A Girl’s First Life of Defense . . . Her Intuition

intuition
What if I told you that there is a completely free tool available to you that could keep you safe from danger, help you pick the right answer on a multiple choice exam, or guide you towards making the right decision when buying a car or picking a school? You’d be all over that, right? What if I told you that you already own it?…

My sophomore year of college, I attended a party at a fraternity house dressed to impress. I had just gotten out of a relationship and I was ready to flirt and mingle. When I walked through the door of the house and noticed a few appreciative glances, my confidence soared and I was ready for a fun night. Just then I happened to make eye contact with this one guy and all the warning bells and whistles in my body went off. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt totally creeped out. There was something going on and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I ignored the feeling, but also avoided any contact with this guy as best I could.

As the DSS (Designated Sober Sister), I found myself hitting the practically abandoned soda table at one point during the evening. When I turned over my shoulder to exit the room, there he was….Creepy McCreeperson. I felt myself completely freeze up as he approached me. It felt like there was a lock in the center of my stomach just under my ribs and someone had forced in the key and bolted it. As he spoke to me, he started running his hand across my collarbone and my mind raced as I looked for a socially acceptable way to get away from him. At that moment, one of my sorority sisters came through the door looking for me. Now, she was never one to care much about being “socially acceptable” and with the added bonus of having had a couple of drinks, she had no problem telling him to get his hands off me and pulling me safely out of the room.

Later that night, I thought “What was that? Why had that guy given me such an intense feeling? And what had that feeling meant?”
We’ve probably all had a similar experience. Something isn’t right in our environment. We know something isn’t right, but we aren’t sure what or why or how. That’s our intuition and if we learn to listen to it without judgment and respond accordingly, that is the tool that can protect us in a variety of circumstances.

Violence prevention expert, Gavin de Becker defines intuition as ‘knowing something without knowing why’. Now that’s a pretty cool concept! You can know something, but not necessarily be consciously aware of why you know it. And the coolness of that is magnified when you consider this little known fact about intuition: it’s always going to take you to a safer place. It’s never going to put you in more danger to trust and act on your intuition. The trick is that we have to accept these feelings on face value and resist the urge to overanalyze. Because while we’re stroking the old proverbial beard asking ourselves “Is my intuition reliable?,” we could find that our opportunity to act has passed us by and we are now in a pickle.

Recently, I had the experience of locking eyes with a guy and this time all the right bells and whistles went off. I knew I’d found someone special. I didn’t know yet why or how, but I knew he was going to be important to me. And because I had taken the time to explore my intuition and how it communicates with me, I knew I could trust that feeling, turn off my very human desire to over think things, and enjoy the wonderful feeling of getting to know someone who excites me. Thanks, intuition!

GFB – Heather

Shout out to GFB from Ellen Snortland and Gavin de Becker!

Ellen Snortland author of Beauty Bites Beast and Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear recently mentioned Girls Fight Back and the importance of a self-defense education for college students in this article published by The Huffington Post.

Another reason to love teachers

Today I was dropping off my son at his daycare, which is also a school. I was approached by the school owner, who asked if I would deliver a Girls Fight Back presentation to his staff in September. Without even knowing my schedule, I said yes – which I never do without checking with our Program Director first. But in that moment, I knew I was being asked to give the most important and most valuable opportunity in the world. More critical than any engagement addressing the UN, or an ivy league commencement…and here’s why.

If you really needed another reason to love teachers, it’s because they have a unique opportunity to predict and prevent violence in schools. In cases like Coach Dave Sanders as a dramatic example, (Dave was the only teacher who died in the Columbine shootings in April 1999) they are willing to go to tremendous extremes for the sake of our nation’s kids. Far before events like Columbine occur, teachers may see clues that something is amiss. They interact with parents, with students and with other staff. They are observers of the environment of which our children learn in. They are the keepers of the place where our kids spend many of their days, and therefore have the opportunity to listen to some incredibly powerful intuitive messages that maybe, just maybe, something’s not right.

