The Feeling Good Therapist - Feared Fantasy Technique

Feared Fantasy Technique with host, Richard Lam, LMFT, featuring Ryan Moeller, LMFT

*This Technique was developed by Dr. David Burns, American Psychiatrist and Adjunct Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

This therapy video delves into the mind of someone who experiences social anxiety and low self esteem when it comes to social interactions, and also aims to explore the inner dialogue of negative thoughts and self-doubt. This insightful video from Feeling Good Institute illustrates the Feared Fantasy Technique, a valuable tool in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for social anxiety. Through role-playing and exposure therapy, Richard and Ryan explore a worst-case scenario: coworkers openly expressing doubts about their abilities. By confronting these feared fantasies head-on, they discover that the situation isn't as terrifying as they once believed. 

Richard and Ryan guide you through a role reversal technique, helping you see an instance of party anxiety from a different perspective. You realize that while you may be less experienced, there's a wealth of knowledge to gain from your colleagues. This positive reframe boosts your confidence and promotes personal growth. You'll learn valuable therapeutic skills to challenge negative thoughts, gain resilience, and ultimately lead a more empowered and fulfilling life. Witness the power of CBT in action and discover how it can help in overcoming social anxiety and self-doubt.


Richard: Hi all! Welcome to the Feeling Good Therapist. This is a channel, where we'll be learning different therapy techniques. Where you can use it in your personal life or therapy practice. Today, we're learning about the Feared Fantasy Technique from Ryan Moeller.

Ryan: Alright! Thank you for having me. Yeah, so today, I would love to share the Feared Fantasy with you and we're going to do it through a role play where Richard will be playing the role of someone who is anxious about going to a party with his co-workers. He has the negative thoughts that he thinks that his co-workers think that he isn't smart enough and doesn't really belong there in the company. So, does that sound good, Richard?

Richard: Great! Let's do it.

Ryan: Awesome! Yeah, so Richard, you know I actually have this technique. I like to try it with you, just a really cool one it's called the the Feared Fantasy. It's a combination of both role-playing and exposure, which is like especially powerful. In this technique, we learn to confront our interpersonal fears. So, how it works is that you know in this role play, it takes place in this sort of like nightmare world. Where not only do the co-workers think, what you think that they think, right? They actually do believe, your negative thoughts but they will actually tell it to you straight to your face. And, so yeah, this would be the sort of nightmare party with your co-workers, where they're telling you these things. And, so, you know the purpose of this technique is to find out that. You know the situation isn't as scary as we thought or you know if it is as scary as we thought, we can kind of learn to tolerate the distress, you know associated with it. So, yeah, in this role, you know, you'll be playing yourself and I will be playing these sort of nightmare world co-workers. Does that sound okay to you?

Richard: Yeah, that sounds a little scary but let's do it!

Ryan: Yeah and again to clarify you know I don't actually let me do this briefly. I don't actually believe any of these thoughts, right? Because I'm going to kind of give you some kind of me criticism but of course, I don't actually believe in this stuff, right?

Richard: Yeah, great! We were just playing the role of these like nightmare co-workers.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly! I’ll say this kind of mean things but of course, it's just a role play. Don’t actually believe these things. So, to clarify, what are the roles here, who am I and who are you?

Richard: Yeah, so you're, my nightmare co-workers. It was very critical.

Ryan: Yeah, and who are you?

Richard: I guess, I'm just myself.

Ryan: Yeah and we're in the stage of this nightmare company party, right?

Richard: Okay!

Ryan: Okay, Yeah! So, let's get to it. So, Richard, I see that you've joined the party.

Richard: Yeah, this is kind of my first company party.

Ryan: Yeah, you know honestly, it's a kind of a bit of a down of that you're here. You know, me and my other co-workers, we were talking about these really high-level software engineering concepts and you know seeing that you're here. I feel like, we can't really have these kinds of conversations because you know, we're kind of you know don't think that you're as smart as us frankly. And you know, we're all really good at our code and we see that you make so many errors and I just want to let you know that frankly.

Richard: Yeah, you guys are pretty smart when it comes to those things. I've seen your code, it's pretty great.

Ryan: Yeah, it's really good and yours is just not nearly as good as ours, you know. And yeah, we were kind of looking down on you right now, to be honest.

Richard: Yeah, It's kind of like the thing that I was worried about.

Ryan: So, let's take a pause here. You know, who won that exchange?

Richard: Pretty sure, you won that one.

Ryan: Yeah! That was kind of mean, didn't feel that good to kind of you know be a part of that. So, from here Richard did you, we can try again or maybe you can do a lower reversal. What sounds good to you?

