The Roman stoics talked frequently about fear. Stoic mentors would encourage their pupils to face fear head on. According to the stoics, there were three main fears: fear of death, fear of slavery, and fear of exile.
The stoics recommended thinking about your own mortality daily. It was the ultimate truth, and could happen at any time. The stoics formulated an adage that was the reverse of Thomas Jefferson's: "we all die equal." Many artists and leaders in the previous 2000 years, including Leonardo da Vinci and Ben Franklin, followed this advice, and would carry "memento mori" objects.
At first glance, the last two fears - of slavery and exile - seem like outdated relics. Indeed, the stoics were talking about these fears literally. While tutoring a crown prince, the philosopher Plato was almost sold into slavery. Seneca, after an affair with the emperor's sister, was exiled to the distant island of Corsica.
But are these fears outdated? Exile is an archaic form of ostracism, and many of us fear that on a daily basis. In fact, many of the most crippling negative emotions, such as embarrassment, are tied to this fear. The pursuit of status and other similar vices, like greed, are also tied to this fear. And what is slavery but loss of freedom? Many people hate their jobs, or even the idea of having a "real" job, because it makes them feel trapped; others flee relationships for similar reasons.
It would be impossible to summarize the stoic approach to conquering these fears in a short space, other than to say that they advised thinking about your own thoughts, and how the thoughts themselves create a lot of pain. The stoics would also regularly discuss epic poetry, like the Iliad, and draw lessons.
How do you confront fear? How do you tell your students to confront fear?