Trust Your Discomfort

“Twenty-six years ago, Gavin de Becker published The Gift of Fear, exploring the relationship between violence, social etiquette and survival instincts. One of his key arguments is that women in particular are encouraged to dismiss or trivialise their fear of strangers in order to ‘be nice’.

‘No animal in the wild suddenly overcome by fear,’ he writes, ‘would spend any of its mental energy thinking “it’s probably nothing”‘:

A woman could offer no greater cooperation to her soon-to-be attacker than to spend her time telling herself, ‘But he seems like such a nice man’. But that is exactly what many people do.

Fear, argues Becker, is ‘nature’s strongest survival signal’ — yet all too often, we feel we should suppress it.”