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Threats

Definition:

Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

Description:

Threats are usually used by someone who is trying to provoke a response from another person.

Sometimes threats are specific and detailed. Sometimes they are vague and general. Some threats are intentionally vague but suggestive enough that they invite the victim to imagine a range of possible negative outcomes.

Threats are often no-win situations, which leave a victim with no power to fix the described problem. Sometimes, the problem is one that only the perpetrator can deal with. Other times, the problem is a historical event which can't be changed.

Some Examples of Threats:

  • If you leave me I'll kill myself.
  • Everyone is going to learn what a disgrace you are.
  • I'm leaving you. (said while not leaving)
  • Maybe your life would be better if I just wasn't around anymore.
  • You're going to be sorry.
  • I'll never forgive you for what you've done.

The Difference between Threats and Boundaries

Threats are not exclusive to people who suffer from personality disorders. Sometimes, non-personality-disordered individuals try to use threats to gain control. For example, it’s common for Non-PD’s to threaten to leave. Threats should not be confused with boundaries:

  1. Threats are often bluffs. boundaries are commitments - a promise to protect oneself which must be kept, even when painful.
  2. Threats are often temporary or made up on the spot in reaction to a situation. Boundaries are thought out in advance, are long-term and rarely change.
  3. Threats are inappropriate and destructive. Boundaries are appropriate and constructive.
  4. Threats attempt to take control of another person's choices. Boundaries are about taking control of one's own choices.
  5. Boundaries seek the best interests and most positive outcome for all parties concerned. Threats serve the interests of one party at the expense of others.

What it feels like:

Threats are often designed to produce feelings of FOG - Fear, Obligation and Guilt:

Fear - your security is in the hands of another person who is prepared to act destructively.

Obligation - if you don't give this person what they want there will be hell to pay.

Guilt - you are responsible for not having fixed this person's problem, regardless of who or what really is to blame.

Coping with Threats:

You can't tell if a threat is real or empty. There is no reliable way to tell what is going on in another person's mind. This is even truer for people who suffer from personality disorders. Personality-disordered individuals often experience rapid changes in mood and feelings and will sometimes act on these feelings, regardless of what may seem predictable or logical to you. Furthermore, any attempt to try to get inside their head is a form of Thought Policing which will likely backfire.

Therefore the only effective way to deal with a threat is to take them seriously, at face value, every time.

  • If someone threatens violence call the police.
  • If someone threatens to kill themselves or abduct the children call the police.
  • If someone threatens to spend the family budget inappropriately move the money to a private account.
  • If someone threatens to berate you verbally remove yourself from their company.
  • If someone threatens divorce, call your friends and family and begin working on your life as a single person without them.

Taking threats seriously, regardless of whether they are real or empty, has the following positive effects:

  1. It protects the victim from potential harm and immediately introduces outside help and support.
  2. It protects children and bystanders.
  3. It informs outside authorities quickly, reducing the probability of further escalation or tragedy.
  4. It demonstrates to the person who is doing the threatening that you are taking their words seriously, and that they will be held accountable for what they say.
  5. It ends the discussion.

What NOT to Do:

If a person threatens you, themselves or others:

  • Don't ignore a threat or play it down. Take it seriously.
  • Don't argue or retaliate.
  • Don't try to mind-read or thought police. Take it at face value.
  • Don't continue the discussion.
  • Don't explain your actions or justify your response. There will be plenty of opportunity to do that at a more appropriate, safer time.
  • Don't stay in the same room.
  • Don't worry or assume that people will think you are over-reacting. You can analyze it later.

What to Do:

After hearing a threat:

  • Take it seriously.
  • End the discussion.
  • Contact local authorities if violence or harm has been threatened.
  • Remove yourself and any children from the room or house.

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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