You know that uncomfortable feeling you get sometimes, like when an overly friendly stranger offers help you don’t want? Or the sense that you shouldn’t get into an elevator with someone, even though you can’t explain why?
This fear can be a asset because our subconscious picks up on details that alert us to danger. One of my favorite nonfiction books is The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker. He provides many stories of survivors who, looking back, realized it was their intuition that alerted them to a dangerous situation. Intuition, he says, is “the journey from A to Z without stopping at any other letter along the way. It is knowing without knowing why.”
Yet we often try to downplay our fear. What if we’re wrong about the danger? We don’t want to look silly or seem alarmist. We don’t want to possibly insult a stranger by not getting in the elevator. We don’t want to see rude.
But if our intuition is telling us otherwise, de Becker argues that rudeness is the last thing we should be worried about. Being afraid can save us from harm.
De Becker says, “No animal in the wild, suddenly overcome with fear, would spend any of its mental energy thinking, ‘It’s probably nothing.’ Yet we chide ourselves for even momentarily giving validity to the feeling that someone is behind us on a seemingly empty street, or that someone’s unusual behavior might be sinister. Instead of being grateful to such a powerful internal resource, grateful for the self-care, instead of entertaining the possibility that our minds might actually be working for us and not just playing tricks on us, we rush to ridicule the impulse. We, in contrast to every other creature in nature, choose not to explore -- and even to ignore – survival signals.”
Have you ever experienced helpful intuition? Have you ever acted on a fear and been grateful for it?