What I’m reading now: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

Well, the bad news is that Netflix has officially run out of Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero flicks for me to watch. The good news is that while I’m waiting for Avengers Endgame to finally hit theaters next month, I’ve had some time to catch up on my reading.

When “Netflix & chill” meets “Kindle & cuddle”

You ever have that moment when you’re playing a video game and suddenly you’re like “I bet the next room has like 50 enemies/a boss so I better stock up on items and/or save”? Maybe it wasn’t immediately obvious at the time why you were feeling that way…but in hindsight it was probably the random save point or the lack of music or that random stash of ammo that tipped you off?

That’s the power of listening to your intuition.

Recently, I finished reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, a security specialist who did a lot of cool stuff including designing a system to screen threats to US Supreme Court Justices! He writes that your intuition is a tool that is often overlooked in today’s world but is also invaluable when you learn to listen to it.

(By the way, I’m not affiliated with the author in any way. Just wanted to share interesting stuff from books I read. As far as I’m aware, he doesn’t know I’m writing this…although he’s pretty good at his job, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he does know!)

The power of trusting your intuition

Imagine this.

It’s late in the afternoon and you’ve just finished your grocery shopping. You’re loading the food in the back of your car, and the sun is starting to go down so you’re anxious to go home. Suddenly, someone you don’t know walks up to you and tries to hand you a pamphlet. He’s acting all super friendly and nice, and he’s using sentences such as “Both of us…” and “How are we going to handle this?”

How do you react?

As a society, we’re taught not to be rude or impolite to people. We’re told that it would be rude to ignore what this stranger is telling us. Even as that little voice in the back of your head starts asking, “Well, what does this guy want? What is he up to?”

Maybe it’s worth giving that little voice a listen.

The overarching moral of The Gift of Fear is to trust your intuition. Sometimes, you’ll get that “gut feeling” or hear a little voice in your head telling you that something is off. It’s probably worth listening to! Even if it feels illogical to do so.

As a society, we value decisions based on cold, hard logic. It might seem wrong to make a choice because it “feels right”. But if your gut is telling you something that you can’t logically explain, it’s probably better to listen to that voice. As Gavin de Becker puts it, “Trust that what causes alarm probably should, because when it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways: 1) It is always in response to something [and] 2) It always has your best interest at heart”

Survival signals

To help illustrate this, The Gift of Fear identifies several signals that should be cause for alarm. These include,

  • Forced teaming
    • When someone attempts to establish premature trust with their victim by acting as if they’re on the same team, “Both of us” or “How are we going to handle this?”
  • Charm and niceness
    • Feigning niceness and kindness toward a victim to ward off their distrust
  • Too many details
    • Adding excessive detail to a lie to make it sound credible (when people are telling the truth, they don’t need to add details)
  • Typecasting
    • Insulting the victim to try and get them to prove it wrong, such as a pickup-artist telling a woman “I bet you’re too stuck-up to even talk to me”
  • Loan sharking
    • When someone offers unsolicited “help” to a victim to make them feel in their debt
  • The unsolicited promise
    • Look, if someone comes out-of-the-blue and says that they’re not going to hurt you…you should probably not believe them
  • Discounting the word “no”
    • When someone refuses to accept “no” as an answer

The worst part is that it seems “rude” to rebuff these advances. After all, if a nice and charming stranger selflessly offers to help with your groceries, it’d be impolite to shut him down…right? You probably should. Listen to those alarm bells in your head! Your intuition has your best interest at heart, and that stranger who’s using these advances on you probably doesn’t.

People who turn toward violence are more like us than we like to believe

When we hear of acts of violence on the news, they always make it seem as if nobody could have seen it coming. “He was such a good kid” or “He was always a good neighbor. I had no idea that this could happen”. And the dark truth is that most of the time, we–could–have seen it coming. People who turn toward violence are more like us that we realize…or like to believe. But that’s why our intuition works!

The media always makes it out as if an otherwise ordinary person just “snapped”, but that’s almost never the case. Rarely do people just “snap”. Instead, what happens is that someone who feels that violence is justified, who has the ability to commit violence, and who feels that committing violence will have positive consequences, ends up seeing fewer and fewer alternatives to committing violence (Gavin de Becker calls this JACA).

And unfortunately, this also drives a lot of hate crimes against women by frustrated men. As much as I hate saying it, I do have an idea of the hopelessness that these losers must have been feeling when they decided to pick up a weapon and turn it against their fellow humans.

Don’t get me wrong. What I’m NOT doing is 1) condoning violence against women and 2) saying that any man who harms a woman is anything other than a total LOSER. However, I do know what it feels like to be romantically frustrated as a late bloomer. In that way, I do know what many of those losers who commit violence against women must have been feeling. I have an idea of what must have finally pushed them over the edge.

That’s why Quietly Romantic exists. It’s my way of coping with the abyss and trying to drive out the darkness that I know all too well.

Thanos isn’t the only one cursed with knowledge.

Welp, that’s what I’ve been reading. Hope you enjoyed!

P.S. Let me know if there’s other books you’d like me to pick up and take a look at. I’ve still got plenty of time to kill until Avengers Endgame hits theaters.

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