Then they have the opportunity to act. Maybe it’s to confront someone or simply speak up and tell a superior who can intervene. This is the new heroism, and I believe our teachers are up for the challenge.

While not every parent can offer teaching a self-defense workshop like I can, there is something else you can do. Consider buying your child’s teacher – or even better, the entire staff of the school – a copy of Gavin de Becker’s book: Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe.

We can’t save everyone from violence, not even our own children – as painful and unbearable as that thought may be. But you are not powerless! All of us can provide people the tools that just might help them save themselves….or someone else…from violence someday. Gavin’s book is a great example of that.

Here’s wishing you and your children a fun-filled year of learning and growing in a most peaceful setting.

Not everyone must be a victim

Gavin de Becker is our Nation’s best-known expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is the author of The Gift of Fear, Protecting the Gift and Fear Less. Visit his company website at http://gavindebecker.com

This anniversary reminds us all of how quickly ten years passes.  I reflect on all the things we have experienced in this decade that Shannon did not get to experience.  That part feels sad.  And I also reflect on all the things and all the contributions that were possible because of what happened, because of your love, Erin, and because many other people joined you in working to reduce victimization.

Your work reminds me of this important truth: Everyone might be a target at times, but not everyone must be a victim.

The important anniversary to me today is not one of loss – but rather the anniversary of the formation of Girls Fight Back.  I’m honored to be part of what you do.

gavin

Note from Erin: There are a lot of rock stars sending birthday wishes to GFB this month, but the fact one of the busiest men and thought leaders in violence prevention would take the time for this…well, I’m beyond humbled and grateful. Gavin’s book, The Gift of Fear, changed my life at a time I was riddled with emotional pain from losing Shannon, and has saved countless lives with its wisdom. It taught me about fear and anxiety, and how to know the difference. Gavin’s work not only inspired the intuition section of the GFB presentation, but also served as a guide on my journey to get my peace back. Watch him on Oprah talking about the ‘power of no’ and see why GFB loves Gavin and everyone at his company so much. Also check out the free assessment tool you can use, to see if you or someone you know may be in a violent relationship. Thank you Gavin, and also thanks to your incredible team at GdBA…it is an honor to be part of what you do as well.

Choosing a Preschool

There is an old German proverb that reads: “Who takes the child by the hand, takes the mother by the heart.” From the minute a slimy, closed-eyed, squalling little baby is laid across its mother’s chest, the mother begins to look at the world differently. (Check out FBP founder Erin Weed’s latest blog about natural childbirth and her journey into motherhood.) What used to look like a fun, predictable place now looks like a cesspool of predators, electrical outlets, and sharp-cornered coffee tables.

I have successfully guided my daughter through this dangerous world for almost 17 months now and despite her share of falls (off the bed, down a short flight of stairs, off the couch, etc. etc.) she is today a strong willed and independent toddler.

Today was her first day of preschool.

Of course, that sounds dramatic. Really today was her first day of ever being cared for by someone other than a family member. She is attending two half days a week at a local church preschool which amounts to a whopping 6 hours a week in the care of someone else. Still, it is a big step for us.

When we were looking for a preschool, I thought we were doing everything right. We grilled our friends for recommendations; we toured a few options; we asked questions and finally made a decision. The final decision was really made by Cassie. Like most toddlers, she has separation anxiety. Every place we toured she was clingy and unwilling for us to set her down for even one moment. But this one preschool, she really opened up and dove right in. She played with toys and smiled at teachers. We thought she was making her choice known. So we went with it.

A month after filing out my registration form and signing over that first tuition check, I was reading Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker and realized…maybe my (then) 13 month old wasn’t the best person to rely on to choose a safe preschool. I was reading the chapter about choosing a preschool and feeling so stupid. I had asked questions, but they hadn’t been the real questions on my mind. I had let others convince me what a great place this was, but didn’t even ask if they background checked their employees! What had I done?!

