False Evidence Appearing Real: The Movie

images-2The Scene: With Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as background music, the camera pans across a college campus on a fall afternoon in late 1999. The trees are almost bare and the ground beneath is covered with leaves. Students walk quickly to class, bundled up in bulky sweaters that suggest winter is not far off. The camera settles on one student, Patty, and follows her progress along a pathway up to the door of a brick building, which she enters. She climbs the stairs to the second floor, and walks quickly down a long corridor. At the end of the corridor she turns left into a small seminar room where three other students, Maya, Korinne, and James, have recently arrived. Greetings are exchanged, sweaters removed, notebooks unpacked, soda cans popped, snacks ripped open, and almost as one the group of students moves to take their seats. As the music fades out, we find them all seated around a small table.

MAYA: Oh man, I am so tired. I was up all night trying to finish my theory paper. I’m counting the days until my orals next week.

KORINNE: Aren’t you scared? I mean, I’m freakin’ out about going up in front of Dotson. They say he asks super tough questions.

MAYA: No, I mean, come on, remember what we talked about last week? About fear? And we’ve worked really hard to get to this point. I don’t think Dotson is going to make or break us.

KORINNE: Yeah, I guess so. But still…

JAMES: (Yawning and overlapping Korinne’s sentence). Hey, you’ll be fine. Dotson’s bark is way worse than his bite.

KORINNE: Easy for you to say. You’re done with orals. (At this point Korinne looks over and notices Patty, who’s smiling but hasn’t said anything yet). So what’s up with you? You seem uncharacteristically quiet. And why the big grin?

PATTY: Well, I’ve got some news…I finally finished my thesis. Got the last approvals. Turned it in. Fini, as they say in France! Can you believe it?

(This new information brings high fives all around, back pats, whooping, laughter, a few yippees).

MAYA: Okay, okay, you guys. Don’t want to bring the party down, but we have got to get serious. Dr. Amendola said to do at least one case today, and I have to pick up Skye at 6:00. So since Korinne and I are brain fried, how about one of you take the lead?

JAMES: (Whining a bit). Oh, please, please, please, not me, I’m brain fried too. No, make that brain mush. My kid was up all night.

PATTY: Hey, I respect that. And I’m feeling good today. No problem, I’ll take it.

KORINNE: Great, go!

PATTY: Yeah, okay. So, remember the client I told you about three weeks ago? The woman who’s been having all these insights about her life?

JAMES: I remember. You’re still working with her?

PATTY: Yes, and she’s come even farther. Done a bunch of soul searching and now actually knows what she wants. We figured it out…her calling is to be a veterinarian. And I’m absolutely certain she’ll be great at it. She’s got the grades. I think she can get into vet school. She’s even started doing the research, visiting animal hospitals, all of it. Oh, and her family is super supportive. I mean, it’s so right.

MAYA: Cool!

KORINNE: Awesome!

JAMES: This rocks!

PATTY: (laughing in delight at her friends’ spirit and support). Yeah, it’s fantastic. But there’s a little wrinkle.

MAYA: What?

PATTY: Well, when I saw her yesterday she told me she’d changed her mind. I could barely get her to talk about it. But basically she said she felt too old, like she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the younger students. And she teared up and admitted how scared she is.

KORINNE: Oh. Fear.

MAYA: Yeah, (spelling it out), F  –  E  –  A  –  R.


MAYA: You don’t know what that means?

PATTY: Well, yeah, I know what fear is.

KORINNE: But do you know what it stands for?

PATTY: I’m not getting it.

MAYA: It’s an acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real!

KORINNE: (getting excited) Yes! Isn’t that cool? Maya told me about it when I was in a panic last week about orals. Like, fear tries to make you believe what’s not true. Makes you see a false reality, but fear is never reality. Don’t you get it?

JAMES: (starting to zone out) Sort of.

PATTY: (a little puzzled) Maybe.

KORINNE: So, just tell your client what F -E – A – R  stands for. Explain the acronym to her.

PATTY: You think that’ll make a difference?


JAMES: (has slumped in his chair) Mmmmmmmmmm.

(The three women chuckle)

MAYA: Okay, dude, you’ve got to get home, and I’ve got to get downtown.

PATTY: Right, me too. We’re going out tonight to celebrate.

MAYA: Will you think more about what we said?

PATTY: About fear? Sure.

KORINNE: Promise?

