Book Review: The Gift of Fear

gift of fear by Gavin De BeckerGavin de Becker runs a firm of 250 very smart people who help people make better predictions about violence. His book The Gift of Fear is one of the most useful books I have ever read, if you can believe that its principles do work.

I can.

The gist of it can be found in the book’s subtitle:

The Gift of Fear And Other Survival Signs that Protect Us From Violence.

It is a book about intuition. Specifically, becoming more attuned to intuitions that warn of danger. That give a “bad feeling” or just “seem wrong.”

The person who is watching you.

The person who seems completely out of place.

The person who reveals too many details.

The person who understands “forced teaming.”

The person that refuses to hear no.

The person that clings, online or off.

The person that sees relationships where there are none, and ignores protests to the contrary.

And so on.

Most of the book builds on cases that De Becker’s institute handled. Essentially, someone comes to them and says “Here is what has happened and we want to know how worried we should be.”

The evidence to that point could include unwanted emails, letters, propositions, comments on a blog, inappropriate gifts, threats, etc. They weight the evidence and, based on their prediction, they advise the client as to the appropriate actions to take, or not.

There are a few points I’d like to single out that I found very valuable.

Awareness is key

Most people just walk around with their heads either down or stuck into their smartphones. They have no idea what or who is around them. They forfeit their powers of obsevation, and therefore their “gift of fear.” Without awareness, intuition based on observation cannot exist.

The different between threats and intimidations

A fascinating chapter about when to be worried and when not to. The line is small, but it made sense to me. And now I’m a lot more aware of when I’m being threatened–which almost never happens. What I usually called threats, de Becker would call intimidations.

Being a poor target

A massive part of self-defense is simply making yourself look like a less productive option to potential predators. If you’re observant and prepared, you’re less likely to be singled out as easy prey.

Not engaging

I found the sections on cyber-stalking absolutely fascinating. What do most people do when they are trying to sever ties with someone? (Note, whether the relationship actually exists is not important. To the stalker it exists, and that’s all we concern ourselves with).

We usually “have a talk” with that person to tell them that we’re through. And by telling them that we don’t want to talk to them, we continue talking to them.

I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and headache in the past if I had had the guts to just ignore people, rather than telling them (again) that I wanted nothing to do with them and that there was nothing between us.

Rudeness is preferable to danger

If you’re a woman (or man, as they are not immune to stalkers) and you don’t want help with your groceries in a lonely parking lot, wouldn’t you rather have him be offended because you said “I don’t want your help!” than have him abduct or harm you?

Summary of The Gift of Fear

It all boils down to “trust your instincts.” But the book demonstrates how to do it. There are best practices that will make us better prepared to respond to our intuitions.

And if you like this one, I’d also recommend Deep Survival.




3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Gift of Fear

  1. I want to thank you for this post, Dunce One. I think it’s timely and I think it’s important, and I HOPE PEOPLE ARE LISTENING!!!

    Your comments regarding cyber-stalking hit particularly close to home. One of the most amazing things about the internet is that you can find out information about anyone, anytime, anywhere. And yet, that is also what makes the internet so terrifying. Any number of people can be watching you, “following” you, sending you unsolicited e-mails or even, as you point out, comments on a blog.

    So how do you make this stop? I don’t know. Some would argue that by writing a blog, you are opening yourself up to the public, and thus deserve whatever attention you get. Some could say the same for having a profile on Facebook. You can have “friends” on Facebook, and try to limit the information you send to those choice people, but it’s never really that secure. Once it’s out there it’s out there. So then what?

    Maybe you can try to appeal to whatever rational thread remains in the person that is still following you, despite all the seemingly blatant and obvious indications that you do not want them in your life in any way, shape, or form. Ever. For example, even though this blog is anonymous, if someone I did not want contacting me, and had asked clearly and repeatedly to stop contacting me, was to somehow find out that I had this blog, and was to start commenting incessantly about everything I wrote, how would I get that person to stop? Maybe I could say, “hey, I know your phone number and your e-mail address; if I wanted to contact you (which I don’t, just so that we are ABUNDANTLY clear), I would. Please notice that I haven’t.”

    I think sometimes people build up fantasies in their head, like you reference, about a relationship that does not and did never exist. I think they think that, even though you are completely ignoring them, and have in fact asked them, clearly and repeatedly, never to contact you again, they think they somehow know better. Like, sure, you’re saying you don’t want them to contact you, but really you want them to contact you. All the time. Every day. Here is a hint, they have no secret desire to be contacted by you. What you see sometimes is what you get. They do not appreciate your attentions.

    Another problem with the internet and cyber-stalking/bullying is the anonymity factor. People can hide behind fake identities, say, FALSE AND MISLEADING E-MAIL ADDRESSES, for example, and trick people into unwittingly talking to them for a short time, but sooner or later, the truth comes out, and the person on the unappreciative and temporarily hoodwinked receiving end will just end up feeling distrustful, violated, and, in some cases, PISSED!

    If you’re so sure he wants to hear from you, why’d you make up a fake e-mail address, huh? He does not want to hear from you. Please stop!

    You know?

    • I think you’re right. I think the Western approach of “the best defense is a good offense” is not always the best approach. It’s like that scene in The Karate Kid where Daniel-San is saying “karate is fighting, you train to fight,” and Miyagi is like “that what you think?” and then Daniel says “no.” “Then why train?” Miyagi asks sagely. “So I don’t have to fight.” Sometimes the best offense is avoiding the conflict altogether. That what I think.

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