Gavin de Becker’s THE GIFT OF FEAR

This is a gripping book that won’t let you out of its grasp until you get to the end. But it’s not a thriller. Instead, its a primer on how to deal with violence that can intrude into our lives at any time.

Gavin de Becker is well-versed in the cost of violence to society. He came from a family in which violence was a part of daily life, and he heads a company dedicated to protecting people from it.

But this book is not a cliched recital of facts. Nor does it encourage you to go around fearful and clutching at your keys. What I thought was most valuable about this book was de Becker’s insistence that we learn to distinguish from ordinary worry, which decreases our ability to be fully present, and fear, which can save our lives. For example, the book opens with a gripping story in which a victim saved her own life by getting up and following her attacker out of her apartment. Later, she said she felt possessed as she traveled down that corridor silently behind him, and exited to safety while he went into her kitchen to look for a knife. She explained that her inner voice had told her to do this, promising her it would get her out of this horrible situation alive.

This is what de Becker means when he talks about the gift of fear. It is that inner voice which can read situations very fast, so fast that there is literally no time to think about it. In our secular rationalistic society, people often feel embarrassed that they take a dislike to someone on sight, that they feel uncomfortable getting into an elevator with that person, that something just didn’t feel right. But how silly to pay attention to such vague feelings. Because intuition can be so unreliable. Right?

Wrong! says de Becker. While it might be true that intuition can be unreliable, it is still valuable to listen carefully to these warnings. We have all had these experiences. I remember one sunny day walking out by myself along a path frequented by joggers and cyclists. On this particular occasion there was no-one in sight, either to the front or back of me. And yet I did not feel like continuing upon that path. So I turned around and walked back. Nothing happened. Was I right, or wrong? I don’t know. But at least I didn’t suffer through a horrible experience.

For anyone who worries about personal safety, buy this book and read it frequently. It achieves the right balance between being prudent and realistic, and making your life a misery with too much worry. Five stars.

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