The gift of fear…. can save your life


It remains a vivid memory.

On convalescent leave from the Long Beach Naval hospital after being medevaced from Vietnam, I accompanied a friend to his bank. As he opened the door and I followed him in, a motorcycle backfired only 10 feet behind us.

Mike continued on, but I was literally on the floor in one of the bank lobby green foliage areas; naturally the bank customers all turned to look at the door when the backfire occurred; who knows that they thought.

My heart raced. I was angry and self-critical for a few seconds as I got to my feet; I wanted to explain to the the civilians why I was on the floor, while knowing of course that they didn’t “get it”.

“Yeah, but if the loud noise had been something else,” I said to myself, “I’d be alive and they’d be dead.

The “hyper-vigilence” I believe saved my life 40 years ago continues to serve me well; I have found a kindred spirit in Gavin de Becker, author of “The Gift of Fear” and an internationally-recognized expert in violence and human beings’ victimization and reaction to it.

Buy this book and make everyone in your family read it… here.

  • “intuition is always right in at least two important ways; It is always in response to something it always has your best interest at heart”
  • “You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations.”
  • “While you may be able to keep your son Jimmy from owning [a gun], if you try to talk him out of wanting one, you are up against a pretty strong argument: You mean I shouldn’t want a device that grants me power and identity, makes me feel dangerous and safe at the same time, instantly makes me the dominant male, and connects me to my evolutionary essence? Come on, Mom, get real!”

De Becker’s message, his passion, is that your intuition, the visual and auditory scanning of ones environment, can save your life if your snap out of your potentially fatal belief that “it can’t happen here”… “it was probably nothing.”

I was seated in a Denver restaurant for breakfast one morning when for some reason I became intensely aware of the conversation between two men in the next booth. My intuition said, “get up and go.”

I did.

Was there a mass casualty murder later in that Denny’s? No. Was I worried about upsetting the waitress… not eating… wasting my time?

Absolutely not.

I learned very long ago to listen to that inner voice that de Becker insists we must all heed:

“The solution to violence in America is the acceptance of reality.”

Well said Mr. de Becker.

What do we tell our children about their intuition and their safety?

“Don’t be afraid of clowns… they’re funny and won’t hurt you.”

Three words: John Wayne Gacy.

“If you’re in trouble go to the nice policeman, he’s our friend.”

Ex-cop is a serial child molester

De Becker is unyielding on this… as a society we contribute to our own victimization and we raise our children to follow suit.

His answer… ? “Run to a woman as fast as you can.”

It doesn’t take a genius to understand the value and rationale in that instruction.

Despite being a “noted historian” according to some, and despite four presidential assassinations–RFK, MLK,George Wallace–and numerous failed attempts, Newt Gingrich just yesterday sat on his fat ass at a book signing as a left-wing homo reached into a bag… REACHED INTO A BAG… and tossed confetti all over him, and his wife.

He never moved or even attempted to protect his wife.

Rep. Giffords and 18 Shot Near Tucson

President Bush ducked and damned near fielded not one, but two two shoes thrown at him by a raghead… in RAGHEAD LAND. Did he think “grenade”, “acid”, “hypo needles”… ?

Nope, as far as I could see, he never moved.

De Becker preaches:

  • Violence is random
  • It can happen at any time
  • We are all capable of it
  • We are hardwired to recognize when we are in danger, if we learn how to pay attention and don’t ignore
  • Awareness is the starting point to being as safe as possible
  • Everyone has intuition and everyone can develop awareness
  • The appearance of being an unattractive target can be the most effective deterrent to a potential predator

Voice, posture, having ones head “on a swivel” serve as our our innate protection weapons. Who is more likely to get mugged, car jacked or worse….?

The woman with her head up, scanning the area with her largest key clutched pointing out of a closed fist, or the head down, rummaging through her purse, slow, distracted woman bent over her trunk loading groceries?

Josh Hanagarne in his blog review of de Becker’s book observed:

There was also a sentence from these (de Becker’s book’s) passages that really sticks with me.

