The following text is an excerpt of our upcoming book Emotional Frustration- the hushed plague.
—”Doctor…when I get home, I can’t help lashing out at the kids—so bad.”
Verschiebung. This German term can be translated as “shift” or “move.” It was used by Sigmund Freud to describe a psychological defense mechanism; it entails the shifting or displacement of an aggressive emotion from an important person or object into other ones that are less relevant and often lame. [i] Our patient had many situations of Emotional Frustration in her blue-collar job with her despotic boss and his unreasonable demands but, being a single Mom, she hid her anger towards him and the system, fearful of losing her job in tough times. Often, she scolded her children a little bit too much for just some obnoxious but inconsequential pranks.
This unconscious defense mechanism is an expression of what Freud dubbed as the mortido—our basic aggressive drive. There are three main mechanisms:
- Displacement of object
- Displacement of attribution
- Bodily displacements.
Unfortunately, as we slowly come out of our forced Social Distancing and we interact much more with other human beings, we are loaded up with stress and, as a natural consequence, we will have a shorter fuse, easily snapping away. We will have a hard time containing ourselves, even with an act of mea culpa [ii], if we allow our emotions to get the best of ourselves in the mad frenzy for survival.
Note. This reproduction of Un episodio de la Fiebre amarilla en Buenos Aires, the great painting from our fellow Uruguayan artist Juan Manuel Blanes, was taken from Wikimedia Commons. Even though it is shockingly gory to watch, it does convey the message that there are many dangerous things that we can bring home and affect our families’ well-being – the virus is just the most lethal.
One of the most disregarded aspects of the Social Isolation that we have all been enduring for almost one year already is its serious emotional toll on us. Like the young women and men that went into isolation in a Florentine villa in the Decameron, those coming out of seclusion will not be the same ones that went in. There will be multiple changes in our societies, especially for labor opportunities. The economic analysts are already predicting that, besides the contraction of consumer spending due to loss of jobs, there will be a two-speed labor market.
On one hand there will be persons that can work at a distance, with little physical contact. But on the other hand, there will be those that will be dangerously exposed to contagion. This will bring a generalized angry mood in the street like we have never witnessed before. No longer will we be able to take for granted the barista’s familiarity when we arrive at our Starbucks; she might be too worried about being infected while mulling about her son’s day care. After her shift is over, she might be too stressed out to hang out with her girlfriends. A self-sustaining vicious circle.
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
[i] Sigmund Freud, New Introductory letters on Psychoanalysis, George Allen and Unwin, London, January 1940,
[ii] This term in the Latin language refers to the ancient act of contrition of Christians in front of the Holy Cross when they beat up their chests while they publicly assumed responsibility for their sins or faults.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.