Visceral fear of harm is not cognitive; you sense aggressive impulses in others before your brain can formulate thoughts about possible danger. That’s why you get tense in certain situations, like seeing certain strangers, without knowing why. Women, like the females of most social animals, have a heightened sense of this early-warning system, which is why your man remains perfectly calm and might even get annoyed with your nervousness as you walk near a stranger in a darkened parking garage.
The Most Dangerous Kind of Self-Doubt
Although visceral fear of harm is compelling, many women start to doubt it when the physical threat comes from someone they love, and especially when they have learned to walk on eggshells to avoid unpleasant home situations. In that case powerful emotions like the love, guilt, shame, and abandonment anxiety that keep us attached, can easily cause you to doubt the internal alarm system meant to keep you from harm.
For instance, you may feel guilty or ashamed if you admit to fear of the man in your life, as if your involuntary reaction to threat were a betrayal of him. It may also be that you have figured out that your fear activates his shame and anger and you end up fearing your fear. Or your dread of losing him might exceed your fear of him. Or your love for him might be so strong that you want to believe that your fear could not possibly be real, that it’s all in your head. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Love, guilt, shame, and abandonment anxiety are in your head; visceral fear of harm resides in your body and reflexes.
If you are in a conflictive relationship, get used to monitoring your body – how you feel around your eyes, in your neck, shoulders, back, chest, arms, hands, stomach, gut, thighs, and knees. These are the most reliable indicators of whether your partner poses a threat to your physical safety. They are more reliable than what your partner says, simply because men are often not aware of how aroused and prepared for aggression they are in domestic conflict. He may have no intention of hurting you, but his body is at a hair-trigger level of arousal when you experience visceral fear of harm.
If your body tells you that you are in danger, you must always put your physical safety first, even if he has never been violent in the past. I have seen too many cases of women who ignored their visceral fear of harm and were badly hurt. Please do not ignore yours.