Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Fear Dance, part I

One of the classes that I attended at our church last year was called 'Relationship Crossroads'. There were four sessions over the course of a month and I loved every single one! One in particular stood out to me, however, the class taught by Greg and Erin Smalley on The Fear Dance. The concept is similar to The Crazy Cycle in Love and Respect by Emerson Eggarichs, but with a slightly different perspective and maybe a bit more fleshed out? Anyway, I have typed up the notes for myself and I refer back to them often when I find myself spinning my wheels in relationships...okay, okay, mostly with Miguel...we've been there far too often, but praise be to God, He is working. And while we're applying these principles within our marriage, for the most part, they work with any relationship. So here goes, and all credit goes to the Smalleys...more information about relationships at and

Basically what they presented is that relationships get "stuck" in a "dance" as emotional "buttons" get pushed, producing a kneejerk reaction...and round and round it goes....

Examples of Emotional Buttons: the fear of feeling...rejected, abandoned, disconnected, like a failure, helpless, controlled, inadequate, invalidated, unloved, don't measure up, devalued, worthless, not good enough, judged, unimportant, etc.

Examples of Reactions: defensiveness, withdraw, stonewall, escalate, emotionally shut down, pacify, demand, belittle, earn-it mode, arrogance, blame, innocent victim, control, dishonesty, withhold, provoke, isolate, exaggerate, invalidate, independence, clinginess, care-take, act-out, fix-it mode, affiar, complain, passive-aggressive behavior, distress-maintaining thoughts, tantrums, strike-out, manipulation, criticize, anger or rage, catastrophize, lecture, whine, nagative body language, humor, sarcasm, rationalize, indifference, yes...but, etc.

Every reaction will be either a fight or a flight.

The four most destructive reactions are:

1. Withdrawal-retreat or shut down
2. Escalation
3. Belittle
4. Negative Beliefs (agains the other person)
As these reactions are employed, the conflict is then driven not because of the issue, but because our buttons are being pushed.

Our natural first instinct is to "react" when our buttons are pushed instead of "respond". By reacting instead of responding, the things that we do to break the dance are, in reality, a waste of time.

Examples of reactions that promote The Fear Dance:

1. Determine who's right and who's wrong.
2. Pursue the truth: what really happened or focus on facts/details.
3. Determine who's to blame or who's fault it is.
4. Make the issue (i.e. money, kids, etc.) the real issue and focus.
5. Focus on the other person's reactions.
6. Focus on solutions or how to fix the problem.
7. Mind reading (i.e. "I really know what you really think or how you feel!")

The Fear Dance is anti-relational because it sets us up as adversary/enemy and makes the relationship feel very unsafe. When we feel unsafe, our hearts close and we disconnect.

It's impossible for true intimacy
when hearts are closed to each other.

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