Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.
Written or verbal warnings of intentional, inappropriate, destructive actions or consequences.
Promises There’ll be Hell to Pay
Sometimes threats are specific and detailed. Sometimes they are vague and general. Some threats are intentionally vague yet suggestive enough they invite the victim to imagine a range of possible negative outcomes. The main reason someone uses a threat is they want to provoke a response from someone.
Threats are often no-win situations, which leave a victim with no power to fix the described or alleged 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, or even something which is real only in the mind of the person making the threat.
Threats are not exclusive to people who suffer from Personality Disorders. Sometimes, Nons try to use threats to gain control. For example, it’s common for Nons to threaten to leave.
What it Looks Like
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
There are some clear differences between Threats and Boundaries:
Threats are often bluffs. Boundaries are commitments - a promise to protect oneself which must be kept, even when painful.
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.
Threats are inappropriate and destructive. Boundaries are appropriate and constructive.
Threats attempt to take control of another person’s choices. Boundaries are about taking control of one’s own choices.
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.
How it Feels
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.
How to Cope
You can't tell if a threat is real or empty because there is no reliable way to tell what is going on in another person's mind. This is even truer for people with 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 and 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:
- It protects the victim from potential harm and immediately introduces outside help and support.
- It protects children and bystanders.
- It informs outside authorities quickly, reducing the probability of further escalation or tragedy.
- 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.
- 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 or receiving one by text, email, post or any other means:
- Take it seriously.
- End the discussion in the case if verbal threats, and do not reply to written threats by any means.
- Contact local authorities if violence or harm has been threatened.
- Remove yourself and any children from the room or house.