Friday, May 11, 2012


Displacement behavior is usually thought of as self-grooming, touching, or scratching, which is displayed when an animal has a conflict between two drives, such as the desire to approach an object, while at the same time being fearful of that object. With the fall of drive theory into disfavor, animal behaviorists paid little attention to displacement behavior until Maestripieri et al. (1992) pointed out that displacement behavior might be a good measure of anxiety levels. Since then a sizeable literature evaluating the effectiveness of displacement behavior measures (also called self directed behavior, or SDB) as indicators of anxiety has grown. Particularly attention has been paid to primates, including humans. Measures of displacement behavior, for example, have been applied in psychiatric studies of anxiety (Troisi et al. 2000).

Now, what does that have to do with me and this blog?
Well, have you ever had a deadline looming and would do anything other than complete the project (or the painting) that needed to be done in time? Even cleaning your oven or refrigerator, or mowing the yard or...whatever little niggly thing you can do to keep from doing the task at hand?

That's me.
I just got a notice that I have 3 weeks before the Viewpoint entries are due.  I have less time than that, due to a trip coming up.  So...less than 3 weeks to get a painting ready and worthy to enter.

And what am I doing instead?
Walking, going to the grocery every other day for things I forgot the first and second time.
Exercising.  Reading.
Watching the Madrid 2012 Open matches on the Tennis Channel.
Watching the birds at the feeders.
Doing laundry.

Just about anything but going to my art room and working on 2 paintings I have begun that just keep looking at me, both barely begun.

Anxiety about the paintings.
Are they good enough to work on?
Are they creative?
Can I finish them without overworking and/or ruining them both?
Will they get in even if I paint them and enter them?

Anxiety + Fear = Displacement Behavior.

Think I'll go raid the chocolate drawer (a special drawer in my kitchen that holds all my chocolate goodies) and eat something.  Or maybe go outside and weed a bit.


Christiane Kingsley said...

Rhonda, I know that feeling well...I did not know the This is exactly how I react to commissions.

Vandy Massey said...

Hi Rhonda,

Great post. I know this feeling very well. I can potter round the garden for hours, then tidy up my studio space, check supplies, and do any number of other things, before I finally pick up my brushes about an hour before I need to stop (if I'm lucky).

Having been away from my studio for over a month travelling for work, I'm already anticipating a weekend of replacement activity before I get started again. Painter's block is in action right now...

Caroline Simmill said...

Rhonda why not share your paintings with us. We can encourage you. It would be great to see what you are painting for the show. Get into the studio Rhonda now! 'time waits for no man or gal!'

Studio at the Farm said...

Rhonda, you made me laugh! Your blog was brilliant today. I know we all go though our own versions of displacement behavior. You just pointed it out so well and humorously.

Gary L. Everest said...

Evening Rhonda,
Wow! I learned a lot today, so thanks for the info.
Now, you've enjoyed your chocolate and wasted enough of the day with other meaningless chores, so what does that leave?
As Nike says, "Just do it" Fearlessly and boldly. You well know by now that the only way to be great is to be different--BOLDLY DIFFERENT.
Do it and forget about everything else. It's just a dumb show. Should someone of your talent be concerned with such trivial stuff?
Just do it and have fun. Trust me--if all you have to do is drive a little way to deliver your masterpiece, just do it!!
You've gotta quit worrying about the competitive crap. You should be above that by now. Work to please yourself and put your painting in there and forget about it.
Ask yourself: Am I painting for the praise? For the approval? To get into small potatoes exhibitions? If the answer is yes, then maybe your malingering is justified. Fear of failure haunts us all. Fear of success, too. I'd like to think you're above that.
Just do it, Rhonda! And don't give it a second thought.
I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you!

hw (hallie) farber said...

I like to think of this behavior as "clearing the desk" before a big project. Have another piece of chocolate--you'll make the deadline.

Autumn Leaves said...

