I read a lot. And when I find a book that I really love I like to share it with people so that they can love it too. My new favorite book is: The Gift of Fear, Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence, by Gavin De Becker.
As a woman, and a traveler, this book has been extremely helpful, and it is one that I will read again and again.
Gavin De Pecker is an expert on predicting violent behavior, and his firm advises media figures, corporations and law enforcement agencies on predicting violence. The premise of his book is that true fear is a powerful ally, that helps us survive when we are in extreme danger. Throughout the book, he helps the reader to learn more about their intuition, and when they should listen to it.
The root of the word intuition, tuere, means ”to guard, to protect”, and by listening to it, we can save our own lives. The biggest myth is that violence is unpredictable, and as the author shows, there is actually a very predictive pattern of behavior that can indicate whether or not someone is likely to come to work with a gun.
That feeling that we write off as “gut feeling” or even “women’s intuition”, is actually our brain, using all the experiences we’ve had before, and sending us signals to tell us something is wrong.
Basically the human brain is so efficient, that it takes all the information we know from those experiences, and tells us we are at risk without telling us why. Because this happens in an instant, we have no logic to back up why we feel this way, and often ignore the signals to our detriment. That’s why when we get a signal that a guy is a creep, we often ignore it because he’s acting so “nice”.
My favorite part of the book was Chapter 4 when the author talks about Survival Signals. Throughout the book, he comes back to Kelly, a woman who had been raped and almost murdered when a man followed her from the lobby of her apartment, and forced his way into her house. He had conned her into thinking she was overreacting and he was really a nice guy. Luckily she managed to save her own life by listening to her intuition.
The author then explains how guys like this are experts at keeping their victims from seeing survival signals by using methods such as:
The author talks about how women are reluctant to say no, even when a man is being pushy because we have this fear of being rude, or even a bitch. How many times has the average woman been in an uncomfortable situation, and yet put up with it because she doesn’t want to appear rude? I’m definitely guilty of letting a guy get too close, and being afraid to cause a scene, but one sentence that really stuck with me in this book was:
At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.
Of course it’s not all about women. This book covers everything from stalking, violence in the workplace, domestic violence, violent children and attacks against public figures, and the pre-incident Indicators that can allow us to better predict if someone will be a danger to us.
This book can be tough going, since there are a lot of real-life examples through it, but after reading it for the third time, I strongly believe that every one (especially women) should read it at least once. The advice in it is simple and easy to follow, and it definitely gave me something to think about.