Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gift of fear

Gavin de Becker's "Gift of Fear" was a very interesting book which essentially boils down to the following:
1. Trust your intuition/instincts.
2. Fear is different from anxiety and it is necessary to be able to differentiate between them.
3. Human behavior can be predicted fairly accurately, especially if it is someone you already know and/or have observed frequently.

Most of the book were the expansions of these concepts using cases that he is familiar with, i.e. his clients. The pace of the book is good and flows easily. I am still confused between disengaging and confronting when dealing with a stalker/persistent date etc. He argues that in a lot of cases a restraining order is not a good idea unless the person is a total stranger and is not prone to violence. In cases where the person is known to victim, i.e. husband, date, coworker a restraining order can lead to violence. My confusion how to differentiate between the using one or another technique. He has some tools in his book but it doesn't always seem to be helpful and in many cases it does boil down to "listening to yourself". He highlights the cases where a restraining order led to violence and the victim was reluctant to obtain a restraining order because her instinct told her not to.

What I also found interesting was the following list of how we all behave (pg. 82):
1. We seek connection with others.
2. We are saddened by loss and try to avoid it.
3. We dislike rejection.
4. We like recognition and attention.
5. We will do more to avoid pain than we will do to seek pleasure.
6. We dislike ridicule and embarassment.
7. We care what others think of us.
8. We seek a degree of control over our lives.

In discussing whether perserverance/persistence is a virtue (it is seen to be in men but not in women) he writes:
We have to teach young people that "No" is a complete sentence. This is not as simple as it may appear, given the deep cultural roots of the no/maybe hybrid. It has become part of the contract between men and women and was even explored by the classic contract theorists, Rousseau and Locke. Rousseau asked: "Why do you consult their words when it is not their mouths that speak?" Locke spoke of a man's winning "silent consent" by reading it in a woman's eyes "in spite of the mouth's denial." Locke even asserted that a man is protecting a woman's honor when he ignores her refusal: "If he then completes his happinessm he is not brutal, he is decent." In Locke's world, date rape wouldn't be a crime at all - it would be a gentleman's act of courtesy.

For example, if a man in a movie researches a woman's schedule, finds out where she lives and works, even goes to her work uninvited, it shows his commitment, proves his love. ... But when she shows up at his work unannounced, interrupting a business lunch, it's alarming and disruptive. (pg. 208)

A few thoughts:
1. I think that some men might find it flattering that a woman did the above (research schedules, shows up unannounced) etc.
2. De Becker also points out the role of media in contrasting the differences between persistence versus disruptive between men and women by noting the differences in their portrayals in movies. (Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, Robert Redford in Indecent Proposal versus Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction). I also wonder how big a role romance novels play in contrasting these differences.

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