PATTY: I will.

The students get up to gather their belongings and the music starts again. The camera follows them as they descend the stairs and exit the building into the night. They hug good-bye and separate, each walking out into the night as the scene fades away. THE END.

Okay, readers, now it’s your turn. What should Patty do? Should she take their advice? Will it make a difference? Your wise comments are much appreciated!

(By the way, as you’ve probably guessed, this is a slightly dramatized version of a true story that happened ten years ago, just as I was beginning my career as a counselor).



11 thoughts on “False Evidence Appearing Real: The Movie

  1. Patty — This was GREAT!!! Wow…so what will Patty do? I really liked the acronym for F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real.

    Okay, I’ll take the plunge: I think Patty should definitely talk to her client about this and get her to explore her reasons for not taking this leap. Then maybe Patty and this client can see how many of her reasons are “false evidence appearing real.”

    I am so impressed by this post. It was cleverly done. Great job, Patty:~)

    • Thank you so much, Sara. It was fun to write, and I thought, why not try something different? And it sounds like you’re saying that although the F.E.A.R. acronym is fun and interesting, it’s going to take more than that for Patty to explore this with her client.

  2. Hi Patty.
    I agree with Sara that this is a fun way to hear what you have to say.

    I am sure that your listening in the end would have given you openings to explore the issues further and to see if explaining the acronym or any other explanation to show a different angle would be useful.

    It is a fine dance we people dance together.
    For me in my counselling days the answer in the end was in the real connection we made that resulted in a fulfilling exploration and an authentic way forward.

    In my early days though I was so anxious to find solutions that I wanted to use these suggestions from peers as a lifebouy regardless of what I thought the client would think of them.
    I thought I needed a magic pill as I did not yet trust my ability to guide by listening.
    Now I take these things on board as useful and can present them in that way and at the same time trusting the conversation.

    • Hi Wilma – Isn’t that the truth? When we first start out we think people need magic pills and the right answer, but as we go along we realize it’s so much more than that. I’m so glad you pointed this out, because there is a big difference between advice giving and listening. Thanks you, my friend!

  3. Patty, this is so creative and I wanted the dialogue to go on. I have nothing to add as you wise women said it all. I think that counseling is such tricky business (and it seems every other person is calling him/herself a life coach which I find utterly confusing). Reading this post and the comments helps me get a sense of the level of mastery people like you have to have in order to do what you do well.

    • Hi Belinda – Thank you so much! Actually, ten years ago I was pretty green, even though I had finished my studies. Especially around dealing with fear. And I wanted the dialogue to reflect that. Fear is such a ubiquitous subject, and we’re bombarded with information about it. So I thought this could be a fun way to introduce it as a topic. I plan to write more on it next week. Oh, and yes, it is super confusing for people, the counseling vs. coaching thing. You’re not alone. I do both, and I believe they are more alike than different.

  4. Hi Patty!
    Well first off Patty should be – she is already – a writer! 🙂 GREAT story and dialogue made me feel I was there!

    Yes, share that FEAR thing – it is priceless and I thank you tremendously for it. I will most definitely use that myself. It’s better than bashing myself for stupidly being fearful!

    • Hi Suzen – So glad you stopped by to join the conversation! And already a writer – wow! Now that’s one of those things that so many of us hesitate to name for ourselves. So I really appreciate your naming it for me. And yes, thinking about what fear means is a lot better than calling ourselves stupid. Thanks for the comments.

  5. Great story Patty! And way to leave us hanging! I’ve heard that acronym before, and personally it hasn’t meant much to me. It could be used with this client, but it would need to be the jumping off point for a more lenghty discussion.

    When dealing with new, uncomfortable, or fearful situations, I prefer to layout the facts. Usually done in my head, but could have more impact on paper. Find the positives and the negatives, but deal only in facts, not in emotions.

    Has this person done well in school in the past? How do other late learners do in school (statistics say they do much better actually.) What are the real risks involved?(typically financial or time based) What hurdles must be overcome? And finally… WHY NOT?

    • Hey Eric – Love that – Why Not? You know the name of my blog. Interesting what you say about separating facts from emotions. Because you’re right, fear is an emotion, but there’s much more to take into consideration. You’ve actually got a jump on what I’m going to talk about in next week’s posts. So thanks for the lead in!

  6. Pingback: A Large State of Fear « Why Not Start Now?

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