Episode 146: The Gift of Fear

Jackie Packs talks with author and security expert Gavin De Becker about his book, The Gift of Fear, and how to recognize danger signals.

We all have a tendency to talk ourselves out of reacting to our intuition for one reason or another.  This episode of Thanks for “Sharing” makes you think twice about failing to listen to your intuition.

TRANSCRIPT: The Gift of Fear

Hi everyone, welcome to Thanks for Sharing. I’m your host, Jackie Pack. Today’s episode we’re going to do a follow-up to the previous episode ‘the truth about lying.’ Now in the previous episode, I briefly mentioned or briefly talked about how all human beings lie. We’re all so very poor at detecting lies, and part of that has to do with wanting to believe that we’re safe, wanting to live in a world in which we’re not totally aware of the dangers that we may face day in and day out.

And there are some positive things to being able to you know just move about our world and not necessarily pick up on all of the dangers. Now all lies are not dangerous to us. But what we find often is that we also aren’t even good at detecting the lies that actually detect a threat, and this can create some problems for us.

However, the good news is there are indicators that we need to be able to pick up on and not talk ourselves out of what we’re picking up on. So let’s talk for a minute just about how maybe the earth, the environment has a way of showing danger signals and also how that occurs in animals. So of course, one of the more famous warning signs in nature is the rattlesnake’s rattle.

Situated at the end of the tail, the rattle is made up of keratin segments, which is the same stuff that makes up our fingernails. And when this is vibrated, these segments knock into each other to make the buzzing sound. If you’ve ever been on a hike during the summertime where I live out here in the west, you know our mountains are full of rattlesnakes, and you can actually take your dog, if you’re a hiker and you actually take your dog with you, they offer classes that you can take so that your dogs are also picking up on the rattlesnakes prior to really being in a dangerous situation.

Also, if you’ve ever vacationed near or lived by a beach, if you see a channel of choppy water on the beach and the seaweed and the debris is moving away from the shore in a particular area, or there’s a section of discolored water or a gap in the line of waves, it’s likely that a deadly rip current lies beneath the water’s surface.

Rip currents are very fast and powerful channels of water that flow away from the shore, and they actually kill over a hundred people in the United States every year, and they’re responsible for most of the lifeguard rescues. So a word of caution: you can check rip current risks before you head out into the water, but if you do get caught in one, you should swim parallel to the shore to break out of the channel.

And then you head at an angle to shore, and so if you’re having trouble kind of remembering that, just follow the flip, float, and follow. So what that means is you flip onto your back, and then you float and follow the path to safety. Now this can mean that you’re floating with the current until it actually disappears and you’re in safety.

Dogs are also known to be great at telling you things even when they can’t speak your language. Sometimes they’re wrong, but they’re also really good at telling us and warning us. Now if your dog is sniffing or licking a particular part of your body more than usual, experts say that you should probably get that part of your body checked out.

Dogs have such a powerful nose that they can sniff out evidence of cancer. Scientists think that they smell organic compounds coming from cancer, and they have proved that dogs can distinguish between cancer patient urine and cancer-free urine. There’s also been plenty of cases where a dog alerted their owner to growing cancer, so just like you let your dog out when it stands by the door because that’s a sign that it needs to go outside, you should listen when it’s telling you something about your body or paying attention to that part of your body.

Danger signs are safety signs for warning when a hazard or a hazardous condition is likely to be life-threatening. The word ‘danger’ is usually, you know if we think of where we see that inside of signs, the word danger is featured inside a red oval, which in turn is inside a black rectangle, and there could be other warning symbols along with that. Danger safety signage has many uses and can warn of many dangerous situations, such as fuel storage, radiation, high voltage, chemicals, open holes, and much more. With all of the danger signs posted, one are the things that we learn is, yeah, human beings are not so good at detecting danger, which is why we need all of these signs posted because we’re not gonna just kinda sniff that out like a dog might.

Let’s talk for a minute about intuition because our intuition really plays into this. So intuition is kind of this internal jarring that we feel that signals something needs to be re-evaluated or adjusted or removed, and it kind of brings us into this present circumstance. Now the purpose of intuition is it alerts us to other potential issues that normally we would not be aware of or we would be accepting of if the intuition is telling us to be the opposite. So while the good feelings might be the reason we first tie our intuition up, you know maybe in a relationship, for example, we’re having good feelings, or there’s something about the party at the beach that’s going so well and so those positive feelings are going to override kind of this intuition that most people would say kind of resides in that gut area.

