There is no way to undermine the power of movies when it comes to how it has influenced so much of our lives. With it, we found the connection, inspiration, and even the revelation we never thought we needed. One of the phenomenal movie franchises that has impacted almost everyone who has seen it is Star Wars. In honor of National Star Wars Day, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen give their take about the entire franchise by discussing the mental health lessons it has imparted. Far from your ordinary movie review, they share the many great insights and stories from people whose lives have been positively impacted by Star Wars, especially with their mental health. They tap into the dark side of mental illness and how people saw themselves in Kylo Ren, learned from Yoda, got inspired by Obi-Wan, and more. Discover the magic that is in seeing our lives mirrored in this great film, and, aptly wishing you all the best in whatever life throws at us, may the fourth be with you!
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The Mental Health Lessons In Star Wars
May The Fourth Be With You
Happy May the 4th, Jason.
I already know where this is leading.
Where is it going to lead?
May the 4th be with you.
I said that. It’s not leading anywhere. That’s already been done.
You said, “Happy May 4th,” and I said, “May the 4th be with you.”
I said, “Happy May the 4th.”
Is this episode going to all be about Star Wars?
It is. I’m excited about this because when I saw that this episode was coming out on May 4th, I thought, “It’s National Star Wars Day, May the 4th,” and then I realized we’ve talked about Star Wars a few times. If you didn’t know this already, dear reader, there are all sorts of goodies for you, plus free resources, all different ways that we can support you on our website, Wellevatr.com. It’s been in dabbling. This is the first episode that will be entirely about Star Wars. If you’re not a Star Wars fan, I encourage you to keep reading because this is going to be different than you may think. Get it? May.
There is a lot of double entendres already.
I didn’t do it on purpose. There are different levels. There are people that absolutely love Star Wars, they’re fanatics. There are people that like it. I would say Jason falls in that category. I wouldn’t call you a fanatic, Jason, because you’re not somebody that gets into the cosplay. You don’t sit around all day playing Star Wars video games or trivia or going on websites and geeking out about it. You do like Star Wars and that’s something that’s come up in the other episode. We’ve talked about Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey a bunch of times. Those are the episodes that are worth reading. We wanted to give you something different. I wanted to give you something different. Jason doesn’t know what I’m going to talk about, but I was amazed at what I found when I was researching this. I wanted to do something or at least acknowledge the day we to acknowledge a lot of the timely subject matters.
If you haven’t read before, we often reference different national days and whatnot and try to tie it into the subject matters that we’re passionate about, which are health, wellbeing. I wasn’t quite sure where to go with this. I stumbled upon something, thanks to a web search that I did. Before we get into that, I wanted to give a little bit of history on this day. In case you’re unfamiliar, if in case you’re not already a Star Wars fan and May 4th is some usual, normal day for you. Star Wars didn’t come up with this day, though I didn’t learn about that or maybe they did in a roundabout way, Jason. I’m not sure if you knew the history, but in 1979, Britain elected the first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. On May 4th, that was the day she took office. They put an advertisement in the London Evening News which read, “May the 4th be with you, Maggie.”
I did not know that. That is fascinating.
Over the years, people started to use that term. There are hashtags for it and each year, people will celebrate the day by watching the movies. There’s so much Star Wars content out there. There are the original three episodes, the prequels, the sequels, the spinoffs like The Mandalorian, and a bunch of other movies and shows that I’ve never even watched. There are video games. There’s so much in the Star Wars universe. People will watch that, play the games, they will make recipes, do cosplay. There is a lot of interesting content out there and ways to celebrate in some years.
That wouldn’t happen in 2020 because most people are in quarantine, but some years, people would get out lightsabers and have lightsaber parties at night, which is cool. I always was surprised Jason didn’t partake in that. Speaking of recipes, one thing that we’ll link to is our friend, Roxy. Off the top of my head, she’s the first person in terms of recipes she made. She makes vegan recipes on YouTube amongst other things and she’s into things Star Wars. I remember she made cookies based on those cute creatures from the sequels.
Thank you. I don’t know why I blanked on them because those are probably my favorite Star Wars creatures of all time.
Also because that’s a subtle third-tier nickname for my cat, Julius.
That’s all I could think of. All I could think of was the sound that we like to use. I’m like, “They’re not called eep eeps.”
It sounds true very much like a sound my cat, Julius, makes.
That’s the sound that the Porgs make. If you have not seen the latest Star Wars movies because you’re not a fan, I recommend it. Was it the second batch of those three with the Porgs?
It was. It was The Last Jedi. It was the second in the new trilogy.
They made a brief appearance. No spoiler, but they do show up in the third episode of that trilogy. What was that one called?
The Rise of Skywalker. That was the one that came out in December 2019.
I was happy that the Porgs came back because I love them so much. They’re incredibly adorable. Maybe not quite as adorable as Baby Yoda who has taken the internet by storm. I’m surprised that the Porgs didn’t make a bigger splash, but Baby Yoda is a big deal. He came from The Mandalorian, which I have still not watched. Maybe I’ll watch it for May 4th. That could be good.
I recommend binge-watching it because the episodes are short and it feels like a Spaghetti Western, like an old Hollywood Western meets Star Wars. It has a lot of the flavor of the original trilogy, which I like. It’s an interesting mashup of the backstory of characters that were never covered in the movies meets Spaghetti Western, which I was never a huge fan of the Western genre anyway.
When I hear that, I’m like, “I don’t want to watch it.”
It’s done in such a cool mashup way. It’s almost as if you hear two different bands that will do a show together. A random tangential example and then we’ll get back to Roxy and her recipe. Years ago, this was before I went to South by Southwest in Austin. They specialize in weird mashups there sometimes. For anyone who’s a big music fan, there was an alternative rock band in the ‘90s called The Afghan Whigs. Usher came and did a set with them, which was great.
Did you see that?
I didn’t see it live because it was a few years before I went to South by Southwest, but I saw footage of it. You would think, “How would a hardcore ‘90s alternative rock band and Usher be a mashup that works?” It was badass.
Usher is also a big part of our inside jokes. I hope one day we get to meet Usher or maybe even have him on here. I’m going to put that out there as a Star Wars-related tangential wish that I have here. I didn’t mean to get into depth on Roxy’s recipes, but we do to give shoutouts to our friends. I remember how cute her Porg recipe was. I want to talk about something, but before I introduce that, I found this nice definition of The Force, which I thought was worth sharing. It’s on the Star Wars website. They have a Star Wars Day website on there with a lot of interesting information. Here is how they define The Force, “The Force is a mysterious energy field created by life that binds the galaxy together. Harnessing the power of The Force gives the Jedi, the Sith and others sensitive to the spiritual energy extraordinary abilities such as levitating objects, tricking minds and seeing things before they happen. When The Force can grant users powerful abilities, it also directs their actions and it has a will of its own, which both scholars and mystics have spent millennia seeking to understand.”
