A Nurse with a Gun

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Gift of Fear

How does one know when an attack is imminent?
How does one tell when a verbal confrontation is about to escalate into a physical fight?
How does one discern whether an adversary has lethal intent or is trying to intimidate?

Intuition is perhaps the most valuable asset a potential victim of crime can have. Without intuition, a victim will invariably wait until an attack begins before reacting. By that time the outcome of the encounter is almost a forgone conclusion. Later, if the victim survives, they often wonder what they could have done to avoid the encounter. What did they miss? How could they have known? Friends gather to comfort the victim, and themselves, by saying nobody can predict random violence. They are wrong. It does not have to be that way.

Gavin deBeckerIn 1997, Gavin deBecker wrote a landmark book in the dual fields of criminal psychology and self defense, The Gift of Fear. DeBecker's work in the field of predicting criminal behavior earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He was twice appointed to the President's Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Justice, and was a principal advisor on the federal research project into mentally ill people who stalk public figures. He served two years on the Governor's Advisory Board at the California Department of Mental Health. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy. As a consultant to many major media figures, government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and universities, he has overseen the assessment and management of more than 25,000 cases. Clients include the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Los Angeles County District's Attorney's Office, and many others.

In The Gift of Fear, deBecker explores the idea that the human animal is the only animal that rationalizes away it's fear. Every other animal on the planet uses survival instincts to avoid attack and thus continue to live. In humans these instincts are known as intuition. Because intuition is not logical and not understood, it is discounted. That is a mistake.

I first read The Gift of Fear back in 1998. This book is often overlooked in the realm of armed self defense, simply because deBecker is not a gun advocate. A book does not need to advocate concealed carry of lethal weapons to be relevant to self defense. The Gift of Fear is a very relevant book for those who have considered the acute possibility of a lethal attack in their future, and who want to prepare for it. Violent acts do not occur without warning. Trusting and honing one's intuition, or gut feelings if you prefer, will allow you to see the warning signs, and may save your life. The Gift of Fear is an engrossing read, but more importantly, it will place you on the path of fostering that intuition.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post - this is a tremendously helpful book. I've given away three copies so far.

It's available used on amazon for just a couple of dollars.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous kbyrd said...

Humans rationalize away their fear becuase it's socially awkward or embarassing. My cat jumps if I come down the hallway with too heavy footsteps. I have never and would never harm this cat, it's never been abused by humans. We think it's silly that the cat doesn't know better. To the cat it's better to be safe than sorry.

DeBecker gives an example in the book about women not wanting to appear impolite to strangers, especially ones offering help. After all, if somoene approaches you in a parking garage and offers to help you carry groceries in, you should be gracious and accept the help. It's silly to be afraid of this person even if something seems not right. Better safe than sorry.

I really like this book, I feel it's apart of what helped me decide to own firearms, even thought that happened many years later.

1:51 PM  
Blogger redmemory1 said...

I too appreciate DeBecker and his ideas very much. It is so important to realize that your senses are not going to let you down in the moment. Thanks for reminding me of The Gift of Fear and its relevance again.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous addison said...

I read the book, and it's almost good.

The problem is, Becker spends 99% of the book telling you "You don't need some sort of specialized training. Trust your feelings".

But then "Whatever you do, don't get a gun, whatever you hold holy, that's only for us trained, experienced professionals! What, you wanted me to stay consistant?"

If his hypothesis is correct, then his stance on individuals "arming" themselves (as if most of us aren't armed even if we don't have a gun (And, if I recall correctly, he spends a lot of time in the book mentioning that sort of "unarmed" resistance)) is a total crock.

That elitist denunciation (after writing a book denouncing elitist denunciations) poisions the entire well of what would otherwise be a great book.

3:55 PM  

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