Books 29 Mar 2008 09:34 am

Fear for thought



A friend highly recommended Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. He had been assigned to read it as part of a self-defense class and found it illuminating. That kind of recommendation is hard to pass up.

De Becker’s book is worthwhile, especially for women. I’m not being sexist by saying that. The author points out that most violence in America is performed by men and that most victims are women. Hence, his examples are (almost) exclusively of violence toward women perpetrated by men, usually men with whom they have some passing acquaintance.

That’s not to say the book isn’t worthwhile for men. If you have a wife, girlfriend, daughters, nieces and female friends, the book has great value. Even if you don’t, the chapters on “Survival Signals,” “Imperfect Strangers,” “Persistence, Persistence,” “Occupational Hazards,” and “Fear of Children” are right on the money.

Some of the situations de Becker deals with are how to properly hire and fire employees to minimize the threat of violence in the workplace, whether parents are in danger from children (and how to avoid having it happen), and common tricks used by stalkers and intimidators that cause us to lower our instinctive intuition and allow them access to our lives.

The final chapter, “The Gift of Fear,” talks about how anxiety is different than fear, how it blunts the natural fear instinct which is vital for survival in truly life-threatening situations, and how to live free from worry. It’s an ambitious agenda, and de Becker isn’t entirely successful, but he certainly gives the reader his money’s worth in things to consider carefully.

My daughter doesn’t love to read, but I’m going to urge her to give this book a whirl. She is approaching college age, a time when she will be much less dependent on her parents, so de Becker’s advice for honing the intuition and staying alert (but not neurotically so) is important. I want her to be able to recognize common trust-building techniques used by potential stalkers, how to say no forcefully without feeling guilty about it, how women in abusive relationships are victims the first time they are abused but choose to be victims the second time it happens (a controversial opinion, but de Becker makes his case), and why she should never discount that little voice inside her that says, “This is a bad idea/situation/person.”

One Response to “Fear for thought”

  1. on 06 Apr 2008 at 1.Friend said …

    Glad you liked it.

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