Instaread Summary of The Gift of Fear Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker
Three out of five stars
This book is based on what I consider to be a disingenuous statement that appears on the first page of text in the summary. This is summed up in the two sentences, “After violent episodes, observers often will remark that they didn’t think the offender was capable of committing a criminal act, such as stalking, domestic abuse, or even assassination. Yet the perpetrator always sends out warning signals that precede violence, which are often noticeable in retrospect.” The first sentence sets the subject matter, while the second is packed with questionable content.
The first section of the second sentence establishes an absolute “always,” while the second section uses the much more uncertain “often.” As any person schooled in logic knows, any conditional statement where the consequence is true is true. In other words, all that is needed to interpret the signal as a warning of a potential hostile action is to have the fact of the violent act. This is a logically meaningless tautology.
The purpose of the book is to give the reader advice on how to make themselves a “tough target” for those that want to commit violent acts. While some of this is effective and should be followed, arguments in the summary used to convince the reader are weak.
Key takeaway two contains a lengthy anecdote regarding a woman and her having a “bad feeling” about a cab right before she entered it. The cab rear-ended another while she was in it, “justifying” the reliance on intuition in keeping yourself safe. Once again, this is the “recollection” of having a “bad feeling” where the bad feeling felt before the accident is recollected after the accident. Once again, logically meaningless.
Key takeaway 6 is about abused children being more likely to be violent. There is the use of the example of football player Ray Rice, the man made famous by punching his wife out in an elevator. Some of the trauma of Rice’s childhood is cited, but this is nowhere near any hard evidence of a cause and effect. The description of Rice comes across as a nonsensical reference to a celebrity event where it is difficult to see the connection to making the reader safe.
Anybody can claim to be the possessor of precognitive skills after the event occurs, for then all interpretations of earlier events can be manipulated into being considered a warning sign. The content of the book is taken from the author’s years as a personal security consultant, one would think that the author of this summary could come up with better anecdotes than this.
Making people paranoid and afraid is not a path to a higher level of personal security, it is a road to mindless and irrational fear of everything (FOE). It is also a way to sell more books. I will not be reading this one.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.