The Core Fears Test

If you’d like a thorough explanation and study guide about your Core Relational Fears and how they impact your relationships, then check out the DNA of Relationships DVD series or book.


Understanding Your Fear Dance

Below is a great worksheet experience on how to identify your Core Relational Fears, which was discussed on the Joyce Meyers show and in the DNA of Relationship resources mentioned above. Hopefully, you have already watched the video by Michael Smalley, one of the key developers of the Marriage Restoration Retreat program and co-author of the DNA of Relationships book and DVD series. To give you a little more insight on understanding your Core Fears, Michael wanted to include an example from his own marriage so you can see what it looks like when you figure out your Core Fears. Please download the following PDF, which is the full chapter out of Michael and Amy Smalley’s Marriage Restoration Retreat Training Manual on Core Fears. It will give you great insight on Core Fears and how to identify your own Core Fears when you get in to conflict:

To make sure you understand the dance, let’s take a look at what the Fear Dance might look like for you.

1. You hurt. What does your hurt look like? Think of the range of emotions you feel when you are wounded: bewilderment, sadness, disconnection, anger, confusion, worry, rage, frustration, horror, embarrassment. Those are just a handful of the words that could describe your real-life hurts.

2. You want. When you hurt, you want a solution. You want things that will make you feel better. Sometimes you might think that eating will make you feel better, shopping will replace the hurt, focusing on the children or other things will make you forget your troubles, drinking will dull the pain. You spin lists of things that you believe would satisfy your wants. Or you reduce the conflict to that one, solitary thing that you believe you need to feel satisfied: if only the other person would change so that you could feel better.

Without realizing it, you often expect that the other person will change to satisfy you and give you what you want. You see that person both as your problem and as your solution: You think, If only my spouse would change. Or, If only I had a different boss, I would get the promotion at work. Or, If only she would just … Or, If only my friends would … The end of that sentence is always: then I could be happy.

Do you see the common thread in all this thinking? Two words: misplaced expectations. When you expect people, places, and things to fulfill your wants, you will be disappointed. And anytime you put your expectations for help in the wrong place, the result is fear.

Our Wants

ACCEPTANCE – I want to be warmly received without condition.

GRACE – I want something good (e.g., forgiveness) that I don’t deserve.

CONNECTION – I want to be united to others.

COMPANIONSHIP – I want deep, intimate relationships.

SUCCESS – I want to achieve or accomplish something.

SELF-DETERMINATION – I want to have independence and free will.

UNDERSTANDING – I want to be known.

LOVE – I want to feel attractive to others.

VALIDATION – I want to be valued for who I am.

COMPETENCE – I want to have skills and ability that bring success.

RESPECT – I want to be admired and esteemed.

WORTH – I want to feel important.

HONOR – I want to feel like a priceless treasure.

COMMITMENT – I want to have unconditional security in relationships.

SIGNIFICANCE – I want to have meaning and purpose.

ATTENTION – I want to be noticed.

COMFORT – I want to feel a sense of well-being.

SUPPORT – I want to be cared for.

APPROVAL – I want to be liked and accepted.

WANTED – I want to be sought after.

SAFETY – I want to feel protected and secure.

AFFECTION – I want to feel fondness and warmth.

TRUST – I want to have faith in others.

HOPE – I want confidence that I will get what I love and desire.

JOY – I want to feel satisfied and happy.

3. You fear. Through thousands of marriage intensives, both at our counseling centers and with people around the world, we have come to realize that when a conflict stirs powerful emotions of hurt and want, it also touches specific fears. Think about your own troubled relationships. You want to connect, but you fear you’re not attractive enough (or competent enough or smart enough or whatever). You want to be accepted, but you fear you’re not good enough. You want respect, but you fear the other person will look down on you. You want to control your situation, but you fear you are powerless.

Do you see how your fears actually reflect your wants? When you feel your wants won’t be fulfilled, you experience fear:

We can’t live without ________. So we fear ________ (You fill in the blanks)

Acceptance – Rejection
Grace – Judgment
Connection – Disconnection
Companionship – Loneliness
Success – Failure
Self-Determination – Powerlessness
Understanding – Being misunderstood
Love – Being scorned
Validation – Being invalidated
Competence – Feeling defective
Respect – Inferiority
Worth – Worthlessness
Honor – Feeling devalued
Dignity – Humiliation
Commitment – Abandonment
Significance – Feeling unimportant
Attention – Feeling ignored
Support – Neglect
Approval – Condemnation
Wanted – Feeling unwanted
Safety – Danger
Affection – Feeling disliked
Trust – Mistrust
Hope – Despair
Joy – Unhappiness

Even though we have listed twenty-five wants and fears here, Greg and Bob’s team found that all of our deepest desires stem from our desires for connection and control. Our deepest fears, then, are the fear of losing connection and losing control.

4. You react. If you are like most people, you consciously and unconsciously fall into well-worn patterns of reacting when someone pushes your fear button. You’ll do anything to soothe your hurt. You’ll do anything to avoid the awful feeling of want. You’ll do or say anything to calm your fear.

More often than not, your emotions and thinking result in behavior that damages your relationships. When you fear that your wants will not be fulfilled, you react. You may fear losing control, so you try to seize control.

You may fear losing connection, so you try to seize connection. Our team describes these reactions as your attempt to become the broker for your own wants. You desperately want your way to be sovereign, to overcome your feelings of helplessness.

This means that it’s not merely your core fear that disrupts and injures your relationships. It’s how you choose to react when someone pushes your fear button. Most of us use unhealthy, faulty reactions to deal with our fear, and as a result we sabotage our relationships.