Richard: Let's do a role reversal. I think that would be good.

Ryan: Yeah, I think so too. So now, I'll be you and you'll be these hypercritical co-workers, okay?

Richard: Yeah!

Ryan: Alright!

Richard: So, Richard, you know we've been like talking about you, up until the point that you came here and we all kind of agree that you're not as smart as everyone else here. You're probably the dumbest person in the company.

Ryan: Wow, that's kind of mean frankly and yeah, you know I think there is some truth to that. I am relatively new to this company, I've you know only been here for a few months and I've definitely got a lot of learning to do. You know and frankly, I'd really admire what you've been doing, right? You know, you and everyone else here are just so talented and I'm you know hopefully one of these days I'd love to see if I can you know you can help me out and I love to get to your level.

Richard: Yeah, you're just like a hopeless case, you're not as good as everyone I mean you've entered and you should be learning a lot faster because you have to be as good as us.

Ryan: Yeah, I mean I think I'm learning fairly quickly but maybe you know I got a way to go but gosh that's kind of a mean thing to say. You know, I feel kind of bad hearing that from you, right? I'm just not as good and you know, at the same time like I think there's a lot of truth with what you're saying. You know, you've been at this a long time and I really admire you and your colleague’s experience of so much information, so much wealth and knowledge. I'm wondering, how you feel about that?

Richard: Yeah, you know, your feelings don't really matter. It's just about a kind of logic. You know, we just do our best and you just we suck. You're so bad at this.

Ryan: Yeah, wow. That’s pretty mean you know that you're kind of excluding me and it sounds like you're really judging me, right?

Richard: Yeah, we’re really judging you.

Ryan: Yeah, okay then! Do you judge just me in particular or do you judge everyone that's just not as not as smart as you know?

Richard: I guess, we judge everyone. It's just that you kind of fit the bill here. Everyone talks about you.

Ryan: Okay, well, gosh! I'm glad you understand that. So, let's take a pause here Richard. I guess in this scenario, who was the jerk there?

Richard: I guess, I was the jerk in this situation pretty big jerk.

Ryan: Yeah, I wonder how that was for you? You know, I was thinking, actually you know would you want to do one more reversal, would that be okay?

Richard: Sure!

Ryan: Yeah, I mean and you can kind of work through that. So, yeah, Richard you know what truth be told, we are at this high level and you're just down here. You know our code is this that much better than yours and you know, we're all thinking the same thing, that you’re just not that good frankly.

Richard: Yeah, there's so much that I can really improve on. I mean, I'm new to this company, I'm learning quite a bit as I go. But, you're right there's quite a bit that I need to learn before I kind of get to kind of your level expertise. I've seen your code is pretty amazing, I kind of hoping that I can learn more from you.

Ryan: Yeah, I don't think it can.

Richard: Yeah, I wish that feels a little, you know, I'm not sure if this is your intention but part of this, I feel kind of rejected. I'm kind of telling myself that you do not want me here and that you're disapproving of me, it doesn't feel so great.

Ryan: Yeah, we're all just pure beings of disapproval and judgment. That's in fact all we do you know we just code perfectly and judge. That's kind of our lives in a nutshell. Actually, I'm glad you figured it out.

Richard: You know, I mean if that's really your life, I wouldn't want a life like that. I think part of it is a really value connection and it kind of sounds like all you do is judge and code. I mean, I do like the coding aspect but yeah I don't know about that judging.

Ryan: Yeah, You know it's good that we're on the same page. You know, that you understand that you know, high coding standards and judgments are really what drive me and other colleagues here. So cool, alright! Let's stop there.

Yeah, how was that for you? You know, who’s a jerk and what would you learn from it?

Richard: Definitely, you’re the jerk. And like the more that we do this, I realize how I don't think they're like that, be part of it is you know, when we're at work they kind of check in with me and kind of see how I'm doing. They do kind of give me tips and everything. So, you know, honestly, I don't think, that's how they're going to act at the party you see, as compared to that.

Ryan: Yeah, I'm really taking that Insight, you know. So yeah, let's whip out you're getting the log and let's put in some positive thoughts.

Richard: Well, let's pause there in this overall role play. So, I'm glad that Ryan taught us this really wonderful technique called the Feared Fantasy Technique. Thank you, Ryan. And if you want to learn more about different therapy techniques, feel free to subscribe or you can find us at our website at and you can learn more about Ryan Waller down in the description below.

Ryan: Awesome, thanks for having me, Richard.

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