Thursday, November 4, 2010

Diary of an Unwilling Air Force Wife: An essay on displacement

Thanks to your comments, I am instituting a segment called  "Diary of an Unwilling Air Force Wife." This is supposed to be lighthearted, don't take it too seriously, I beg of you.
On Monday of last week, I went back to work for the first time since my 2 week vacation. (It might be important to note that I was jet-lagged and exhausted. Trust me, I need this excuse.) Work actually wasn't so bad. I mean, it was a Monday, but everything was somewhat new and exciting and interesting. And everyone was nice to me and happy to see me back. It really wasn't so bad. 

While I was at work, I sent my husband a text and asked him to throw the dinner I had planned into the crock pot. Its a really really simple dish involving chicken, corn, salsa, and black beans. I texted him all this info, and after several back and forth exchanges involving numbers of chicken breasts etc, my husband claimed to have completed his task.

And when I got home, the task was indeed complete. Unlike a prior occasion, when I forgot to actually plug the crock pot in, we had a hot meal awaiting us. All we had to do was shred the chicken. I wandered into the kitchen, and removed the crock pot lid. I started poking around in the pot with a fork. And then I turned around to glare at my husband.

"WHY are there KIDNEY BEANS in here!?" I practically growled. "There are only supposed to be black beans!" True story - we've tried it with kidney beans before and it is NOT GOOD.

He claimed that he forgot they weren't supposed to go in this dish. He argued that he had actually mentioned kidney beans to me and I hadn't told him not to use those. He even argued that we could pick them out, to which I replied that "the juice had permeated the entire crock pot and it was ruined." All of his arguments were in vain. I only got angrier and angrier, as I stood by the counter and picked beans out 1 by 1 with a spoon, flinging them as violently as possible into the sink. (Trust me, if you're really mad, fling something other than kidney beans. They just aren't heavy enough to make any sort of dramatic and satisfying gesture.) I needed to know WHY he had done this hideous thing?! WHY couldn't he have thought for himself that kidney beans don't go, nor have they ever gone, in this dish. WHY hadn't he thought it through! WHY had he ruined this dinner? WHY WHY WHY!!!

At some point, after a few more screams of "WHY" and "Don't touch me!" I devolved into a helpless sobbing mess on the couch. My husband stood in the kitchen staring at me for a while, then proceeded to pick every single kidney bean out of the crock pot. I know because I could hear the "plop, plop" of the beans falling (not flung, just gently dropped) into the sink. I also know because, despite claiming that the meal was ruined and "even the smell is making me sick," I definitely ate a good sized helping for dinner. And there wasn't a single kidney bean. 

At some point during my pathetic fit of sobbing, I realized that this was all about what psychologists call displacement. I wasn't mad at my husband over actual beans. I was exhausted, stressed, and angry that he was leaving me soon. 

"Displacement operates in the mind unconsciously and involves emotions, ideas, or wishes being transferred from their original object to a more acceptable substitute. It is most often used to allay anxiety." (Wikipedia, you rock.) I apologized and admitted that I was really upset about him leaving, and rather than allowing myself to be sad about that, I got angry and emotional over something stupid.

Hopefully, understanding this about  myself will help me keep from having to confess more of these types of situations in future. I'm hoping to be able to catch myself in the act and realize that I am allowing displacement of emotions to make something out of nothing. Admitting it is the first step, right?

How about you? Have you ever experienced the displacement phenomenon? How do you deal with stress, anxiety, or fear? Tell your story in the comments and help validate my need to prove that I'm not crazy!


  1. You're not crazy!!!! I had no idea there was a great name for this situation (I'm going to hold on to that title and use it for myself), but I have been struggling with that myself. Unfortunately, I have children that would probably rather not see Mom acting like a completely whacked out woman over the most ridiculous things - oh, and unfortunatley, when children are involved, they often get yelled at, too. I feel displaced because we have no idea if we're going to continue ranching or moving or what. It's one thing to move because you want to and because you have a "better" house picked out that you have already arranged all the furniture in (plus a few more items to fill that extra space). It's a complete different situation (displacement, I believe you called it) when you might be moving when you don't want to but when circumstances beyond your control are making the decisions. I chuckled at the image your post brought to mind because as I was praying for you the other day, I was thinking about how much you wanted to be a wife. Well, I think that desire may be popping up in a not so pleasant way. Since I've known you, that was your dream - be a wife - having him leave you for deployment was probably no where in your dreams. Thank you for being so open and honest with your feelings.....and from now on, maybe you should just not buy kidney beans at all.... hugs

  2. I think it runs in the family. I can't think of a specific story right now but I know that I know that I know I've done this!

  3. Yes, definately, just recently. My 18 year old son just moved out and to another state. I wasn't really expecting it, so I've been a little sad. He's my only child, so I guess I'm feeling empty nest syndrome. Anyway, last week before church I wanted my husband to take me to Starbucks to get a chai tea latte and a spinach feta wrap, well when I bit into the wrap, it was frozen and my husband didn't want to go back. I just started bawling and he turned the car around. When we got back to Starbucks, they didn't have anymore wraps, but did give me a card for a free drink, but I was still pretty upset and couldn't stop crying on and off half way to church. I finally made my husband turn around and take me home. I thought, why the heck am I crying over a breakfast wrap, but then realized it wasn't that at all and it had to do with my son moving out. So, yes, it's normal.

  4. I'm so glad I'm not alone! You all made me feel much better!
    Mrs. H - I will pray for your ranch situation! It was so fun to see pics of your kids on your blog - they're so big!!
    Melissa - I hear empty nesting is terrible! I hope your son stays in touch! Men (my husband included) are so bad at calling their mothers! But I'm glad I'm not the only one who freaks out about food!

  5. Goodness.. I cried from the beginning to the end of this blog XOXOOXO..tears from the mother of the young man who picked all those beans out of the pot