Last published in 1998, Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence is an oldie but goodie that is still as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. I initially picked it up expecting a dry, scientific interpretation of fear and found riveting stories and exceptional insight from a man whose career depends on his ability to predict violence.
This is a must-read for anyone who owns a firearm for protection against personal and family threats of violence. We must be able to differentiate between, and correctly respond to, actual life threatening situations and inconsequential head noise. Although de Becker does not challenge our second amendment right, he frequently outlines the possession of firearms as an indicator to violence and even wrote a separate appendix section focusing on “Gun Safety.”
De Becker explains that fear is not an emotion, but a survival instinct, and when we concentrate on listening to these instincts, it can save our lives. He outlines messengers of intuition and the tools criminals use to keep people from seeing these survival instincts, all flushed out in a harrowing, real life situations from de Becker’s career.
De Becker goes on to write about his ability to make high stake predictions of violence in the workplace, casual relationships, dating relationships, domestic violence, children, and against public figures. Using the most important element of prediction, pre-incident indicators (PINs), de Becker created a computer-assisted model, MOSAIC, to conduct comprehensive threat assessments. For example, De Becker focused on 30 PINs in the chapter “Intimate Enemies” which he claims can prevent America’s most predictable murders – intimate partner homicide. Although not every PIN will exist in each domestic violence situation, just having a few, can signal eminent danger and the lifesaving necessity to flee from the aggressor.
In conclusion, fear is not worry, which is time consuming and fruitless. Real fear is a brief signal of intuition, not an emotional state for people to reside in. It is our role to assure that we do not link fear to inappropriate situations, and to live life to the fullest, in the moment, relying on our intuition to guide us away from violence.