The Gift of Fear – Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

I read this book as it came highly recommended from different Reddit forums dealing with relationships, abuse and spotting possible stalker behaviour.
The book was indeed very good but I can’t say that the tagline “This book will literally save your life” is indeed applicable. It goes with a lot of common sense and helps identify possibly threatening behaviour, all the time putting an accent on the fact that living in permanent paranoia is not the key to survival but allowing your instincts to detect when something is amiss.

By using several examples and his extensive experience in the field, Gavin de Becker teaches us how to spot and how to respond to a possible bad situation.

Key Lessons from “The Gift of Fear”:

  1. Be Aware of Body Language and Forced Teaming
  2. There’s a Way to Tell If a Bomb Threat Is Real or Not
  3. Don’t Get Addicted to the Cycle of Abuse: Tell Someone

What I liked about the book, it came in easy to read chapters and it was split into abusive relationships, work-related dangers and the problems with dating. It also covers stalkers, serial killers and attention seekers (including school shooters).

When it comes to an attacker approaching a victim, he or she will use some subtle manipulation techniques including something called “Forced Teaming”.

Be Aware of Body Language Forced Teaming

Antelopes are not nearly as smart as humans, but they seem to know better than us to detect danger. The sad thing is that we may be just as good as them – but we ignore the signals.

And there are many. For example, jutting jaws, flaring nostrils and unblinking eyes are almost certain leadups to violence. Also, something the police calls “forced teaming,” i.e. someone trying to befriend you in a forceful manner.

Examples include: using the word “We” when it is something that only they want, trying to talk too much about why they are there and what they are doing (flooding the victim with so much information it’s hard to detect what’s actually valid and what’s not) and offering to help with something that the victim does not need any help with. Usually insisting and pushing boundaries after hearing a first “no”.

Another thing he covers are possible terrorist attacks:

There’s a Way to Tell If a Bomb Threat Is Real or Not

Bomb threats are fairly common, but in most of these cases, there are actually no bombs involved. The goal of the perpetrator is usually to cause panic.

So, don’t give him the pleasure when you are able to call the bluff!

And there are few ways to tell. The main: if the caller uses dramatic or aggressive voice and/or he’s overly emotional, he’s probably harmless. The real threat comes from very patient, rational and usually smart men who can organize things well.

The chapter on spousal abuse was very well written

Don’t Get Addicted to the Cycle of Abuse: Tell Someone

There’s something psychologist call “The Stockholm Syndrome.” It’s actually an unconscious survival strategy: hostages side with their captors.

Almost the exact same thing happens in cases of domestic violence. Victims numb down their instinct and fear, confusing the non-violent periods for kindness.

The book is well written and about 45% of it is useful. The rest is filled with personal views, case studies and the same example repeated in different formats. I understand he had to “dumb it down” so that all people get it but for me it was a bit tedious reading about the same Kelly doing the same decision which led to her misfortune.  The great parts are: how to act when approached by a stranger; when you should fear someone close to you; what to do if you are being stalked; how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls; the biggest mistake you can make with a threatening person; and more.

You can learn to spot the danger signals others miss.

The bad parts: the life and adventures of Gavin de Becker, the man Oprah Winfrey calls the US’ leading expert on violent behaviour‘, who is sometimes a braggart. Instead of buying this book and wading through his self-promotion you could just tell yourself “be more alert in dangerous situations and act if you feel threatened” the end result is the same.

I would say 3/5

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