Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: The Gift of Fear

Several weeks ago, I attended a free seminar on protecting children from child abuse. In the novel I began writing for the 2009 Nanowrimo, I have a character that is a victim of child abuse. Thus, I thought it would be beneficial to glean some insights into the statistics and the common characteristics of this situation.

The speaker of the day mentioned this book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence, by Gavin deBecker. It turned out to be a fascinating read. Plus, when a Bible study member requested prayer for her daughter who was being harassed by an ex-boyfriend, I was able to suggest the book for wisdom on how to handle the persistence of this individual.

Gavin deBecker is the nation's leading expert on predicting violent behavior. Responding to a childhood rife with violence, deBecker became an astute student of the clues that lead up to moments of violence and criminal behavior. He argues that "true fear is a gift." Our intuition is meant to alert us with signals of impending danger. Listening to our intuition is key.

Far too often, we tend to refute our own intuitive feelings about something. When something seems unusual, instead of looking at it more closely, we discount our concerns as being ridiculous.

Because violence and assaults are scary and intense, oftentimes people will distance themselves from the violence another family has endured. They do this to make themselves feel immune to the dangers with an attitude of "this would never happen to my family because we ..."

As Gavin deBecker put it:

"Even having learned these facts of life and death, some readers will still compartmentalize the hazards in order to exclude themselves 'Sure there's a lot of violence, but that's in the inner city'; 'Yeah, a lot of women are battered, but I'm not in a relationship now'; 'Violence is a problem for younger people, or older people'; 'You're only at risk if you're out late at night'; 'People bring it on themselves,' and on and on."

Plus, we often respond to threats (such as the threat of a harassing ex-boyfriend) in ways that further engage the violent individual. The author clearly outlines tactics used to bait you into their devious schemes and escalating intentions. He outlines how to make accurate predictions about another person's behavior.

In addition to the wealth of stories he presents as he outlines the clues for survival, Gavin deBecker also provides resources for those observing signals of danger. He provides a list of questions to present to your school to assess their diligence in providing safety for students.

This was a captivating and informative book. I would recommend it for individuals who have been through an assault and wish to review their moments of denial of intuition and for those who are involved in manipulative relationships (especially those who remain entrenched in the dialogue when they should cease all interaction). But, really, anyone interested in observing human nature and how we respond to intuition and danger would gain something from this book.


Elizabeth A. said...

I've seen this man on Oprah several times. I agree with you, his advice is dead on if you're in a potentially violent situation.

I hope the book helps your friend. I've had an ex like that and it's scary.

Wendy said...

Yes, Liz, too often people get sucked right back into bad relationships because they think they can communicate their way to change, when really the best path is complete non-response.