The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

Posted on October 20, 2011. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Every once in a while I find myself in a non-fiction kick. During those times I tend to go a bit overboard on biographies, memoirs and inspirational/self-help titles. An advice columnist that I really enjoy following, Carolyn Hax, recommends this book to many people for a variety of reasons. After hearing it time and time again I finally trekked to the library and put in the request to borrow it, and I am so glad that I did. I have recommended this to quite a few people since reading it, the impression it left on me is definitely a lasting one.

I personally feel that every young woman, going to college, in college, living on her own, moving to a new city or living in the same city she has lived in her entire life should read this book. This book teaches life lessons and life skills that many of us girls are lacking. This is not about self-defense and not meant to scare women about the dangers of the world but it is educational and excellent. There is no substitute for learning the information provided in this book – I wish I had read it years earlier.

Gavin De Becker is a pioneering advisor on navigating dangerous and risky situations involving assignation, stalking and basic survival fear. De Becker owns an agency that protects public figures including politicians and celebrities. Through reading his book you can tell that he is the leader in this type of knowledge. He is smart, he is confident and it shows throughout the book. Additionally, De Becker is confident that with this knowledge we can also be safer, which makes your confidence rise as well.

De Becker gives us some of his back-story on how he ended up in this field and goes through some difficult stories about his childhood. Hearing about his childhood helps us really understand how he was able to hone in and fully develop the heightened awareness he has for survival skills. We also get an excellent glimpse into the mind of someone whose sole profession is protecting others. Getting in on that thought-process is enlightening and helps us better understand how we can start to think that way and protect ourselves better.

The main topics in this book are female safety focused. While De Becker doesn’t want to stereotype, it is fact that many of the situations he describes in the book are female based problems. While men can be victims in the same scenarios, the truth is that women find themselves as the victims more often, focusing on what really is occurring is helpful to us to better prepare ourselves. Topics explored are stalking, trusting our instincts and learning to how to listen to the guidance our instincts are providing, public figure attacks, intimate violence, occupational violence, threats, and violence from children. There are many situations described in the book that we may never ever encounter, but having the knowledge in us ready in case we are in that situation is invaluable. We will never regret teaching ourselves what to do in the rare case we find ourselves there.

The best take-home message for me was learning how to trust our instincts. This book is not meant to make us more afraid or allow fear to take over our lives, it is rather about learning how not to be fearful because we have the ability and knowledge (after reading this) to safely navigate dangers that are presented to us. De Becker really focuses on what biology has given us and how we are ignoring it. Part of us ignoring these survival signals are culture – we are being taught to act in ways that go against this biology and are putting ourselves at risk. De Becker is helping women to break through that culture to put our personal safety first.

As I said before I think this is a book that every young woman should read, most likely more than once. It helped give me courage and strength and after reflecting on what I had read it also did make me feel less freightened and more in charge. I wouldn’t put myself in danger on purpose just to prove that I am in touch with my intuition but I did learn how to trust my intuition more and have thought of some ‘plans’ that I would carry out in a variety of situations, mentally preparing myself ahead of time should I find myself there. I also reflected back on previous encounters where I put many of these biological tools aside in an effort to just ‘be nice’ and I can recognize how I purposefully ignore bells and whistles and warnings and I’m ready to make different choices in those some situations in the future. Excellent read – don’t be scared, fear truly is a gift!

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New Year – New Promises/Goals/Resolutions

Posted on January 5, 2010. Filed under: Everyday Me | Tags: , , , , , , |

I wouldn’t say that I go to the gym regularly, but I don’t not go regularly either. I’m an average gym user – just really out to get my money’s worth from the membership and stay in shape to a certain extent. Well that being said I went last night – January 4th and what I forgot was that about 5 days ago at least a million or so people pledged that in 2010 (two thousand and ten or twenty ten whichever you prefer) they would go to the gym and lose weight which made the gym: crazy, packed, out of control, uncomfortable, etc etc. It was intense to say the least. But I’m not really here to vent on and on about how crazy crowded the gym was and how I can’t wait for it to calm down in about 3 weeks (though I really can’t wait for it to calm down). I’m also not here to push people to bail out and fail their resolutions of loosing weight (but if it gets them out of my usually empty classes then I may be for it…). Alas, I am here to lay on the line what I’m thinking resolution-wise for myself in 2010.

