Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Someone mentions a book you should read, and a few hours later someone else, from quite a different area of your life, recommends the same book. That happened to me last week. So I ordered the book, Gift of Fear: Survival Signs that Protect Us from Violence, from Amazon, and it arrived yesterday. I'm halfway through it, and impressed--though, like many self-help guides, it's one point followed by numerous anecdotal illustrations. The author, Gavin De Becker, has a point that's a good one (that we need to listen to our fear) and his anecdotes are full of the unexpected, such as why ignoring threats is often the best way to handle them and why it's important to disengage from a threatening situation at the first opportunity. De Becker is not a journalist, but a security specialist, so he brings actual depth to the book.

Though many of the Amazon reviewers were so wrapped up in their own political agendas they could barely spare a few words for the book itself, rest assured this is not one of those "men are evil stalkers, women are saintly victims" screeds. In fact, the best anecdote in the book was the story of how a travel agency owner (male) was approached by a prospective business partner (male) who turned out to be a pest, a stalker, and a filer of groundless lawsuits.

Why were people recommending this book to me? The first recommendation came because of my puzzlement over how to disengage from a casual friend who had tried to make me feel responsible for helping her rehabilitate her screwed-up husband; the second recommendation was from the Seattle police officer who met with our local neighborhood group and was fielding questions about how to protect young children from predators.

In the past (my undergraduate degree is in psychology) I'd read quite a bit about why some people develop into sociopaths. But since I never pursued a career in therapy, I find I'm now less interested in understanding sociopaths than I am in avoiding them. I wish I'd had the avoidance skills 30 years ago, and could have back all the time I wasted trying to deal with these creeps politely.

If you find yourself dealing with a "friend" or colleague who "feels wrong" (you feel sick when they call, you feel like your energy is sucked out of you when you talk with them, you find yourself somehow obligated to do things for them), the De Becker book is a must-read.

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