Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker

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I wasn’t entirely sure I’d like The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker. I know what fear is; what else is there to say? Turns out, quite a bit. Fear isn’t what I thought it was, says de Becker. It’s not worry, anxiety, or sudden emotional reactions to scary moments. Instead, it’s the healthy, life-sustaining, adaptive, instinctive physical and emotional response that occurs when your life or health is experiencing a true threat.

Read this book to learn about the ways fear can help you survive and thrive–and how to use this helpful instinct to your advantage.

Key Takeaways

  • This book explores the nature of fear and how people can better recognize and respond to potential threats. It relates many stories about people in life-or-death situations who responded correctly to their sudden fear reaction. One woman, for example, left her home after an attack with an instinctive knowing her attacker planned to kill her, even though he told her he would not. It was only later she realized how she knew: he closed the bedroom window before leaving the room.
  • When something feels wrong, it probably is, the author writes. Listen to your intuitive knowing that you might be in danger. Instinct, which is based on unconsciously held background knowledge and unconsciously gathered information in the immediate environment, is more often right than reason, which doesn’t draw from as many sources of information.
  • “Satellites” are comments thrown into a conversation seemingly at random. They come from the subconscious and should be explored seriously. They often provide the answer to a question of safety. An example of a satellite: In an offhand way during the author’s conversation with a woman receiving written threats, she mentioned a new friend she had made recently while considering selling her house. That man was the person making the threats, and intended to buy her house.
  • Fear and anxiety are very different. Fear happens in response to real danger. Anxiety is worry in the face of uncertainty, and can be about almost anything. It is about predictions in which you have little confidence. By contrast … “Predictions about which you have high confidence free you to respond, adjust, feel sadness, accept, prepare, or do whatever is needed.”
  • Worry is not informative, but fear is very informative. Always listen to real fear. “The very fact that you fear something means that it’s not happening.” It always involves a future prediction. Remembering that will help you not panic.
  • The author also quotes Helen Keller, who said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Whatever challenges we face, we need to believe we can overcome them.

About the Author

Gavin de Becker is a security specialist and consultant who has advised high-profile clients, including government officials, celebrities, and corporations. His book The Gift of Fear emphasizes the importance of listening to one’s intuition and situational awareness to stay safe in potentially dangerous situations. Becker’s other books include Protecting the Gift and Fear Less. De Becker is recognized for his work in assessing and managing potential threats, providing protection strategies, and analyzing patterns of violence. He emphasizes the importance of trusting our intuition as a valuable tool for detecting danger and taking proactive steps to protect ourselves and others.

De Becker’s career began in the field of security in the 1970s when he worked as a security guard. He later founded Gavin de Becker & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in security and risk assessment for high-profile individuals, government agencies, and corporations. The firm provides services such as threat assessment, executive protection, and consultation on stalking cases.

As a speaker, de Becker has delivered presentations and training sessions to diverse audiences, including law enforcement agencies, corporations, and government organizations. He shares his insights on personal safety, violence prevention, and risk management.


Can’t quite get to all the nonfiction and self-help books that interest you? Read Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday here.


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