During a recent trip to work, I listened to a very interesting episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcast. My decision to listen to this particular episode was merely based on its name… “Best Lifesaving Lessons”. What I learned, or rather, was reminded of, is to trust your gut!
The episode starts with Oprah Winfrey introducing a man that I had never heard of before… Gavin de Becker. Doesn’t sound familiar, right? Well, he’s a security specialist and author. His book, The Gift of Fear, Oprah takes particular interest in. She explains it as follows, “He talks in his book about many stories of people, if they used their intuition, that little gut feeling, that thing that says, ‘hmm something is off here’, which we’ve talked about before, just a little whisper at first, ‘something’s not right’… when you use that it can make you safer in the world.”
During the podcast, Oprah highlights a few of the stories from this book that stuck with her. The first was a story of a girl named Kelly, who went through a three-hour rape ordeal. At first I was somewhat confused, because Oprah had explained the story as “We’ve all been in this situation”, but this statement becomes more clear as you listen to the entire story. What happened before the rape took place is something that most women have experienced. A situation where you force yourself to be nice to someone in order to not come across as rude… “And women, especially, do this at our own risk”. Kelly’s story “is the horror that every woman fears having to experience”, but the lesson that we can learn from it is:
When you say no, and you mean no, and the other person continues to persist, you should immediately think “Why is this person trying to control me?” Because ‘no’ is a complete sentence.
The second story was told by Betty, a mother of four, who was brutally attacked in her own front yard. Today, Betty uses her story to teach people to “listen to their insides”. She tells of the 23 warning signs she ignored because she let her thoughts reason with her fear as she kept thinking, “Who would hurt her children and who would hurt a mother?”
Based on my own experiences, I agree with Oprah who states in the podcast that women, especially, believe that other people’s feelings are more important than their own and therefore don’t honour the feeling that says “something is wrong here”. What women, and anyone who is in a dangerous situation, should remember is:
The feeling is the warning sign and the feeling is enough. Everything else is the explanation for the feeling. Listen to your gut!
What society has taught us is that women have to be nice all the time. We often believe that when we are not nice it will increase our chances of endangerment, but what Gavin wants us to know is that often the opposite is true. When you are nice, you open up, you give them information, you open the door and let danger in…
I will always remember the advice my aunt, who is a South African police officer, gave me when I was younger. This piece of advice is the next lesson taught during the podcast and an important one to remember:
Never allow them to take you somewhere else.
When you are in a situation where someone wants to hurt, attack, hijack you… NEVER allow them to take you to a second location “because anybody who is trying to harm you wants to take you to an isolated place where they can do that without other people seeing it or knowing it.” This piece of advice has kept many people alive, as told by two women on the podcast.
“As women we are raised to be polite and you don’t want anybody to feel bad but my body, my instinct, everything in my being was saying run.” These words were spoken by actress Gabrielle Union who told her story of surviving a brutal rape at the age of 19 after being taken to the second location.
Humans can predict violent behaviour, but when people get a signal they ignore it, even when there is an intuition that can make a difference. When you sense something is off listen to your gut. Your gut is the voice of your higher self. It’s your personal GPS-system to guide you and to try to keep you out of harm’s way. That is the gift of fear.
I’ll end with Oprah’s open-ended question:
How many times have you been in a situation where you did walk to the parking lot late at night, you did get on an elevator in a building and another strange man or men got on the same elevator and you felt that this is not good but allowed yourself to stay there, to stay in that moment, because you wanted to be nice…