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Nov 13, 2023

Ask David

The fear of ghosts;

the truth about nutritional supplements;

the fear of fear;

how does anxiety treatment work? And more. 

Today, David and Rhonda answer six cool questions submitted by podcast listeners like you!

  1. Joseph asks: How would you use exposure to confront your fear of ghosts?
  2. Salim asks: What herbs and supplements will help me become more zen and relaxed?
  3. Peter asks: How do you stop fearing the fear and discomfort of anxiety?
  4. Jillian asks: How does cognitive therapy work to help reduce anxiety?
  5. Sanjay asks: How do you give up wants, needs, and desires?
  6. Dana asks for help with the Disarming Technique.

In the following, David’s reply was David’s email response to the person prior to the podcast, just suggesting some directions we might take on the podcast.

The Rhonda comments were based on notes she took during the live podcast.

For the full answers, make sure you listen to the podcast!

Joseph asks: How would you use exposure to confront your fear of ghosts?

Hi David and Rhonda,

Thank you again for your wonderful replies and the amazing podcast.

If you would humor me, I have another question -- I know David talked about exposure therapy in overcoming fears, but I wonder how this could apply to some fears like the fear of ghosts where it is caused by an over-active imagination (in which case, what should one be exposed to?)



 David’s reply

Cognitive flooding would be one approach.

Will give details on podcast. Thanks!


 Rhonda’s notes

Find out what is happening in the person’s life, and treat that specific problem.

Maybe someone developed a fear of ghosts after the death of a loved one, so the idea of being around death or dead things may also cause intense anxiety. Going to a cemetery may be part of their exposure.

Other examples of exposure for overcoming the fear of ghosts could be:

  • Approaching a scary, abandoned house
  • Watching a scary movie about ghosts

Fear of darkness may accompany fear of ghosts so staying in the dark may be part of your exposure.

Fear of sleeping alone may also accompany fear of ghosts so sleeping alone in your home may be part of your exposure.

Salim asks: What herbs and supplements will help me become more zen and relaxed?

Hello Mr. David D Burns,

I want to tell you that i loved "Feeling Good", your book helped me a lot in improving my life, I have a question, can you recommend herbs or supplements that help me be more Zen and more relaxed? I would be eternally grateful. 🙏.

Thank you so much.


David’s reply.

Hi Salim, I don’t believe in the efficacy of herbs etc. except for their placebo effect. However, the written exercises in the book, like writing down your negative thoughts, can help a lot. You’ll find lots of free resources on my website.

At the same time, the use of herbs and supplements is kind of a “cult” thing, and as you know, cult followers don’t like to have their views challenged!

And our field of mental health is, to my way of thinking, a mine field of cults!


David Burns, MD

Peter asks: How do you stop fearing the fear and discomfort of anxiety?

David’s Reply


However, I don’t “throw” methods at symptoms, but rather work systematically with the TEAM approach, and always incorporate four models in my work with every anxious patient: The cognitive, motivational, exposure, and hidden emotion models.

You can learn more about this in the free anxiety class on my website! You’ll find it right on the homepage for

Thanks, David

Rhonda added

You don’t stop fearing the fear and discomfort of anxiety before doing an exposure. You do all of the work necessary using the three other models of treating anxiety (see the anxiety question directly below this one) and then you dive into the exposure, embracing the discomfort until it’s reduced or gone.

Jillian asks: How does cognitive therapy work to help reduce anxiety?

Hi David,

I have questions about how using your methods helps people. I’m someone that uses an acceptance method for my anxiety with success and throughout this journey I’ve really been able to catch my mind trying to focus on the negative and trying to spiral into ruminating.

With negative thoughts, how do your methods actually help, does it start to change the way you think or make you automatically think in more of a positive way (eventually without having to “challenge” each thought?) Do you have to believe the challenges to your negative thoughts in order for it to work? What if you believe the original negative thoughts more? Do you actually start viewing things in a more positive light?

Kinds regards,


David’s Reply

Hi Jillian,

I can make this an Ask David question for my weekly podcast if you like. You can find the answers, too, in the free anxiety class on my website and in my book, When Panic Attacks. Thanks1

Essentially, and I’ve covered this in detail in a podcast, cognitive techniques can be very helpful in reducing anxiety, but they are only one strategy among many. I actually use four models in treating anxiety: the Motivational Model, the Cognitive Model, the Behavioral (Exposure) Model, and the Hidden Emotion Model. You can learn more about them in Podcasts #22-28. You can find links here:

I use all four models with every anxious individual I treat.

The Acceptance Paradox is a small but important part of the Cognitive Model.

Positive Thoughts have to be 100% true to be effective, but that does not mean they will be effective. They also have to radically reduce your belief in the negative thoughts triggering your anxiety.

If you still believe your negative thoughts, you need to try a different method to challenge them. I have developed 125 or more methods for challenging negative thoughts, since each person is a bit different!



Rhonda’s comments

We do not treat a diagnosis with a formulaic process. We treat a human being, one specific event at a time. Empathy is absolutely necessary for the treatment.

Here are David’s Four Models for treating anxiety:

  1. Motivational Model. You need to address the Outcome & Process Resistance with every anxious patient before trying any other methods.
  • Outcome Resistance. Reasons clients may not want the change/outcome they are asking for. Or to put this in simple words, anxious patients may not want to let go of their anxiety, fearing something bad will happen. You can use the WHAT IF technique to get to their outcome resistance. What are they the most afraid of? What’s the worst that might happen?
  • Process Resistance. What will I have to do that I don’t want to do?

