Phobias are fears pure and simple. You are afraid of small spaces, confined spaces, high places, dogs, elevators, or alligators. A fear becomes a phobia when it irrationally interferes with your life and causes you to avoid people, places and things because of that fear.

You don´t go to work because you have to ride the elevator; you won´t drive your children to their friend´s house because you´re afraid of your car. A great way to stop these fears from interfering with your lifestyle is to desensitize yourself to the feelings these situations create with real life desensitization.

Real life desensitization or exposure therapy is a great way to confront the phobias or other anxiety problems that may be hampering your life. While this process is effective it can be very uncomfortable because you are gradually exposing yourself to that which you fear.

However, if you are able to endure the stages of discomfort, you will find you will no longer experience the uncontrollable dread you once did when getting on a bridge. Getting into a car or interacting with others.

It´s important to understand that real life desensitization or exposure therapy is a gradual process that can take years to complete. You need to set goals for yourself, baby steps that you can accomplish in conquering your fear.

Before you begin desensitizing yourself with real life situations and scenes, you will want to practice using your imagination first. It´s important that when you are exposing yourself either through your imagination or in real life to that which you fear that you take gradual steps.

For example, if you are afraid of the elevator, try breaking down your imagery desensitization and exposure therapy into the following steps. You can break any fear down into gradual steps that you can work on over the course of time.

1. Look at the elevator as it comes and goes on the first floor. Watch the doors open, watch them close, watch the elevator rise and return.

2. Stand in the elevator with someone you trust, keeping the doors open.

3. Stand in the elevator by yourself with the doors open.

4. Travel one floor up with your support person.

5. Travel in the elevator alone one floor but have someone you trust waiting where you will get off.

6. Travel two floors with someone you trust.

7. Travel two floors alone but have someone you trust waiting at the arrival floor.

8. Keep increasing the number of floors and repeating the process.

9. Travel up and down on the elevator by yourself.

You won´t be able to accomplish all of this in one day, one week, or even one month. Your psyche probably won´t let you. It´s taken a long time to foster and nurture the anxiety, so it will probably take a little while to break it down.

Don´t get impatient; the most important part of exposure therapy or imagery desensitization is commitment. Each time you complete one of the steps you will have conquered a little bit of your fear.

You will have to struggle through anxiety, dread, worry and other negative thoughts and physical reactions. Push through it but never take it too far. If the fear is just too great, stick with the previous step until you are fully comfortable. You never want to push yourself too far, it will make completing the next step in your process that much more difficult.

Now think of your phobia. What are you anxious about? Now think about the steps you need to complete to conquer that fear. Write a list and start working on it. Step by step. You will have conquered your fear sooner than you think and you will be amazed by the results.

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