Review: The Gift of Fear

You know when your skin prickles and you just know something isn't right?  That is instinct, something most of us ignore if we think it will cause us embarrassment.

Gavin de Becker will convince you to react otherwise in his brilliant book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence.

For de Becker, instinct is the gathering of data we cannot articulate but simply understand.  If a voice comes from a location a person should not logically be traveling, if the gesture or tone of voice doesn't comfort us as it should, if the offer for help seems too forceful — our minds won't explain it to us, but upon reflection, it all makes sense.

Equally important is knowing the difference between what should cause fear and how we invoke it in ourselves.  Being petrified that you're in an empty parking lot is a waste of fear if there is no real threat.  Using your spidey-senses to listen for the unexpected footsteps, however, is a good way to determine a true threat and use your fear only if needed.

The author earned my trust early on in his book as he revealed his own background in security and safety.  Just because presidents, military, national security and celebrities trust him doesn't make him enough of a reliable resource.  What he says, how he says it and how he determines the danger of a situation seems sane, reasonable and thoughtful.

He takes a look at many different threats people could face: in the workplace, at home, from strangers and those familiar.  He offers indicators, tips on what to look for to help assess the real threat.  Someone writes a thousand fan letters: weird, but maybe not threatening.  I know, isn't "weird" already threatening?  Not necessarily.  If you feel threatened, always consult a professional — but let this professional help you determine if you need to consult a professional.

This is not a self-defense book, but a rational look at human behavior.  Based on his experiences, de Becker asks certain questions and analyzes behavior to help clients go beyond fear and into the situation itself.  Is the "stalker" really a threat, or a nuisance?  How can you best determine that and end the situation?  Will a restraining order do more harm than good to deter the abusive spouse?  Most importantly, should someone really be afraid in a situation?  Is what they perceive a threat really dangerous?

I strongly recommend this book.  I plan to get extra copies of this book and share it with pretty much everyone I know, men and women.  Anyone can find themselves threatened and in danger, and the more people who know what to look for and how to reasonably respond, the better.


  1. I have always said that there is nothing stronger than your own feelings. This book underlines that message. If you have a gut feeling that something just isn't right, it usually isn't. This book is a must for any woman. Oprah Winfrey has featured many books on her show and each one has always been the greatest thing you could ever read, but this one is the truth.


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