Gary Smalley, in his book, “The DNA of Relationships”, describes “The Fear Dance” as the dance we play with our spouses when our core fears have been triggered by an event. It is a dance we all play. Some core fears are feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, being controlled, rejected, abandoned, manipulated, being a failure, and humiliation. Any of those relate to something you may fear? Next time you get in a conflict, step back and ask yourself “What am I afraid of?” The problem is rarely the problem, it is how we interrupt the problem, that is the problem.
For example, if my husband says something that hurts me, I want him to validate my hurt and make me feel better. I want him to be the solution to my hurt. When he gets defensive and I feel him being unwilling to meet my needs, I fear that if he does not value me, then maybe he will not want to be around me and leave. I then react out of fear and I get angry and start blaming him for my pain and defend myself. He gets hurt by my reaction, he wants to feel better, he is afraid he is a failure and needs to feel valued as a husband. He wants me to fulfill that need, but if he senses I am unwilling to do so. He is afraid and thinks he is a lousy husband and reacts out of his core fear of failure and “The Fear Dance” continues. We are both crying for help, but no one is stopping to listen because we are defending our core fears. We feel unloved and rejected.
We expect the other person to be the solution to our pain. Gary Smalley says we have “misplaced expectations” when we do that. Whenever we expect people to fulfill our wants, we will be disappointed and anytime we put our expectations for help in the wrong place, we experience “fear”. It is important to identify our wants, needs and fears if we want to stop the insanity of the “Fear Dance”. Otherwise, we continue to do the same thing day after day getting the same result.
My husband and I danced ‘The Fear Dance” for years and it almost destroyed our marriage until we were able to get help and stop the insanity. To learn how to stop “The Fear Dance” and learn more about your core fears, read Gary Smalley’s book, “The DNA of Relationships“. It has been a help to many of my clients that are struggling in their relationship and has helped restore healthy communication.
Vickie Parker, LMFT