I like that definition a lot.
It is the official definition according to the Star Wars.
It gave me chills when you were reading it. It was a little bit like that pinprick on the back of your neck where your hair stands up. It was like, “I’m feeling that. That’s fantastic.”
I never felt that into Star Wars until I watched the new trilogy, which I liked a lot. I saw all three in the theater with Jason on opening day. That was so much fun. Like any movie or series, it’s fun to get into something that other people are into and experience the magic of it. This is why people like Star Wars in general. Disney, which owns Star Wars, there’s that energy of going to Disney World and you can look at all of the downsides and the cons of Disney, but the pros outweigh it because of all the magic. That’s probably why, or maybe not the main reason, but one of the reasons that Disney acquired Star Wars is it’s not about the finances. It’s because Star Wars is magical.
It fits into the Disney universe because it’s about feeling that energy and getting lit up by something. I want to experience the Star Wars elements of Disneyland, which will be fascinating. I don’t know if it’s going to get even busier after quarantine or maybe it’ll be a good time to go right after quarantine officially ends in California. Previous to that, I would see on TikTok all of these videos of people going to Disneyland and trying to go on the new Star Wars rides, which look amazing. It was such a huge commitment. In addition to the money, it was time. People would get up at 5:00 in the morning to wait in line to go on this ride. They would spend their whole days structuring them around when they were going on to Star Wars. It’s interesting that Disney in itself is already exciting. When you added Star Wars into the mix, it took it to a whole other level.
I also want to qualify something, because you mentioned there were categories of fandom and I am not currently a super fan or what I would call a hardcore fanatic. I was when I was a child, though. When I was a kid, I had the lightsabers, the talking Yoda, all of the Star Wars figures. I had the scale Millennium Falcon. I had a whole setup of the Planet Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. As a kid, I was hardcore. I remember when the prequels came out in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, I was also there on opening day. I was born in 1977, so I wasn’t there on opening day in ‘77. I was there in 1980 for The Empire Strikes Back. I was there in ‘83 for Return of the Jedi, for the prequels and the last Trilogy. With the exception of the first Star Wars movie in 1977, I was there in the theaters for all of them on opening day. I was a hardcore fan as a kid.Depression lies to you even more by saying you'll never get better. Click To Tweet
You probably told me that before, but hearing you verbalize it now, I’m like, “Okay.”
I wish I would’ve kept all those toys because now you see interesting things, and I’m paraphrasing, but you’ll see the first edition Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure that’s going for $1,000 or $2,000. There are these interesting one-off pieces of memorabilia that are apparently rare. I had some of them. As a kid, you’re like, “I’m twelve years old now. I want to sell it in my garage sale and make some money.” I didn’t care. Hindsight being 20/20, I wish I would’ve kept those toys, though.
It’s a lot like your passion for cars and at least the way you talk about it. I’m not as interested in either of those subject matters, but when you get excited about it, Jason, it’s fun to be around someone like you that has all that knowledge. I know any time we’ve watched any of the Star Wars movies together, I can ask Jason any piece of trivia and he’ll be able to give me the whole backstory. I’m glad that I didn’t have to go look this up or try to understand it myself because I don’t care that much, but it does help. I’ll never forget the joy on Jason’s face when we saw the first episode of the new trilogy in the theater and we hadn’t planned it. Were we dating at the time? I can’t remember.
What year was that?
That was 2015. We were still dating.
Somewhere in that gray area that we were in. We made a spontaneous decision to see it in the afternoon and it was so much fun. We were glad that we didn’t wait because there was a huge plot point that happened that could have easily been spoiled. It was great to experience that. I remember looking over at Jason’s face the moment that it all started and the energy of the room, how excited people were. It was amazing. I would say the second one we also had a similar experience. The third one was cool and we ran into Roxy, funny enough, who we referenced earlier. We ran into her completely coincidentally when we saw the new episode that came out. That was fun too. I would say the first two episodes are a little bit more exciting in the theater.
Maybe it was where we were or something, but it’s cool to be in the room with all of these people that are excited about the same thing. To feel the energy of that makes it another level. I’m excited, speaking of which, to dig into the subject matter. When I was reflecting on how we could tie Star Wars into the subject matters of health and wellness, I sat for a moment and I thought, “I’m going to type in Star Wars wellbeing as keywords on a search. That doesn’t sound that interesting. Maybe I’ll do Star Wars health.” I decided to put in Star Wars mental health and Jason, you will be amazed at how many articles came up talking about the link between Star Wars and mental health. That’s what we’re going to dive into, which is all of these people who have written in-depth articles and personal stories about how Star Wars helps them with their mental health. It is fascinating.
You have my attention. That is not at all what I thought that you were going to segue this into.
What did you think I was going to segue this into?
I don’t know. Something about the way that Star Wars brings people together or the community bonding, which I guess in a way is a tangential subject around mental health with community and bonding and togetherness. I didn’t know that you were going to tie in specifically to mental health. I’m curious because for the dear reader, if this is your first time joining us and perhaps, you’re here because Star Wars was in the title of this or you saw it was about Star Wars, welcome. One of the things that we discuss here on the show often and interweave into many of our episodes is the myriad of methods and nuances of managing our mental, emotional and physical health. One of the cornerstones of this is mental and emotional health. I am all ears, Whitney, and would love to pass the baton back to you and see where this goes because I’m fascinated by this link you’ve brought up.
It’s not one link, it’s more links than I could possibly read. I’m going to go through each of them in order of how they came up in the Google search results and have a discussion around it. The first one I pulled up is the only one that I’ve read so far and it’s great. We’ll discuss them, touch upon them briefly. If this is a subject matter that interests you, the reader, please go check out the links to each of these. If you feel compelled, you might want to share some of them and you can use the hashtag. There are probably a number of hashtags, but there’s #NationalStarWarsDay, #MayTheFourthBeWithYou, #MayTheForceBeWithYou.
