Excerpt from The Gift of Fear
"What makes you think he was concerned about noise?" I ask.
"I don't know." She takes a long pause, gazing off past me, looking back at him in the bedroom. "Oh...I do know. I get it, I get it. Noise was the thing—that's why he closed the window. That's how I knew."
Since he was dressed and supposedly leaving, he had no other reason to close her window. It was that subtle signal that warned her, but it was fear that gave her the courage to get up without hesitation and follow close behind the man who intended to kill her. She later described a fear so complete that it replaced every feeling in her body. Like an animal hiding inside her, it opened to its full size and stood up using the muscles in her legs. "I had nothing to do with it," she explained. "I was a passenger moving down that hallway."
What she experienced was real fear, not like when we are startled, not like the fear we feel at a movie, or the fear of public speaking. This fear is the powerful ally that says, "Do what I tell you to do." Sometimes, it tells a person to play dead, or to stop breathing, or to run or scream or fight, but to Kelly it said, "Just be quiet and don't doubt me and I'll get you out of here."
Kelly told me she felt new confidence in herself, knowing she had acted on that signal, knowing she had saved her own life. She said she was tired of being blamed and blaming herself for letting him into her apartment. She said she had learned enough in our meetings to never again be victimized that way.
"Maybe that's the good to come from it," she reflected. "The weird thing is, with all this information I'm actually less afraid walking around now than I was before it happened—but there must be an easier way people could learn."
Knowing when you're in the presence of danger.