’d like to give up swearing. I’m very disciplined when I’m in certain environments, like babysitting my niece and nephew, doing recordings for my podcast, and of course at church. However, if you place me in an environment like a public presentation or group fitness class, or if I’m among friends or family, I can be a little out of control with my language.

Do you have any negative relationships that are draining you and bringing you down? Or people you spend time with who suck the life out of you?

How can we remove the bad?

My answer is displacement. Displacement by definition is “the moving of something from its place or position.” It’s a shift. Plain and simple. That might be exactly what you need.

I heard an awesome analogy about displacement when I was at Dave Ramsey’s Smart Conference last year. First, visualize a dirty glass right after you drank a really thick smoothie. Now, take that smoothie glass and put it underneath the faucet in your sink and turn the water on. Let the water run non-stop and imagine what happens there. The result is that eventually all of the smoothie residue will be removed and the glass will become clear and clean.

That’s displacement: pouring in the good to remove the bad. I love the psychology that Wikipedia shares about displacement. It says that it’s 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.”

Do you have habits or people in your life that are either dangerous or unacceptable? If you’re thinking, “Okay, that’s a little harsh,” take a moment to think about it. I believe the long-term effects of those bad habits or people could actually be a lot harsher. Those habits and relationships are not serving your life.

So where do you go from here? First, identify what it is that you want or need to remove from your life. Once you’ve done that, start pouring in the good. In other words, replace the unwanted with the wanted.

Realistic Examples to Build From

Maybe you want to give up smoking cigarettes or snacking on candy while you’re at work. You would replace either of these with another more positive habit. Instead of trying to just give it up completely, you would replace the action with a new action that would be positive or beneficial for you.

If you wanted to give up smoking cigarettes, you could try replacing them with sucking on straws. I know this might sound kind of out there, but it may actually work for you! You replace that action, the feeling of holding a cigarette and going to smoke, with something that won’t harm you. You could go to any fast food restaurant or a Starbucks and grab some straws, or you could buy a box of straws from the grocery store and cut them down into smaller sizes. Now that new action would start to replace smoking and it would no longer be harmful to you.

The other negative habit I wanted to mention probably affects a huge percentage of us. Many people get into the habit of constantly snacking on candy at work. But instead of having a candy jar out you could replace it with something like a dish of almonds, or you could bring a little bag of carrots to work with you.  This way you could continue to snack, but it would be positive nutritionally for you instead of being sugary and unhealthy.  

Another scenario would be with negative relationships, which is probably the tougher part. Let’s say you have a friend or a relative that’s always very negative. I completely understand how challenging this can be. They bring out the worst in you. So instead of telling them to “hit the road” and ruining a relationship, you might not be willing to completely lose, just become too busy to connect with them. In this way, you’re essentially going to “replace them” with new people who are improving your life. Is there someone you know who makes you feel better about yourself and better about life? Call that person. Text them and start investing your time and effort into that relationship instead of a negative one. That way you’re pouring in the good to remove the bad.

How will you implement displacement into your life? How will you pour into the good to remove the bad? That’s up to you.

Emily Kelly