I decided to make an appointment to see the director and ask all the right questions this time. I knew that this place was such a great school that her answers would put me at ease. I was shocked to find out that while the school does background check employees, it doesn’t background check volunteers or follow the Department of Justice Guidelines for the Screening of Persons Working with Children. I tried hard not to let my disappointment show as I received honest, yet somewhat scary answers to my child safety questions. I was beginning to realize that I had a hard decision to make. My child could not attend this school.

As I was about to wrap things up, the director of the preschool shared a particularly candid story with me about a time that she had suspected a parent of abusing their child. Hearing about her quick and decisive action gave me a glimmer of hope. We began to have a simple and honest dialogue about safety. No more questions with pass or fail answers, just a few adults talking about how to make their community safer for children.

In the course of this dialogue, I shared my connection to Fight Back Productions and talked about the book Protecting the Gift. I shared with the director and her assistant director everything that I was learning. She said, “Then maybe you can help us.”

Later that afternoon, we were exchanging emails about fingerprint based background checks and video camera security systems. My suggestions were treated with respect and just recently, the director shared with me that the church had approved the installation of a new security system!

I was amazed by what could happen when just one person asks the tough questions. So today was Cassie’s first day at that same school. I’m confident that as long as I keep speaking up and the administration keeps listening and working with me, we can create an environment where the kids can not only be safe, but can grow and thrive.

For more information about what you can do to be sure your child is safe at school check out this article.

Just a hunch? Maybe not…

A piece in the New York Times this week, third in a series of stories about the research of “Brain Power,” sheds interesting light on the existence and importance of human intuition.

The concept of a hunch, or a gut feeling, is explored as it relates to soldiers’ abilities to detect hidden explosives in war zones. Woven through the research is the story of Sgt. First Class Edward Tierney, who impulsively ordered his patrol of nine men to fall back from a car holding two small boys parked unassumingly on a sidewalk in Iraq. Seconds later, the car exploded.

The story concludes:

“Since then, Sergeant Tierney has often run back the tape in his head, looking for the detail that tipped him off. Maybe it was the angle of the car, or the location; maybe the absence of an attack, the sleepiness in the market: perhaps the sum of all of the above.

‘I can’t point to one thing,’ he said. ‘I just had that feeling you have when you walk out of the house and know you forgot something — you got your keys, it’s not that — and need a few moments to figure out what it is.’

He added, ‘I feel very fortunate none of my men were killed or badly wounded.’”

The article delves into the science behind this phenomenon of intuition, explaining that the humans are often subconsciously aware of details that accompany danger, and they feel a sense of urgency even before the brain has time to process those details.

‘”Not long ago people thought of emotions as old stuff, as just feelings — feelings that had little to do with rational decision making, or that got in the way of it,’ said Dr. Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. ‘Now that position has reversed. We understand emotions as practical action programs that work to solve a problem, often before we’re conscious of it. These processes are at work continually, in pilots, leaders of expeditions, parents, all of us.’ …

As the brain tallies cues, big and small, consciously and not, it may send out an alarm before a person fully understands why.”

The importance of listening to intuition – whether you are on bomb patrol in Mosul or meeting a new “friend” at a party – cannot be underestimated. One of the leading books on this subject is called “The Gift of Fear,” by safety expert Gavin de Becker. GDB describes intuition as knowing something, without knowing why. The book goes on to explain that two facts about intuition are always true:

1. Intuition is always based on something, even if you can’t consciously see a reason to be wary.
2. Intuition will always lead you to a safer place, never into danger.

Trusting our intuition is one of the greatest tools we have as humans to guard our own personal safety. But going through life ever vigilant and prepared to listen to our survival signals does not mean that we live in constant fear. On the contrary, because we know our intuition will warn us of danger, just like Sergeant Tierney’s intuition warned him of an imminent explosion, we feel at peace, unthreatened, comfortable in our own skin.

This confidence we gain by acknowledging and trusting our intuition, in fact, allows that very intuition to function more effectively. Consider this statement in the New York Times piece:

“In war, anxiety can run as high as the Iraqi heat, and neuroscientists say that the most perceptive, observant brain on earth will not pick up subtle clues if it is overwhelmed by stress.