The first article is a personal story on the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It’s a lovely story. What’s funny is I don’t know if this is a woman. The National Alliance on Mental Illness was shortened to NAMI and I assumed that was the person’s name. It’s not. It’s anonymous. I want to read a good chunk of this because it’s moving. This person is a huge Star Wars fan. Similar to Jason, the movies mean a lot to this person. This person has Bipolar Disorder with some Borderline Personality Disorder thrown in for fun, as they say. This causes them to be easily agitated, have terrible mood swings, angry outbursts and between those a persistent, depressed mood. It’s normal to get irked by things in life.
Spoiler alert, we probably will, and I know this article prefaces this, is that there may be some Star Wars spoilers. If you are somebody who has never watched Star Wars, I’m sure there are people out there who haven’t or you haven’t watched the new movies, you may want to wait to read this if you care. I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers. The reason I say that is because this person experiences a lot of irritability and often feels they can’t brush off things. They can’t let it go. They segued into comparing that to the character Kylo Ren, who comes up in the new trilogy is played by Adam Driver. It says that it’s similar to that character who, instead of acknowledging bad news and moving on, he lashes out at his surroundings with his lightsaber in a fit of rage. The writer says, “When things don’t go quite the way I planned or I’m angry at myself, I take to punching the walls until my knuckles are bruised and my fist bleeds. I saw myself and Kylo runs angry, violent outbursts of taking his lightsaber and destroying most likely expensive space equipment. When I feel that internal rage, I know to keep myself in a safe space where I can’t hurt anyone or anything but myself.”
“What makes my spine shiver with relate-ability was when Kylo Ren was facing his estranged father.” I’m not going to read this part because I feel it’s such a big spoiler. If you have seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about here and I’m skipping over a few lines. Kylo Ren in this film, without giving them away as a spoiler, says, “I’m being torn apart and I want the pain to end.” The writer says, “Being torn apart is exactly how I feel. This duality of the desire to live but want the pain to end. The split between absolute self-hatred and loving myself for who I am. The belief that the world is a better place without me and the light of hope knowing that isn’t true. The words, ‘I want the pain to end,’ that Kylo Ren said had been spoken by every single person who has ever thought of suicides.”
“The feelings of I don’t want to die, but I would do anything to make this pain end. Shame is a huge part of mental illness. Many of us feel the disease has destroyed us, taken over, turned us into someone we’re not. Some of us feel like we’re wearing a mask, that our true self is not something anyone wants to see that we must cover-up. For some, that mask is to look happy all the time like everything is okay. While Kylo Ren’s mask certainly isn’t to look happy on the outside, it does cover his true self behind closed doors. He struggles with the light and the dark, the good in him and the evil, but he cannot show this weakness, so he wears a mask or a helmet, in his case. We must pretend like everything is okay on the outside while we struggle inside.”
The writer also says, “Depression lies to you, convinces you that people don’t love you. Even though people might reach out, it forces you to shake off their invitations and close yourself off alone. You don’t want to be around anyone. I don’t think Kylo Ren has many friends in the movie. Depression lies to you even more by saying you’ll never get better. Kylo Ren says it’s too late for him to change in the pivotal scene with his father. I often feel I’ve struggled for so long, tried many medications and therapies that it’s too late for me to change too. There’s no hope for me. Sometimes mental illness makes you do things you never wanted to do. With mental illness, sometimes you feel what you are doing isn’t coming from you. You’re not in the driver’s seat.”
“After seeing the movie, I felt completely distraught. How could I identify closely with the bad guy? It would be one thing if he were redeemed in the end, but he is most definitely not. It felt a reverse inspiration. Instead of giving me hope, it took some away. However, I did find hope and inspiration in the fact that I’m not alone and feeling the way that I do. Others, even if it’s a fictional character, struggle with the same things I do. It felt so good to see my struggle so eloquently displayed in my new favorite movie. One of the hardest parts of mental illness is feeling completely alone, feeling you’re the only person in the world who feels this way. I hope seeing these struggles in the big screen gives hope to others fighting mental illness too.”
It’s wonderful. It’s beautifully elucidated in the sense of that one of the beautiful pieces about art, whether that’s literature or movies, comics, music, paintings, the art forms that we consume as humans in society. The media is the ability to see our lives mirrored back to us from characters, people, words, stories. To me, the most profound art that has affected my life has had some mirroring nature to it. To have this person, first of all, have the shock of identifying with the villain the most, it’s interesting because I’ve often talked about and I talked about this years ago, one of the second to last times I lectured at the Longevity Now Conference. I talked about mental illness with my family and my position that it’s possible that a lot of my struggles with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation could be genetically passed down from my father who struggled.
I believe my father was undiagnosed bipolar. There’s no way to verify because he’s not in his body anymore. He passed years ago. If I look at the patterns of behavior of his life, his addiction, his emotional outbreaks and rollercoasters, he was probably on the spectrum somewhere. This Star Wars reference is interesting because I often as a child thought that the original trilogy or all of this, the Skywalker Saga as they call it, of all nine movies were about Luke Skywalker. With the exception of the new trilogy, because he wasn’t mentioned that much, which I thought was weird, was Anakin Skywalker, who eventually became Darth Vader and the fall from grace into the darkness and eventually the redemption of Darth Vader. I’m not giving away plot points if no one has seen any of the Star Wars movies, but it was always a thing that I, as an adult, would transpose on my relationship with my father.
That me playing the role of Luke Skywalker as the son who came from what I thought at the core was a good person who then turned to the darkness. The darkness in my father’s case was a drug and alcohol addiction, infidelity, money laundering. My father was in jail several times and ended up being homeless and unfortunately dying on the streets. I always had this idea it’s about Luke and the hero’s journey. The core of it was the rise and fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. In some way, subconsciously, I had always hoped that my father would redeem himself like Darth Vader did at the end. My father didn’t want help. He didn’t want to pull himself out of the darkness. He didn’t want to pull himself out of addiction.
He didn’t want to heal his life. He died in a hospice after being homeless for about five years. That story of Star Wars holds a deeper meaning for me. There was always this hope that I had that my father would find redemption much like Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader and he never did. To have a personal story like that, Whitney, reflected back at me, especially around mental health that my father struggled with and that I have struggled with, it hits deep. That’s probably why this story, this saga has resonated to me at the core, not the fantastical elements of lightsabers and good versus evil and X-wings and starfighters and all those things. The deeper character arcs of falling out of grace and falling into darkness and redeeming oneself, these are biblical, deep concepts that have been with us for generations, not just the Star Wars movies.
In fact, one of the articles that I was going to reference is 7 Things Darth Vader Can Teach Us About Depression.