And so we’re going to tie up intuition kind of throw her in the basement because we want to be able to have fun. We want to be able to keep enjoying whatever it is that we’re enjoying. Sometimes also we don’t want to look a certain way, right? So this maybe “I don’t want to look rude” or “I don’t want to look arrogant,” but I think one of the things we have to pay attention to is that a lot of times when we put our intuition aside or when we ignore our intuition, we may do that at our own peril. So our intuition is always learning. Now occasionally it may send a signal that turns out to be less than urgent; that’s also part of the way that it learns and one of the, you know I listen to one of these podcasts, and I listen to several podcasts, I shouldn’t say it like that, but one of the podcast that I listen to is called “Crime Junkies” and I would say I fit into that category of being a crime junkie.

Anyway, one of their mottos that they frequently repeat in their episodes: Be Rude, Be Weird, Stay Safe. And so often times, it’s that I don’t want to be weird, I don’t want to be rude and we actually then jeopardize our own safety. So one of the books that I frequently recommend to people, I think all people should read it, and it’s gotten quite a bit of traction. It is an older book I think written initially in the late 90s I want to say, and then has had a second edition kind of an update to that first edition.

And that is the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. Now Gavin de Becker, I mean he’s been on Oprah, he’s been on a lot of shows kind of talking about what he does. He’s like a security expert. And it’s an interesting book; it doesn’t read kind of like a textbook or this hard-to-read book. And it’s full of great information that really kind of takes us back to our own intuition.

So some of the things he talks about with intuition, he talks about messengers of intuition and what these messengers may feel like or what they, what word we would put with the messengers of intuition. So he says: nagging feelings, persistent thoughts, humor, this like kind of awkward humor that we’ll do, wonder, anxiety, curiosity, hunches, gut feelings, doubt, suspicion, apprehension, fear. All of these things he talks about are these messengers of intuition and this is one of the ways that our intuition is going to kind of pique or try to get our attention to pay attention. So in this particular, in one of the particular chapters in “The Gift of Fear”, he identifies seven pre-incident indicators that are signals we often overlook or talk ourselves out of but are actually dangerous signals that we need to be aware of, and so often when we are aware of something, we hear it, we review it, it puts it on our radar so that when that happens our brain kind of goes, “oh hey, we have information for this.”

Now I will say in this chapter, he talks more towards females and talks kind of against males or kind of saying like it’s the males kind of perpetrating the danger towards females, but we also know that males can also be victims of crime, and so I don’t think it’s bad information for males to know and understand. Also, I think males can intervene and they can play an important role if they’re witness to or watching something happen, so I think that’s also important. He also in other chapters of his book, I think you know, he talks about like hiring and firing procedures for workplace to reduce workplace violence, which I found as a business owner really helpful and gave me a lot to think about and talk about with some other business owners that I associate with.

So let’s get back to the seven pre-incident indicators that he talks about in the book. So the first indicator is what he calls ‘forced teaming.’ Now, forced teaming is an effective way to establish premature trust because you’ll notice they use language like the perpetrator would use language like “we’re in this together”, it’s kind of they’re using this “we” or “us” language that kind of puts us into the team, and it’s an attitude that can be hard to rebuff without feeling rude like “I don’t want to be part of your team.” So when we notice somebody sharing a predicament like being stuck in an elevator, or camping out for concert tickets, understandably this is these situations are going to move people around normal social boundaries and get them talking and sharing more than usual.

And that’s not necessarily what he would say is one of these “forced teaming” situations because nobody kind of forced the situation, right? You’re both deciding to camp out for concert tickets, or you both got stuck in the elevator but it wasn’t necessarily a malicious or ill intent kind of thing that came about. So forced teaming isn’t about coincidence. It’s intentional, and it’s directed. Gavin de Becker says it’s one of the most sophisticated manipulations. The detectable part of forced teaming is the projection of a shared purpose or experience where actually none exists. So things like “both of us”, “we’re some team”, “how are we going to handle this?”, “now we’ve done it”, that’s the kind of language that would alert us into forced teaming. And when we recognize this forced teaming being used on us, combating it brings with it the cost of being rude. So you’re going to have to be willing to be rude.

