We always recommend The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, to attendees of our self-protection presentations. I wanted to talk a little bit more about it for the benefit of the blog readers, simply because it should be required reading for anyone who values his or her life! Even if you have no desire whatsoever to step into a dojo and learn how to fight (you’re probably not reading this blog anyway), or learn how to carry and use a firearm, would it still be worth it to you to gain some insight into violent behavior and how to predict it? Whether we wish to acknowledge it, most of us will be touched by violence either directly or indirectly (family, friends, acquaintances). There will never be enough resources or manpower to ensure that each and every one of us is safe 24/7. The responsibility lies with me, and with you, to ensure personal safety. No, it cannot be guaranteed 100 percent. That’s unrealistic. We may not be able to escape being targeted, but we can certainly make ourselves a hard target. Most of the game is mental. So, feed your mind with the right material to open your awareness to the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle clues that assist you to act in accordance within your own best interest: staying alive. Above all, listen to the voice inside you that nudges you into action even when conscious perception and logic do not coincide with it. Call it your intuition, or your sixth sense. I don’t care what you call it, but learn to heed it. Your subconscious mind processes so many subtle perceptions that your conscious mind glosses over or discards. I’ve probably said it before: unlike other species, we humans can override our intuition. De Becker illustrates this in a funny little example. When a deer is standing in the woods and it perceives danger, does it brush it off and think, “Oh, it’s probably nothing.”? No, I think not. The survival system kicks in and it takes off.
De Becker goes into detail about the process of violence. The pre-incident indicators (PINs), or clear warning signs, are almost always available to people, but must be perceived, analyzed and evaluated, and utilized towards a decision and plan of action. Decision without action is pointless in a crisis situation. Your action could be a decision to do nothing, as in the case of people who can’t let go. He discusses the engage and enrage principle here. The point is this: denial of pre-incident indicators is not in your best interest.
There is so much valuable information in this book that applies to so many situations, and I could go on all day about it. It is the kind of text that you read over and over again and pick up a new pearl of wisdom every time. The main theme of the book is what we harp on all the time: you have to open your awareness and be in a state of vigilance (Condition Yellow) all the time. It must become a habit. Denial does not serve you. Nor does cluelessness. Educate yourself and follow the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared! And get this book, of course. J