HPPUB BOOK REVIEW of De Becker’s The Gift of Fear


Author (or Editor): De Becker, Gavin

Title: The Gift of Fear, and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence

Fiction? N

Publisher:  Dell

Date: 1997

ISBN:  ISBN 0440226198

Series Name:

Physical description: Paper

Relevance to HPPUB  narcissism


Book Review: The Gift of Fear, and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence;  by Gavin De Becker; New York: Dell, 1997 (paper).

            This book purports to discuss everything an ordinary person needs to know to protect himself or herself from violent crime, and for that it is valuable. But two particular topics I want to comment on. These topics are (1) how to fire someone from a job for cause and (2) stalking.

            The author, in fact, underplays the fact that some people just don't make it in a civilized world. They lash out because they don't have what it takes to meet others' needs in any meaningful way (however distant) at all.

            One key principle: when you say "No!" to someone, say it once, and mean it, and don't recant.

The discussion on terminating an employee, for example, emphasizes that the termination debriefing should be brief and straightforward. In a few minutes, the disoriented employee should be told that termination decision is final, and exactly what will be done about severance and references; beyond that, no promises should even be hinted at. Security precautions should be taken. De Becker disagrees with other human resources experts in that he thinks terminations should be done late in the week. But you probably should wait until the time of the interview to shut off the person's computer access.

The stalking issue is particularly subtle. He notes that a pursuer can naively, innocuously "stalk," looking for "friendship" without realizing that his interest is totally inappropriate for his situation. (This could happen as simply as by adding someone to an email list without good "business" reason other than to get that person's "attention." An unmarried or divorced person without evidence of legitimate intimate connection to another adult may find his simple overtures particularly "suspect" ¾ here the absence of one thing with the presence of another instantiates a "rebuttable presumption." ) The response to unwanted attention should be capital and final: say no once, and then never again give the person any "detectable" response. (I've had to do this twice in my own life, when I was much younger. But it's not fun to "reject" soneone.)

But there is a curious paradox to the stalking/infatuation/harassment syndrome. On the one hand, people who get stalked tend to be younger and more "attractive," and our society has curiously given the young and "beautiful" some degree of power in deciding when they are getting "stalked." Indeed, narcissistic infatuation happens a lot. ("If I can just see the person one more time, maybe…..") On the other hand, Remember the movies Play Misty for Me (1971) and Fatal Attraction (1987)! Still, some suitors are more "in love" with being in love, with the idea of a "relationship" than with the target person. After all, many people take society's unwritten law, that you are nothing without a "partner," the wrong way.

This book is mentioned in the end credits for Columbia’s 2002 film, The Panic Room, with Jodie Foster.

See essay on narcissism.




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