However, Gavin de Becker points out that rudeness is relative. So get that I love that it’s a quick rudeness is relative, right? So if I’m standing in a line and somebody steps on my foot and I might more than my loud voice in a more loud voice, I may yell, “Ouch! Get off my foot!” I may not appear to be so rude because the person is literally standing on my foot. So he says that we truly recognize forced teaming for the inappropriate behavior that it is. We might feel less rude about our response to it. He says that forced teaming is done in many contexts for many reasons. But when applied by a stranger to a woman in a vulnerable situation such as a lone, in a remote or unpopulated area, it is always inappropriate and it isn’t about coincidence or partnership at that point.

When forced teaming is used, we need to ask ourselves why someone is seeking rapport with me. Now not all reasons for seeking report are sinister, and it’s good to identify why we believe they’re seeking rapport with us and track that feeling as we engage with them because our initial conclusion may not be accurate.

The second pre-incident indicator is charm and niceness. So he says charm is another overrated ability. He points out that he calls it an ability because it’s not an inherent part of a person’s personality. Charm is almost always a directed instrument which, like rapport-building has motive. To charm is to compel, to control by a lure or attraction. So think of charm as a verb, not a character trait. If you consciously tell yourself this person is trying to charm me, instead of this person is very charming, you’ll be able to see around this tactic. Many times when you see behind charm, there won’t be anything sinister.

But other times, you will be glad you looked, and in order to increase overall emotional and social intelligence, it’s good to ask ourselves this question and try to detect why somebody’s trying to charm us. Often people describing a perpetrator like moments or months before they do something criminal, we’ll say things like “oh he’s so nice” you know you hear on the news when it’s the neighbor arrested, people are always like “oh he was such a nice guy.” So we have to learn and teach our children that niceness does not equal goodness. Niceness is a decision. It’s a strategy of social interaction. It’s not a character trait.

People seeking to control others almost always present the image of a nice person in the beginning. And this can be a difficult thing, particularly for women to do in order to go against the niceness, right? Some of the socialized messages for females is that women are expected first to respond to every communication from a man whether it’s wanted or not. And the response is expected to be one of warmth, willingness, attentiveness, openness.

About a year ago, I was at a restaurant. I was picking up lunch for one of our staff meetings. And I had called it in ahead of time, and when I got there it wasn’t quite ready, you know, and so I was going to wait like 5 minutes they said. So I kind of sat down, and the pick-up area for to-go orders with kind of separate from where most people would come if they wanted to be seated for lunch if they were staying. So I was over there, and I was aware that there was another maybe elderly you know likes late-60s gentleman apparently, I assumed waiting for his to-go order as well.

So I took this five minutes, I took the opportunity to catch up on email that I had missed during the day and kind of respond to it knowing that I had a busy day after staff meeting, and so I was working on email, reading through email when I heard somebody say, “you know your day will go a lot better if you smile” and at first I wasn’t thinking you know that this was directed at me because I really hadn’t engaged anybody, and I was just kind of sitting there doing my own thing. And I heard them talking and kind of initially assumed somebody else must have walked up and they were talking. I don’t know, but I looked up and this older gentleman was looking right at me.

And I just kind of you know kind of looked at him like “what did you say?” even though I knew I had heard what he said and he said it again. “You know your day would go much better if you would smile” And I just kind of looked at him and said “I’m working right now so I am not necessarily feeling like smiling.” And at this point they called my name and I went over to pay. I think it still wasn’t quite ready but there was kind of the guy behind the takeout window who kind of gave me this look like “that was weird.”

And I remember thinking like I’ve heard how women are told, I mean I’ve been socialized as well, that women are to be nice and women are to be warm and women are to look appealing, and it’s not that I looked unappealing, I don’t think, it’s not that I wasn’t being nice. I was just kind of doing my own thing and didn’t find a reason to talk to this person. But, it’s one of those again; I don’t know that there was any sinister motive behind him saying that.

