Episode 6: ESSENTIAL READING ALERT! “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker is a masterclass in perception and intuition. It changed the way I move around the world, and now, I am gifting it to you!
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Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover Dana Wilson, and if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artists story than sit tight but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hi. Hi, and thank you for joining me today on episode six. I am so glad that you are here and I am stoked to talk to you. The subject today is whew, it’s rather serious and um pretty intense but also very valuable and I’m excited to get into it. But first I want to check in with you and wish you a happy February. February, February, February. Right? So for the next two weeks I will be working on not saying happy new year to everybody that I see. Great. For those of you that started listening with me back on January 1st episode one have you taken on the daily project? It’s really, really nice to see and connect with my daily doers out there. If you are working on daily making, then I would love to see it and support you. So be sure to tag me on Instagram at words that move me podcast. Actually, to quickly illustrate the power of seeing what all of you guys are making on Instagram. I do want to tell you a quick story. Um, I was editing a podcast a couple of nights ago in bed, which I try not to do just because it’s bad on the lower back, but my husband was asleep, all the lights were off. I’m just headphones on, kind of chipping away and I sensed something fall to my left, like off of my bedside table maybe. Or I have a hanging plant to the left of the bed. And I thought maybe a leaf had fallen off of that. I dunno, I sort of heard and sort of felt something fall. And then a few moments later I had kind of a tickle on my neck. So I, you know, reached up to my neck and I grabbed something that was the same size and weight as an almond, but it was softer and had more legs.
So I kind of threw it down on the bed and then I scrambled and hit the light switch to my right and I looked down and it was some moth type creature with straight, you know, wings and legs. And it was moving pretty slow because I grabbed it. Um, so I reached for my phone cause I wanted to take a little boomerang of it, uh, to show my husband. And when I pulled my phone out and open Instagram to take this boomerang, I saw that I had notifications in words that move me. So I opened it up and I started scrolling through some of the daily doing posts and I left this bug on my bed half alive while I was scrolling through your posts. So all of that to say Instagram is a very powerful and very distracting tool, but also I really do care about the projects that you guys have going on out there. It’s really fun to watch. All right.
This podcast is going to be probably the second best gift you ever receive. The first best gift of course, is the gift of fear. I mean your intuition. But I also mean the book, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. Go ahead and consider it required reading. If you have read it already, I would love to hear your comments. Um, a great way to keep in touch with me is in the comments for this episode at words that move me podcast on Instagram or in the comments on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast under episode six last week I talked about what I call creative fears. Those are non life threatening things. I also touched on judgment and failure and some of the unwanted feelings that come along with those fears. For example, we might be afraid of auditions because we avoid feeling rejected or we might be afraid of injury because we don’t want to feel disposable or replaceable or anything other than indestructible. We’re often afraid to put ourselves and our work out there because we dislike ridicule and embarrassment or we’re often afraid of not being the best. We want to feel like winners, not losers. By the way, we are all winners here. I just want to say that for the record. So that was the last week. Episode five, if you haven’t gotten a chance to listen, really encourage you. Jump on over to that episode, maybe after this one to give that a listen. But this week we’re talking about real fear and the real threats that cause fear. I’m also going to give names to the cues that warn us about danger. By the end of this episode, you’ll have the words to explain why you feel apprehensive in certain situations and hopefully the awareness to navigate yourself out of them. So without any further ado, let’s dig in.
To avoid offending my neuroscientist friends out there. Yes, I do have neuroscientist friends. I’m not going to go into the complicated chemistry of our freeze, fight or flight response. Instead, I’m going to spend as long as it takes to convince you that you need to read the gift of fear by Gavin de Becker. My husband bought it for me, um, and a few of the other dancers I believe before I went on my second world tour. The lessons in this book are invaluable and applicable to anyone regardless of your sex or circumstance, but particularly pertinent to young ladies living in big cities or going on big tours with big stars. I say that because when you’re in places that you don’t know and surrounded by people that you don’t know and have access to celebrities, you become a target to all sorts of nonsense. The book starts with a gripping and really terrifying story of a 27 year old woman who was raped and almost murdered by a stranger in her own apartment. I’ve only ever heard of or read about or seen traumas like this in movies and TV shows, and occasionally the victim sometimes prefaces a retelling of that incident with it came out of nowhere or he seemed like a really nice guy or he didn’t look threatening or he didn’t seem harmful, but the author Gavin de Becker’s conversation with this woman reveals and explains how nothing really comes out of nowhere. There are teeny tiny red flags and warning signs. Indications or very subtle signals. Gavin de Becker calls them survival signals that tell us that something’s not quite right and I want to tell you about those survival signals. These are explanations for why we feel apprehensive in certain settings or about certain people. These are the actual words for that. “I don’t know. I just got a bad feeling” moment.