If I saw that, I would click on that article. You’ve got my click.
It is a good title. I will link to this article as well. Everything will be credited there. A lot of times when we’re reading articles, we’re skimming the surface. If you want to dig into any of these, we encourage you to.
Are you going to get into it? Now I feel teased.
I’m saying that it’s only fair that we link back to the source and also we can’t talk about The Force, Jason, and we have to talk about the source as well. This article starts off by saying that, “Many men aren’t good at about accepting the truth about depression. Many men don’t even believe it exists, considering it to be a fiction created by weak-minded fools who in reality needs to get a grip of themselves. After all, we all have bad days, but real men get on with it.” I’m interested to see why this author has that perspective. It’s so interesting how when you open up your mind to how other people think, but that point about real men being strong, maybe the part of the reasoning here that this author has is that if you acknowledge that you’re depressed, you’ll be perceived as weak.
If I may interject briefly before you dive into these amazing seven things we can learn from Darth Vader about depression. That is a very old archetype of masculinity that has been purported for generations and generations. The thing of, “Don’t cry. What are you crying about? I’ll give you something to cry about.” Where it’s this oppression of young men and young boys that if they are afraid or if they cry or show any emotional vulnerability, they’re shamed and they’re told that that’s weak. This author, if I may, transposing on my experience in my life, I was definitely raised in a family that had a lot of those old school masculine archetypes of, “Don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t show fear because that means vulnerable. That means that you can be hurt. Do not do that.” I get that because that’s something that has persisted for generations and generations. We can talk about the ripple effect that has on the planet and society of men not being in touch with their emotions or their vulnerability or admitting when they’re afraid. I certainly hope, at least with the men that I’ve talked to in the men’s groups that I’ve been in, that men collectively are learning to express themselves and emote in a different way.
That’s part of the reason this story is important. Star Wars, classically, as far as I’m aware, mostly has a strong male fan base. That’s what I think of at least. I certainly know women that are into it, but it seems more men than women. That’s important. It’s making me feel good that we’re discussing this and getting into the deeper side, the mental health side of it, and the lessons that we can learn from it. You never know. Maybe it’s a way to help people open up about things like this. The author of this article said, “As a man who has battled depression, I don’t have the luxury of doubting the existence of the dark side. I want more men to acknowledge its existence so that they may recognize its presence should it descend upon them, a friend or even a family member. Should its dark cloak wrap itself around them, I want men to feel able to seek help, unencumbered by the fear of judgment and the mortal risk to their perceptions of their masculinity.”
That’s eloquently written, “Here are a few lessons that Darth Vader can teach us about depression. Number one, you don’t know the power of the dark side. You want to get out of bed, have a shower, eat something, play with the kids. You want to go to work, but you can’t. It takes every single ounce of your will to complete even the simplest of tasks. As Han Solo discovered, just because you haven’t seen the dark side doesn’t mean it isn’t there. He said, ‘Kid, I’ve flown from one side of the galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.’”
It’s interesting because, to me, that brings up this fundamental idea of whether or not we are in control or whether or not that there is God, spirit, universe, the all that is guiding us and dropping breadcrumbs and putting things in our path. This ultimately begs a larger question. This Han Solo quote of is there pre-destiny because there are some spiritual lineages that believe that we don’t have free will. It’s an illusion of free will, that the cosmic forces, God, universe, spirit, whatever you want to call it has our destiny already pre-written. We are simply carrying out our destiny under the illusion of free will. There’s the other school of thought, maybe more of a new age, if you will, school of thought that’s like Abraham-Hicks and The Secret and manifestation. It’s that we do have some semblance of control in the sense that we align our energies and our intentions in a manifestation practice and then our co-creating with the universe.
It’s interesting because it sounds like Han Solo is much more in the sense of like, “I control my destiny and I make up the rules and I am in control, whereas some people are completely surrendered to The Force and this mystical universal energy and going with the flow.” I don’t know. It’s interesting. I struggle with this belief system because sometimes I feel I have a tendency to think that, especially as we’re in this quarantine moment, that we have some semblance of control of our destiny and the outcome. Where I’m at right now, Whitney, in all of this is the only thing that I have control over, and this is my belief system, is the amount of effort and love and focus I can put into something. Once it’s done and I release it, then I have to turn the outcome, the results, over to life. I find myself saying that more. Like I know I did my best and now I turn the outcome over to life. The results or what comes back to me or however people respond or don’t respond, I have zero control over that. That’s my belief system. I feel more relaxed and chill and less anxious as a result of that.
I’m going to skip over to another article for a moment. This was in Psychology Today and it’s called The Psychology of Star Wars Dark Side Edition. “In the numerous psychological assertions made in this series, none are more significant than its understanding of our darker emotions. In the galaxy far, far away, feelings of anger, fear, and hatred constantly loom in the shadows, ready to consume and pervert our personalities. The dark side is tempting and dangerous. If this is also true in our real world, it’s something we should all know. Let’s explore what real-life psychological science has to say about three major characteristics of the dark side.”
This is interesting and then we’ll go back to the lessons. “Number one, the dark is more powerful than the light. Every kid knows that the dark side is more powerful than the light. It’s one of the reasons that villains like Darth Vader, Count Dooku, Emperor Palpatine, and Kylo Ren are intriguing. Even though these characters might not be exactly worthy of our admiration, their descent into darkness was accompanied by an increase in their Jedi powers.” They go into lots of depth about different studies, researchers interviewing groups of people. Some of these studies have nothing to do with Star Wars, but they were finding that negative emotions tend to stick around longer than positive emotions. Other studies and professors have found that darker emotions and events tend to be stronger than later. We have links to these if you want to read some of these studies.
One of the examples they gave is, “Negative interactions such as arguments appear to have a more powerful effect in romantic relationships than positive interactions.” They did some studies with married couples and propose that negative interactions are five times more powerful. “When the number of positive interactions experienced by a couple is at least five times the number of negative interactions, marriages tend to last. When the balance shifts significantly from this ratio, relationships are likely to fail.” That’s fascinating. “There’s no need to despair, however. None of this means that the bad will always triumph. Good may still prevail over badly by superior forces of numbers. Many good events can overcome the psychological effects of a single bad one. In other words, even though the dark lords of the Sith may be more powerful than the Jedi, this means the Jedi needs to work harder.”