However, those are kind of what we would call micro aggressions of sexism that kind of reinforce this we like our women to look open and warm and willing to engage regardless of what they’re doing. So for women, when we’re not doing that we can be perceived as cold, a bitch, or both, and often times I think women are expected to respond to every communication like I said whether they want it or not. And so when women do this and then at some point have to say, “hey, I’m actually not interested” right like let’s say that this person was more my age or you know for those of you who are in the dating scene, you know she’s going along with her socialized messages and then all of a sudden is like, “hey wait I wasn’t actually ever interested” now she’s going to be known as a tease right or a bitch or again both.

And I think we have to recognize as women, first, kind of what this puts us into like that if we do follow the socialized norms down the road, we’re going to be misleading. We are. And I think also recognizing for men that simply because a woman smiles or simply because a woman is nice does not mean that she’s interested in you. So the problems I think to summarize with the expectations of women is that number one, it can raise the expectation of males who are engaging with the women. And then when he finally figures it out, he’s angry about that, which I can understand, and two, if the intentions of the male are more sinister, by engaging back with him and being nice, she typically will provide him personal information that he can then use against her.

So this is why we have to recognize and not just be nice. And for me, I delineate a difference between niceness and kindness. I think kindness is more authentic, but also kindness isn’t necessarily something I maybe just do for strangers. Now having said that, I just realize like a lot of people say you can be kind in the world. And we’re going to talk about because there isn’t a hard-and-fast line this isn’t a black or white thing. So I think again you have to recognize your kindness and what that can signal to other people and that even if your motives are kindness, you can’t force your kindness upon another person.

The third signal that Gavin de Becker talks about is too many details. So when people are telling the truth, they don’t feel doubted. So, they don’t feel the need to supply additional, insignificant details. However, when people lie, even if what they’re saying sounds credible to you, it doesn’t sound credible to them because they know it’s not credible, right? They know they’re lying. So they keep talking and they’re supplying too many details.

The response or kind of the defense to this approach is to remain consciously aware of the context in which the details are being offered. Now context is always apparent at the start of an interaction and usually also at the end of an interaction. But too many details can make us lose sight of the context and the intent of the interaction. De Becker states that every con relies on distracting us from the obvious, so things like, you know, I’ve been in situations where somebody that I don’t know I wouldn’t even know their first name said to me like “Oh, are you Jeff’s wife?” right? They had personal information about me, but I didn’t know them. I didn’t even know their first name

So questions that may casually ask things about us that detract us from the context of this, like in this situation that I just said is the fact that this is an absolute stranger to me. Now on the other hand, I could think oh, if he knows I’m Jeff’s wife, he surely must know Jeff, and so this is an okay conversation to have, and I may offer information about myself, about Jeff about whatever that actually turned out not to be a good thing.

And so kind of keeping that in the forefront of my mind like, this is a stranger. Maybe they know that my husband’s name is Jeff but I didn’t give that to them. I don’t know this person, and it’s kind of a weird place to start, right? Like they don’t say hello. There’s no natural engagement. It’s just this dropping of personal information that they have about me. Also, too many details thinking about giving me information I didn’t ask for.

So when I’m talking about communication, often I will say one of the mistakes I think people make in communicating is they think they have like one shot to communicate, and so they cram what they’re saying full of everything they might want to say instead of recognizing that communication is kind of a, I give, I receive, I give, I receive, and it goes back and forth and it’s not this one-time event you know? So we may make a mistake of saying things like I was out to dinner the other night and I went to this restaurant and I went with these people and it was at this time, and again that the person didn’t necessarily even need to know what restaurant you were at or who you are with or what time you went. They might not have even cared.

So if you’re giving them this information, it might mean that they’re giving you too many details because they’re trying to create an alibi for themselves that’s false. It also may mean that they think there’s a one shot to communicate with you and that’s it, and you are not going to engage back, or if they said like “oh I was out to dinner the other night with some friends and we were talking about whatever.” And then you may say “oh where did you go?” right? That would be now I receive a question and then I may say, “oh it was this great Mexican restaurant,” whatever right?

So if they’re giving me too much information and they don’t think it’s going to be this back-and-forth conversation, I also might want to pay attention to that and ask myself the question, “why is this not going to be a back-and-forth conversation?” or “why are they giving me too many details?” and often times, it can be that they are lying. So the defense against too many details is to bring into the conscious thought the context, did I need to know this? Is this information they’re giving me helpful? Why are they giving me this information?

