Marian Volkman reviews

The Gift of Fear
by de Becker
ISBN: 0440226198

While I have recommended this to many an anxious client and many a therapist, this is one of those books from which everyone can gain important knowledge and understanding. De Becker is that rare sort of person: someone who is an expert in his field and who can also write well.

Why is fear a gift? Because it is meant to protect us from harm. Human beings, alone out of the rest of the animal kingdom, will feel a flash of fear or apprehension and then stand there talking ourselves out of what we have perceived. Our ability to reason can serve us poorly here. Other animals get away from the situation, then look back to see if there was indeed anything to be afraid of.

You might think that if we paid attention to all the things that might worry us, we would be afraid all of the time. That is de Becker's great gift to us: he shows us how to tell the difference between the things we should pay attention to and those that will only distract us from the important ones. (His post-September 11 book, Fear Less is good too.) He argues that if we go around being swamped by general anxiety, we lose the sharpness of perception needed to keep us safe.

Another word on perception here: While I, personally, believe that extra-sensory perception and telepathy are real phenomena, de Becker got me to re-think some of my ideas. He got me to see that often we see (or hear, or smell) something that we don't consciously register, but that sends us a vital message nonetheless.

Anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship, or anyone counseling people in abusive relationships, should certainly read this book. The dynamics of the relationship between abused and abuser is explained here better than I have ever seen it. As de Becker shows, "the abuser holds the key to the abused person's feeling of well-being." (Chapter 10)

Another thing I understood from this book is that the most horrific criminal is motivated by the same desires that motivate us all.

The Gift of Fear does a great job of getting us to face up to the bad things in life, those that we have good reason to fear. In doing so, we are freed up from unwarranted fear, giving us room to live and breathe.

Most Highly Recommended


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