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The Dance of Fear: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keeps Us from Optimal Living and Loving

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  765 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Unhappiness, says bestselling author Harriet Lerner, is fueled by three key emotions: anxiety, fear, and shame. They are the uninvited guests in our lives. When tragedy or hardship hits, they may become our constant companions.

Anxiety can wash over us like a tidal wave or operate as a silent thrum under the surface of our daily lives. With stories that are sometimes hilari
ebook, 256 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 27, 2009 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made a big impact on me.

My favorite points:

1. When you avoid what you fear, it worsens anxiety. If you can do things or put yourself in situations that you are afraid of, you can see yourself experience them and come out the other side all in one piece. For example, if it's fear of rejection you are trying to overcome, you need to actually experience rejection enough times to realize that you don't need to be afraid of it.

2. "To some extent we all compare ourselves to others. It's eas
Nov 21, 2007 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is very intriguing ... its difficult for me to grasp the magnitude of baggage we drag around that developed many years ago in our childhood
Jul 25, 2016 Klelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"In reality, every human being is dependent on the help and support of others. There's nothing shameful about recognizing how much we need each other - a fact we can deny when we're healthy and things are going well. What's shameful is the myth that with the right "can-do" attitude, we can bootstrap our way to health, wealth, and happiness. Or that staying strong, vigorous, and youthful is what matters most, rather than cultivating acceptance for what is. Or that fear and suffering is weak, and ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Allison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Allison by: Brene Brown
Shelves: inspirational
Technically, I'll give it a 2.5. I read this because I saw the book and the author featured on Brene Brown's blog. I don't think this book was as helpful, applicable, or inspirational as Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection" but I did find some parts helpful. The last chapter or so about courage in the face of fear--that fear doesn't really limit us; rather the avoidance of things that make us fearful/anxious limits us--was relevant to me. I liked that the author used real stories to illustrate he ...more
Jul 09, 2008 Theodora rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books08, self-care
Useful was the "Things to Remember when speaking to a group/teaching." The rest of the book pretended to be a self-help book that was more complicated than other self-help books, but -- uh? -- I just found that it was the author's personal platform for discussing her cases and certain things.

Maybe it wasn't what I needed. As someone with a diagnosis of anxiety and who has a lot of anxiety attacks, her notion that "all people have anxiety cuz they worry a lot" was useful, but not what I needed. M
Susan Visser
Apr 27, 2013 Susan Visser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've become a fan of Harriet's books. They are very readable with lots of examples from either her life or patients she has seen over the years. She makes the topic less fearsome. We can get beyond our fears, even if we don't know we have them.

The chapter on workplace fears was insightful. Workplace issues can be very complex given the number of diverse players and pressures, but it boils down to something rather simple.

Douglas Lord
Feb 02, 2017 Douglas Lord rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Psychologist Lerner (The Dance of Anger) shrewdly characterizes leak anxiety, and shame–termed the big three–as ubiquitous and permanent; instead of trying to make them go away, we need to embrace them warily as potentially wise guides. With characteristic intimacy, Lerner encourages a dialog of sorts with frequent, effective questions and anecdotes, filling the book with superb insights (e.g., “Women have long been shamed for growing older”). Given Lerner’s reasonable approach–and the connectio ...more
Trudy Pomerantz
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 10, 2012 Melinda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, communication
I'm on a roll here for books on communication and dealing with emotionally fearful or anxious situations regarding family / work / friends. I just read Lerner's book "The Dance of Connection" about how to talk with someone when you are hurt or scared or desperate. Both books are worth reading. This book on fear had an interesting section on how organizations and work groups can react just like an individual person reacts when they become frightened. She lists five styles of managing anxiety:
1) U
Dorothy Meyer
Jul 23, 2013 Dorothy Meyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I happened upon this book after searching for The Dance of Anger, the NY Times best seller also by Harriet Lerner, which was recommended to me by my therapist. I decided this one would suit me better as never having thought of myself with anger issues (until somewhat recently), and I decided I would start with The Dance of Fear, and if I liked it, then I would also read The Dance of Anger. Once I saw the title to Chapter One in the table of contents, "Why Can't a Person Be More Like a ...more
Jun 24, 2008 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: professionallit
Like "The Dance of Connection," this book didn't offer any how-tos in terms of overcoming fear or forcing yourself to function in the face of it. However, I gave it four stars for some of its Bowenian insights and examples, particularly the chapter about Harriet's doctoral internship where she found herself in an underfunctioner-overfunctioner relationship with her supervisor and with some of the other elements at her workplace. That chapter really spoke to me, as did some of the others.