I want to interject because this reminds me of moments in particular, tangential but related to the dark side because this is juicy. My favorite movie in the entire Star Wars universe thus far is the second movie of the original trilogy that came out, which is The Empire Strikes Back, which is often referred to as the Dark Night of the Soul. It has probably one of the most famous lines in history. If no one’s seen it, it’s one of the biggest moments in movie history in this film by far with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. The darkness of this movie and how heavy emotionally it was when Luke Skywalker meets Master Yoda. There are two quotes to this day that I will not forget from that movie. Even as a kid I remember it was shivering. I feel Yoda is like the wellness guru. He’s the mindset, the Zen master of the Star Wars universe. I remembered two Yoda quotes. It’s about a part of the core, the foundational elements of the dark side.
He talks a lot about attachment and he talks about letting go. One of the quotes is he goes, “The shadow of greed. Attachment is what you fear to lose. Train yourself to release. Let go of fear and fear cannot harm you.” This is the big one and this is one that can be extrapolated, letting go of attachment. The Zen Buddhist idea that attachment, holding on, and clinging to things causes us suffering. That’s a basic foundation of Zen Buddhism. The other one and this can be a blanket statement around the suffering of our planet is, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” That’s the two favorite Yoda quotes. I appreciate that. Thanks, guys.
I feel the first one was a little bit stronger with your Yoda voice. Maybe I built it up too much, but it’s funny to hear how your voice transformed while doing that. Jason, will you tell us how did you learn to do Yoda? How long did it take?
I don’t know. I remember being a kid and by being a latchkey kid, raised by a single mom, I had a lot of time to myself. One of the reasons that I do many impressions and characters, in general, is because I had a lot of time as a kid on my own. Being in the mirror and practicing stuff that Yoda would say. I would sit there and practice stuff that Yoda would say. I would sit in the bathroom, I don’t know, “Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” I would sit for hours practicing this stuff.
Doesn’t that hurt your voice?
Not at all, not in the slightest. I could do this for hours. Maybe you want to interview Yoda here. Interview Yoda, you will. Get nuggets of wisdom, you shall.
If somebody didn’t tell me that was you, I would honestly have no idea who you were.
Fooled you, I have. Fooled you easily, I have, young Padawan.
Moving back to the article in Psychology Today, “The second point was that the dark side has advantages. In the Star Wars world, when people access the dark side of the force, they unlock specific powers that practitioners of the light side lack. Real-life research does show that darker emotions activate certain useful abilities within us that are lighter emotions generally don’t. In other words, negative emotions, while unpleasant, can also be useful. Researchers have long greed that there is a good reason that we human beings have the capability to experience negative emotions because they protect us against harm. We have evolved and long ago, the danger was lurking everywhere.”
“Fear, anxiety, and anger are evolution’s way of keeping us safe. Therefore, negative emotions are not harmful. It matters what we do with them. Anger can cause us to become violent and hurt other people, but it can also motivate us to fight peacefully against injustices. Anxiety and fear can hold us back from taking necessary risks, but it can also lead us to take practical steps to protect ourselves and the ones that we love. Sadness can lead us to isolate ourselves and wallow in misery, but it can also lead us to reconsider our lives and ultimately make better choices. As Palpatine rightly said in Revenge of the Sith, ‘I can feel your anger. It makes you stronger, gives you focus.’ Negative emotions focus our attention on possible sources of harm, helping us to eliminate or avoid them. They can’t all be bad.”
This is interesting because this brings up one of the major things that have had some reactions with the spiritual community in general, which are a lot of people who purport themselves to be spiritual practitioners, meditators, yogis, or Zen Buddhists. It doesn’t matter the label. Some people have high vibes and you see that on T-shirts on Instagram, “High vibes only.” “No, love and light.” Yes, and if used properly, anger and frustration, and these emotions can be used for good if you channel that energy in a proper way. The image that I always think of, whether or not you believe Jesus was real or a historical figure, if he existed or not, there’s an interesting story in the Bible. People bring up Jesus a lot for a good reason.
He’s a wonderful archetype for compassion, empathy, generosity, and unconditional love. I always reference when people are like, “Love and light, high vibes only.” I’m like, “Do you believe in Jesus? Jesus was awesome.” There’s a story in the Bible where Jesus goes into the temple where the money changers are, which were rudimentary versions of bankers who are unethical and treating people badly. He went in and he overturned the tables in the temple and told the money changers to leave. He vanquished them from the temple. The lesson there is righteous anger.
Jesus was angry and literally overturned tables and forced these money changers, these bankers out of the temple. It’s like, “Jesus was angry, but he focused that anger and that rage into a useful mechanism to get these unethical people out of a holy temple.” I don’t believe in high vibes only, and I don’t believe in love and light all the time. I believe there are times where it’s okay to be angry. If we channel that anger into action and service and love and try to make a substantive change on the planet, righteous anger can be useful if used as a tool properly.One of the hardest parts of mental illness is feeling completely alone like you're the only person in the world who feels this way. Click To Tweet
That is reminiscent of a quote that Obi-Wan Kenobi said in Return of the Jedi, which was, “You will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” Our experiences in life contribute to our view of the world, but that does not mean that these beliefs are accurate. According to an article I’m reading on Men’s Line, “Our beliefs can become so strong that we deem them to be the truth, but when we closely examine them, they are simply our interpretations of our experiences. What seems to be true for you may not be so for others. Obi-Wan is reminding Luke to keep an open mind, but also explains a core philosophy of positive mental health. Our points of view can shape the way we interpret everything in life and thus create our own reality.”
Let’s go back to the final point from Psychology Today, which is in the movie they make it seem the dark side will consume us, and thus it is best to be repressed. “In his famous confrontation with Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker goes to great lengths to push away his feelings of fear and anger, while Palpatine repeatedly encourages him to give in to these feelings. The logic of this scene is that if Luke allows himself to feel these negative emotions, he’ll be forever turned to the dark side. However, psychology has shown that negative emotions are normal and an unavoidable part of life, at least in measured amounts. It is not in our best interest to avoid them completely given that they confer certain advantages, but we probably couldn’t avoid them even if we wanted to. This is due to a maddening paradoxical effect of what psychologists called Experimental Avoidance, which means the more we try to avoid or suppress a psychological experience, the stronger that experience becomes.”
“If you try to suppress them, they will make you more likely to experience them.” That’s their point here. This is what the research indicates. “It can be a risk factor for anxiety disorders and depression when you’re trying too hard to avoid your emotions. Counterintuitively, the best way to decrease negative emotions, in the long run, maybe to allow yourself to experience them in the short run. It’s one of the major principles underlining the practice of psychotherapy. Experiencing and talking about our feelings is good for us, even when those feelings are unpleasant.”