Exposure. No one wants to do exposure. You may also have to feel feelings that you do not want to feel. Feel intense emotions instead of binging, for example.

  1. Cognitive Model. Pick a specific moment you were anxious about a thought. Go through the DML, what is going on with your patient? The positive thought needs to be 100% true, and it must drastically lower the belief in the NT to be effective.
  2. Exposure and Response Prevention Model. Exposure is necessary and often helpful, both gradual exposure and flooding.
  3. Hidden Emotion Model. Nearly all anxious patients tend to be exceptionally nice people because people who are prone to anxiety tend to avoid conflicts and negative feelings. (Wanting something you are not supposed to want, or feeling anger). These feelings are swept under the rug, and they come out indirectly, as some type of anxiety.

Sanjay asks: How do you give up wants, needs, and desires?

Hello David, Rhonda, and Fabrice,

It was really nice to meet Fabrice after a long gap. The topic Fabrice has started is very special of Should , Want and Need. I have heard about this topic in bits and pieces by you in many podcasts and also in your set of 4 podcast of self-deaths.

I kept thinking a lot about this beautiful concept of Want versus Need. And if we are able to learn technique to balance between Want & Need ,our lives will become happier and more stress-free.

Buddhist teachings say that Desire is the cause of suffering, so they want us to achieve a state with zero desires, which is Nirvana.

Also, the Holy book of Hinduism Geeta says further that if the purpose of our desires are to fulfill a duty or to help someone, only in these two cases will desires be good and bring happiness to the person. So, desire to eat a Mango will not fall in any of the two😄

But the penultimate question is that if we don’t have desires, life will be very dull and boring. As you had mentioned in podcast number 348 with Dr. Tom Gedman that unless one is in a very very positive state (which is rare like Buddha himself was) then only you can remain in a state of zero feeling otherwise you are bound to fall down and will lead to a very fast relapse .
I also agree that zero feelings or Zero desires state will ultimately lead people into depression therefore I feel the best way is to do positive-reframing of Need and dial it down to Want. So that we get the advantages of desires and leave the disadvantages of it .

As you have mentioned a number of times that FEELING GOOD APP is a very high priority for you but you try to keep it as your “want” and try not to enter this desire in the NEED zone.

Balancing desires on the border between Need and Want is quite challenging I request that please do a podcast for discussing as how to keep desires in check till want and if possible please develop a self-assessment questionnaire in a podcast with Matt May and Rhonda ,sounds i feel this is a valuable topic for exploration. It can provide listeners with tools and insights to strike a balance between fulfilling their desires for happiness and well-being without becoming enslaved by them.

I hope my message is clear and I am eagerly looking forward to the discussions amongst yourself.

Warm regards, Sanjay

New Delhi , India

David’s Reply. We can discuss this on a podcast, and I can tell you the story of a woman who attended a workshop I gave in San Antonio. She was raised as a Buddhist, but her family gave up Buddhism because her mother felt she’d “failed” at giving up wants and needs and desires.

Rhonda added these definitions:

  1. Wants are personal preferences for things or experiences.
  2. Needs are essential requirements for survival and well-being.
  3. Desires are strong longings or aspirations that go beyond basic needs and contribute to a person's happiness and fulfillment.
  4. Shoulds are when we scold ourselves because we did or did not do something.

Dana asks for help with the Disarming Technique.

Dear David,

I would like to request that you, Rhonda, and Matt show your listeners how disarming practice would sound with the following statements.

  • Are you going to start that again? Or don’t start that again!
  • Why are you back peddling again?
  • You just want to rest on your laurels.
  • Why are you doing this to me again?
  • You’re going back on your word.

I feel like when my flight response is in mode I cannot think of how to respond to targeted questions especially. I feel so inferior. Please think of any others you can and add to these to help.

Thank you so much!!!!


 David’s reply.

Thanks, Dana, We might include these on an Ask David.

It might help, too, if you could provide a brief context for these statements, and what, exactly, you typically say next.

That way, we might be able to point out your errors as well, if you are interested in learning how you might trigger these statements.

Of course, most folks don't want that, preferring to blame. But it can be empowering, at least for the brave!


Rhonda described one of the responses we modeled on the podcast.

  • Are you going to start that again? Or don’t start that again!

David’s A+++ reply (according to Rhonda)

Ouch, I’m feeling zapped right now, and you’re right. I am starting up on something that’s been very annoying to you. I think it was aggressive on my part. I have to plead guilty as accused.

I love you to death. When we go round and round it is painful for me, too. Clearly, I am to blame for that right now. I am ready to listen.

Maybe you can tell me what it is like for you when I start preaching again and we go round and round. It is clearly disrespectful.

I want to listen. You may be angry, frustrated, and pissed off. Can you tell me what this has been like for you and how you’re feeling right now?

At the end of our answer on the podcast, David added:

Dana, will you please take one of the examples you sent us, give us a context or a few details, and we will illustrate better disarming responses on a future podcast.

Will you also please use the Relationship Journal, and make your own attempt at a 5-Secrets response that we could evaluate and make suggestions on a future podcast?

Thanks for listening!

Rhonda, and David