In the Army study of I.E.D. detection, researchers found that troops who were good at spotting bombs in simulations tended to think of themselves as predators, not prey. That frame of mind by itself may work to reduce anxiety, experts say.”

Thus, our intuition makes us feel more confident and secure, and that very confidence allows our intuition to function at a heightened level, keeping us even safer, making us feel even more confident, and the upward spiral continues.

The moral of the story is:

1. Intuition is one of your most powerful safety resources.
2. What appears to be just a “hunch” is likely a signal that your brain has not even processed – listen to it!
3. Trusting your intuition will raise your confidence, allowing your intuition to thrive, keeping you safer, and so on.

Next time you know something without knowing why, trust your instinct. Your brain knows more than you realize!

Having Faith

I loved Megan’s recent article on being Paranoid versus being Proactive. It reminded me that just about a week after I returned home from the Girls Fight Back Training Academy, my husband and I were lying in bed, just about to drift off to sleep when I suddenly had the thought that the door wasn’t locked. It was strange because I didn’t think “Hmmm..is the door locked?” or “I can’t remember if I locked the door or not.” I simply thought “the door isn’t locked.” So I got up and locked it. My husband asked what I was doing and I told him I was going to lock the door. When I returned to bed, he asked, “so now that you’ve had this training, are you going to be paranoid all the time?” I simply asked him, “What’s paranoid about locking a door that is unlocked?” (and for the record, it was unlocked) Our conversation continued and finally ended with a discussion over who empties the dishwasher more often, but that really isn’t the point.

The point is that it is hard to separate the idea of being careful about your safety from the idea that you are being paranoid and suspicious of everyone. Both my husband and I were raised in small towns where people don’t just leave their doors unlocked, they leave them wide open! I have one member of my family who still to this day doesn’t even have a key to their home. It is unlocked 24/7. In fact, recently someone accidentally locked the door as they were leaving the house and this relative had to call a locksmith to get them into their own house! Since I practice simple safety precautions (like actually locking my doors), I’m used to being called paranoid or (when it comes to my daughter’s safety) overprotective.

I won’t lie, when I’m out running errands with my daughter, I am a little hyperaware of our surroundings and our safety. People often offer to help me with things like putting up a grocery cart or carrying bags to my car. They usually offer this help because I am carrying too many bags and digging through my purse for my keys with my 15 month old wiggling around on my hip. And for the most part, I used to refuse the help 10 times out of 10. Why? Because I didn’t trust people. Or really because I didn’t trust myself.

You see, when you don’t trust your intuition, it is easiest to go to one extreme or the other. You simply choose to trust everyone or trust no one and accept whatever comes from that choice. For me, I trusted no one and that meant doing everything myself and having lots of headaches.

This week, I took my daughter to lunch at one of those fast food type Japanese places. You know, the ones that have those yummy rice bowls with chicken and zucchini.  While I was waiting for my food, I started the process of getting my daughter situated in a high chair.  Well, I got the chair and dragged it over to my table only to realize that it was sticky and gross.  I decided I needed to get out a wipe from my wipe case and clean it off.  Now my daughter is still in my arms and I’m digging through my bag to get the wipes.  I find them and that darn wipe won’t come out.  I’m just about to try and pull it out with my teeth when this man comes over and asks if I need any help.  I’m just about to say no, thank you when I stop for a moment.  I realize that I don’t have a creepy feeling about this person.  My intuition shoots me a quick message to say, “he’s OK.”  So I say yes and this nice man gets out the wipe for me and cleans the chair.  He even goes to get my food at the counter and brings it to me!

As my daughter and I are enjoying our lunch, I realize that by trusting my intuition, I have freed myself up to have faith in others.  I can count on my intuition to guide me towards helpful, honest people and away from those who mean me harm.  It feels great to believe in the goodness of people; to know that my instincts can guide me through any situation; and to know that the next time the guy who bags my groceries offers to cart them out to the car for me, my answer will be YES!