The fourth pre-incident indicator is type casting. Now type casting is when a person is labeled in some slightly critical way. So something like, “oh you’re probably too snobbish to talk to somebody like me.” And what that does is it creates a response in the person being type cast to engage in a behavior that shows that they’re not that way, right? Oh no, I would totally talk with you and then I sit and talk with you on the train and give you information about myself to show that I’m not actually snobbish, when in reality I shouldn’t be giving you any of this information. So if I’m type cast as thinking I’m too good to talk to a person, I may be friendly and engaging in order to show that I’m not arrogant.

Type casting always involves a slight insult and usually one that is easy to refute, right? So this is something that I don’t necessarily think about myself. I don’t think I’m a snob. And so why do I even have to refute that to you, right? Going back to that Crime Junkies podcast: Be Rude, Be Weird, Stay Safe. So also type casting involves a slight insult, right? So it’s not a blatant insult because we’re more jarred by a blatant insult, and it’s often if they are being obviously insulting or blatantly insulting to us, it’s easier for us to be rude back.

So it’s just going to be this slight insult that gets us to engage with the other person. The defense to the type casting strategy is silence. There’s no need to respond. You don’t have to prove anything to this person because, again, going back to the previous defense, bringing the context into it, you don’t know this person. This is an absolute stranger. So it doesn’t matter what they think of you, and if they think that you’re rude, oh well because the type caster is looking for any response, if you engage, you’re doing what they desired. And the type caster often doesn’t even believe what they’re saying about you is true. They just believe it will work and it will get you to engage with them.

Now the next signal de Becker covers is loan-sharking. This is where a person helps you with some task or another in order to put you on the hook and have you owe them. It makes it harder to ask somebody to leave you alone or to ignore them when they’ve offered help or when they’ve given you help. Now the defense for this is also to bring two facts into your conscious. The first fact is that they approached you, and the second is you didn’t ask for help. It may turn out that they’re a nice person genuinely offering help. But just because they’re genuinely nice and they’re genuinely offering help doesn’t mean we’re obligated to accept that help. And this is where we watch for other signals and we stay tuned in to the context, you know, do I feel like I can decline this offer? If I do decline their offer, will they accept my answer of no?

Loan-sharking at its best casts women into a roll of needing to be helped. At its worst, it exploits the victim’s sense of obligation and fairness.

The sixth signal for us to pick up on is the unsolicited promise. Now this is one of the most reliable signals because it nearly is always a questionable motive. Promises are used to convince us of an intention, but they are not guarantees. A guarantee is a promise that offers some compensation if the speaker fails to deliver. The person commits to make it alright again if things don’t go as they said they would. Promises, though, offer no such collateral. They’re very hollow instruments of speech that show nothing more than the speaker’s desire to convince you of something.

Aside from being skeptical of all unsolicited promises, it’s useful to ask yourself the question, “why does this person need to convince me?” The answer it turns out is not about them, it’s about you. The reason a person promises something, the reason they need to convince you is that they can see you’re not convinced. You have doubt, which going back to the messengers of intuition, doubt is one of the messengers of intuition. De Becker says that the great gift of the unsolicited promise is that the speaker tells you themselves not to be convinced. That’s why they’re promising you.

He says when someone says” I promise”, you say in your head, “You’re right. I’m hesitant about trusting you and maybe with good reason. Thank you for pointing that out.” Often we think of trust about something we should have right? Like I have clients all the time who will come in and say, “I have trust issues.” Well, the reality like the kind of the shadow side of our world is we should have trust issues.

You don’t get to adulthood without being betrayed, I don’t believe. I don’t think we get to adulthood without some legitimate reasons for having trust issues. And often times when people will say something like, “oh I have trust issues” they kind of are implying that the goal of working on trust issues is to be more trusting. And maybe for them, they could use some expansion of their trust. You know maybe that is something that would be positive for them to work on. However, the goal is never to trust everyone. The goal is to know who to trust and who not to trust, to give trust to those who have earned it and to withhold trust from those who haven’t.

The 7th signal is discounting the word ‘no.’ Now de Becker states this is one of the most universally significant signals of them all. A man’s, and this typically happens with a man right? A man’s ignoring or discounting the concept of “no”. No is a word that must never be negotiated because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you. In situations in which unsolicited offers of help are extended appropriately, it can be annoying to have to say no three times, no thank you, no, no.

