More Displacement Questions

The most recent post raised a couple of issues about the displacement mechanism. It left off in the midst of pondering the idea that addictive behavior makes no sense to anyone, either the person who does it, or the others who are affected. Addictive behavior definitely seems crazy to people who may not, for instance, understand why you would go on a drinking binge, or an eating binge, just because your boss is mad. After all, for goodness’ sake, you’ve got bills to pay! Why would you risk losing your job by acting so volatile?

But it would be useful to look more carefully at the matter from the addict’s perspective. From that point of view, nothing is more important than acquiring the next fix. And it’s even worse when the addict has some remaining conscience because the situation might inspire her or him to engineer a situation that justifies going on a bender. The desperate addict retains just enough lucidity to realize that walking out for no good reason, in order to start the drinking weekend early, is not a good look. It would probably reap criticism from every direction.

But what if you, the addict, can manage to make just enough of a slip-up to earn a reprimand from the boss, and what’s worse — it’s public! Then you can quit on the spot, and go home and say, “You should have seen that manager! He was disrespecting me 99 different ways, and in front of the whole staff! What was I supposed to do, just stand there and take it?” And then go out and drink.

The home folks

Addicts are also very adept at stage-managing dramatic events between themselves and their significant others. How many times has a husband or a wife, quite consciously and deliberately, set up a situation to trigger a chain reaction that will ultimately let them escape to the bottle or whatever? A clever addict can even sell it as an act of kindness, telling the spouse, “Look. I don’t want to do something I’ll regret. You know I don’t want to hurt you or the kids, so I’m going out for a while to cool off.”

In “The displacement mechanism: a new explanation and treatment for obesity,” Dr. Pretlow gave an example of how…

[…] addictive behavior doesn’t make sense to the person involved nor to others around them. For example, why binge eat or get drunk when the boss yells at you? It is out-of-context behavior; the behavior doesn’t fit with the situation at hand.

It is difficult for some of us to imagine doing anything to upset the boss. And yet, multitudes of employed humans have experienced a “Take this job and shove it” moment, and acted on the impulse. It is a thing that happens, and there is no more appropriate place to get fed up than at the job site itself. And that puts it squarely in-context.

Or, context could be assigned a different meaning, as being appropriate to the person’s life situation, rather than their work situation. If a little daughter needs to get her crossed eyes operated on, this is not the time for a person with a job to spit on the office floor and make a dramatic exit. The child needs the medical bill paid.

And that is exactly the kind of addict behavior that relatives so deeply hate and fear. However, to qualify it as out of context is still a judgment call, made from the perspective of the other affected people; but not necessarily from the addict’s standpoint.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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