What ‘After Earth’ Taught Me About Overcoming Fear


That you need not fear anything. Except the giant monster that feeds on fear.

It was Friday date night and my boyfrien’ and I were off to the movies. We’re both total sci-fi sluts and were off to geek out.

*spoiler alert* *many many spoiler alerts*

The major premise of the movie After Earth is that humans have been evacuated from Earth (because we screwed it so bad) and onto another planet. That planet happens to be coveted by a bunch of aliens.

So they biologically craft a massive blind (!) monster that can smell fear and then sick ‘em on the humans.

(A bit silly if you ask me. Why wouldn’t you give them sight as well as a panic sensor? Then they’d be UNSTOPPABLE!)

Anywho, I digress.

Where the movie gets interesting is that Cypher (Will Smith) has figured out how to kill the monsters. By not being afraid.

Because if you don’t have any fear, the monsters can’t “see” you.

But now Cypher and his son Kitai (Will Smith’s real life son, Jaden Smith) have crash landed on Earth after a mission to transport an Ursa (the giant monster that feeds on fear) went wrong.

Big problem is, Earth hates them. All the animals and plants have evolved to pretty much search, kill and destroy. Plus, you know, the Ursa. It’s wandering around too.

So while Cypher is stuck in the crash zone and giving himself an arterial bypass (ew!), his son has to navigate the dangers and terrors to get the beacon that will signal their rescue.

Understandably, Kitai is terrified. But he pretty much has no choice.

Due to some funky futuristic technology – Cypher can see Kitai and help him out by giving him directions, pointing out when angry monkeys are heading his way, and getting him to not crap himself. Or die.

And as always, sci-fi has some important things to teach us about life.

So if you find yourself struggling with anxiety, panic, fear or overwhelm – listen up. These 3 clues aren’t just for soldiers trying to hitch a ride on a spaceship. They’re perfect for you too.

1. Take a knee

Ah, I LOVE this command. Cypher says it to Kitai often. It’s obviously been a part of their military training back home and it literally means “stop and kneel on one knee”.

When you’re totally freaking out, you need a way to activate the pause so you can grasp the truth and figure out what is really happening.

It might not be appropriate for you to kneel where you are, but what other way can you use your body to stop the mounting terror and calm yourself?

What pose can you assume that helps you feel present and serene?

Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk for more ways you can use body posture to increase calm confidence.

2. Ground yourself in the present moment by using your senses

After Kitai has ‘taken a knee’ Cypher asks him to describe what he can see, smell and feel.

This is a perfect grounding technique and is one I use often. By using your senses to describe your environment, your attention is guided out of future tripping and back into the present reality.

It goes like this.

You repeat to yourself the following mantra:
I can see _____________
I can hear ____________
I can smell ______________
I can feel _____________

With each iteration, let your poetic license take over. Describe things in luscious detail and I guarantee you can discover the real beauty evident in each present moment.

I can see the sunlight flicker across the rippling surface of the water
I can hear the steady thrum of distant traffic
I can smell the faint lingering cologne of the stranger who passed by
I can feel the cool breeze caress my cheek

3. Danger is real, fear is a choice

Remember that most of the time you’re afraid of nothing. Seriously. Nothing.

There’s a scene where Kitai has just escaped from the death-threatening monkeys but he’s still running. He’s so scared that he can’t see that the danger is no longer there.

Fear truly is in the mind. Sure, we need to be mindful of danger. There’s no need to provoke the angry monkeys, or go play chicken on the highway.

But if you’re anything like me, I bet the stuff you’re scared of has little to no basis in reality. It’s the anxiety of “what if’s” that hold you back.

What if the business doesn’t work? What if no one at the party likes me? What if I sound like an idiot in the interview? What if people think I’m fat? What if I get laughed at / rejected / hurt?

There’s just no way you can live your life of awesomeness when you’re tripping in the future.

So training the mind to stay calm and present is a lifesaver (literally) AND helps you get on with the world changing stuff you want to do.

Obviously I think meditation and music are the best ways to train your mind to give you presence and resilience.

But there are lots of things that help. Deep breathing, regular exercise, good nutrition, yoga, and body work like massage or kinesiology – all help to calm the senses.

And really at the end of the day, all of it is a practice. The more you practice mindful training the more you can call on it when the shit hits the fan and you find yourself fleeing from rabid monkeys.

Or when that big report is due.

Got a friend who’s freaking out right now? Get them to take a  knee. Then share this post with them so they know what the hell you’re talking about.

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