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Day 11. The Limiter

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Its Motivations: To limit your risks.

The Fear It's Driven By: If you try to live as you truly want or just try to have a go at life, you will more likely to experience danger and undesirable outcomes.

Underlying Beliefs: Risk is wrong. Making mistakes, ‘failure’, not knowing things is wrong. Uncertainty is too scary. A risk has to be near guaranteed to succeed in order to be worth doing. If something goes wrong, it’s because I wasn’t good enough for the risk to pay off.

Look Out For: A very risk averse parent/caregiver — helicopter parenting. A parent/caregiver who used creating fear around risk to make you dependent on them or to make you responsible for them. An experience of making a mistake, of ‘failure’, of being vulnerable, that you haven’t recovered from. A parent/caregiver/partner or someone else significant who was reckless at a price that had big consequences for those around them including you.

The Limiter inner critic rains on your parade and keeps you in a perpetual state of fear of uncertainty by acting as an underwriter that vetoes pretty much anything that it deems as being ‘risk’ aka you being vulnerable, which pretty much rules out good possibilities. Like all of the critics, it has no filter and is incredibly OTT so while it could be useful by alerting you when you haven’t thought through a decision enough or when you’re in danger, it proves to be useless because it doesn’t seem to shut up about anything which of course affects your self-confidence and makes it incredibly difficult to make a decision.

Small decisions, big ones, tiny ones - it might feel as if you’re inching along at times!

Afraid that you’re going to be hurt or rejected, it thinks that you can’t represent you under scrutiny or judgement so it tries to keep you below the radar. It treats vulnerability as a bad risk with the underlying message being that you will be ‘seen’ and then criticised and judged, so as usual, it’s protecting you from what it thinks is the bigger future pain. You’re kept small so that you don’t take risks but then you end up feeling small and even experiencing a great deal of anxiety around irrational fears (that feel rational) and decision-making, because you’ve got this voice chopping at your confidence by essentially inferring that you won’t be able to cope, that you’re not cut out for the world.

The Limiter inner critic is ring-fencing you in an uncomfortable comfort zone by being an actuary that doesn’t know that the insurance premiums (your confidence) it’s charging are grossly over-inflated because it’s miscalculated the risks involved.

You’re boxed in. Everything has a risk so everything feels wrong.

It believes that it’s better to be safe by avoiding the vulnerability that comes with risk than it is to try and live to try again. Trying is seen as wrong so there’s an automatic pressure to get things right or perfect on first try, which of course puts you in a bind. It has also worked out that the way to ensure that you’re controllable, manageable and malleable is to rule you with fear of risk.

What it relies on is using past experiences to remind you of what could be in store for you and so you train you to limit you.

The messages that you've picked up along the way that form and feed The Limiter might originate from an overbearing parent or feeling that you had to be responsible for your parent or, having put up with one or both of your parents being so risky that you had no stability in your childhood, you’ve inferred that all risk is bad.

It can also be that you were so terribly hard on you after an early experience of making a mistake or what you deemed as failure (both building blocks to success) that the shame you still carry with you means that each time you go to try something or be vulnerable, those feelings poke you as way of reminding you of the past.

Fearful parents don’t always intend for you to be fearful, it’s just that they may have had so much fear in their own life or been through painful experiences, that they focused on trying to be in control of their environment, including their children. Kids don’t understand the nuances of adult behaviour (and nor do they need to) so they’re not going to understand where a parent’s fears for them are coming from and even if they have a sense of it, it’s confusing plus there is a desire to please. Some parents think that if they scare the crap out of you that you will be so dependent on them that you won’t leave or that you will never have to be imperfect and cause them to be vulnerable. It’s also hard to be OK with risk when you remember, for example, your father losing the house due to gambling debts or some risky venture.

In your romantic relationships, you’re likely to choose safe bets in the form of partners who seem nice and like they won’t cause you any trouble even though you might feel stifled because you’ve chosen a partner who has safe appeal not someone that you love (possibly someone you’re more like friends with or someone who just go along with what they do because they seem safe). It might also be that your idea of a safe bet is someone who you know it won’t work out with so the risk, in terms of being concerned about the future, is limited.

Your fear of uncertainty will at times be overwhelming, causing you to feel uneasy in new relationships or when things deviate off plan from the picture that you painted in your mind. It also can, depending on whether you go with safe but don’t float your boat partners, or safe because you know how it will end partners, make it incredibly difficult to make and stick to a decision because you want to know the outcome and you want a perfect decision. It is this fear of getting things wrong and not knowing what’s going to happen in 2030, that will cause you to engage in commitment resistant behaviour.

What if we have 20 great years together and then it goes wrong? Is this really it? What if there’s something better out there? What if there’s nothing better out there?

Yep, inner critic ensures that all roads lead to fear of uncertainty so you can’t just be in your relationships.

Work will be a pain when it comes to taking risks so you might find it difficult to leave, or difficult to innovate because you rely on keeping the risks to a minimum. You might have a safe job in a career you hate. You might find that if you’re a manager, that you find people who have “too many ideas” and who want to go off plan, very annoying. In fact managing others may be overwhelming at times because you have uncontrollable people screwing with your risks. It might scare you to take a day off so you might have a hell of a lot of holiday built up or you do take time off but spend most of it wondering if the sky has fallen down. You might be controlling in various interpersonal relationships in the sense of always wanting to be in the know, or wanting things a certain way and trying to be in control of so many things to keep your risks down ends up being a big source of misery and stress.

Of course The Limiter inner critic like all critics, has something to say about you not taking risks leaving you caught between a rock and a very hard place. The impact on your self-image means that you are unlikely to have a real sense of your capabilities or even your personality, because each time you think about doing certain things, your inner critic limits you with criticism. You want to do that presentation and it reminds you not to make a tit out of yourself with public speaking. What if you don't know it off by heart and you get fired? Because yeah, that’s a realistic outcome…

The Limiter’s fears are about them (the original inspiration), not you. If it limits you and you comply, it never has to run the risk of questioning their own thinking and decisions.

JOURNALING: Do you identify with The Limiter experience? Write about the ways in which this habit has manifested itself in your life – locate your specific habits of thinking and behaviour. Is there anyone from your past that has influenced The Limiter’s tape and if so, who are they and what did they teach you about life? What were the reasoning habits that you used to explain their behaviour and outlook? What are the risks that you're not supposed to take. List them all. Think of some of the people you know (and not just dodgy examples) - are all of these risks actual risks? What is the worst that could happen? What would need to happen in order for that to even materialise because there’s a whole series of steps (actions, situations etc) that lead to this? You taking a new job isn’t going to cause you to lose your house but you taking a job with less money than you need to pay your mortgage will.

Did your outer critic follow its own rules on risk? Which ones have they broken and can you see how irrational their attitude is? Which of these risks represent you now being punished or certainly limited as a result of their own experiences and decisions? Can you see the difference between you?

Don’t forget to use the Resources to help you to work through feelings that come up – the Releasing Exercise is ideal for homing in on negative memories of risk so that you can understand why you might feel very triggered in certain situations, for instance around money. Unsent Letters are ideal for distinguishing you from others, forgiving you and using compassionate enquiry to think about what you can do next.

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