The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker

Photo by Abdelrahman Ismail on Unsplash

You have cleverness, dexterity, and creativity—all of which powerfully combine when you are at risk—if you listen to your intuition.

Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear

I’ve meant to read this book for ages. I finally finished it with my Silent Book Club and burned through it during my WFH lunches. It’s so nice not to have to bring my lunch every day; it’s already in my house! Then, I can focus on simply reading and eating.

Anyway, I digress.

I think I made more highlights in this book on my Kindle than in any other book I’ve read. It’s because what de Becker says about fear is universal.

We were born with it, but it shouldn’t define us.

His writing voice is simple, but he doesn’t talk down to the reader. When reading nonfiction books, I feel like that happens a lot.

Instead, he credits the reader with picking up his book and being told things we should know but might not trust.

So when we wonder why we are victims so often, the answer is clear: It is because we are so good at it.

Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear

I will continue posting quotes from the book because they get to the crux of his argument.

You don’t need to be knee-deep in de Becker’s line of work to identify and embrace what’s going on when you’re in specific situations.

If something doesn’t feel right, DON’T IGNORE IT.

Your body is sending you signals for a reason.

Experts rarely tell us we already know the answers. Just as we want their checklist, they want our check.

Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear

This quote stood out to me because being an expert in the field and telling people that you are is a transactional relationship, no give or take in the traditional sense.

They’ve bottled up and packaged something people want, and you will have to pay if you want it. It made me step back and realize the path that I was personally taking with Writeropolis Media. Having that idea morph into something I’ll use myself was refreshing.

That’s the mark of a great premise; it makes you think of something else in your life.

We must learn and then teach our children that niceness does not equal goodness.

Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear

It’s a lesson that many parents skip out on as they do their jobs. It doesn’t matter if your child is male or female or whatever their chosen gender is.

No matter how much I want to think otherwise, the world is not inherently good. You cannot shield them from that, and you cripple them if you do. Plain and simple.

You need to give them the critical thinking skills to challenge the nice and reveal the no-goodness of whatever they’re facing.

You are an animal of nature, fully endowed with hearing, sight, intellect, and dangerous defenses. You are not easy prey, so don’t act like you are.

Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear

This one goes hand in hand with the previous quote, too, I think.

We can argue that the world is not good. Therefore, we should be instinctively prepared to handle the horror. But where do we learn the solutions if we don’t have the tools?

It’s as simple as understanding that it comes from within. You could even view this from a biological level.

You’ve made it this far in life, and you’re doing okay. However, if you start practicing constant vigilance now, it will serve you well.

We are at a point in our evolution where life is less about predicting risks and more about controlling them.

Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear

We always say our generation — whatever yours happens to be — is the best, and everything that came before was crap, and everything that came after is going to be crap. This one stood out because we have advanced quickly as a society. Culturally, spiritually, financially, emotionally, and every other –ly you can think of here.

We know that if you ride in a plane, there is a chance the plane will get shot down by terrorists or disabled in midair by engine difficulties. Thus, we must find ways to mitigate those circumstances.

Maybe take a car instead. Or whatever, I’m oversimplifying everything.

The point is that humans need to control. But are you attempting to control the right part in a machine of moving parts that will continue to churn with or without your conscious participation?

De Becker makes his study of fear relatable by describing many situations we might find ourselves in—relationships with lovers, in a workplace, or even with ourselves.

He does temper it a bit by recalling the serial killers and movie stars he’s worked with over the years. But we’re all the same.

One of my most significant weaknesses is worrying about finite issues.

Worry is a way to avoid change; when we worry, we don’t do anything about the matter.

Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear

This quote, in particular, stood out to me.

How often have I worked myself into a tizzy — whether by force because of a situation I found myself in or a nasty intrusive thought that sprung out of nowhere — and done nothing to handle it?


I’m trying to recognize these thoughts and follow through on them. I’m in my late 30s (ugh, don’t remind me), and I don’t think I’ll ever quit learning.

I work on my education constantly, and if we’re to advance as a society, everyone else should, too.

We’re in the same storm, just different boats.

This book was a worthwhile read. No one who reads it will be unable to take something with them. It just can’t be done; that’s how good of a read it is.

The book’s thesis is delivered well, doesn’t overwhelm you with jargon, and is highly relatable in many ways.

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