I’m paraphrasing: The man who truly wants nothing from you will not offer assistance or approach you.

This was hard for me to hear. I take pride in being a gentleman, but I have to admit that there is truth in the above statement for me. The motives need not be bad in order for the statement to be valid.

It’s true… I make a habit of helping others, particularly women and specifically older women. But I must admit my secondary gain is that it makes me feel good to help and perhaps others will take the example.

If you can impart one thing to the women in your life it’s this:

“It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different–men and women live in different worlds…at core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.”

Buy “The Gift of Fear” ($7.95); Don’t be one of those people who says, “I thought it was firecrackers or a movie.”

Those people can end up dead.

Read more here.

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About Gary Alexander

Volunteer coordinator for veterans support network in North Texas. Now retired from his private psychotherapy practice, I specialized in the diagnosis and treatment posttraumatic stress, working with victim assistance programs, veterans and the Veterans Administration for over 20 years. After being wounded in action in Vietnam, I was medically retired from the Marine Corps and know first hand many of the readjustment difficulties and psychological stresses experienced by today's OIF and OEF veterans. I am available, at minimal cost, to speak at your functions on several subjects including veterans issues, Vietnam, the Medal of Honor, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and critical incident debriefings.
This entry was posted in Family, friends, Heroes, Psychology, Second Amendment. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The gift of fear…. can save your life

  1. Dave Carver says:

    I will get this one! A couple of weeks ago I finished this one – I recommend this one to you – how to survive the most critical 5 seconds Of Your Life – authors are – Chris Ranck-Buhr, Tim Larkin.

    Another one I just finished that you MUST read is “Infidel” the first half start slow, but hang on after that. The authors name is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, originally from Somalia.

    I was home on leave after Vietnam and my dad was trimming trees. He had a fairly large branch that he picked up and started dragging through the gravel in the alley – sounds just like a mortar round coming in – ditto.

    Semper Fi, Dave him him

  2. Bob Mack says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, GA. I’ll pick the book up ASAP, & repost & link this tomorrow (if I ever get back from jury duty). Funny, I had a similar “backfire” experience shortly after I came home in ’68. A loud & unexpected thunderclap had me diving off the living room sofa. My mom thought I was having a seizure. It was hunting season too, which hadn’t helped my nerves much. De Becker’s lessons are the same ones I’ve tried to follow for 40 some years. Did they ever save me? I don’t know. I spent a lot of time on the Philly mean streets with no problems; but they sure didn’t hurt me, & I’ve tried to pound them into the heads of all the fat rabbits I’ve known before they ran into a hungry wolf somewhere.

  3. AFVET says:

    Great post GA.
    There is a reason they put blinders on race horses.
    Periphery vision along with the awareness of your surroundings are essential now.
    The people that still support Obama are too ignorant to take the blinders off.

  4. Pingback: The Gift of Fear | Be Sure You're RIGHT, Then Go Ahead

  5. Debby Durkee says:

    I read this book years ago when I was trying to understand why I could “see” things other women couldn’t. I realized then that it was that I listened to my intuition more readily than some who discount intuition as not being a reality. Gavin de Becker has given many a gift with this book. Thanks for highlighting it.

  6. blackwatertown says:

    Interesting post. I’ll state right off that I don’t agree with the language you use to describe the guy chucking shoes. So there’s that.
    But the idea of being conscious of your surroundings, listening to that warning voice instead of dismissing it, risking looking ridiculous to save your own life or the lives of others – I’ll go along with you on all that.
    The downside is letting paranoia take over – not being able to relax – letting the alertness infect even your posture – being watchful, scanning the periphery. watching slow moving cars from the corner of your eye, watching the door of the cafe, never ignoring an unattended bag – it’s an odd way of seeing the world – different from most people. Isolating.
    Then again, it has got me out of trouble more than once. I suppose if it’s possible to maintain an attitude of mellow alertness – that’s the one to aim for.

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