I have found that there’s an interesting outlet for anger and frustration that I have used to avoid those emotions bottling up or congealing inside of me. Oftentimes, I will do some primal release if I’m feeling those emotions where I will go into the bedroom and I will scream at the top of my lungs into a pillow or I will literally close the doors so as not to freak out any of the animals. I’ll punch the pillow as hard as I can until I exhaust myself. I have found that when I have done this and I’m on top of it and doing primal scream therapy into a pillow or punching a pillow as hard as I can until I exhaust myself, I feel a sense of relief afterward.
I feel the anger and the frustration that I feel in the moment dissipates as a result of that. I’ve told that to people, friends sometimes, and they’re like, “That sounds violent.” I’m like, “Me alone in my room, screaming into a pillow or punching a pillow sounds violent. As opposed to if I bottle this and let it build up and congeal into something elsewhere there’s the potential for me to have a nasty outburst at another person. I would rather do this in private and release and dissipate that energy than have the possibility of unleashing it on someone else in a much unhealthier way.”
That’s why it’s important to reflect on things like this and not make assumptions based on what other people are suggesting for us. Going back to the lessons we can learn from Darth Vader. Number two on this list, we only covered number one so far because I switched over to the other list.
What was number one again? Could you recap?
That was you don’t know the power of the dark side. It’s because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. “Number two is that it grip chokes, but it is invisible. Depression grips tight, choking you. It often strangles your power of speech both in the sense of your physical ability to speak and in your willingness to release the words that will invite the stigma that can greet them. Despite its power, this grip is invisible, and yet despite the lack of physical signs, we can see its effects alerting us to its presence in our lives and the lives of those around us. Only with awareness comes such vision.” This reminds me of the episode that we did with Robert Cheeke, who talked about how his anxiety was so strong, he literally could not speak. If you haven’t read that yet, it’s one of my favorites and one of our most popular episodes ever. It’s specifically around anxiety. The same thing can be said for depression. It can affect us a lot physically, mentally and emotionally. It may seem invisible to other people, but it certainly isn’t invisible to us.
This is one of those things, and you referenced this earlier, Whitney, in a previous article. Sometimes feels as if depression and anxiety and suicidal ideation overtakes you. I have that sensation a lot when I get deep into depression or anxiety or in the past have had thoughts and ideas and plans of killing myself. It’s almost as if there is a third force or different energy that is consuming you. It’s hard sometimes to break out of that energy pattern. For lack of a better word, reclaim your mental autonomy, reclaim your mental sovereignty because it feels as if, for me at least, there’s a force, there’s an energy, there’s a program that’s running me and I have such a hard time breaking out of it.
Number three on this list is to take off your mask, and this is something that’s come up a few times. This author says, “It is only when we feel we are in a world that cares for us, that sees us, and that recognizes we are in the grip of a power beyond ourselves that we can remove the mask we wear to enable us to function. Only when we can admit to the struggles and side both to ourselves and those that can help us can the mask be removed, enabling us to face the truths of the illness that it hides.” It’s interesting. I think the first step or the bigger step is that simply admitting it to yourself and finding the confidence to do that. As the article started off, you oftentimes have to go seemingly against what other people think and that fear of are people going to see me as weak?
Are they not going to like me as much? Are they not going to like what they see? That’s one of the biggest challenges that people face. I certainly have struggled with this in my life. It’s like this fear that is going to see parts of us as weak or unattractive and we try to hide that. In so many episodes, we’ve talked about social media and this did come up in that episode with Robert that I referenced. How we often want to put on this mask and present ourselves as more attractive than we think we are or smarter or more successful or happier. Yet all of that behavior leads other people to feel inadequate because all they’re seeing is the light side of somebody. It’s rare that we share the dark side. Simultaneously, there is a lot of criticism of people’s dark sides.
If you go online and you say something perceived as off-color, you get shamed for it and we see this so much. It’s hard to navigate socially because a lot of us have that dark side. In fact, I would imagine everybody does, depending on what your definition of it is, and yet we try to hide it because we’re afraid of being rejected. We try to manage it and try to say the right things. We talked about this with Luke’s story where we are working hard not to offend anybody or not push anyone away. We don’t want to be rejected. A lot of us are battling with how we present ourselves to other people so that they will accept us. I imagine that with mental health challenges and illnesses, it’s especially tough that fear of other people seeing what’s going on inside.
It’s something that I always reference called the basic dual urges. I talk about this, in particular, is one of our freebies that you can get at Wellevatr.com when you sign up for our newsletter. One of the freebies is the You Are Enough workbook. Also, when you get into our email sequence, there’s a great eBook called Blissful, Balanced, and Badass: Seven Steps to Light Up Your Life with Love. I referenced the basic dual urges where we as humans in this mutated tribal culture of nearly eight billion, people often exert so much energy, will, time, money, and life force trying to gain people’s approval, attention, and acceptance. There is a certain amount of approval, attention, and acceptance that we need to feel mentally healthy. It’s not to say, “I don’t need any approval or attention ever.”
We need love, we need support and we need a community. These are forms of attention. I do believe that there’s been an encouraged, monetized, semi-narcissistic approach to gaining too much attention, too much notoriety, too many followers, and too much money. That’s been an endemic virus if you will, a mental virus that’s infected our culture for a long time. On the one hand, people want approval and attention and acknowledgment, but then they’re primarily afraid of disapproval, being ignored, and not being relevant. The basic dual urges are like, on the one hand, you want these things, but you’re mortally afraid of not having enough of them. Those things work in tandem for us mentally in our society.
That is a good segue into number four in this article, which is to wear your armor. “As Darth Vader’s suit of armor keeps him alive, we find and cloak ourselves in the armor that will protect us and keep us well. Sometimes it will keep us alive. Mindfulness, meditation, antidepressants, exercise, good nutrition, counseling, friendships, spiritual and religious beliefs. Everyone’s suit of armor contains different parts. The good news is that there are plenty of parts with which we can construct our armor. We need to find the pieces that fit us best.” That’s a great line because you know one thing we explore a lot about on here is all the different types of wellbeing out there. “What does it mean to be mindful? What type of meditation do you do? How often do you do it? Do you do it at all? Should you take anti-depressants?” Did we do an episode on that, Jason? I can’t remember if we touched upon it, but the stigma of antidepressants.