However, with a complete stranger, their refusal to hear no can be an important survival signal. This is also true when they’re not a stranger, such as a boyfriend, a suitor, or even a spouse. We know that women are more likely to be killed by people they have been in or are in a relationship with, and the other person not hearing them say no is a universally significant indicator that something’s wrong.

Declining to hear no is a signal that someone is seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. Never let somebody talk you out of your “no”. This also has to mean that you know what your “no” is and that requires work to understand who you are, what your boundaries are, and where your limits are.

Now these are the seven pre-incident indicators that Gavin de Becker goes into in his book “The Gift of Fear.” He states that the criminals’ process of victim selection or what he calls the “interview process” of their victims is similar to a shark circling potential prey. They’re looking for someone who allows them to be in control. Just as much as he is sending signals, he’s also leading them back from you. De Becker also states it is important to clarify, that forced teaming, too many details, charm and niceness, type casting, loan-sharking and, refusing to accept “no” are all in daily use by people who have no sinister intent.

You might already recognize several of these strategies as those commonly used by men who want little more than an opportunity to engage a woman in a conversation. So he says, “I don’t mean to cramp the style of some crude Casanova, but times have changed, and we men can surely develop some approaches that are not steeped in deceit and manipulation.” Recently, my youngest turned 16, and she took driver’s ed, and she took it through a private company for reasons that aren’t significant and would be too many details.

So she took private drivers’ ed, and she was on her last drive, so she was driving, and on that particular day that she drove, she was the only one who was allowed to drive who was at that stage in driving that could drive. So there was her as the driver and then, there was one person who had signed up to observe. So you had to like observe a driver three times before you can be a driver. And it’s a 2-hour window, and so, if there’s two people who are classified as drivers, they both take an hour and they drive. And you can have I think two observers, maybe three in the backseat observing whoever is driving. So on this particular incident, she was the only driver and there was only one observer in the back, so it’s this 15-year-old boy in the back observing her driving. And the driving instructor was one she had had before, and the time before when she’d had this particular driver, I had picked up to, I had showed up to pick her up after her drive and she had said to me like, “I don’t really like this guy”. And I said, “Oh what happened? What don’t you like about him?” and she said, “He just kind of makes me feel yucky, like when I’m with him, and she’s like he you know he calls me sweetheart, he calls me darling and, he’s an older guy, and so in my head, I’m thinking, you know, I don’t know if this is just terms of his generation to younger females. I don’t want to. you know. cast him into this negative light when there are no sinister intentions behind him. But I also know, you know she was picking up something, my daughter was picking up something in her gut that I didn’t want to teach her to discount, to overlook, you know? And so I just said, “Well you know you’ve only got this many times left, and let’s just get this done and you’re done, right? No more need to be around this guy,” and I said, “You know, hopefully the next time you drive, he’s not the one you get assigned to.” And so this last time she drove, it was this same older man who was the driving instructor.

And it was difficult to even schedule this, right? It took us a long time to get this scheduled because if, I don’t know how it is if your kids have taken driver’s ed private lessons, but it can be so hard to get it scheduled. They go so quickly. It reminds me of when I was a teenager trying to have to buy concert tickets before they sold out, madly dialing and redialing the phone to try to you know get a line. And so she was just kind of in this headset of like, get done, get through this, I have to get this done so I can have my driver’s license.

And so when I picked her up from that, you know, she came in the car and she was like, “Mom like so it was the same driving instructor,” and you know it was summertime and so she was wearing some shorts and she said he kept touching her leg, her thigh, he kept touching her thigh, he kept like kind of rubbing her back and telling her what a good job she was doing, and she’s like, “I was uncomfortable but I was just kind of in this place of like just get through this. I’m so close to getting my license” and she says, “I just was kind of tuning him out,” she’s like “I knew like” she said, “I think it was a Beach Boys song that came on the radio” and she’s like “And he tried to include the 15-year-old boy in the back seat and was like, “we’re going to dedicate this song to you.” And she’s like, “I just was tuning it out,” right and she says, “so we finish, we get back to the office.” she’s like “I get out of the car and I’m just thinking to myself, get me out of here, I’m done I did what I needed to, I got through it.”

