What is it that you are afraid of? Who is it that you are afraid of? Be honest. What are you guarding, hiding, avoiding, or denying? Are you most afraid of death? Pain? Illness and disease? Public speaking? Wrinkles? Are you afraid of losing your job? Your house? Your spouse? An autocratic parent? Does one person have so much power in your life that you are totally afraid of what he or she thinks of you? Start out with only one fear. You can't cut through all of them at once, so don't try. Where you find your greatest fears, you'll find buried treasure deep below within your psyche.

Bring This One Large Fear to Mind in a Conscious. Honest, Self-Scrutinizing Manner

This large fear is a demon in your life, so you might as well face it and get to know it better. Analyze what it exactly is that causes you terror. Be very specific. If you are afraid of losing your job, for example, see if you can break your fears down. Are you afraid of losing money? Are you afraid of feelings of rejection?

Are you afraid of admitting defeat? Are you afraid of what your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends, your neighbors will say or think? What are you afraid it is? Are you afraid that you won't get another job and you'll end up living on the street? Are you afraid of the loss of status? Are you afraid of losing your community at work? Are you afraid of losing your job-related identity? Are you afraid that you won't know what to do with your time? Are you afraid of the process of hunting for another job? Are you afraid that you will have to give up a way of life? Afraid of disconnection, loneliness, boredom, meaninglessness?

Are you so profoundly afraid of being alone that it has crippled you or been instrumental in troubled decision-making? Many of our fears revolve around dependency issues. We want somebody else to face the demons for us. Are you clear about the ways this may be true in your life?

Experience Your Fears

Allow yourself some time to experience your worst fear. For just a few minutes, imagine a worst-case scenario and go there in your mind. Put yourself in that situation. Imagine it. Visualize it. Tell yourself that this is what has happened. Don't run away from it. Don't panic. Don't avoid it. Face your fear; see what is unconsciously driving your habitual compensatory behaviors in an attempt to avoid the worst. Do this and you'll eventually have a new perspective, more freed-up energy, and a new lease on life. . . .

If you are anxious about the possibility that you will end up alone, without a partner, for example, see if you can access this fear. Think about how you can construct a good and satisfying life on your own. The more we can train in learning to "hang in there" with our fears, even for the briefest of moments, the more we grow in breadth and depth. Training in this way helps us loosen our attachment to more excess baggage. In this way we open our hearts and allow the world to enter rather than walling it out, which is what we usually do with inappropriate defense mechanisms and irrational fears.

Be Willing to Experience Transformation of Your Fears

Too often our fears become nothing more than old familiar habits; they become little more than attachments. As young children, we may have been afraid of crossing the street or going into the basement alone. If, as adults, we hang on to these fears or replace them with ones that are similar, we remain stuck. If you have a fear that is paralyzing your growth, it is unlikely that it will be transformed until you are very firm in your resolve and intention to deal with it.

If you want to change and let go of the frightened and dependent person you used to be, you have to do whatever is necessary to face your inappropriate, unnecessary, and outdated anxieties. Loosen your attachments to your current problems. Many things don't require mystical intervention. If you are afraid of your debts and financial problems, for example, see a financial advisor and take practical steps. If you are afraid because you are overly dependent on another person, analyze these issues either alone or with a counselor. . . .

Allowing ourselves to experience what we fear can provide the opportunity to meet reality face to face, and in so doing to experience greater freedom, harmony, and oneness with the very things we until then avoided. Being one with one's karma and realizing the empty, illusory, and transitory nature of the objects of our fear delivers us beyond ourselves into a larger, brighter, and more empowered way of being in the world. This is the hero's way. This is our true way.

Lama Surya Das in Letting Go of the Person You Used To Be