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The Gift of Fear

Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence

By Gavin de Becker
13-minute read
Audio available
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker

The Gift of Fear (1997) provides insight into the mechanisms of fear, explaining how our instincts protect us from criminals by attuning us to universal signals and warning signs. Violence rarely comes out of the blue, and by recognizing some telltale signs, you will be better equipped to keep yourself out of harm's way.

  • Victims of violence or abuse who want to avoid future harm
  • Anyone who has been threatened or is worried about criminals and predators
  • Criminal law experts and lawyers interested in crime prevention

Gavin de Becker is the founder of a security firm that provides services to some of the top government officials in the United States. A pioneer of crime-prevention law, he is a sought-after expert in criminal cases, including the O.J. Simpson trial.

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The Gift of Fear

Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence

By Gavin de Becker
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker
Synopsis

The Gift of Fear (1997) provides insight into the mechanisms of fear, explaining how our instincts protect us from criminals by attuning us to universal signals and warning signs. Violence rarely comes out of the blue, and by recognizing some telltale signs, you will be better equipped to keep yourself out of harm's way.

Key idea 1 of 8

Your intuition is the best safeguard against danger.

Have you ever woken up from a dream feeling like you’ve just had a premonition? Well, it’s best not to ignore such feelings, since dreams are a vital part of human intuition.

Your dreams can even provide you with an intuitive sense of looming danger.

Michael Cantrell, a police officer, has observed this on the job and he takes it very seriously. One day, Cantrell’s patrol partner, David Patrick, told him that he’d had a dream in which he got shot. Cantrell advised Patrick to pay attention to this dream and consider it a warning of possible future danger.

This was advice Patrick needed to take to heart; he often ignored intuition, a tendency that had put him in harm’s way before.

For example, the two policemen had once pulled over a car with three men inside. While Cantrell had sensed danger in this situation, Patrick hadn’t noticed anything unusual.

Cantrell noticed that the two men in the back seat refused to make eye contact and kept looking straight ahead, which he intuitively understood as a sign of danger even before his rational mind could react. Fortunately, when Cantrell asked the driver to step out, he noticed a gun on the floor of the car before any of the men could pick it up.

Meanwhile, Patrick remained oblivious to these signals, standing calmly beside the car and smoking his pipe.

Patrick’s behavior demonstrates how ignoring your intuition, and thus the warning signs it picks up on, can have life-threatening consequences. Despite this incident, however, and his unsettling dream, Patrick didn’t change his ways.

Later, Patrick was on patrol alone, and he noticed a pair of men driving by who resembled armed robbers that the police were looking for.

Instead of calling for backup, he confronted the men on his own. He pulled the car over and asked the driver to step out. While he was patting him down, the other man pulled out a gun and shot Patrick.

Luckily, he survived. The whole incident may have been avoided, however, had he heeded his intuition.

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