Book Review: The Gift of Fear

20120328-210754.jpgI’m doing you a bit of a disservice in reviewing this book. I listened to the abridged version on audiobook, but I plan to read the rest ASAP. However, I think very highly of Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear. He’s an expert in predicting violent behavior and profiles violent criminals–like murders, terrorists, and assassins–for a living. He also survived a truly terrible upbringing, so you could say his life-long study of violence and aggressive behavior makes him the perfect consultant on how to stay safe.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is how he lays out the clues that people reveal when they have decided to commit a crime. In a case study, he reveals the ways in which an unfortunate rape victim could have avoided the heinous act. But he goes on to say how, though she was sexually assaulted, she saved her own life by following her instincts and escaping from he attacker at an opportune moment. Throughout the book, De Becker explains that we should ALWAYS follow our intuitions, as they are really comprised of minute observations and responses to subliminal triggers we can’t always understand. In short, if you feel fear, you should do whatever it takes to stay safe!

That’s not to say we should be afraid all the time. Worry and anxiety actually dull our intuition, our fight-or-flight responses. Here are a few of the things that should cause you to be suspicious–not the propaganda you see on the evening news.

PINS (Pre-Incident Indicators)
1. Forced Teaming— This is when a person tries to pretend that he has something in common with a person and that they are in the same predicament when that isn’t really true.

2. Charm and Niceness— This is being polite and friendly to a person in order to manipulate him or her.

3. Too many details— If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible.

4. Typecasting— An insult to get a person who would otherwise ignore one to talk to one.

5. Loan Sharking— Giving unsolicited help and expecting favors in return.

6. The Unsolicited Promise— A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means you will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt you.

7. Discounting the Word “No”— Refusing to accept rejection.

(material adapted from

De Becker warns us to watch for these signals, and to avoid people who give them off. But this is just a quick simplification; check out the book–or, better yet, the full book like I soon will–to learn more!

Speaking of learning more about how to avoid violent crime, don’t forget our Women’s Self-Defense Seminar at Gracie Farmington Valley this Saturday. It runs from 3:00PM – 5:00PM. Call us today at 855-458-8255 to RSVP. The class is almost full!

About moaimartialarts

Lucky enough to grow up with the martial arts, I have felt their positive influence throughout my life and am especially interested in sharing these experiences with others. I enjoy working with youth and adults to give back some of what I've received. If you would like to learn more about Uechi-Ryu/Shohei-Ryu Karate, or if you want to find people to train with, please contact me. I am the head karate instructor for the Meriden Martial Arts Club.
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7 Responses to Book Review: The Gift of Fear

  1. Hammerhead7 says:

    Solid book overall even though DeBecker is the worst kind of gun prohibitionist out there. “The Security Monopolist”

  2. I’m new to his work. What do you mean by “The Security Monopolist”?

    • Hammerhead7 says:

      Basically someone who supports the prohibition of civilian gun ownership except for an elite few and those “elite few” would be able to sell their bodyguard services at a ridiculous mark up to civilians.

      The goal of a monopolist is to be the only available provider of a specific good so he can charge whatever he wants to maximize profits.

  3. Hammerhead7 is right on target with that criticsim. In 2012 it turns out that most/all humans are allowed to become students of martial arts … but what if that were only allowed for the privileged few? Denying access to any particular category of self defense methods opens the door to denying the others.

    Otherwise, deBecker is a good writer, and has valid arguments backed up by data, rather than just his own opinion. I suggest anybody working with kids (or teaching self defense / martial arts to kids and families) should read de Becker’s “Protecting The Gift” as well.

    • Thanks, Peter. I’d definitely like to check out that book!

      Quick question: does your martial arts background include weapons training? How essential/inessential do you think it is to the average person?

      Sent from my iPhone ___________________

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