Book Review: Gift of Fear By Gavin de Becker –– A Must Read
True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.
A date won’t take “no” for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.
In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, the man Oprah Winfrey calls the nation’s leading expert on violent behavior, shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker, whose clients include top Hollywood stars and government agencies, offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including how to act when approached by a stranger, when you should fear someone close to you, what to do if you are being stalked, how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls, the biggest mistake you can make with a threatening person, and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss. It might just save your life.
A Sneak Peek Into “Gift of Fear”
He had probably been watching her for a while. We aren’t sure—but what we do know is that she was not his first victim. That afternoon, in an effort to get all her shopping done in one trip, Kelly had overestimated what she could comfortably carry home. Justifying her decision as she struggled with the heavy bags, she reminded herself that making two trips would have meant walking around after dark, and she was too careful about her safety for that. As she climbed the few steps to the apartment building door, she saw that it had been left unlatched (again). Her neighbors just don’t get it, she thought, and though their lax security annoyed her, this time she was glad to be saved the trouble of getting out the key.
She closed the door behind her, pushing it until she heard it latch. She is certain she locked it, which means he must have already been inside the corridor.
Next came the four flights of stairs, which she wanted to do in one trip. Near the top of the third landing, one of the bags gave way, tearing open and dispensing cans of cat food. They rolled down the stairs almost playfully, as if they were trying to get away from her. The can in the lead paused at the second-floor landing, and Kelly watched as it literally turned the corner, gained some speed, and began its seemingly mindful hop down the next flight of steps and out of sight.
“Got it! I’ll bring it up,” someone called out. Kelly didn’t like that voice. Right from the start something just sounded wrong to her, but then this friendly-looking young guy came bounding up the steps, collecting cans along the way.
He said, “Let me give you a hand.”
“No, no thanks, I’ve got it.”
“You don’t look like you’ve got it. What floor are you going to?”
She paused before answering him. “The fourth, but I’m okay, really.”
He wouldn’t hear a word of it, and by this point, he had a collection of cans balanced between his chest and one arm. “I’m going to the fourth floor too,” he said, “and I’m late—not my fault, broken watch—so let’s not just stand here. And give me that.” He reached out and tugged on one of the heavier bags she was holding. She repeated, “No, really, thanks, but no, I’ve got it.”
Still holding onto the grocery bag, he said, “There’s such a thing as being too proud, you know.”
For a moment, Kelly didn’t let go of that bag, but then she did, and this seemingly insignificant exchange between the cordial stranger and the recipient of his courtesy was the signal—to him and to her—that she was willing to trust him. As the bag passed from her control to his, so did she.
“There’s a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: persistence only proves persistence—it does not prove love. The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special—it means he is troubled.”
“We better hurry,” he said as he walked up the stairs ahead of Kelly. “We’ve got a hungry cat up there.”
Even though he seemed to want nothing more at that moment than to be helpful, she was apprehensive about him, and for no good reason, she thought. He was friendly and gentlemanly, and she felt guilty about her suspicion. She didn’t want to be the kind of person who distrusts everybody, so they were next approaching the door to her apartment.
“Did you know a cat can live for three weeks without eating?” he asked. “I’ll tell you how I learned that tidbit: I once forgot that I’d promised to feed a cat while a friend of mine was out of town.”
Kelly was now standing at the door to her apartment, which she’d just opened.
“I’ll take it from here,” she said, hoping he’d hand her the groceries, accept her thanks and be on his way. Instead, he said, “Oh no, I didn’t come this far to let you have another cat food spill.” When she still hesitated to let him in her door, he laughed understandingly. “Hey, we can leave the door open like ladies do in old movies. I’ll just put this stuff down and go. I promise.”
She did let him in, but he did not keep his promise.
3 Words to Sum Up This Book
EDUCATIONAL, FASCINATING, UNPUTDOWNABLE
Oh my gosh, boys and girls, it’s been a long-ass while since I last wrote a review! It’s already February and––if I am not mistaken, which is a little embarrassing to admit since this is a review blog––this might just be my first book review of 2021.
In February. As a book review blog.
I know, I know. Ever since I started embarking on my I-shall-read-more-nonfic-to-smarten-ape-brain, my reading speed has gone down by quite a lot. Honestly, it just takes more time for my romance brain to slug through educational non-fiction books. However, no regrets. Your girl has always been championing the importance to step outside of your comfort zone and whatnot, and I try to take my own advice and embrace that as well.
Which, leads us, to the Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.
FEMALES AND WHY THEY SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
I am not saying this to be sexist but as a female myself living in a world seemingly built for men, I cannot stress enough how important Gift of Fear is to enable us, women, to be more intuitive and trust our gut feelings more. As a woman living in the current modern society, there are a lot of things that we have to worry about from the moment that we step out of our house than most men never even think about.
Let me give you a few examples, early in the morning, as soon as you––a female––step out of your house you see a man who you’ve never seen before just casually leaning on a building or a tree smoking a cigarette while scanning the premises. Depending on if there are people around, how far apart you are from said man, your alertness level as a female goes up as well. Constantly scanning our environment for danger, trying to find the best way to let a man down easy so that he didn’t go berserk and kill us, playing coy when all you want to do is yell at him to stop but you don’t know if you can overpower him if he gets violent. Those are the things that we, as females, have to go through at least a few times throughout our lives.
“Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect
while most women fear rape and death.”
That is not me exaggerating, that is just part of living in the 21st century as a female. I am not saying this to fearmonger, why would I when these things––as bad as it sounds now that I mentioned it––are treated as normal in our society. Women have dealt with men and situations like these for decades, and most men are either oblivious to what has been going on or didn’t care.