The first one is pretty self explanatory. Gavin calls it discounting the word no. That’s basically when a person doesn’t take no for an answer. People who don’t take no for an answer do not have your best interest in mind and they shouldn’t be trusted. Simple as that. The next survival signal that Gavin mentions is forced teaming. Gavin explains forced teaming as when a stranger uses the idea of we to establish trust or before there is any, for example, some stranger out in the world saying to you, “we really pick the right night to go out” or “man, we gotta get you back inside” Something to that effect sort of makes your skin crawl and he didn’t really know why. Well why is because there is no we there. That is not your friend. That is not your teammate and there is no we. Another one of Gavin’s survival signals is charm and niceness. He’s very deliberate and pointing out that charm is an ability, not a characteristic. One of my favorite quotes from Gavin is “Charm and niceness are not the same as being good. Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interactions. It is not a character trait.” I think this is so true and so important and at the risk of sounding like really, really pessimistic. I like to remind all of my dancers and creatives out there working on big projects with high-profile artists. There are a lot of reasons for people to be nice to you and not all of them are because that person is good.
The next survival signal that Gavin de Becker offers in his book is too many details. Gavin writes that when people are telling the truth, they don’t feel doubted, so they don’t feel the need for additional support from additional details, but when they lie, even if what they say sounds like it’s true or credible, it doesn’t sound credible and true to them. So they keep talking. Another one of Gavin’s survival signals is typecasting. In the industry, uou might’ve experienced typecasting as a preliminary round of cuts at an audition. It generally happens before there’s any dancing. It happens when the client knows what “type” they are looking for and to save time they excuse all of the people who aren’t. That type typecasting can be awful because it’s very superficial. It’s quite literally based on what you look like. We like to believe that our talent matters at least as much as our looks, but I actually quite like typecasting. It saves time and it saves my energy. If I’m not it, thanks for letting me know before I sweat, before I bleed for the job and before I get a parking ticket. The gift of fear, however, explains typecasting as when somebody labels you in a critical way, hoping that you’ll behave in a way that proves them wrong. For example, “Oh, you too good for me. You’re not going to talk to me.” Or “Where are your manners? You’re so rude” somebody with bad intentions would say these things to try to get a response to try to get you to act in a favorable way towards them. A typecast is really just trying to get engagement from you and because most of us care about what people think of us and we want to be liked, this usually works.
Another one of these survival signals is called loan sharking. It’s when somebody loans you something like money or time or an object or a favor, a service, but plans on collecting much, much more in return. For example, something as simple as a stranger asking if they can help you get your luggage to your room but they expect you to let them in and they happen to then also learn what room you’re staying and or somebody who offers to give you a ride to where you plan to eat that night. Expecting that you might invite them to stay for the meal. Even if it’s under the guise of being a gift or a friendly exchange. The intent can be to put you in their debt and that is not cool. Another survival signal is the unsolicited promise. Gavin explains the unsolicited promise as “nearly always indicative of a questionable motive.” These promises do nothing more than tell us that somebody really just trying to convince us of something, not that there’s a guarantee in their action and certainly not that their intentions are good or in your best interest. Furthermore, the only time somebody makes an unsolicited promise is when they sense that you aren’t convinced. I started really, really thinking about this one the last time I made an unsolicited promise, or at least the last time I can remember was to my husband. I really, really wanted him to come see the book of Mormon with me. He was clearly not into it. He doesn’t like musicals in general and he didn’t see why this one would be any different. So I promised him that he would like it for you know, reasons, but not because I knew that he actually would like it just because I didn’t want to go alone. I wanted to go see it with him. So I was very self motivated. Turns out he didn’t like it, he fell asleep. He just doesn’t like musicals. Maybe he never will and that’s okay. Now, that’s not a very severe example of an unsolicited promise, but think of the last time you made one and the next time somebody promises you something without you asking for it. Ask yourself, why did they just do that? Do you doubt them? Are there other survival signals at play?
