Recently there was an abduction of a young, 17 year old lady in my community. It happened at the small shopping mall where I get my groceries, not far from my home. A man lured her out to the parking lot claiming car troubles, held a gun to her, had her drive to a remote location, and then physically assaulted her. I’m glad to report this young lady got away and the perpetrator was caught. Perhaps a relieving end to scary incident, but likely not without lasting emotional damage on the victim and those near to her.
This kind of incident gets the ol’ fight or flight system firing–it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that it could have been me or one of my daughters randomly picked as a target of assault–what would I have done? What should I tell my daughters to do… to save their lives, to protect them? These feelings of fear, of vulnerability, urged me to re-read a book I really appreciated years ago about skills and strategies to protect us from violence. It’s called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker. As I got into it, I remembered why I liked it so much, it manages to speak about violence and self-defense without fear mongering, and instead, empowers the reader.
It’s also interesting to review literature with a new lens on–you never know how the words will read after you’ve “grown up” a little and gained new perspective and opinions. For me this re-read comes after my training as a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, and I found myself appreciating parts of this book differently on this second go around. Here’s a quote from the book that illustrates how the author interacts with his clients (and one I’m sure will be appreciated by my colleagues). It’s part of an interview done by the author to an assault victim:
“Could you have seen this coming?” Most often they say, “No, it just came out of nowhere,” but if I am quiet, if I wait a moment, here comes the information: “I felt uneasy when I first met that guy…” or “Now that I think of it, I was suspicious when he approached me.”
Here’s another excerpt from the book that pleased the yoga therapist in me and perhaps will help delineate my message. The author is interviewing a couple who want him to solve who is doing the harassing and threatening phone calls they are receiving:
At some point in our discussion of possible suspects, the woman will invariably say something like this: “You know, there is one other person, and I don’t have any concrete reason for thinking it’s him. I just have this feeling, and I hate to even suggest it, but…” And right there I could send them home and send my bill, because that is who it will be… I’ll be much praised for my skill, but most often, I just listen and give them permission to listen to themselves.
To me there is so much wisdom in these two little paragraphs. For one, the author is offering the golden rule of silence (and listening), as an essential tool in helping his clients. This is the very premise that my work as a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist is based on–we give our clients the space and time, the unconditional listening presence, that allows them to explore whatever truth their bodies already know but hasn’t had the opportunity to realize. Silence gives way to realization.
“I just listen and give them permission to listen to themselves.”
Within this line, is the reminder that much of what we will ever need to know about predicting and dealing with human violence is already in us. It exists in that space between moments when you acknowledge the little niggle inside that says something’s not quite right. The author calls it intuition. I call it perception. It’s learning to trust that your amazing body is made up of trillions of cells composed of all the sensory bits and genetic history you’ll ever need to perceive danger. We’ve all experienced it… that “gut” feeling–it’s just a matter of learning to trust its value and give it permission to speak a little louder and let the busy brain attend to what the wise body already knows. I’ve decided this is what I’m going to tell my daughters. To listen to their bodies, to trust those subtle feelings of uneasiness because within this feeling lies the right action, and one that will keep them safe, whatever the setting.
Renee Reusz RYT, PRYT