I’ve been writing some ‘bonus’ material on fear for the new workbook I released last weekend, Get Out of Stuck, which is my guide to transforming your beliefs so that you can get out of relationship insanity – carrying the same beliefs, baggage, and attitudes, choosing the same people different package, behaving the same way and then expecting different results.

As you can imagine, I hear all sorts of stories that are basically a combination of two things: fear and your beliefs.

Your beliefs are premises that you believe to be true.

Your fears are emotional reactions to perceived threats.

The ‘threat level’ you’ll perceive will be based on your beliefs. When the ‘imminent threat level’ rises, your beliefs go into overdrive and because you act in line with your beliefs, you can make your fears a reality. You then predict what you think is likely to happen – yep, the self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course by acting in line with your beliefs, the self-fulfilling prophecy comes true, which then confirms that what you believe is true, which tells you that the fear was real, which continues to cater to your beliefs, and round, and round and round you go.

What many of us don’t realise is that if we didn’t believe what we believe, we wouldn’t act as we do, so of course if we thought and did things differently, we could have a different outcome.

Likewise, many of us carry beliefs that while we carry on like they’re true, they’re not actually true in the wider sense. It’s only when we become conscious about what we believe and sanity check it that we often discover that our ‘truth’ was somewhat distorted and untrue, which is where the room is created for you to transform your beliefs.

As I said in a recent post about what we worry about, “we create obstacles about what is in the way of making change come about. We come up with umpteen reasons for why the fear exists. We often exaggerate the fear so we can stay in our comfort zone and our comfort zone is the beliefs that we hold onto.”

When you question your beliefs it causes you to question your fears and you’ll often find that they’re misplaced or totally exaggerated.

Sometimes when our imaginations go into overdrive, our fears go wild which lets the ‘ole tape run where we tell ourselves ‘The Story’ which are all the beliefs that you have that cater to that fear and meet the self-fulfilling prophecy. This is when you let yourself get hijacked by your fears and feelings.

If you’re prepared to force your feet into reality and have an honest conversation with yourself, and slow yourself down enough to stop yourself from being hijacked by your thoughts, fears, and beliefs, you can test the ‘threat level’ by asking yourself if the distrust that you feel with a particular person or situation is based on something internal or external, with the existence of the latter potentially legitimising your cause for concern.

Internal means that it is your own record playing (The Story) your beliefs cause you to feel afraid because you won’t have faith in something or someone. – Is this my mind working overtime? What real evidence do I have to suggest that my cause for concern is justified? – If your fears are based solely on an internal dialogue, if you roll with them, you’ll end up creating drama and pain for yourself.

External means that there is evidence outside of you, not just your own fears and imagination that are causes for concern i.e. events that are happening, things that are being said and done by a person, or a conflict of actions not matching words. – What have I seen or heard? If I take it at face value, what does this mean? – It’s assessing and processing the evidence and determining the threat level.

This means that because you are seeing real external evidence of your fears, your fears are trying to communicate to you that something is wrong. This is indicative of your boundaries being crossed and a sign that you need to take action. They’re saying ‘Help me!’ and when there is the combination of internal and external it means that at the very least you have to proceed with caution or you may need to abort the mission.

Now of course the key thing here is:
1) You need to be out of denial with your eyes and ears open and your feet in reality to assess the threat level, and

2) You need to be prepared to listen to yourself, trust your gut, instincts, and evidence, and take action based on your findings, and

3) You need to have an awareness that you should have boundaries and that inappropriate behaviour can be indicative of the potential for more boundary crossing further down the line.

If you find that it’s your fears and imagination going into overdrive (it’s all based on your internal dialogue) and there is no actual evidence to suggest that you have a reason for ‘raising the threat level’, you know that you need to calm yourself down, have an honest conversation with yourself, and have faith in you and the person so that you can trust them and the situation, otherwise you may ruin it.

But be careful, often when we won’t sanity check the internal fears, we look for reasons to justify its existence and may even stir up drama to bring about that self-fulfilling prophecy. Same thing goes for choices that we make based on the fear that also help bring about the self-fulfilling prophecy.

If however you find that there is real evidence to suggest that the perceived threat level is real, rather than ignore it and then close your eyes and distrust your judgement and what your body is telling you, process the information and take action. This may involve asking some questions and finding out more information, doing something, and yes, possibly ending it if there is something to end. It may mean that you need to slow down and proceed with caution so that you can see more clearly. It may signal that you’re catering to a familiar pattern again.

The alternative to not taking action when the threat level is raised is being afraid anyway but sticking it out and hoping that it will miraculously get better while you experience pain as a result of it. What I do know is that living with the ‘threat level’ on high all the time not only means welcoming plenty of drama and pain into your life, but you live a half life based on fear which creates a limited experience. When you have relationships you’ll end up having them with your fears and when you listen to your internal dialogue it’ll be your fears.