I espec
Mar 02, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2013 Ruby_blue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 2nd book I have read by Dr. Lerner. Her openness about her own experiences makes this book feel less shallow then some other books on fear or anxiety.
The book does not address anxiety management exercises, but was worthwhile. Instead of marginalizing those of us who experience anxiety or fear or treating the issue with kid gloves, Dr. Lerner reminds the reader that we all experience fear, shame and anxiety. She gives insight into why we experience these things and insight into how w
Sep 25, 2016 Carolyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carolyn by: Susan Hanson
Shelves: development
One of many of Harriet Learner's "Dance" books -Whereas there was quite a bit on fear, there was also a lot on shame, embarrassment, anxiety and other related topics. I think this is the type of book that you would get something different from it every time you read it based on where you are in your life. I liked best the part about anxiety in the workplace and how everyone displays anxiety in one of five ways. All workplaces are anxious (unless they are stagnant and dying) and people take their ...more
Ivory Reid
Feb 23, 2013 Ivory Reid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me awhile but finally finished! Not that it was bad I just didn't give myself time or motivate myself to read for a couple months. This book however is great. Reminds me of something I would have read during my undergrad, not preachy at all, and very relatable. I wish I would had read it years ago when the person gave it to me. At the same time it is one to keep and mark up and go back to and re-read many times. I also want to get my hands on the other two books in the Dance of line of h ...more
Amanda T
This book like is reading a really interesting support group session: stories are good, but there's not much advice and no exercises to help you (the reader) break through the barriers of fear, anxiety or shame. If you learn from the experiences of others, than this book is a good read. If you learn but doing things yourself, don't expect big things to happen while reading it.

Some of the scenarios are repeated from "The Dance of Anger" and that's mainly because anger, fear, anxiety and shame are

Okay, mostly fluff. I sense that this woman has a sufficiently sizable fan base to allow her to type up whatever mishmash of client case studies, schadenfreudal personal anecdotes, and wide umbrella of general advice that she feels like drumming up. Some of the vignettes were interesting, but never quite reached the heart of understanding, until the term "anxiety" seemed to ring hollow. Still, at base it serves as a reminder that most everyone is soft-shoeing it, appearing more combobulate
Feb 18, 2009 Kristine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had read The Dance of Anger about 5 years ago and had found it very helpful and enlightening. Unfortunately, The Dance of Fear does not live up the expectations I had. I was hoping for more practical advice and a better understanding as to why we feel anxiety, fear and shame. What the book offered were examples of clients and how they gained courage in the midst of struggles. Plus there are alot of feminist and New Age qualities and I totally couldn't get into.
Jan 01, 2013 Pennie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book and then shortly had to deal with an anxiety inducing situation. Most of the time, my anxiety shows itself as anger. This book really helped me see what steps I can take myself to help alleviate some of that anxiety and make the right choices. Mostly by helping me see how everyone reacts to anxiety differently and that I need to keep in mind that others reactions are not a personal attack. I highly recommend this book.
Ty Wilson
Oct 21, 2013 Ty Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
Dr. Lerner offers up some very good ideas for dealing with anxiety, fear and shame. She shows the root of our fears and how they can cause us to live smaller and smaller lives. Using examples from her own life as well as those of patients she's seen over the years, Lerner gives insight into the effect of fear in our lives and many ways to face and conquer those fears. Dr. Lerner argues correctly that by moving beyond fear we can become the best and happiest person we can be.
Feb 21, 2012 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*Fear not the fear*

