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Day 13. Code Amber & Code Red Alerts

Very often, we’ve become so used to our pattern of boundaries and rationalising other people’s behaviour, that we don’t have a sense of what represents a problem. We’ve doubted ourselves for so long that our internal compass seems to be giving us mixed messages. This is why I break issues down into code amber and code red.

CODE AMBER:  Stop, look, listen, become aware, ground yourself in your own values, needs, etc., and don’t proceed until you’ve assessed the threat level and are behind your own line. Code amber means asking, Where am I ignoring myself? Where am I slipping into a pattern and not being conscious, aware and present?

CODE RED: Halt! Do not proceed. The threat level is high, and your boundaries are already being crossed. Or, you’re being alerted to the presence of ‘feedback’ that signifies that your boundaries will be crossed, or you are acting unconsciously and need to be self-aware and have an active response. Ask, Where am I endangering myself? Where am I doing stuff that not only doesn’t reflect what I want, how I feel and my boundaries, but that’s causing me problems that will leave me with a medium- to long-term hangover if I don’t take action?

Both codes make themselves known through discomfort.

Code amber will be pings from your inner voice and the emotions alerting you through your gut and intuition. It’s a more gentle but noticeable notification if you’re willing to pay attention.

Code red means ring the alarm. Often, code amber has tried to let you know in other ways, and your body will increase the painfulness/intensity of the notifications to force you to pay attention. Plus, you will have the pain of the issue happening externally as well as its impact on you.

CODEPENDENCY?: Excessive emotional reliance on something or someone. Not honouring the separateness, living on external esteem that results in code red problems like being dependent on substances or trying to right the wrongs of the past by taking up a Florence Nightingale role. Child-to-parent dynamics that replay childhood patterns. Giving away or focusing on power. Expecting people to fill you up or vice versa. Being over-responsible, over-empathetic, people pleasing, over-compensating for when others don’t show up in a relationship and then blaming you when it doesn’t work out.

ABUSIVE? Emotional and physical abuse via verbal, covert, and physical means. It’s when a person tries to control your behaviour and thinking by force so that you comply with their needs, expectations, and wishes. Think control, including manipulation, mind fuckery / gaslighting, isolation, jealousy and possessiveness under the guise of ‘love’. Being a verbal or physical punchbag, blaming you or something else for their abusive behaviour. Playing the victim. Intimidation through ‘chopping’ – covert mental abuse and coercive control. Threats. Stalking. Habitual lies, deceit, cheating. Forcing you to do anything that you don’t want to. Them being devoid of empathy.

Abusive also means recognising where you are doing something self-destructive, where a person is only treating you slightly less than or even equal to the way in which you already treat and regard you.

If you encounter somebody who never takes responsibility for anything, it will escalate to a code red situation if you shelter them from it. In turn, you will forget your responsibilities. The best thing that you can do with somebody like this is honour the separateness by knowing your boundaries, and so not getting drawn into their stuff. You will be able to empathise, but in recognising where they’re coming from, you learn what to say and do to make it clear that you’re not owning their issues.

Whether it’s a code amber or red alert, both raise the question of, Where am I not being boundaried?



(A) If the alert is regarding what amounts to a temporary shift from a healthy pattern, this is an amber alert to be conscious, aware and present.
(B) If the issue has been happening for a short period, but you need more information, this may be a code amber.
(C) If it’s (B) but your boundaries are being crossed in a way that endangers your wellbeing or is just flat-out inappropriate, this is a code red.
(D) If the alert regards something frequent and/or it ties in with other indicators that you may have dismissed or been unaware of the significance of at the time, this is a code red that something is very wrong.
(E) If your confidence and self-esteem have essentially decreased as a result of the situation and another person’s treatment, this is a code red. You need to take care of you. You need to use healthy boundaries to limit the impact or remove yourself.
(F) If your behaviour, the situation, another person’s behaviour, represents an unhealthy pattern, code red. Familiarity, when there has been an unhealthy pattern, is always a code red (also known as a Full-On Code Red or FOCR). Trying to right the wrongs of the past, child-to-parent dynamic, giving away power, partners with similar code red issues to a parent/caregiver/bully, code red and FLUSH.
(G) If it represents abusive behaviour, it should not be a code amber. If there are genuine doubts, code amber and be self-aware. If you’re doubting because you’re blaming you or pretending that you don’t know, that’s a code red.
(H) If you experience (C), (E), (F) or (G) and you do not actually know the person or have known them for a short time, FLUSH.


  • Ultimately code amber and code red really comes down to, Am I coming from a place of love, care, trust and respect or am I coming from a place of fear, guilt, obligation, blame, shame, resentment, victimisation, and not taking care of me?

  • When you experience code amber issues with somebody, it can quite simply represent lack of awareness, inconsistency, a flag that highlights a difference between the impression you have of them and who they actually are. It means that you need to get to know that person better and/or that you need to slow down and be yourself before it escalates to something much bigger.

  • If you pick up on code amber issues and respond, you are taking responsibility and by doing so, positively contributing to the dynamic because at that point, if it’s a misunderstanding, miscommunication or a learning moment, there is an opportunity for clarity from the other party.

  • Code amber issues ignored will always turn into code red. Yes, it might be because it escalates into bigger problems, but it can also be because in ignoring it, you’re not boundaried, so you slip into a pattern of thinking and behaviour about it that will eventually make you very uncomfortable with pain. It might be with this person or situation, or it might be in another one. 

  • What you don’t learn in one situation will show up another. This helps you to become more discerning and to be more you. 

  • Code red issues should never, ever, ever ever ever, be ignored. The stuff that you ignore (or rationalise) always comes back to bite. And it will hurt. A lot. It eventually becomes the sticking point, and because you get caught up in the whats and whys, often blaming you, you end up digging your heels into the problem instead of navigating out of it.

  • Sometimes we get muddled up in the details, but the emotions give you clues about whether or not there is a problem and a boundary that you need to pay more attention to and step up for you in some way.

  • Healthy connections regulate you, whereas unhealthy ones destabilise you. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees. But if you’ve become less of who you are, are unable to take care of you and feel isolated, dependent or anything else that screams that something about this connection has bulldozed your life, it’s a code red alert to step back and get out. 

  • If something doesn’t feel right, it’s normally because it isn’t. It is an amber warning to get grounded, to pay more attention. It does not necessarily mean that you’re being screwed over, but you do need to pick up on something – about you, the other party or the situation.

  • Ask: What am I avoiding? Also ask: Is there anything that I’m pretending that I don’t already know?

  • Remember that unreasonable means turning down anything that jeopardises your wellbeing and that puts you in a child-to-parent dynamic.

JOURNALING: How do you feel about having the option to distinguish discomfort as code amber and code red? Do you feel empowered or nervous? Explore your feelings about it. Locate doubts so that you can continue working through these with the help of the remaining lessons on the course. Looking back, can you see where you have mistaken code red issues for code amber or where you have stayed in a code red situation long past its sell-by-date? What were the beliefs that you had at the time? Use Unsent Letters to explore your feelings about these experiences.

TASK: Look at the list of your People Pleasing/Bad Boundaries entourage. Flag each one with code amber or red so that you have a sense of what it is that you need to pay attention to.

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