Listen to yourself and when you do feel afraid work out where the fear is coming from so that you don’t sabotage a potentially good opportunity or end up putting yourself in the front line of pain.

Your thoughts?

Want to tackle your beliefs and get happier? Have you downloaded your free copy of Get Out of Stuck? Find out more details.. You can also check out the rest of my ebooks including Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl , the No Contact Rule and more in my bookshop..

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15 Responses to Assessing the Threat Level: Working Out Whether Your Fears Are Genuine or Misplaced

  1. Movedup says:

    Love it Nat! Held boundaries very strongly with a person on a commitee I serve on as chair – last night as a matter of fact. He tried to cross my boundary of anynomity when questioning my decision on a scholarship. I firmly reminded him the scholarship was based on need and the individuals were promised anynomity and I was saying nothing more. He had to trust me to make the right decision. Period. End of discussion – that shut him up (with eyebrows raised) guess he wasn’t used to me standing ground like that with him before. Felt really good!

  2. CC says:

    Yep! It’s a matter of becoming self-aware enough that when those old prickly feelings of rejection, abandonment, and hurt get triggered by an event to talk yourself out of the spiral. I realize I have really been making some gains by the fact that I recover a lot quicker from a rejection trigger now. If I go back to all my journaling notes and also come to this site I come back to my sense in a few days. I’m becoming more self aware that the events that trigger my fears typically have nothing to do with me. When I run into mixed messages from a man I date, I throws me for a loop still but after a few days of journaling and revisting all the work I’ve done I see that I can get those feelings under control much quicker and I’m back to a more centered me. It all comes back to self love and working on those self esteem issues… self talk and consciousness helps a lot. And the journaling I find I have some really great notes in there that show me how far I’ve come! Thanks again Natalie… right on point with my journey once again :)

  3. Hopeful says:

    You hit the head on the nail for me again. I realized just how very smart I really am. I have always known these things but had no name for them or how to process them, I was stuck! Now I’m getting unstuck! It’s so simple and much easier than I thought. It feels wonderful and I am really starting to feel good about the direction and steps I am taking. Why? Because I AM WORTH THE EFFORT!
    Natalie I thank you from the bottom of my heart : )

  4. PlanetJane says:

    It’s so true. My problem was that I was somewhere in between. I was aware that I perceived rejection and abandonment way too quickly, and so I learned to smooth those feelings out, ‘manage’ them and not listen to them – sort of swing way back in the other direction, and even when my alarm bells were ringing for something external, I couldn’t hear them. I assumed, or used MY ‘irrational’ fears as an excuse and a way of justifying staying in the hurtful relationship to make those fears untrue…cuz I didn’t want them to be true. But sometimes, they are!

    It’s hard to find balance, but looking and weighing from a place of self-acceptance and esteem is so important. Thanks Nat!

  5. Minky says:

    Thanks for another helpful article! This is so useful to me as i have been worrying about the next time i meet someone – will i just reject everyone that comes along, for the slightest little thing, because i am afraid they will be another EUM? I am happy being single at the moment and sorting myself out, not trying to think about my ex EUM. I have made good relationship choices in the past, but i have fears like ‘i was younger then’, ‘it’s easier to meet decent guys in your 20’s, before they get all weird and messed up’, ‘will i get duped by some idiot and not realise til it’s too late’. i realise now that this is just me blowing things out of proportion because of my fear of getting hurt and rejected again. i have pretty good instincts, i have learned from my one and only EUM experience and i need to have faith in myself. Even if i get it wrong, the world won’t fall down – i will heal and be fine.

    thnaks once again!

  6. Lesley Binnie says:

    The interesting bit about this article for me is how we can be like this in all areas of our lives and not just in relation to EUM’S. I frequently use these skills in my own working situation now,just to reaffirm my own boundaries about honesty, use of my time,clarify what was meant by a comment etc and it works so well. Its different from the rote practise of assertiveness. I actually find I can be more flexible and understanding to others if I have the kind of internal dialogue that NML is talking about first. It is becoming second nature to me now to take care of my own needs as well as everyone elses now….

  7. MaryC says:

    Just goes to show we should listen to ourselves more often. I know I actually argued with myself in trying to justify my ex’s bad behavior when all along that little voice in the back of my mind was trying to tell me he was no good.

    Next time I’m going to listen.

