Burying yourself in a book or listening to music through headphones are two great ways to retreat from the public eye so as to go unnoticed.

Burying yourself in a book or listening to music through headphones are two great ways to retreat from the public eye so as to go unnoticed.

Immediately upon leaving our homes, the place where we feel most comfortable, we begin to exhibit what is called “displacement behaviour”. Displacement behaviour is a coping mechanism that helps protect us emotionally from the outside world. Our faces show less emotion, it becomes more ‘pan faced’ as we if hiding our thoughts and inner feelings from others. Displacement behaviour is a stone-age protective mechanism. In our evolutionary past, had we encountered a group of strangers or a “city” of strangers, it would be in our best interest to internalize our fears and emotions so as not to betray our position.

Displacement behaviours include a trance where the body becomes more self-focused. We pull our arms and legs inward, our face will become defocused, seemingly looking through people, and our body motions will become more minimal so as to avoid drawing attention. We may even become completely immobile and take on protective postures. We might remove imaginary lint, play with a watch or pen, look away or become distracted, repetitive tapping of the fingers or foot, avoiding eye contact, rubbing the hands together, pinching an eyelid, smoothing clothing or grooming, rotating a wedding ring, nail-biting, gum chewing or nail biting, tapping, head scratching or sucking a finger or pen. These all indicate a hidden thought linked to anxiety. The word displacement, in this fashion indicates that one is trying to avoid the task or issue at hand, and is instead, busying them with an activity that is much less taxing.

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