Lifestyle / Sam's Thoughts

reading to save your life: the gift of fear

I’m an avid reader, and I always have been. Growing up, my family didn’t believe in cable television, so I spent a lot of time curled up with a paperback in hand, slipping in and out of my world of imagination.

The older I get, the harder it is to find the time to sit down and read a good book. The other problem I always run in to is finding the right kind of book to sink my teeth into.

Lately I’ve been floating between fiction, self-help guides, and memoirs. I’ve been taking a lot of suggestions of what to read from The Everygirl and they have not been wrong! It seems the library is always calling me to let me know another book is ready for pickup. I love it! My eyes absolutely love staring at the pages of a physical book instead of another screen, and honestly it feels so good to support my local library system (shout out to Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Libraries– you’ve got it together!)

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Recently I picked up a book titled, The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker. And then I proceeded to not be able to put it down.

First thoughts: Well, it was published in 1999…so it’s probably super outdated and I will learn nothing from it. What’s it even about anyway? Oh well Oprah recommended it so I guess that’s got to count for something. Here goes nothing.

Half way through the book: Holy cow, these situations are SO relevant! I’ve thought those things before! Oh my gosh that could have been me! I need to start listening to my fear!

After closing the cover for the last time: Every single woman in the world needs to read this. Immediately.


This book has single-handedly changed the way I view my intuition and fear-indicators. As a woman, I’ve been told all of my life that I am dramatic. I’ve been told if I say no to a situation in which I’m uncomfortable that I am a prude. I’ve been called a bitch. I’ve been guilted into compromising situations because I am terrified of the person I am dealing with. I’ve spent all of my life in fear, but sometimes I don’t listen to what I’m telling myself for fear of what others will think or say about me.

Recently in a conversation with my boyfriend, he mentioned that it’s odd to him that I will on occasion tell him that someone of the opposite sex approached me and after our short interaction, left his number with me, when he would never accept the same from a pushy woman.

This is how I responded:

Imagine you are me, a small, generally weak girl. A man comes up to you with his intentions very clear; he’s interested in you. While you try to remain polite, he pulls information from you, things you really don’t want him to know about you, but you’re alone, and the only thing you can think is how to casually extract yourself from this situation. You drop hints about your boyfriend waiting at home, but this man is pushy, and won’t take your very valid no for an answer. So when he asks for your number, all you can think of is to offer to take his, coupled with the empty promise to send him your number in return. And then you turn around and leave, as quickly as possible, and your heart doesn’t stop racing until you are in the safety of your locked car once again.

This is the life of a woman. Sometimes I forget what life can be like without that fear. It’s accompanied me every time I walk alone after dark. It follows me through the parking garage at my work. It waits for me, outside of my home’s windows after dark when I am alone. It’s always there.

Reading this book gave me the strength to recognize the importance of listening to those fears. De Becker offers incredibly scary, real-life scenarios and dissects their outcomes according to the science behind our intuitions. He offers practical advice for reasonably thinking through a situation and choosing the safest option for ourselves, as opposed to what society would suggest.

Every day, people engaged in the clever defiance of their own intuition become, in mid-thought, victims of violence and accidents. So, when we wonder why we are victims so often, the answer is clear: It is because we are so good at it. A woman could offer no greater cooperation to her soon-to-be attacker than to spend her time telling herself, “But he seems like such a nice man.” Yet this is exactly what many people do. A woman is waiting for an elevator, and when the doors open she sees a man inside who causes her apprehension. Since she is not usually afraid, it may be the late hour, his size, the way he looks at her, the rate of attacks in the neighborhood, an article she read a year ago—it doesn’t matter why. The point is, she gets a feeling of fear. How does she respond to nature’s strongest survival signal? She suppresses it, telling herself: “I’m not going to live like that, I’m not going to insult this guy by letting the door close in his face.” When the fear doesn’t go away, she tells herself not to be so silly, and she gets into the elevator. Now, which is sillier: waiting a moment for the next elevator, or getting into a soundproofed steel chamber with a stranger she is afraid of? The inner voice is wise, and part of my purpose in writing this book is to give people permission to listen to it.” – The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signs that Protect Us from Violence

This is a book that needs to be read by both men and women, but women in particular will find comfort and strength in the words of the author. He is understanding and sympathetic and actively working towards making the world a safer place.

Head to your local library and grab a copy today.

It could save your life.

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17 thoughts on “reading to save your life: the gift of fear

  1. I love to read as well. I wish I had more time though to sit down and do it. This sounds like a great book to read!! I believe that every has some type of fear and that it’s okay to have them. I know my fears push me at times to do better. I will have to check this book out!

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  2. WOW. That elevator example is SO REAL. It’s true that we can get so far in life by listening to our intuition–in potentially dangerous situations and beyond. We do need to tap into our brain’s power to react to subtle cues that we may not be able to consciously interpret.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like an interesting concept. Fear is a warning signal. It warns us off from danger because of experience we have felt before. So in some ways I see his point. But I also know sometimes our feelings are not right. We feel things that we shouldn’t be feeling. If this is the case, is it rational to act on feelings that lead us astray? I think merely following feelings is dangerous as well. I think the most important thing is to understand our feelings. Why do we feel what we feel? Because if I’m afraid of someone because they gave me a look that a former stalker did, by all means, run. But if I’m afraid of a person because they have a tattoo and my absuive spouse had a tattoo so I should be afraid of all women with tattoos? I think that would limit me talking to and meeting all kinds of amazing women. So knowing why I’m fearing is as important as knowing what I’m feeling.

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