I've had a deep respect and affection for this book ever since it literally saved my life or prevented me being raped.
--I did not stick around to find out which, as I did listen to my intuition -- and it was only that; there was no overt threat, just a "funny feeling" of the sort Becker tells one to respect. I had recently read the book, and I did respect the funny feeling this guy gave me, even though he had already passed me and was getting farther ahead of me and I definitely felt sort of stupid turning 180 degrees and hastening away back the way I had come instead of continuing on homewards. I immediately stopped feeling stupid, though, after I had turned around and he did too and ran after me and grabbed at me and knocked me over. (Becker notes that women are killed and injured constantly because they feel embarrassed to act on their instincts and "make a fuss" when a fuss turns out to be exactly what is needed for them to be safe. So though I felt embarrassed, I also mentally said, "Forget that feeling for the moment; I will worry about it later if I turn out to be wrong.")
Anyway, since I was already fleeing in the right direction -- towards people and safety -- he only succeeded in knocking me farther the "right" way -- the way I needed to go -- and momentum and adrenaline had me back to my feet in a catlike bounce I'm sure I would not be capable of if I were not in flight mode. Ditto w/ how I levitated over a busy street and raced up to the guard booth of a condo complex and pounded on the door until the guard let me in, and asked him to call the police. (Though by then I think I was already safe; i think the guy ran off when I started shouting my head off. I didn't look back to see, though. I did remember to shout "Fire! instead of "Help!", as people will come running to see a fire but head away from someone yelling "Help." Since the guy was unarmed, I didn't feel I was putting people in danger, just scaring him off with their gathering numbers and attention. I think Becker mentions that, although I may have picked it up in a high-school self-defense class.)
This all happened in Marina del Rey, which is one of the posher neighborhoods of West LA and does not have much of a record at all -- probably barely any -- of totally random stranger assaults on sober women bicycling on bike paths alongside well-trafficked streets.
But this sort of thing does happen. I have avoided far more such situations by foreseeing them and avoiding them altogether, well in advance; this was the only one in my life where things developed so fast and unexpectedly, I was pursued, grabbed, knocked over, and had to run yelling like a banshee; but once would have been far more than enough. I escaped because I had the gift, not of constant fear, not of living in fear; but of knowing that fear in some situations is the correct response and should be allowed to trigger the escape-and-evade response it does, and that response should be allowed to take charge of one's behavior, because the limbic system is infinitely faster and smarter than the forebrain when it comes to survival imperatives. (It actually cuts the forebrain out of the response loop, or tries to and will if one hasn't had the misfortune to have been conditioned to suppress it, because there is no time to ponder in some situations; threat recognition has to immediately trigger adrenaline release has to stop all nonessential body functions and send one's blood to the major muscles and away from the vulnerable life-supporting organs and the loop has to be hindbrain straight to muscles to get one moving, faster than it takes to loop all the way up through the executive functions, which take conscious reflection, which takes so bloody long you are likely to be dead by the time you decide to approve the flight order; and can then reconsider your mistake at infinity's leisure.)
Our emotions have been keeping us alive since before we were amphibians. We've only had conscious thought for about 100,000 years, and may well be the only earth animal that fully has it at all; so clearly it is not necessary for survival; but it can definitely interfere with it; which is why the body tries to cut it out of the loop altogether when real threat registers (which practically never happens on the level of conscious thought; it is a vague unease of the sort that we are only here because our ancestors didn't --and for much much longer couldn't -- decide it was just paranoia, and ignore it.)
Becker doesn't say "Live in fear." He says, "You need not live in nearly as much pointless fear if you exercise high situational awareness and know what sort of fear is in fact often indicative of an imminent threat (a feeling of vague but real unease when out and about, say; or when alone with a man who gives you the willies) vs. what is just keeping your life constricted (phobias, say)." Being afraid to fly will just constrict one's life. Being afraid to run when one's nerves are screaming "Something is *wrong*; don't try to figure out what you're perceiving, just get away now and find other people who will help or scare off danger if needed, and analyze later," can save one's life; and sometimes more than one's life, as there are things worse than a quick death.
It's not paranoia, it's listening to the wisdom of the subconscious and not impeding the bodily survival response it will trigger when survival may be at stake.
Or so I learned, and lived.