The current culture on fear is that it is debilitating. Fear will hinder you, we are told. It has become a battle cry of sorts to success – that if we could only shut down fear we could fully be free. In certain instances this is justified and liberating. But I hesitate to eradicate all fear from my life, because it might just save me. I first “read” the book “the Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that protect us from Violence”* by Gavin De Becker over fifteen years ago. It was a suggested text that a college professor had added to his syllabus and offered extra credit for answering questions about. Hence the word read in quotation marks – I basically skimmed though it, fascinated by what I gathered along by fact-finding mission. Recently, though, in my ever developing quest to know myself better and hone my skills sharper I have read many books that led me back to this one in particular and I am working my way though it methodically – being constantly surprised by what I am learning.
There are safety points to take away, for sure but I hadn’t realized that many of what I considered “normal for me actions” that I do daily might be dulling my intuition of a possible dangerous situation. For example, I am a talker and an over sharer by nature – and someone who believes in a rally to boot (much to the dismay of my husband and often times children). I have no problem talking to strangers and bringing people together so we can work as a team. I have routinely embraced perfect strangers with a “we’re all in this together attitude” and given unsolicited information “I am a Mom, too”! to bring about comfort and camaraderie in situations where I felt other people needed a little support.
Apparently, criminals will employ the very same tactics in order to coerce a victim into dismissing his or her survival signals. Once I read this (and really allowed it to sink in) I first wondered if I was a manipulative criminal-in-the-making. Based on the fact that I spend hours praying for the safety, security and elimination of violence from the lives of all of living creatures, I was willing to bet I wasn’t in that category. The second thought was equally as terrifying – would I be able to read a criminal using those strategies against me? Or would I assume that he or she was a kindred spirit? Yikes!
One day, when Big Sister was a baby, I took her out for a walk (in her stroller) and it started to rain (rain is really an understatement here – it was a torrential down pour). Multiple cars stopped for me but they were all men, and though I didn’t really think any of them had stopped in order to abduct or kill me (or my baby) I couldn’t be sure, so I declined and cheerfully jogged home while my baby happily splashed her hands in her tray and shrieked joyfully at get soaked. One man even pointed to a car seat in his truck and offered that he was a husband and father – but that he got it that I was turning him down and hoped his wife would do the same thing. No harm done. The book continues to highlight the ways criminals hope to ensnare a victim and although establishing trust “I am a husband and father – here’s the evidence” and “I get it” could have been giving me too many details – his actions – praising me for not trusting a stranger and leaving when I declined help, ran counter to his likelihood of trying to capture us.
What I have learned so far in rereading it is a wake-up as to two-fold motive checking (one – my own and two – the motives of those around me), an evaluative tool that I can stand to have in my toolbox. I have a pretty fair track record of listening to my intuition and having it keep me safe (admittedly I do not live or work in a dangerous or high-crime area which could change the statistics). As with any gift though, it is only of value when you believe in its worth and I hope that my fear will serve me that way.
*I should tell you I am not affiliated with any sort of sponsorship of this book and both times that I have had it in my possession, it has been on loan from a local library. This is in no way an ad for the material, but I am hoping that you check it out and see if benefits you.