We haven’t covered that in a singular episode. To your point, Whitney, we ought to have a dedicated episode for that because that was a major consideration when I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I want to talk a little bit about my navigation of that and the supplements and things that I take instead of antidepressants. I feel that could be a dedicated episode and we could give people a lot of good resources in that.
It’s tough because there are many different opinions. We touched upon this in the episode with Luke Storey and how the two of us, Jason and I, love exploring wellbeing and we’ve experimented with a lot of different things. We’ve researched it and we have all these friends and contacts that have a wealth of information. I read a lot of books and I’m constantly taking in different perspectives and one thing I’ve learned after over years of doing this is that there isn’t a right way or even a wrong way. To this point in this article, it’s about finding how you want to construct your armor if you want to call it that. The trick is though you have to differentiate between wearing a mask and wearing armor because armor in itself can be a mask. Are you hiding behind something? Is it necessary? Is it on all the time or do you take it off?
Where is that line between protecting yourself versus hiding yourself away? Is it necessary? That’s a huge theme here that this dark side, these negative emotions, they can be beneficial. They can be necessary, but are they shielding you from the important things in life and being aware? The big key here is that the mindfulness component is paying attention to yourself, honing in on is this benefiting you. Is this benefiting other people or is this protecting you from something that’s unavoidable? Sometimes life is going to constantly throw things at us until we do what’s right for us or what’s best for us at that moment. It’s a little tricky to figure that all out, but part of our role here is to show you different perspectives, give you different options, and ultimately you have to decide it for yourself. Everybody’s paths are going to be a little bit different.
The idea of armors, and an interesting thing, the idea of having to protect ourselves, it’s tricky because I feel that the times that I have put on the proverbial armor is when I have been hurt and I start to close my heart. It feels like I am putting an iron covering over my heart. It takes me a while after I’ve been hurt or had my heart broken or broke my own heart by having perhaps expectations or assumptions about someone or thinking something was going to go a certain way. Armoring ourselves too thick. I want to say this, I’m working this out in real-time in my mind. There’s a period of cocooning that is natural when we are in pain when we’re suffering when our heart feels broken when we are learning to trust again and put ourselves out there.
The visual, the idea of metamorphosis, evolving and growing into a new version of ourselves, that getting our heart pierced and having our hearts “broken” can foster an incredible evolution in our character and our being. If we choose to put walls up and put a coat of armor on rather than cocooning ourselves, we can get to a point where we no longer trust, love, we no longer trust connection. We no longer make ourselves available for deep connection. I’m saying this out of the personal experience of there’ve been times when romantic relationships have ended or I’ve had my trust broken or broke my own heart by acting unreasonably or having false hope or having my expectation shattered. I found that if I can put myself in triage or a cocoon state where I get to heal and feel free enough. There’s that point when we get our hearts broken, we’re in pain and we’re suffering.One of the beautiful pieces about art is its ability to make us see our lives mirrored back to us. Click To Tweet
It’s almost a palpable feeling of I’m ready to open up again. I’m ready to trust again. I’m ready to put myself out there and meet someone and be available. There’s a shift in energy where we emerge from the proverbial cocoon. We end the metamorphosis phase and it’s like, “I’m ready to do this again.” Some people don’t ever feel ready to do it again. Some people build the wall up and have the Darth Vader suit or the coat of armor, if you will, and they never take it down. They say, “I’m never going to trust anyone again. I’m never going to be vulnerable again.”
They literally prevent themselves from ever being open to connection and love and being seen ever again. I’ve certainly had those thoughts. I’ve said that to you, Whitney, on several occasions. I’m like, “I’m done. I’m never going to do this again. I’m going to be a monk. I’m moving to a cabin.” Sure enough, I say that and I’m in the cocoon and I heal. Sometimes it takes me a few years. I come out of it and I’m ready to open again. The danger is keeping that suit on, keeping that helmet on and not allowing ourselves to be seen and loved ever again and some people make that choice.
That’s interesting with another point in this article that I feel a little on the fence about, which is number five. “You are unwise to lower your defenses. Our armor isn’t for when we are ill. Getting well takes us to the light side, but we must retain what we’ve learned about our illness and ourselves and wear our armor daily if we are to prevent the dark side from rising again.” I have some mixed feelings about that. It comes back to my point and my perspective, which is you need to take it on a case-by-case basis. You need to be in touch with yourself to know when you’re doing something that’s best for you versus trying never to lower your defenses. It’s tricky. What do you think about that?
I would like to replace the word, defenses, with awareness. Never lower your awareness. Here’s what I mean by this. If you feel yourself starting to feel rage towards someone and you’re about to lash out or you’re about to have a reactionary moment rather than responding. To me, if we’re contextualized this in the dark side versus the light side if we have a situation that triggers us emotionally, it triggers us on a wounding level of our trauma. Maybe something within us we haven’t healed yet and we feel ourselves getting angry, rageful, wanting to lash out at ourselves or the person in front of us, we always have a choice between reacting to that situation and responding. I often feel that that reactionary behavior has an emotional weight to it.
It’s like we want to hurt ourselves, we want to wound someone else. We want to disperse this negativity and suffering. There’s an emotion. There’s a charge to it. Whereas responding to a situation, there’s no charge to it. There’s not an embodied charge of energy. It’s just, “This is what we want to do, this is the action we’re going to take. There’s no charge around it.” In terms of never lower your defenses or always keep your defenses up, I would say always keep your awareness up. Always be aware of watching yourself in a situation, especially when you get emotionally triggered, “Take a breath. Do I want to react or respond to this situation? How do I want to show up here?” To me, never lowering your awareness makes a lot more sense.
Number 6 of these 7 lessons is it is still good in you. “Luke Skywalker never gave up on dad despite all the evidence to the contrary, blowing up planets.” I’m not going to read all of these.
Small things like destroying entire worlds, minor things. I still believe in your dad even though you’ve killed all those billions of people and blew up that planet. You’re still a good guy. Let’s have a beer.
Aside from that little spoiler, I am not going to read the rest of the examples there. “Despite all of these things that Luke Skywalker did, he never stopped believing there was good in him. One of the greatest gifts you can give to a friend or family member struggling with depression is being there for them and believing in them, especially when they don’t believe in themselves. With that simple act, you may have even saved their lives.” That’s true. To be fully transparent and real, which is what we always aim to be here, but to go deep and crack open here, it’s been challenging at times with Jason’s depression. There have been many moments where he was struggling a lot and was clutching to life in a lot of ways and trying to stay alive. As your friend, one thing I always aim to do is to continue to tell you that I believe in you and to encourage you. I know I can’t control your decisions. You ultimately make them for yourself and sometimes you can’t control how you’re feeling.