A wonderfully written and highly applicable book that highlights the importance of tuning into fear, anxiety, and shame for the underlying wisdom and guidance they provide, instead of simply seeing them as unbearable emotions to avoid at all costs. This book is bound to be helpful for anyone whose fear and anxiety make them prisoners of their home, workplace, and inner thoughts.
Dec 14, 2015 Jo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second of Dr Harriet Lerner's books I've read. They are very similar and I'm not sure I would read any of the others. Having said that, there are real pearls of wisdom in here and I always appreciate stories! Her writing style means the book is a comfortable read without falling into the pat style of other self-help books I have read. And it is authenticated by her research and practice.
Mar 08, 2008 Roxanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, self-help
February 2013: I first read this in fall 2006, but I thought that rereading it now would be helpful for some of my current mommy guilt issues. And it was helpful, but I felt like a lot of the information was very familiar to me, either because I'd read the book before or from my yoga work and yoga reading. I think it's a valuable book, but I just may not be part of Lerner's target audience at this point in my life.
Sep 14, 2008 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just whipping through the self-help books this weekend...

This one I picked up on a whim, as I was thrifting/decompressing from some anxious feelings.. and I have to say that this book was helpful not only as a "score" but as a read.

Some general, commonsense advice, especially helpful in terms of reminding me of systems work and how anxiety spreads.

I think this is a keeper, actually. Probably won't refer to it, but I suspect it will be called upon in future years.
Mar 27, 2012 Robin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: therapy, 2012
I am a big fan of the author's other books so was a little sad that this one didn't ring as true. Whether or not that is because none of her examples really related to my situation I don't know. It was just more of a light hearted read than I was expecting. I did enjoy the feminist call to stand up and name female body parts by there actual names.
This one was just ok; no huge revelations. But I did like the author's frank style and willingness to share personal anecdotes; the chapter on dysfunctional workplaces used an example from her career that was apopro and informative. She has a much more laid back approach to dealing with anxiety and stress that was a bit refreshing.

Overall, just ok for me.
Mar 25, 2015 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and got a lot out of it. Lerner's style is easy to read and feels approachable. She makes it clear that fear is not the problem, but the way we react to fear in negative ways. Not a ton of practical strategies, but lots and lots of examples that helped me understand fear, anxiety, and shame. I will definitely be reading more of her books.
May 23, 2009 Yvonne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
Though I am not a fan of self help books in general, this was a most enlightening and worthwhile read. It is written with humor, sensitivity and compassion. This is not the more common Freudian approach to personality. Rather, it allows people to change and grow throughout life. I learned things I hadn't known.
Oct 08, 2010 Carey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: To others struggling with anxiety, shame, and fear in their ife
Recommended to Carey by: A Health Professional
I would recommend this book to anyone who is or has ever struggled with fear, anxiety, or shame in their life. It was a wonderful book that I found really helpful. It was recommended to me by a health professional. I have read other books that Harriet Lerner has written such as Dance of Anger and Dance of Connection. I love her writing style
Jun 15, 2013 Elle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
Harriet Lerner really is one of the best in her field. So calm, rational and clear. Her books are easy to digest and really resonate. I always learn something from her books no matter how many times I reread them.....they are gold.
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Harriet Lerner was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the second of two daughters. Her parents, Archie and Rose Goldhor, were both children of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. They were high school graduates who wanted their daughters to "be someone" at a time when women were only supposed to "find someone."

"Achievement was next to Godliness for my sister, Susan, and me." Harriet notes. "My f
More about Harriet Lerner...

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“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.” 19 likes
“Everyone freaks out. Sometimes the best we can do with fear is befriend it. Expect it and understand that fear will always reappear. Eventually it subsides. It will return. The real culprits are our knee jerk responses to fear and the way we try to avoid feeling fear, anxiety and shame. Don't get me wrong, wanting to feel better fast is a perfectly natural human impulse. It is healthy to seek relief when you feel hopelessly mired in the emotional soup. Calming down is an essential first step to accurately perceiving a problem and deciding what to do about it but the last thing you need to do is shut yourself off from fear and pain - either your own or the worlds. If there is one over riding reason why our world and relationships are in such a mess, is that we try to get rid of our anxiety, fear and shame as fast as possible, regardless of the long term consequences. In doing so, we blame and shame others and in countless ways, we unwittingly act against ourselves. We confuse our fear driven thoughts with what is right, best, necessary or true.” 10 likes
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