Discussion – "The Gift of Fear," Chapter 5

Before I begin talking about this chapter, I want to make it clear that Gavin de Becker wrote this book to help people not to become victims of crime. We can use our intuition and ability to predict to help us out in dangerous situations. The gift of fear that de Becker is talking about it the innate, internal fear we have when our intuition senses a dangerous situation or person. He is not talking about worries or fears that hold us back in our life.

To quote from page 72, de Becker states, “Intuition is always learning, and though it may occasionally send a signal that turns out to be less then urgent, everything it communicates to you is meaningful. Unlike worry, it will not waste your time. Intuition might send any of several messengers to get your attention, and because they differ according to urgency, it is good to know the ranking. The intuitive signal of the highest order, the one with the greatest urgency, is fear; accordingly, it should always be listened to. The next level is apprehension, then suspicion, then hesitation, doubt, gut feelings, hunches, and curiosity. There are also nagging feelings, persistent thoughts, physical sensations, wonder, and anxiety. Generally speaking, these are less urgent. By thinking about these signals with an open mine when they occur, you will learn how you communicate with yourself.”
Chapter 5: Imperfect Strangers


This chapter is all about using our ability to make predictions to help us in choosing those we want closest to us. Whether it be a babysitter, or an employer, or even a mate. Wouldn’t you love it if all the women in abusive relationships could have predicted that when their mate was acting possessive in the beginning that that behavior is not flattering and will turn to more substantial abuse in the future?
De Becker states that human behavior, like gravity, is bound by certain rules. Not all rules apply all the time, but neither do the physical rules of gravity. De Becker states, “With behavior, as with gravity, context will govern, but there are some broad strokes that can be fairly applied to most of us:
We seek connection with others.
We are saddened by loss and try to avoid it.
We dislike rejection.
We like recognition and attention.
We will do more to avoid pain than we will do to seek pleasure.
We dislike ridicule and embarrassment.
We care what others think of us.
We seek a degree of control over our lives.”
De Becker says we can use these assumptions to predict the behavior of others. For example, the employee that goes on a shooting spree at work is reacting to one of these variables, usually, and not something outside of himself. De Becker says, “no matter how aberrant the person whose behavior you seek to predict, no matter how different from him you may be or want to be, you must find in him a part of yourself, and in yourself a part of him” in order for predictions to be accurate.
One thing I love about this chapter is de Becker points out that we may encounter people who have vastly different standards of behavior and vastly different ways of perceiving the same events. De Becker says, “for example, some people operate without listening to their consciences; they do not care about the welfare of others, period.” When I think of a person like this, I think of a sociopath. De Becker mentions the author of the book, Without Conscience, written by Robert D. Hare. He give us very specific attributes to identifying psychopaths/sociopaths:
Glib and superficial
Egocentric and Grandiose
Laking remorse or guilt
Deceitful and Manipulative
Impulsive
In need of excitement
Lacking responsibility
Emotionally shallow
You’re thinking of someone you know, aren’t you? I know I’m thinking of a few people in my personal life and my work life that fit the bill.
De Becker goes on to point out how to identify specific behaviors from criminals that women should keep their eye on. I’m not going to go into the whole list, but I think we all know when someone is acting inappropriately or someone oversteps the boundaries of social norms. Reading this chapter really helps you become consciously aware of when people are over-stepping those boundaries and listening to how your intuition reacts to them. This can help you identify someone who is just really friendly by nature, and someone who wishes to do you harm.
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