What excellent insight to yourself, Rhonda. I always found I worked best and fasted as deadlines got ever nearer. You'll get there, or not, and you'll be wonderful either way.

Carol Blackburn said...

Oh Rhonda, you need a bar of my Emergency Chocolate right about now. Sounds like Caroline has an answer, yes please give us a peek even if it's just a corner....:)

RH Carpenter said...

Christiane and Vandy, I think we all have this crop up from time to time. The pressure is just pressure I'm putting on myself.

Caroline, perhaps showing a bit would spur me to do something further on them - good idea!

Kathryn, I even chewed my fingernails off last night while watching taped tv shows = a definitely displacement behavior! ha ha

Gary, thanks; you are right!

Thanks, Hallie, Sherry and Carol! I so appreciate the support even when I'm just whining about not painting!

Michelle Himes said...

Rhonda, I do that all the time. I always thought it was just called procrastinating. I am a very serious and accomplished procrastinator.

Vicki Greene said...

I hate it when I do that but it sounds like you are getting a lot accomplished everywhere else - lol.

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

Shake a leg matey and get a wriggle on ;o) your brushes are calling you...... and we all want to see. Best wishes.


honda :D ...sounds like you're "thinking" hard about your paintings whilst multi- tasking rhonda ... ...goodluck with your deadlines !

Jeanette Jobson said...

I think we all have procrastination tendencies. We do the interesting parts, then hold off on the less interesting bits until forced to act.

However, deadlines usually create action so if you're got the hounds of deadline biting at your heels and you're still procrastinating, there's a resolution to your problem in that whether you realize it or not. You aren't that enthusiastic about the piece(s) or the exhibition and are putting up reasons to fail to meet the timeline. Then the 'I just didn't haven time' scenario can kick in conveniently and get you off the hook.

Like Gary said, you need to examine why you want to enter competitions or exhibits and produce art. Who is it for ultimately? You, others, ego feed or honest networking and promotion?

RH Carpenter said...

Well, I guess I am doing other things - not just sitting eating chocolates (although I do that, too!!) ha ha Thanks, Vicki and Michelle, for your comments.

Lisa, and Jane, thanks! I will get out of this somehow.

Jeanette, yes, I need to take this time to decide what I want and why I want it. Is it important to me to get into the juried show then why? What does it mean and what do I get from it? And why am I unable to finish these paintings if they mean something to me?

I'm going back and reading the book, Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond, so find some words of wisdom that resonate with me right now. All juried shows seem to have a huge dose of political correctness and prettiness in our local area - perhaps I want to break out of that? I'd rather paint than think so much about painting! ha ha

Unknown said...

Nail on the head. You hit it. I always put projects off until they loom so large that I can't ignore them anymore. Then I get a blast of energy and finish them and wonder why I keep putting myself through all that anxiety. Its great to see all the others who share the same problem. I thought it was mostly my own problem.

RH Carpenter said...

Kevin, we're all in this together! Some people do this with small things, but most people have deadlines for work or art or special projects and they keep putting it off - I remember those students at school who would wait to "pull and all-nighter" the night before a big exam! I could never put myself through that and would have been wrecked the next day - so I'm not a procrastinator at all for most things. That's why this caused me some upset and thinking. Thinking is always good - but not when you are thinking about why you are NOT doing something! ha ha

debwardart said...

I agree with Gary Everest - "Just do it"! You get too "cerebral". Make a plan, follow it and don't worry about anything else. And, gee, I wouldn't know ANYTHING about procrastination (remember that commission that's STILL sitting in the other room!!!) And if you really don't think you have anything, just wait until next year to enter! By then you will have several to choose from! Keep your chin up!!

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Great post and comments - It seems a lot of us have this behavior. Paint for you, with your whole heart. Can't miss.

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks, Deb, for the kick in the pants! ha ha

Pam, I love that: paint with your whole heart! I will try.

And, Deb, I'll try to stop thinking so much! ha ha