In the spirit of the Star Wars Last Jedi release, I thought it would be apropos to discuss the overlap between Star Wars Movies and mental health recovery. The force, good versus evil, and the dark side versus the light side all mirror things that either we struggle with or can help us make positive, transformational change. In fact, I think that Yoda was more of a therapist than a trainer of Jedi Padawans. “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” Self-awareness is a critical factor in our transformation as most of what we do has been pre-programmed from our early life experiences. Behavioral templates establish even before we had conscious memory. Our brain doesn’t enjoy overworking itself so it relies on habit and our unconscious to lead our way through the world. Many of our habits are behaviors we utilize to escape the dark experience. Examples such as drug use, suicidality, or self-harm.
“A lesson quickly forgotten is a lesson poorly learned.” A statement borrowed from Star Wars lore; what if we looked at negative life events as a lesson learned and use these experiences not to be self-critical and judgmental of ourselves but to recognize how we can make our life situation better. This is a struggle for both the client and the therapist but a struggle worth facing. The power of these negative experiences has its strength in the unprocessed. In order to reduce the power, we have to process the experience in order for our brain to effectively make sense of it and file it away like it does for non-threatening experiences.
“I am one with The Force. The Force is with me,” so meditatively stated over and over by Chirrut Imwe in the recent Rogue One movie. What is the force and how does it relate to us aspiring and wishful Jedi. The Force in the movies are famously described as “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” There is energy in how we relate to each other and by carrying ourselves negatively, we give off negative energy and therefore create a negative experience. However, the reverse is true and staying positive and being positive creates a positive energy that impacts those around us. One of the primary tools of the Jedi is meditation. Concentration, focus, changing brain states from negative to positive all things that we can accomplish in our daily lives. Just as the Jedi has the power to change the energy force in their experience, we have the ability to change our own personal brain state as well as the energy we have with others in our lives. Although the Jedi in Star Wars have this genetic predisposition to be such, they require training and tutelage from a master to perfect this way of being. Changing and transforming out mental health requires training and tutelage from a therapist, mentor, and/or trusted adult. To be successful, the brain requires repetition, repetition, repetition in order to change old, self-defeating pathways in the brain to more effective and health pathways that we create through new therapeutic experiences.
“Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quickly to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice,” stated by Yoda to young Luke Skywalker speaking about how easily it can be to be seduced by the dark side. Yoda highlighted the timeline of Fear leading to anger leading to hate leading to suffering. What is therapy but finding healthy ways to relieve suffering. Anger, fear, impulse to be aggressive, all feelings that everyone of us feel and have felt throughout our lives but the purpose of early training is for us to garner strength to resist the seduction by the power of those feelings. Jedi training, therapy, mentorship, faith based experience are all tools to help you live a productive, enriching and healthy life. Find your inner strength to live the life you want to live and May the Force be with You!