Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Gift of Fear

A FEW DAYS AGO THE PORTLAND NEWS was all over a missing young woman. She
worked at a Starbucks and didn't report for work. Family members, of course, were frantic and the big guns were called in to search for her. The outcome wasn't good. A neighbor asked her for a ride and she said okay. Then he pulled a gun on her. He confessed to murdering her. 

What's so troubling about this is that it's the kind of thing that could happen to any of us. This wasn't a drug bust gone awry or a prostitute getting smacked around by her pimp. This woman was one of us, just your average law-abiding citizen, going about her life. 

Years ago I read the book called The Gift of Fear. Do you remember it? The author's premise was that each of us has an innate protector that will alert us to danger. It's an instinctual knowing when we're being threatened. The alert might be a siren but more likely, it will be a subtle uneasiness that is far too easy to dismiss as paranoia. Or not wanting to cause a scene or be rude. 

I was reading The Gift of Fear soon after Laci Peterson was murdered by her husband. I wanted to understand how a smart woman like Laci could have been fooled into marrying a sociopath. Were there signs? Did she have a subtle uneasiness that she ignored or rationalized in some way? 

One of the things that alarmed me most about reading The Gift of Fear was realizing that my anxiety disorder was keeping me a slave to high alert and this would, in all likelihood, make it impossible to discern authentic danger.  How would I know if there was really a bad guy behind that building if I was always in a panic, sure he was there?  

I'm grateful that even during my worst panic attacks, God kept me and my loved ones safe. Now that I'm free of anxiety, (knock on wood) life is a lot easier to live. I know I've now got access to that God-given instinct, should I need it. I trust that if danger is just outside the door, my protector will let me know. 

What do you think of the concept that fear can be a good thing? 


  1. "knock on wood" - seriously? This is an old belief that rapping on wood wards off evil spirits. It has been said that it was also an old Irish ritual to knock on the woods of trees to warn or ward off the tree spirits. This is what you put in your blog in association with fear?? The source of controlling fear is God - as you point out - but I'm sure a writer such as yourself can come up with other descriptions to make your point.

  2. Grace, I've read "The Gift of Fear," also, and loved it. I agree with the author's premise that fear is a good thing--true fear versus anxiety or worry. I've got so much anxiety and worry to clear out of the way, sometimes I think I wouldn't know real fear, too. And yet, I think that the times I have been in precarious situations, I have felt fear differently than anxiety.

  3. You've made an excellent point. We've had robberies in our area the past 10 months and I've grown weary of living in fear and have tried to eliminate "fear" from my thinking, but now I realize that "fear" is necessary because it does alert us to dangers.

    I had a dream the other night where I was sitting in a car with the door opened...cell phone on my lap...and a stranger approached...grabbed my hand to pull me out of the car and when I awoke I realized that there was very little I could do...even having my cell phone handy was not going to help me. I am going to welcome fear into my life as a necessary element for my own protection.

  4. Ugh, I feel awful for her family. I just can't imagine anything worse than losing a child/spouse/family member to an act of violence. Random or not.

    And you're right, that little voice of warning should always be payed attention to. I don't know if you saw my post the other day about my sister's experience in Hong Kong, but I'm anxious to have her home this weekend and am looking forward to hearing if there was a "voice" telling her where to sit down in the coffee shop.

  5. The adrenalin rush and "fight or flight" is indeed inside us for a good reason and I think we need to listen to our body and minds for signals of danger, but you bring up a good and valid point about someone like me who could very easily get confused because of my hypersensitivity and anxiety. Ironically, I think that being on high alert makes me less safe and more vulnerable to danger. And I can see myself totally letting myself get in a dangerous position because I don't want someone to think I am being rude or over protective of myself. Grace, how did you ease your anxiety or did it just go away? I would love you to do a post on how your anxiety resolved itself.
    I am so sad that horrible violence like this happens to our friends, neighbors and family.

  6. I don't think that I have ever heard of such a thing. I wonder if this was a long time neighbor or a new comer that she felt uncomfortable saying no to when he asked for a ride. I agree that when one is always fearful not only one is immensely uncomfortable one cannot also decipher the real danger from perceived danger. I think we really are forced to rely on faith on a daily basis. Living in a big city is no simple task. Hope you are having a good day Grace. xx

  7. How is it that you are free from anxiety? (A fellow sufferer.)

  8. The sudden, warning kind: good. The free-floating, nagging, constant kind: destructive in so many ways.

  9. Like Holmes, we must all pay attention. Listening to (healthy) inner voices is a powerful part of that.

    I love the "knock on wood" expression and all the rich linguistic and emotional heritage it evokes.

  10. I think we need to listen to our instincts and trust them but a big problem that we women have is that we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Do we listen to that voice in our head warning us or do we say " I know this person and they wouldn't hurt me." Too many women are lured in by people we think we know. Our community has experienced an influx of people from large cities. For some reason, it's easy to get services in our county (welfare, food stamps, etc) I'm not saying everyone receiving services is bad, but there has been a large increase in crime and gangs. I like taking walks by myself but now that it's dark most of the time I'm not at work, I'm trying not to let my fear keep me from doing what I enjoy.

  11. Knock on wood is right! I am not a God follower sorry so knocking on wood it is for me (I do believe in a higher power but not in a traditional American religious sense).
    I've not read The Gift of Fear but I do think we all have a sense of something more. Many people have been in positions that could have hurt us and I wonder where our innate sense is at that time - I think in my case brain fog (Celiac induced) can hinder that innate sense.
    I am thankful to be alive as different things have happened that could have changed that.


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