Let’s recap those other signals. We started off with discounting the word no. Then forced teaming, which is when somebody makes a “we” where there isn’t one. Then charm and niceness. Too many details. Typecasting, loansharking and of course the unsolicited promise. Gavin goes on to talk about dangerous relationships and domestic violence, stalkers and the efficiency of restraining orders and a lot of really, really fascinating and very important stuff. If you are not riveted and forever changed by this book, I will personally buy your copy off of you and gift it to someone else. That is how much I believe in this book. Now I want to recount a couple of stories from my own life, a few examples that helped me illustrate these survival signals inaction.
Like most of us, I’m assuming my parents taught me to not talk or take candy from strangers. I sort of assumed the part about the unmarked vans that’s just kind of a no-go in general. But I was also taught to “be nice” I grew up being nice in a nice neighborhood and I didn’t have much cause to be afraid ever. Not that red hot type of fear that rings the fight or flight alarm. Anyways. So by the time I moved to LA at 18 years old, I was a professional at being nice. I was really, really good at seeing the good in people and telling myself that everything will be okay. The year was 2005 and the corner of sixth and spring street, downtown LA was certainly not what it is today. That’s where I lived when I first moved to LA. I was catcalled often and harassed for money frequently. Uh, once a man even exposed himself in front of me.
Woah. Anyways, every time something like that would happen in my brain through its little warning signal, I would promptly ignore it. I’d tell myself, this is perfectly normal. That kind man simply drink too much and doesn’t have a home and he just needs to relieve himself on my apartment building right here in front of me. I should pretend to be on my phone so that I don’t interrupt him. I remember another instance very, very clearly as I walked from my car to my building, a rough looking man followed me so closely and for so long that I could tell it was vodka, not whiskey or gin that was making him swerve from my left to my right. The scary part of this story is not that something terrible happened to me. I actually made it into my building safely. The scary part is that I kept my pace because I didn’t want him to think that suspected him of following me. I didn’t want to offend him by running away. I prioritized his feelings above my instinct to protect my own safety. That’s scary. I also recall one incident on tour. Some of the band and the dancers were having a drink at the hotel bar. Not in a particularly dangerous part of town, pretty high class establishment, but a stranger began buying drinks for one of us ladies and it didn’t take him long to zero in on one of us in particular, who was responding really positively to his very unsolicited gestures of “kindness.” He was buying drink after drink even after she said no. Then eventually he put his scarf around her. He said, Ooh, that looks good on you. She smiled and giggled and thanked him and he told her she could keep it. She declined. He insisted. She accepted and said, thank you. Then he offered her yet another drink and she said, no. He said, come on, don’t be rude. I gave you my scarf. You look beautiful. Just one more. She sweetly tried to explain that she meant no offense and was just trying to have a good time with her friends once again and this time not so kindly. He insisted on buying her another drink. I’d seen enough of this dude and I didn’t want to hear what he would insist on next. The gift of fear helped me identify that this man was undeniably up to no good. He ignored the word no. He used unsolicited gifts and charm and niceness to put her in his debt. He definitely loan sharks her. These were just a few of the survival signals that Gavin de Becker described in his book and before reading about any of them, I would’ve felt a little bit uneasy about asking this guy to leave us alone, but on that night I wasn’t. I was certain that this guy was up to no good and I felt fully backed up in asking him to leave us alone. It shouldn’t surprise you that when I asked him to leave us alone, he didn’t. He’s probably been rewarded by this type of persistence in the past. It wasn’t until some of our male counterparts insisted that this man leave that he eventually disappeared. I’m very fortunate to have never experienced a truly traumatic event on the road. Part of that may be simply circumstance. Part of it might be that I’m retraining myself from being nice all the time to being safe.
These are my final thoughts on fear. Real fear. First, it’s cool to listen to your instincts. Your life is way more important than other people’s feelings and the word no does not make you rude. Also, not everyone has good intentions. Your good manners might be keeping you from listening to your good instincts and please don’t pretend to be on your cell phone when you’re in potentially dangerous situations. It’s just way better to listen to your instincts than a piece of glass. All right guys. I think that just about does it for fear, at least for now. A huge thank you
Gavin de Becker for writing this book that has opened my eyes and all of my other senses to my surroundings and the subtle signals that are happening all the time. I really hope you all read the book. It’ll be linked in the show notes on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast under episode six as well as on the words that move me Amazon shopping list, which is also linked on my website. All right, everybody get out there and keep it funky, but also keep it safe and keep it very smart. Keep it safe, keep it smart and keep it funky. Okay, I will talk to you next week. Bye bye.