“According to this legend, after you die, you’ll wake up in a dark place. Out of the darkness, a terrifying monster will suddenly appear. The monster will represent all the worst fears you’ve ever had. For each person, the monster will be different, since we all have different fears and vulnerabilities.
“When the monster appears, you’ll have two choices: You can try to get away, or you can surrender. If you try to get away, you will escape– but just barely–and soon you’ll be lost in the dark again.
“Out of the darkness, a second monster will emerge. This one will be almost as terrifying as the first, but not quite, and you’ll be faced with the same choice: surrender or flee. If you try to escape, you’ll succeed, but you’ll soon get yourself in the dark again. Every time you escape, another terrifying monster will appear,. Each monster will be slightly less terrifying than the one before, and if you run you’ll always barely manage to get away.
“According to the legend, the number of monsters you’ll have to confront depends on the number of days int he month when you die. … If you run away from all the monsters, you’ll be reincarnated as something very lowly, like a worm. If you surrender to one of the monsters, you’ll be reincarnated to a higher level. The scarier the monster you surrender to, the greater your status in your next life will be.
“In the event that you surrendered to the first and most terrifying monster, two things would happen. First, you’d discover that the monster was not real. You’d realize that it was just an illusion that you never had anything to fear in the first place. You’d see that the monster had no teeth. This would be an incredible triumph. The discovery might also seem incredibly funny, and you’d probably start laughing because you’d realize that your fears had been the result of a gigantic cosmic joke that had persisted throughout all of your previous reincarnations.”
David D. Burns, When Panic Attacks