Back in December I talked with a few friends about this resolution business: should I have one, what would it be, what should I aspire to do or not do, etc…. And at least 3 of my friends confided that they didn’t actually intend to create a resolution at all. They were going to go into 2010 sans-resolution and just live life. That seemed like a principle I could live with! Then I went to the gym and if all those people have at least one resolution maybe I should reconsider my stance on that. I’ve come up with a few resolutions, mostly long-term, some maybe more goal oriented than resolution oriented but either way you look at it I have a few things on my plate that I will do my best to motivate myself to do (and be) in 2010:

1. Be a nicer person everyday…

This is quasi-new to me. I do make a general effort to be a happy, nice and cheerful person but sometimes life truly gets the better of me. Not to say that NJ people are mean or negative in any way shape or form, but hailing from the garden state has given me a good ‘edge’. I honk at people, I have little to-no patience and overall if I have an opinion I’m going to put it out there for you to hear – this is the old me. The new/resolution-ized version of myself will try to sing along to the song on the radio instead of honking (all bets are off if there’s a commercial on!), count to 10 in an effort to develop patience  (or at least put on a front that I have some before loosing my cool) and bite my tongue if nothing positive will come of releasing my opinion. I’ve tried biting my tongue more in adverse situations and the result thus far is pretty favorable. Yelling, arguing and getting angry really doesn’t help many (if any) situations. The more I’ve bitten my tongue the more people have been willing to work with and help me when I need it. Normally yelling gets people defensive, angry and upset and that’s not helpful at all! So this one may actually stick. I have no promises on how long I’ll be anti-horn-honking though…

2. Don’t take the pessimistic, negative scapegoat route – try to stay on the positive and see the silver lining to even the crummiest of situations.

I’m an advice-column junkie…and this goal was inspired by an advice column I glanced at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/03/AR2010010301563.html .

In short – it’s super easy to be negative and see things in a truly ugly light. For instance, if you have to go to a meeting daily it’s never “woo hoo I get away from my desk for 20 minutes, get to chat and maybe score some free food” it’s usually “UGH another meeting…”. So I’m going to try to take the high road and turn the lemons into lemonade (spiked lemonade possibly) and see how that treats me. I truly believe that even thinking of a crappy situation with a positive spin if not true, will at least will bring a smile to your face because of how off base it is (ie: I spilled coffee on my shirt on the metro this morning and it is truly great because I was really hoping to have a good reason to snag that blouse I’ve been eyeing in the window of Banana Republic for at least 3 weeks – can’t wait till lunch after wearing the dirty shirt for 3 hours to pick it up!!)

3. Getting over my technological dependency

Do I really want to check work-emails (or any email for that matter) while I’m lounging on a beach on vacation? Unless you are really truly forced to, who would honestly want to do that? And how many of us have gone on vacations this year and JUMPED at the opportunity to check email when they even glanced at an available computer. A few years ago I vowed to stop checking email on vacation – getting an absolutely horrible email while you’re away and can’t do anything about  just ruins the vacation, so for a while I stopped, now I’m back on the “I must know what’s in my inbox at all times” train but I’m going to do my best to kick that habit when it’s not absolutely necessary and really start to  enjoy myself on vacation!

4. Enjoy life

Stop and smell the roses (or cherry blossoms), walk at a nice slow pace instead of rushing, walk home more, look around and notice things (little things like signs, etc), wave to people in the booths in parking garages, etc. Just do the things I enjoy at a nice enjoyable pace. If I’m 5 minutes late to something that’s not really important: who cares?! Life is about the experience and I’m really going to try to make 2010 a good one for myself and those around me! 🙂

Anyone else come up with some great/good/average/exciting resolutions for the New Year? Feel free to share if you have any! 🙂

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