Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, may just be the single most important book I’ve ever read. The sub-title of the book is “and other survival signals that protect us from violence.”
My biggest takeaway from reading the book is confirmation and validation of something I’ve always believed … but didn’t always know how spot on the belief was and didn’t always practice. Here’s the takeaway: our instincts are always right. Doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, if your instincts, guts, inner voice–whatever it is you want to call it–tell you something’s wrong, something’s wrong!
Contrary to what many will try to tell you, what de Becker calls instinct isn’t a 6th sense. It’s not something woo-woo, it’s not clairvoyance, it’s not ESP. Actually, it’s way more logical than that. In fact, it’s precisely like the processing of a computer. For example, I’m 56 years old. I’ve lived on this earth for 56 years and have experienced 56 years’ worth of interactions with other people. Every single moment of my life was recorded by the computer inside my head. And, like a computer, my brain processed those sights, sounds, smells, and stored them away for future use. My instincts are the embodied in the future. When my instincts tell me something’s wrong, something’s wrong. I may not know exactly what’s wrong, or why, but I can take the warning to the bank because the processor in my brain has evaluated all the facts and has spotted something out of kilter.
de Becker talks about pre-incident indicators, what he calls PINs. No one is ever violent without first giving clues to the impending violence. And, the majority of violence can be avoided if we pay attention to our surroundings and the people in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The PINs are always there. He also proves that fear, when respected, is not only a survival instinct, it’s your friend.
I read The Gift of Fear on the heels of reading Fight Like a Girl … and Win by Lori Hartman Gervasi. Although Fight Like a Girl is touted as a self-defense book (the sub-title is Defense Decisions for Women), it’s more a how-to about how to prevent putting ourselves in situations that are threatening or violent than it is about how to physically defend ourselves. It’s practical and after reading it, I picked up dozens of tips about how to keep myself safe. I especially liked Gervasi’s advice about how all sorts of everyday household contents have the potential to be serious weapons in the event an unwanted person (read: man) enters your home, threatens you, and you need to defend yourself.
You can’t go wrong reading this books. In fact, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you do so. Especially if you read them in the order I did: Gervasi’s book first, from a woman’s perspective, which views all the potential violence that’s out there and then de Becker’s book, from a man’s perspective, which is also that of a person who lived with violence as a child and grew up to be the premier security expert in the world.
P.S. Many thanks to Alain Burrese, for recommending Gervasi’s book when he helped me with some research I was doing, and to both Alain and Gervasi for recommending The Gift of Fear.