Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waking Up To the Warning Signs In Your Life

warning signs

Gavin de Becker calls it The Gift of Fear. Daniel Plink calls it the “power of thinking without thinking.”  

You may call it intuition, the Universe, or a God-thing. The issue isn’t what you call it but that you give heed to your instinctive reactions, your life’s warnings.

These are the little “pings” that happen at the most inopportune times. You’re making the kids lunches and a thought blips for an instant on your radar. Or it’s when you’re stopped at a red light and you have a sudden thought, but when the light turns green you focus on the car in front of you instead of following your thought.

We expect warnings to be like fire engines, red and obvious, with flashing lights, blaring sirens and a wide-turning radius. But, more often than not, they are more like that tickling in the back of your throat. You can clear it away –  until you’re stuck in bed with a box of tissues and a head full of sawdust. 

After the fact, people tend to exclaim, head and life in their hands: “I never saw it coming.” The thing is when we look back, really look back, we can see it. What they thought were lone stars were really constellations, but we were too busy slapping two pieces of bread into a sandwich to connect the dots.

Our nagging thoughts, our pesky worries, those uncomfortable twinges – they all amount to something. Taken alone, they can appear almost inconsequential but added together they equal Code Red.

Two extreme examples that illustrate this point are the lives of Malcolm Webster and Beau Bergdahl.

Malcolm Webster
Malcolm Webster was convicted of murdering his first wife and attempting the murder of his second. Webster, a nurse, drugged his first wife and then set their car on fire while she was still in it after staging a car accident. As a child, Webster was described as a loner and given the nickname "Pyro” because of his fire-starting tendencies.   

The mother of his first wife, Claire, years later would tell the UK Telegraph: "He just seemed odd and its hard to put my finger on why. He didn't seem natural to me." She elaborated further: "Claire would call me 'mum', but Malcolm didn't like that, and wanted her to call me 'mother', which was something I never really got used to.”

After the death of Claire, Webster spent large sums of money in a short time span. He lavished that money on other women and his purchases included a yacht.

His second wife said food made for her by Webster had often tasted bitter. According to the Guardian, after she ate or drank things made by Webster, she had “‘episodes’ where she became dizzy and disorientated, unable to walk unaided.” It was later learned that Webster was drugging her food and drink.

In retrospect, Webster’s behavior isn’t unusual. It’s a clearly established pattern, the method he used to prey upon his victims.   

Beau Bergdahl
Beau Bergdahl, the American soldier who walked off his base and was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan is another example of warnings signs being missed, although in his case ostensibly the U.S. Army blatantly ignored the red flags.

According to Time magazine, before Bergdahl enlisted in the Army in 2008, two years earlier he was given an “uncharacterized discharge” from the Coast Guard after only 26 days in boot camp.

The podcast Serial, which documents Bergdahl’s story, includes interviews of his platoon mates. Those soliders recalled that Bergdahl got along with others but also stated that there was always something different about Bergdahl that they couldn't put their finger on.
His fellow soldiers said that, “he smoked pipes instead of cigarettes, read the entire Ranger Handbook when no one else really bothered, listened to classical music and refused to tell any dirty jokes.” They also said that, “he also brought a quirky level of intensity that was unparalleled to anyone else in his squad, sleeping without a mattress and holding a tomahawk against his chest at night. Bergdahl’s letters and emails home were often emotionally deep, dark and disturbing.
What lessons can we learn from Bergdahl and Webster? The take-away isn’t that we should suspect our loved ones as unstable or sociopaths. The lesson is that we need to give greater awareness to the critical moments our lives. Bergdahl and Webster’s stories are played out on a smaller scale every single day: the cheating spouse, the thieving business partner, the child in trouble.

People postpone paying attention, we push back thoughts, or worse, we put our heads in the sand ignoring reality.

You may not always understand or correctly interpret what your intuition is trying to tell you but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to listen. It just may save your life. 

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