I have been reading a most excellent book entitled, "Gift Of Fear", by Gavin de Becker. It is a book written by a profiler/consultant, who has worked for many government agencies, celebrities, etc., and it tackles the sometimes "poo-poo'd" natural intuition we ALL possess when confronted with violence/danger. If you are "in to" this type of topic, I highly recommend it.
As some of you know from reading past posts, I not only work in the field of psychiatry/law, but I am also a trainer in defensive tactics when confronted with violence. I have attended many seminars and training programs in my 21+ years of working in the psych field and have taught several courses at various agencies I have worked in. I'm a fat, middle-aged, MS-afflicted female at this juncture in my life, but I remain confident if confronted with violence, I will stay safe...maybe a bit "bruised" psychically and perhaps even physically, but I will stay safe. This is because of my years of BEING confronted with potential and actual violence in my work...and, recognizing my gift of intuition...something I also believe we ALL possess.
Over the past month, there have been multiple murders, police shootings, and random killings in my fair city...far more than I think I have ever seen here in a 30 day period. It concerns me deeply that violence has become such a known issue on my local 6 o'clock news. After all, these type of things happen in the "big" cities...not little, calm-and-quiet Seattle.
But Seattle, like any expanding population of people stacked on top of one another, is not immuned to violence. And chances are, we have ALL been affected by violence in some form or another in our lives...either as a first hand witness, knowing a victim, or gawd forbid, knowing a perpetrator and/or being a victim ourselves.
On Christmas Eve, I was riding my usual bus from work to home. The streets were empty of the typical travelers that generally line the bus stops and side walks at 7:00PM. And, as is typical for me, I was standing alone at my bus stop waiting in the cold for a very late bus, when a young male in his early 20's approached me (it is an often talked about theory that those of us who work in the psych field are MAGNETS for the imbalanced!). There was something about his aimless walking and vacant eyes that caused me concern, which I immediately recognized as a typical "disturbed" face...he was either high on something or mentally ill.
He approached me and began talking while eating a piece of pizza. His first line out of his mouth was, "Asians are going to kill all of the white people." He said this with strong conviction, disregarding the fact he, himself, was Caucasian. I relaxed somewhat, recognizing the tell-tale signs of mental illness...after all, I'm trained in this field...and decided my best approach was to simply "uh huh" and "really?" him until my bus arrived.
But as I stood there in the cold with this young man rambling sometimes incoherently, I began to get an uneasy feeling...something I call the "hackles"...that sensation of the hair standing up on the back of the neck in response to something alarming in my environment. THIS was my intuition talking to me...giving me the not so subtle signal of fear.
It wasn't so much the content of the young man's ramblings as it was his intense focus on me. He would not leave and would not stop talking. I realized I was growing more and more uncomfortable with his presence and took a very on guard defensive stance, both mentally and physically. I made sure my cell phone was on and powered up and I positioned my keys between my knuckles in case I might need to use them as a weapon. At one point, he rambled something about needing to "take you into custody" just as my bus pulled up to the stop. I boarded the bus and hoped he was too disorganized to follow.
Unfortunately, right on my heels he followed and sat down beside me...he continued to ramble. I realized he had become fixated on me and the likelihood he "could" just disengage was not strong...his obvious mental illness kept him focused. I continued to have the "hackles" feeling and realized I was going to need to take action to prevent possible violence...my intuition was telling me the situation was not one I could easily shake off or talk my way out of.
At the next major stop (a hospital where my agency has a satellite office and is very well-known to me), I waited until all of the passengers had exited and entered the bus...and, just as the bus driver was readying to close the doors, I jumped up and got off the bus. The young man could not have anticipated my escape and was left peering out at me as the bus pulled away. I did have to wait another 30 minutes for the next connection home, but I didn't mind. "Something" told me to do what I had done and it was for all the right reasons.
I don't actually know if this young man WAS dangerous. He WAS mentally ill, this is certain. And I am not one who is typically fearful of the mentally ill...as I've said repeatedly in other posts, less than 3% of all violent crimes are committed by the M.I. population. Most mentally ill, if reacting with violence, are generally doing so out of their own fear...they are typically more fearful of me than I am of them. Hallucinations or delusions of false reality create fear and, at times, the person reacts to this.
And I can't possibly predict what MIGHT have happened had I stayed on the bus...I know I was concerned about getting off at the near end of the line where I live and possibly having this young man follow me in a residential neighborhood home. But something...my intuition...COMPELLED me to get off the bus when I did, avoiding all possible predictions or outcomes that "could" have occurred.
Did I over react? No. My mind was sending me signals (as were my other senses, too) to ACT...to avoid conflict/violence...and I heeded the warning.
Mr. de Becker talks in his book about intuition ALWAYS being 100% accurate...how we process that intuition or rationalize it may be faulty, causing over reaction, but the intuition itself is pure and serves as a warning signal that should not be overlooked. There IS such a thing as healthy paranoia. LOL
As each of us goes through our day, I encourage everyone to begin to listen to your intuition if you are not doing so already. It may seem trivial or "silly", but it could spare you a world of heartache or even your life. We DO all have our answers inside...sometimes hidden or even buried under years of denial or pain...but our answers are there. All we are being asked to do is listen.
If we become less likely victims and empowered individuals, perhaps perpetrators of violence will have a smaller arena to work within...this is my hope for all of us in 2008...