And she said in this she’s like “I start walking into the office to turn in what I needed to,” before she came out to the car, and she said this 15-year-old boy said, “hey can I talk to you for a minute?” and she says, “Initially I thought he just had questions like he’s going to be driving and he had a question or two for me about driving,” she says “So I stopped and you know say, yeah you can talk to me.” And he says, “I just wanted to tell you that what was happening in the car from the driver instructor to you was not okay. He’s like, it was inappropriate. I was very uncomfortable in the backseat.” And he said, “and I was wondering if you would be okay if I file a complaint about what I witnessed.” And when she got in the car and was telling me this, she almost broke down, and I think she was emotional for a couple of reasons. First to have another person witness something for us is huge, and to have them approach us and say “I saw what happened and I’m not okay with it.” I think also for it to be a male, and not just another female. Sometimes females team up and we know these things happen to us, but what are we going to do? And so have this 15-year-old boy say “I saw that. It was uncomfortable. It was inappropriate.” I tried to get his contact information, which obviously they can’t give me, because I wanted to let his mom know how great of a job his mom and his parents, whoever they are, were doing in raising him to know that these things are outdated, these things have gone away, hopefully, and we can’t do these things anymore.

The second thing I think that made her emotional is she was like, “Why was I not aware of how inappropriate it was?” And so I took the opportunity to talk to her. I’ve talked to her before about this, about kind of our survival instincts that take over and we go into fight, which I said you’re not able to fight him, then we go to flee, and you complete, like you’re in a car, you couldn’t flee, you had to get through this in order to get your driver’s license, and you also couldn’t freeze because again, you’re driving a moving vehicle, and so you went into a peace. And you just went along to get along, and that’s honorable, like that is your body deciding this is the best response for the situation. And I said, “Don’t be too hard on yourself for not, you know.” She was like, “Why didn’t I like push his hand off my leg?” and I said, “Well he’s a person of authority, and you didn’t want, you didn’t know what would happen if you rebuffed his touch.”

So we talked about that, and she was able to kind of be okay with her reaction, really be appreciative. I mean the whole time, she was appreciative of the boy’s response and him coming and verifying and validating what she had gone through. So I think it’s those things that we do need to have outdated, these signals that Gavin de Becker talks about. It can be too confusing to try to determine whether the motive is good and just misguided, or whether the motive is sinister. And so for men who are listening, right? If you’re in the dating field, if you have sons who are going to be dating, walk them through these things and say “These things don’t work. It’s too confusing to try to figure out which motive you have.” And so, let’s just have a completely different set of approaching somebody if we’re safe, if we are interested and if we’re open.

Often our fears are fashioned from the ways in which we perceive the world. Animals know what to fear by instinct, but an animal who ignores or is not in touch with their instinct, they have no pre-programmed fears, right? So our second dog is adopted. It’s a rescue dog, and we got her when she was still fairly young, like maybe 6 months old we got her and we had my one daughter adopted her. And yet you can tell if a man comes into our house, she’s much more aggressive or she’s just really shy and like kind of comes behind one of us and is kind of reticent of a male. And it makes me wonder like what happened, right? ‘Cause she has some inappropriate fears of males who are coming into her space or who approach her. And you kind of have to ease them into that kind of let her know to follow our instincts that this is a friendly male that we’ve invited into the house. He’s known to the family, whatever that is because her instincts have been wrongly programed. Now fear does have a rightful place in our lives. It is part of our survival instinct.

However, we can overuse our gift of fear and render it practically useless to us. We can be afraid of everything and thereby not know what to actually be afraid of or what is actually a posing threat. Or we can just ignore our fear and be fearless. This also does not make our gift of fear helpful for us. So much of living a healthy life is about finding balance and pulling ourselves out of the extremes that it’s so easy to go to.

I want to end with the final paragraph of Gavin de Becker’s book. He says, “With your intuition better informed, I hope you will have less unwarranted fear of people. I hope you’ll harness and respect your ability to recognize survival signals. Most important, I hope you’ll see hazard only in those storm clouds where it exists and live life more fully in the clear skies between them.”

At the end of this episode, I want to remind you that your story matters. Remember, there’s something meaningful in every chapter. Don’t wait to share your story ‘til it’s finished. Until next time, Jackie.