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The Gift of Fear: Survival signals that protect us from violence

The Gift of Fear

Author: Gavin de Becker

The Gift of Fear

The central message of de Becker's 'Gift of Fear', a thought provoking and engrossing book, is that in just about every case of seemingly 'random' extreme violence, whether it be attack from a co-worker or a spouse, the violence could have been predicted hours, days, months and even years in advance. Violence is predictable, says de Becker, when we learn to trust the fear instinct and read the signals of incipient aggression. Fear is not the same as anxiety or neurosis. It is an instinct of the mind, not a distortion, and de Becker claims you can develop your instinct for fear.

Although the book is heavily weighted towards American culture, the themes of dangerous obsession and violence are universal and timeless. The spread of gun and knife culture in the UK means that a read of this book is recommended to just about everyone who lives in our modern unpredictable world.

Gavin de Becker says victims of violent behavior have often felt a sense of fear before any threat of or actual violence even took place. They may distrust the fear or rationalize it away, or it may get them to take action to avoid harm and save their own and other people's lives.

De Becker is an internationally recognized authority on picking up the signals and signs that someone will become violent. A person may 'explode', but the fuse is lit long before actual harm occurs. This is especially so for those who murder.

The Gift of Fear is full of case histories of stalkers who turned violent and co-workers who went berserk. He convincingly highlights how these tragedies could have been averted had the signs (which clearly were there) been picked up and then acted upon.

The book also explains how to identify warning signs of potential attack. There are strategies for dealing with those may become violent.

De Becker says: "People don't just 'snap' and become violent. There is a process as observable, and often as predictable, as water coming to a boil." Gaining the knowledge to predict violence is the best way, of course, of preventing and avoiding it.

Essentially, according to de Becker, people become violent (especially people not usually prone to violence) when they feel they have run out of all other options and are being ignored or belittled. Like all good books, this one is enlightening about the human condition in general and touches upon the basic needs all human share although if it were updated more could be made of the Human Givens perspective.

De Becker advises governments, federal organizations and high profile celebrities on predicting, preventing and dealing with violence. The Gift of Fear has been translated into thirteen languages and its author is respected around the globe.

Review by Mark Tyrrell

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Mark Tyrrell
Creative Director