  8. tina says:

    Another great, meaningful post. A fascinating question – am I afraid because of what I am thinking or what I am experiencing? Given my tendency to spend so much time in dysfunctional relationships, living in denial and clinging to fantasy, it can hard to tell. Certainly the actions of the assclown deserved fear – yet I had little. I trusted him too much, assumed he was good and that he was feeling what I was feeling. There was enough external signals pointing to run, yet I guess my internal fear of being alone, being rejected, being unloved was stronger. Confusing, but I think I am starting to get it. I certainly want to. I need to break the bad cycle, get rid of the awful habits that have me stuck, repeating the same mistakes over and over. Until a few weeks ago, I would never have used the word “fearful” to describe myself – I thought of myself as strong, fiercely independent and totally self sufficient. Then I realized – if that was really true, why had I destroyed myself trying to hang on to a bad relationship with someone who began running out the door only months in. I am full of fear – I just never realized it – and I am now just starting to realize the extent to which it controls me, my life, my decisions. Another powerful wake up call – thanks Natalie.

    • PlanetJane says:

      That’s interesting Tina. I’ve found lately that the less fearful I am, the more open, loving, accepting and easygoing I am – because I know my boundaries are in place and I won’t lose myself no matter what happens. I’ll be fine. I can love because it doesn’t threaten me or who I am. I know that I have not been that way in the past, but have been defensive – more like a warrior, defending when there was nothing to defend and then alternating by giving whoever seemed to ‘love’ me everything – just ‘surrendering’. I’ve noticed that the more ‘tough’, independent, ‘fierce’ people are the ones who really do live in fear, otherwise, why would they need to be that way? Thanks for your comments…made me think.

      • dee says:

        PlanetJane – I love your comment. The idea that all the bravado is just fronting for serious insecurity and that true fearlessness comes from knowing yourself and trusting yourself enough to be centered and content with yourself. I too have suffered from the false front of seeming invincible but being anything but. I would lose myself completely with any guy that showed up and showed interest, only to be devastated by the last one who only treated me well for about 2 months then nonsense for the rest of the time. It is inner peace, confidence and strength that helps you weather the storm (or prevents you from getting into rough seas to begin with). A nice follow up to Natalies wise words. It just keeps getting clearer.

  9. Ms A says:

    These are such great thoughts and suggestions. What I’m finding is that these days enjoy my own company so much I can’t bother with all the trouble of sorting through the assclowns, EUM’s and the rest. I have had a boyfriend/lover/husband non-stop since I was 14. About 7 years ago I ended up alone for the first time and I am 50 now. I am SO happy with the fabulous life I have created that frankly, I can’t be bothered with any bullshit. Frankly,I think I like the idea of a relationship a lot more than I like the reality. At this point any man that enters my life better bring the goods because I have got NOTHING to lose by showing him the door. And I have such peace around it all. Life is just fine with or without a man.

  10. Hopeful says:

    FEAR, yes I was and am afraid of being angry! Another realization from this post. That helped me with avoidance!
    It’s ok for me to be angry, I accept that and own it. I have every right to be and feel the anger. I’m angry at him for busting my boundaries, manipulating me, ignoring me, using me for his own selfish gratification, deceiving me, lying to me, coercing me, bullying me, being an AC , being arrogant, talking down to me and women in general. He is responsible for that, but will never admit to me and more than likely not himself.
    I am angry with myself because I took all of this, I allowed it, and I even justified, made excuses for it, had internal dialogues about it and accepted it. All the while hoping it and he would change. I am responsible for that, I enabled him. He is a danderous threat to me! My anger and fear is justified and validated by ME, for ME the most important person I know!!! Thank you all for being here, you are important too!

  11. mariposa says:

    Somebody help me. I’ve been seeing this guy for 2 years and have had issues from the start. He forced his way into my home before I was ready. He never takes me anywhere or introduces me to anyone or thing in his life. He has never invited me to his home in all that time eventhough I have pressed the issue. He leaves for months at a time. Tonite the plan was for him to come to my house after dinner. I called and cancelled bc I am too tired after a long week. I have a stressful job. He became angry. I told him that I was too tired to have to put on clean sheets, clean the bathroom etc in order to have him over. He also insists that I wear a skirt which requires even more work when I just want to unwind from a rough week. I told him that if once in a while I went to his house all the cleaning wouldn’t always be thrown on my shoulders. He became irate, wouldn’t discuss it and hung on me saying he’ll see me when he gets back in over a month. I’ve decided it’s time to move on but I need help. Someone please tell me I did nothing wrong. I just wanted a nice, relaxing nite to myself.

  12. HP says:

    I’m bisexual. My entire family is violently homophobic. I live in a socially conservative country. My fears are genuine and external. I would be estranged from them if I dated women like my heart wants to. (although my first love was female – we dated for a few months in secret. She was an EUW who didn’t want to commit and dumped me)
    Any thoughts?

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30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.