It’s Not Just About Beans, Bullets and BandAids

So many shootings have been featured in the news lately. Here are some of the ones that have happened just in 2012:

  • July 19, Aurora Colorado movie theater
  • July 17, Tuscaloosa AL, gunman shoots into a barThe Gift of Fear
  • May 20, Seattle, WA, gunman shoots into a cafe
  • April 2, Tulsa OK, gunman shoots passersby in a neighborhood
  • April 2, Oakland, CA, shootings in a classroom at Oikos University
  • March 3, Pittsburgh, PA, shooting at a psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh
  • February 27, Chardon OH, high school shooting

Seemingly random violence is in the news so often, we as a society have almost come to expect it. And it seems that almost every single time a shooting or other “random” violence occurs, it’s classified as “unexpected” or “impossible to predict.”

But are they really these things?  Is there more to our personal protection and survival than beans, bullets and bandaids?

While many say no, no one could have known these things would happen, and that the shootings are random and impossible to predict, Gavin deBecker, an expert on violence, says “absolutely not.” The entire premise of his seminal book, The Gift of Fear, is that violence is absolutely predictable, and that we, as laypeople, are qualified to predict this violence based on our ability to understand the subtle hints that cause us to fear. It’s the fear that protects us, and the fear that, when paid attention to, will lead us – at least as much as possible – to safety.

The problem is, as good little girls and boys when we were children, we are taught to ignore the fear, because we’re supposed to be nice to people and not seem to be untrusting of them.  It might insult them or hurt their feelings.   The problem is, though, that ignoring the fear can get us killed.

The purpose of this book is to show us how to spot the most subtle danger signs before we become victims of a dangerous person. It tells, specifically, what to look for when in certain situations or faced with people who exhibit certain signs of distress:

  •  Threatening behavior
  • People who refuse to be told “no,” or to let go
  • Domestic violence
  • Stalking behavior
  • Children who are violent
  • Attacks against famous people

As a very young (ten-year-old) observer of terrible family violence, Mr. DeBecker has been there and done that. Rather than allow the terrible violence he witnessed as a child to scar him forever and break him down, he used it to hone his skill at observation and prediction, and now he uses that skill to help people in everyday life, from the most obscure to the most famous, to learn how to protect themselves.

This is a book that I have found so valuable, I keep a copy of it near me for reference.  It never hurts to remind myself that while most people are genuinely good, there are people in the world who do not think like I do, do not have a benign attitude toward their fellow man, and sometimes, are just suffering to the point that they are not in control of their actions.

No, I don’t live with a bunch of violent people, but the value in this book is that it reminds me that it is desirable to keep myself observant and alert, to hone my predictive skills, and to keep myself safe.  I have also lent this book to friends, and most have appreciated it and learned from it, but one of the people I consider to be a most likely target returned it to me unread. “It scared me too much,” she said.

I just hope she never gets more than just scared.


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