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Healthy Living

How to Steer Clear of Danger

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 01/10/2012
Last Updated: 08/03/2012

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The world is a safe and neutral and secure place, my home a safe haven. People are full of good intentions, and danger only comes to those who are looking for it. That's what my younger self thought. And then … age happens. And that's when you realize that is not always the case.

Some thoughts are not good right before bed. That's why I long ago gave up watching the 11 o'clock news, which is oftentimes filled with stories of violence, sadness or tragedy.

It just doesn't make for a good night's rest. I much prefer a peaceful book or the sound of my noise machine cradling my nerves with its serene sounds of ocean waves or a waterfall.

But the past few nights, I've broken my promise to myself and done two things that are knotting up my bed sheets with all my tossing and turning: one, I watched back-to-back, catch-up episodes of a new series on Showtime called "Homeland," a suspenseful cat-and-mouse whodunit (or more like who's-going-to-do-it) that I am absolutely addicted to, involving the CIA, terror threats and mind games.

The other thing? I'm reading the new book, Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us, and I'm having trouble putting it down. A collaboration between Mary Ellen O'Toole, PhD, a retired FBI profiler, and writer Alisa Bowman, it's both eye-opening and provocative—kind of a life guide to staying safe. Don't get me wrong: it's an important book, filled with advice that could protect you or even save your life. But, you might not want to read it right before bed.

Here are just a handful of the many myths about myself that this book has debunked:

  1. By now, I've had enough life experience to be able to make sensible and sound judgments: size up someone, pick out the liar or steer clear of the psychopath in the crowd.
  2. Most people are well-intentioned and trustworthy. And if I'm nice, no one will take advantage of me.
  3. If an intruder comes into my house while I am sleeping, I know how best to handle myself.
  4. I know how to get the truth out of my husband and find out if he is cheating on me.
  5. I know how to tell if someone is lying.
  6. If I'm hiring someone to do work in my house, it's enough to ask someone for a recommendation by asking a few questions like, "What did you think of him?" and "What kind of job did he do?"
  7. Just because someone is friendly, comes from a good family and looks harmless, they're safe.
  8. Trusting my gut is good enough.
  9. Body language speaks volumes. If someone has his or her hands crossed over her chest, she is defensive, closed-minded and a bad communicator.
  10. I know how to handle myself during an emotional conversation.

It's clear I still have a lot to learn.

And the old saying, "forewarned is forearmed," couldn't be further from the truth.

Speaking of forearmed, this gives me the opportunity to be generous, thanks to the big-hearted folks below, and offer you FOUR ways to stay safe and secure in the event of an unexpected danger. Yes, a bonanza of safety! Seems that safety is on a lot of people's minds—not just mine—lately.

1.    A copy of the book . Everything you don't know about risk assessment and keeping safe is in this book.
2.    Two amazing products from the company , (http://www.afterac.com) which specializes in accident and disaster preparedness:

  • A 26-ounce, BPA-free water bottle that is packed with supplies like an emergency whistle, bandages, alcohol prep pads and more. Pretty clever, huh?

  • A backpack chock-full of supplies like food rations, a flashlight, drinkable water, a reflective blanket and more.

3.    . Great for traveling, this bag hides a powerful battery-powered audible and visible alarm system. (I'm haunted by my niece's experience of being cornered on a deserted street in Paris in broad daylight by a hoard of teenage boys who grabbed her wallet. Something like this might have been just the deterrent she could have used.)

Four winners will be chosen at random from the list of commenters, and the gifts will be matched up with the winners as you see them listed. (In other words, the first winner to be chosen will get the book; the second will get the water bottle, etc.) If your name is chosen, I'll send you the good news by e-mail (so make sure to include your e-mail address in the comment). You'll have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you, another name will be chosen. Offers are limited to the United States only (apologies in advance to my foreign readers).

Tune in next week when I share some tips on how to keep your emotions in check during emotionally laden conversations.

Until then, stay safe!

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It's scary to think your instincts might not be dead-on all the time!

Yes, scary...but so important to realize we can't always trust them.

I can really identify with your words about sleep. I find it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep as I age. As for this book, I will check it out. Thanks.

This book sounds great -- thanks for bringing our attention to it. I'm convinced we all credit ourselves as being good judges of character, but it's never as simple or obvious as we want to think.

Couldn't agree more, Ruth.

This is a fascinating book. I heard the author on NPR a month or so ago. Very important information that really makes you realize how every choice you make it important.

Oh, too bad I missed that segment. I'll have to see if I can find it somewhere in the archives.

I've always had confidence in my gut instinct. I need to read this book.

That's what I thought, Donna...until I started reading this book.

I am reading this book right now, it is amazing.

Glad you are enjoying it, LL. I'm sure you'll learn a LOT.

Those are all really nifty prizes. I particularly am struck by the "everyone is basically nice" myth. I'd surely like to believe it, but have watched enough "Leverage" and other con-man shows to know that nasty people depend on our being naively trusting. Too bad to have to be on alert, but there are times when it is necessary.

Perhaps I need to watch more con-man shows! I tend to steer away from those.

I'm with you - as I age, I feel that my reflexes have become a bit slower. Mind you, I've always been like a spring - quick, quick, quick. But I see changes and can better understand how vulnerable you become to scams and such. Especially those in their elder years now. There were a lot less scams to be exposed to in years gone by. In fact, I know plenty of older folks that still leave their doors open and give information to people who sound "nice" that ask for it. My own mom let a drunk, disoriented individual in the front door of her home not long ago because he wandered up her front path out of who-knows-where (she called police who came to pick him up). Scary, I tell you! Thanks for the opportunity to win these items - very, very useful!!!

I cringed when I read about myth #6. I need to get this book and read up on how to protect myself and my family--you do tend to think that your instincts will give you the right answer.

I thought this book, which I gulped down instead of reading slowly, had such important advice in it FOR EVERYONE. Though some of it was scary. You have an awesome giveaway going on. I don't want the book (well, I take that back, I'd like another copy! I bought mine and I keep thinking of people who should read it but I refer to part with my copy). The other stuff sounds cool too.

Even though it'll probably keep me up at night, I think I NEED to learn these lessons and learn them well. I'm a perennial optimist, but clearly we need to view the world from a more jaded, less trusting perspective. Sad!

I learned a big lesson with .. I was all too trusting when I innocently ed a guy I had dated long ago. He thought I wanted more then to be fb friends. When I realized what he wanted it made me feel very bad and now I am very careful as to who I friend.

I guess it takes just one experience like that to have a brush with reality! What your intentions are, no matter how innocent, might not be someone else's, after all...

I love Homeland, too. Can't wait for the new season. And this books sounds super interesting. I'm very much into safety issues.

I've heard great things about Homeland -- but thanks for the heads up about not watching it late at night. As for the book, that's a lot of myths debunked in one volume.


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