Part 3: Threats and Control: Real, Implied and Imagined

Learn the definition of "imagined threats". The term may make you feel like it is all in your head, but it can be very real. This article teaches that intimidation starts with body language, but can lead to bodily harm.

By Stacy D. Phillips
Updated: March 17, 2015
Health and Well Being

In the continuation of the series of excerpts from the book, Divorce: It’s All About Control — How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars (ExecuProv Press) by renowned family law specialist and managing partner of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation in Los Angeles, CA, Stacy D. Phillips, she discusses threats — real, implied and imagined — and what to do about them. In this third installment on threats, Phillips addresses Imagined threats. Stay tuned for her fourth and final segment wherein Phillips discusses how to handle Threats if they are being made, or you suspect they are being made, against you. That upcoming segment will also offer a few words of advice on how to resist the temptation of making them against your ex.

As I mentioned in my last two excerpts, Threats are a masterful way to assert control over others.

Some threats are Real. In other words, they are openly expressed and can manifest themselves through some type of physical violence, emotional abuse, financial control, or threats through or to the children. Other threats are Implied. By that I mean tossed out obliquely or indirectly. Yet these can also result in disaster. Imagined threats, the topic of this segment, leave a person thinking or wondering if a threat has been directed at them, or if one will be carried out.

Emotionally, threats can impact a person by instigating fear, trepidation and worry. While in terms of psychological stress, threats can keep a person off kilter with countless thoughts of "what if" and "how soon?" In the legal realm, a person may be afraid of being taken to court, or may be need to, or be concerned about, obtaining a restraining order, or, if he or she is the perpetrator, may be concerned he/she is headed for jail.

"Imagined" threats can cause mental chaos.

Threats can go on for years.

Imagined threats are fantasies of what you think your ex may do or say. Imagined threats may stem from dirty looks (if looks could kill), slammed doors, cars screeching away from the curb, or items being thrown. Imagined threats are hard to manage because nothing is ever said; it is just that one is left to ponder whether a threat was inferred (and intended). Imagined threats are crazymaking, because most of them are manufactured, self-created, and become lodged inside the mind of the potential victim.

Be rational about those threats you have Imagined. Do they have credence? Potential? Are they likely to occur based on previous events—did your ex ever shove you around, point a gun at you, kick the dog? If so, let others know. The more people you tell the better. They can help keep an eye out for looming danger and in the end help keep you safe.

These types of threats are usually non-verbal in nature but still leave a person to wonder what terrible fate might befall them. Some of the most popular Imagined threats may include the following:

  1. A cold, icy stare accompanied by a sinister smile.
  2. A hateful stare with eyes that could burn holes in the intended target.
  3. A sly, quick chortle—a stifled, sarcastic laugh.
  4. The index finger drawing an imaginary line across his/her throat.
  5. The squealing of tires.
  6. The pounding of a fist on a tabletop.
  7. The slamming of a door.
  8. Angry footsteps.
  9. A mocking "tsk."
  10. The middle finger.

My suggestion to anyone going through a breakup is to not be overly paranoid, but do not underestimate the vibes—those feelings that say something is not right.

I have come to rely on my intuition and not only out of a personal philosophy, but also due to one particular experience that still haunts me to this day. A female client, mother of three children, who insisted her ex-husband was neglecting the children, retained me. She implied that her children were in danger of her ex-husband hurting them in other physical ways.

Something felt uncomfortable to me; something was off. After carefully weighing my commitment to representing her interests, I called her and politely explained I did not feel I was the right attorney for her case. I had a feeling—deep inner gnawing—that something was off—but I did not know what. Approximately two years later, long after I ceased representing the woman, I learned she had killed her children and herself. I shudder when I realize how powerful and accurate my intuition was. Do not underestimate that inner voice that often speaks to you, for very often it speaks the truth.

When my clients are dealing with Implied or Imagined threats, I always ask them to take a silent moment and see if their gut reaction is sending out a real or false alarm. I am recommending that you do the same. If you are inclined or tempted to set up a scenario in which you leave your ex to imagine you may act against him/her, be wise,; control the urge. It can and may be used against you.


Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is co-chair of the Women's Political Committee and a member of Divorce Magazine's North American Advisory Board. She can be reached at (310) 277-7117. View her firm's Divorce Magazine profile here.

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August 23, 2007

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