Recently I started reading the extraordinary book, “The Gift of Fear.” Written by Gavin de Becker, a specialist in security issues, primarily for governments, large corporations, and celebrities, de Becker discusses the innate survival signals all humans have that protect us from violence. de Becker has been featured on “Oprah” a few times and his message is amazing. We all have within us the ability to protect ourselves from danger.
Because I feel that every person, especially WOMEN, need to read this book, I’ve decided to discuss a chapter of the book as a regular feature on my blog. You need to read this book! I have already learned so much and I’m only 70 pages into it.
de Becker starts the book by telling the story of “Kelly” who was brutally raped by a stranger in her apartment and lived to tell about it. de Becker worked with Kelly to help her identify the signals the rapist put off warning her of his intentions. He also helps her see where her intuition guided her and helped her survive this brutal attack.
What I love about his book is de Becker’s discussion on intuition. de Becker asserts that intuition, or a “gut feeling,” or our human instincts, are innate in all humans as a defense mechanism and guide. The biggest problem is that we often deny our own instincts and talk ourselves out of our natural gut reactions to people and circumstances. We women are socialized to “be nice” and we are more susceptible to talking ourselves out of our natural instincts. Like with Kelly, her rapist approached her in her apartment building and offered her help with her groceries. Her immediate gut reaction was dislike of this man. There was no logically reason for her not to like this nice, good-looking man who was offering her help, and so she talked herself out of trusting her instincts. The trust she put in him was what allowed him to enter her apartment and rape her. Luckily she listened to her instincts and quietly walked right out of her apartment after he raped her and into the safety of her neighbor’s apartment as her rapist was looking for a knife to kill her (after he promised her he was just going to get a drink of water and then leave). Something in his actions after the rape informed Kelly that he was planning on killing her and she used “the gift of fear” to walk right out.
My favorite paragraph from the first chapter is:
“It may be hard to accept its importance, because intuition is usually looked upon by us thoughtful Western beings with contempt. It is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable. We much prefer logic, the grounded, explainable, unemotional thought process that ends in a supportable conclusion. In fact, Americans worship logic, even with it’s proven wrong, and deny intuition, even when it’s right.”
This is so right on! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked myself out of a gut feeling just because there’s no reason for me to have it. Luckily for me, I also listen to my intuition a lot and gotten myself out of situations, even if there was no logical explanation for me to do so. I don’t know if this has ever helped me avoid danger, but I’m alive today, so maybe it did. I also get these gut feelings that something is wrong or something is right and I try to listen to those as often as I acknowledge that they are there.
Another favorite quote from Chapter 1:
“Intuition connects us to the natural world and to our nature. Freed from the bonds of judgment, married only to perception, it carries us to predictions we will later marvel at. ‘Somehow I knew,’ we will say about the chance meeting we predicted, or about the unexpected phone call from a distant friend, or the unlikely turnaround in someone’s behavior, or about the violence we steered clear of, or, too often, the violence we elected not to steer clear of.”
There is one concrete time in my life I can think of that I “knew” something before I knew it. I was at work one day and the thought came to my mind, “my sister is pregnant.” I came home from work and the hubs insisted I call my sister. I was distracted by something so he literally dialed her number and stuck the phone in my face. She told me that she was pregnant. My response? “I know.” This also happened the last time I was pregnant. My sister knew I was pregnant before I even did. I told her the same day I found out that I was pregnant and she said that she had already known for about a month. It’s crazy, really.
Another important thing that de Becker asserts in Chapter 1 is that we can predict human behavior. Often we say that something “came out of nowhere” or “no one could have predicted that would happen.” de Becker assures us that we can. He uses the example of driving a car and how we predict with amazing accuracy the behavior of other drivers. He says we unconsciously read tiny untaught signals and we expect all drivers to act just as we would, so therefore we are alert to those who don’t. He uses this as an example for predicting violent behavior, but I think it applies in all aspects of human life.
What I love about this first chapter is it puts the power in the individual’s hands. I don’t have to be afraid if I know that I can trust my intuition to help protect me and also if I know that I will be able to predict the actions of others. Having the power placed in my hands give me the courage to know that although I cannot control my environment or the actions of others, I can control how I react to them. Also, I think we use our intuition not to just protect us from danger, but to guide us in the right paths our lives should take. I believe that intuition is God given and we are neglecting this gift if we don’t use it.