Again, I am not saying this to be a bitch or to be unfair. These are just the reality of being a female in today’s world. With Gift of Fear, it teaches its readers how to be more perceptive as well as to trust their gut instinct, because however unreasonable our gut instinct might feel at the time, it’s never there to harm. Our intuition has been honed to perfection for hundreds of thousands of years. It has served and protected our ancestors and managed to let humankind survive and continue until today, it would be a shame to not trust it now, would it not?
INTUITION AND TRUST IN SELF
A lot of us have had those times where we enter a place or meet someone, and all of a sudden we have this bad feeling. We don’t exactly know what it was, or where it came from. It seemingly came out of nowhere at all, but we just can’t seem to shake off those feelings no matter how hard we try.
That is gut feeling or our intuition.
Like many others, I have also been guilty of disregarding my gut feeling. In our current society that is fueled by logic, anything that we are unable to explain logically is chalked as superstition. Or overthinking. From Gift of Fear, I learned that our brain––having gone through thousands of years of evolution to get to where it is today–– will never ring the alarm bell unless something is wrong. Our conscious mind might not be able to catch it, but our unconscious mind that is constantly scanning our surroundings for any signs of danger knows better.
“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something.
It always has your best interest at heart.”
Just think about it this way. If you live at home alone, you rarely ever feel scared or not at ease. That is because you know your surroundings and you feel safe. However, if suddenly you suddenly feel uneasy, as if you’re being watched or just in general suddenly felt weary, if you’re at home alone, for most people, they would go and check their surroundings and their house. They would want to know why they suddenly feel the way they do, and for as far as they know, for no good reason at all. They would follow that gut feeling.
But then why, when we’re out in the public, when we’re talking to someone and they give off a vibe that is weird and our instinct is telling us that this person might be bad news, we still continue to give them the benefit of the doubt despite the feelings of unease?
VIOLENCE IS PREDICTABLE
Another shocking thing that I learned from Gift of Fear, is that violence is predictable. From watching the news reporting on serial killers or murders, you’d think that the murders or violence that they commit all came suddenly. No indication of why and how, it was as if all of a sudden, they manage to do something that most of us won’t ever imagine ourselves doing––which is setting a building on fire, killing their own parents, chopping their victims into pieces and so on and so forth.
From Gift of Fear, I learned that whatever gruesome and awful thoughts that any of us have ever thought of, most people have also thought of it before. And for that special few, they have done it. In real life. Just like that time when you got yelled at by your boss, after having a long day at work with nothing going right, haven’t you ever thought of wanting to just go berserk and flip the table over to show just how fed-up you were? Or it could be something worse like choking your boss until s/he goes blue in the face and so on and so forth. We have all have these thoughts before, although it varies in intensity, we’ve all have it before.
Truth is, violence and escalation of it, are predictable. To be able to predict it, we have to find in ourselves pieces of them and in them pieces of ourselves. We––“normal people”––try so hard to distance ourselves from the serial killers and the mass murderers because in our minds we can never be like them. In our effort to distance ourselves and to make us think that we are somehow different from them, it makes us unable to understand and therefore unable to predict.
“Only human beings can look directly at something, have all the information they need to make an accurate prediction, perhaps even momentarily make the accurate prediction, and then say that it isn’t so.”
When we’re unwilling to understand why they do the things they did and are then unable to predict their next action, we’re making ourselves more vulnerable to violence and violent people.
ABUSE IS ADDICTING
Another fun thing that I learned from Gift of Fear: people get addicted to abuse.
I am sure we have all had a friend or a friend of a friend who has been in an abusive relationship, or an abusive household, and yet, however, we try to talk them out of it or to try to get them to seek help, they try but eventually continue to stay in the same relationship. Previous to this book, I have always thought that people who are stuck in abusive relationships lack the resolve or the will to get out of it. It is because they lack the willpower that they continue to stay.
While my perception wasn’t exactly all wrong, it was very far from the truth. Apparently, people stay in abusive relationships because they were addicted to the rollercoaster of emotions. The abusee knows that as long as they hang in there long enough, the calm will come after the storm. The bigger the storm, the more relieved they will be when it ends. Not only that, since we as mammals crave security and predictability, people who are in abusive relationships chose to stay because their relationship is predictable. No matter how bad it gets, it is what they know and what they are familiar with. It takes a lot of willpower to trade the devil that we know for something that is uncertain.
NO IS A SENTENCE
That is it. No is a sentence. Your “no” is not a negotiation or a discussion. If you say no and the other party doesn’t respect your decision, leave. Do not engage any further because if you do, then that means you are giving them a sign that your no is negotiable.
“If you tell someone ten times that you don’t want to talk to him,
you are talking to them—nine more times than you wanted to.”
Remember, if they do not respect your “no”, do not engage. Leave.
Gift of Fear is absolutely one bangin’ ass book. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, definitely give it a try. It’s written in a way that is very easy to understand and not at all condescending. I have learned so much from this book. When previously I would chalk my gut feeling as something that is stupid since I wasn’t able to explain it logically, these days I have put much more importance on it. Most of the things I do in life are a choice, I have learned. And this is just a personal opinion, but if by not listening to my own instinct due to social pressure or social construct that gut feeling is a stupid thing to listen to and in the I find myself ended up in an unfavorable situation, that means I chose to put myself in danger since I actively chose not to heed my own warning bells.
We have to remember that we are all responsible for our own choices. Sure, sometimes gut feelings might be wrong and what we did might have seemed silly in hindsight. But remember, we are the ones who have to live with the consequence of our own choices. It is always, always, always better to be safe and look like a dumdum than be sorry.
Definitely give Gift of Fear a try. I truly cannot recommend it enough.
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