As March rolls straight into May (I know April was in there somewhere, but I’m damned if I can recall WHERE in the blur), I’ve been thinking about fear.

(I suspect it’s the water we’re all living in.)

As luck would have it I recently found an old handout from Gary Smalley, an author and relationship counsellor, which describes something he’d see in relationships called ‘the Fear Dance’.

Each party would have unspoken expectations. When these were unmet, their fears would be triggered – which in turn triggered the other person. A chain reaction would ensue, and a dance of dissatisfaction and anger would launch unhindered.

Gary lists a host of different fears, and a host of behaviours and responses.

But they come down to 2 core relationship anxieties; fearing a loss of power/feeling controlled, and the fear of disconnection;

“We have found that most women have a core fear related to disconnection – they fear not being heard, not being valued, somehow losing the love of another.

Most men, on the other hand, have a core fear of helplessness or feeling controlled – they fear failure or getting stepped on.

We noticed that the common core fears are all related to two main primary fears: the fear of being controlled (losing power) and the fear of being disconnected (separation from people and being alone).”

It doesn’t take a genius to apply the above to the current pandemic to gain continued insight into why Covid-19 has hit us all so badly. Many of our prior expectations now go unmet, just as our ability to cope with that plummets.

Even the most resilient of us has felt helpless. Necessary restrictions control our lives in ways that the majority of us haven’t previously experienced. And social distancing has separated us from other people and literally ensured that we’re alone.

For many of us, a lack of connection/feeling in control triggers childhood trauma. Because what do we want when we’re a kid? To feel safe in a world that’s warm and makes sense.

So I’m reminded of Brene Brown’s latest book Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. where she points out something that’s so obvious that it’s never really struck me before:

“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

Again, it doesn’t take a genius to recognise that we’re in a pretty unclear situation. Maybe this is why acts of kindness feel so necessary at the moment: they provide a tender moment of clarity and common humanity in a world that can feel increasingly unclear.

I keep coming back to the three pillars of self-compassion right now, and recognising three things:

This shit is hard because stuff’s hitting our core fears like a game of “Whack a Mole”, and I can just be aware of that.

Everyone’s finding it hard to some degree, even the folks who seem to have their shit together. Almost everyone I talk to is questioning their life at the moment. Remember; never compare your ‘insides’ to another person’s ‘outsides’.

We can offer ourselves the sense of control, connection and kindness we seek. Creating routines (I love the 1, 3, 5 idea here) instils a sense of control; spending quiet time with ourselves or something bigger (like nature/a deeper intelligence) can bring us connection; we can be clear and kind in the care we give ourselves.

We’re not out of the woods. In fact, from here, I struggle to think what the edge of the woods might look like once we get there.

But by being mindful of what I’m going through, being a little kinder, and remembering that I’m not alone, helps me to keep one foot in front of the other.

And sometimes, even, dance with my fears.


Photo by Yogendra Singh from Pexels


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