I hope that having me and having your mom and having your mentor, Michael, all of those people play big roles. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this or admitted this, there have been several times that I have been worried about you. I’ve reached out to your mom, reached out to Michael, reached out to other mutual friends, and encouraged them to reach out to you. Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the few people, if not the only one, that you admit how your low periods too. I know there are times that you probably don’t even tell me. One of my ways to help you is not to reach out myself, but to gather your other friends and family members to show their love and show their support and remind you that we’re here for you even when you don’t feel like we are or even when you feel hopeless. The aim is to show you that there is hope.
It means a lot to hear you say that, Whitney. For me, it’s something that I feel, first of all, grateful to have your support as a friend and someone who I consider family. You’ve not just singularly given me support and space to have my process, but also reaching out to the other people that I’m close to. Once I started admitting that I was struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and ideation, the depth of my struggle with it years ago was such a healthy critical step because I was feeling much shame around it in many ways. When it was first happening was when I had the TV series on Cooking Channel and the cookbook deal was happening.
We’ve talked about this previously, we’ve touched on it but it was the shame around, “You’re successful and you have all these great things.” The script in my head was, “You can’t admit this to anyone because no one’s going to have empathy for you. No one’s going to understand.” I kept it hidden for a long time. To be honest, there’s still a part of me that is afraid and it’s an illusionary fear. It’s not a real concern based in reality, but I’m afraid of burdening you, my mom, my other friends, Michael, the closest circle in my life of people. You guys are all aware of what I have struggled with.
To your point, there are times, and they’re not as often because I don’t feel like I get as low as often as I used to, which I’m immensely grateful for. In the moments that I do, it’s like, “Should I tell anyone? Should I handle this on my own?” Whenever I do bring it up, you, Michael, and mom, all of you guys are like, “If you’re struggling, call.” I still feel I need to do work around that where there still may be a little bit of shame there for me of like, “Don’t burden them. They’ve heard it all before. They’re going to be like, ‘Why is he still struggling?’” I know that’s all bullshit and I know that’s real because you guys do love me. I don’t feel I get as low as I used to. I feel the supplements and the mindfulness and talking about it and having my therapist, Gary, and all of these tools in my tool belt that I have now.
Especially through COVID-19 in this quarantine and everything that’s been going on, there have been moments of anxiety, stress and disillusionment. You’ve been masterful, Whitney, in sending me some interesting articles and social posts talking about our collective stress and disillusionment. Overall, I feel I’ve been handling it damn well. I want to thank you. That’s the other thing too is how I can communicate this in a way that someone can have compassion for me even though they may not experience thoughts of suicide or depression. That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve maybe had a block around to is, “Will they even understand me?”
It’s much to reflect on here. The final point from this article is that Darth Vader was wrong and this author said, “Luke was right about him, wasn’t he? He was right. If you’re struggling with depression, remember that despite being cloaked in black for many years, despite the dark side having appeared to have consumed him completely, the light was always there. Somewhere deep inside and never left him. When consumed by the darkness of depression, we lose ourselves completely in its shadow. No matter how dark it gets, never forget the light is still there. You are still there. This is true with Kylo Ren as well. You see his story and that’s a big theme in these movies. Also, the episodes of 1, 2 and 3 of watching Darth Vader, his evolution, seeing him as a little child, that’s important. This is especially true with any type of sides of people, especially with adults. We see them, we think, ‘They’re such a bad person.’”
One thing that’s beautiful about Star Wars is seeing them as children, you realize they were innocent children once too, and things their lives shaped them. In fact, one thing I came across that was interesting is some researchers at a university, Susan Hatters-Friedman and Ryan CW Hall were a pair of psychiatrist professors who did a study on the characters in Star Wars. They published a few different articles on this. Here’s a little summary. This is a good one on CTV Sci-Fi Channel. They have gifts on there that are cool. It goes through each individual character or all the major characters.Attachment and holding on to things cause us suffering. Click To Tweet
There’s a ton of characters in Star Wars, so not all of them, but the major characters and talks about their diagnosis. The first one was Darth Vader and they attribute Vader’s destructive behavior to a chain of events. This started with his time spent working as a child slave. As an adult, he became dissociative and developed many coping mechanisms including splitting and projecting, the process of attributing one’s negative feelings to others. With the right treatment, he could have saved the empire a fortune on unnecessary wars. They diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Maybe it sounds funny to diagnose these fictional characters, but it’s important. One of my big tenets is to try not to judge or make assumptions on people. It’s that popular meme that’s gone around about how people are often fighting a battle that we’re not aware of and having compassion for each person, no matter what they’re doing. It’s easy to judge somebody’s behavior, but we can find compassion for even the worst people currently living or in history if we think about the fact that there is a whole chain of events and that one time in their lives they were an innocent child.
This is an interesting thing because this goes back to nature versus nurture and the discussion of are people inherently bad because of their genetic predisposition. We’ve talked a lot about epigenetics before in relation to gene expression, mental health, emotional wellness, our metabolism, and the ongoing research of how lifestyle and choices and diet and habits affect the expression of our genes. The study of epigenetics is how those choices and actions in our daily lives influence gene expression. The nature versus nurture argument is interesting, Whitney, because I have sat alone thinking about this subject for so long of certain historical figures and archetypes that have permeated the span of time. These are two seminal examples.
You think about Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi, Mohandas Gandhi, and how a lot of people regard Adolf Hitler as one of the evilest, heinous humans that have ever walked the Earth. The question becomes, “Did this human being, from birth, was he an evil child? Was he genetically predisposed to evil?” If you look at his childhood development and his time as a young man in the Army, World War I, and the things that shaped him as a youth. I believe they were formative in his belief systems and his notions of superiority and the eventual genocide and the things that happened with Adolf Hitler.
Consequently, if you look at Gandhi’s history as a lawyer and there are some things about him being physically abusive to his wife and things that we would deem as perhaps not compassionate and not humanistic. Beating a significant other is not necessarily a positive thing that we would look to say, “Gandhi was great. He was a wife-beater.” This shows to your point, Whitney, that we have a tendency to keep ourselves safe to brandish sweeping generalizations and judgments on everyone that this person is a wholly evil, heinous, horrible person that deserves to die. You can get into the death penalty if we want to, but that’s a whole maybe another conversation, versus this person is a saint and they saved an entire nation.
Let’s ignore that part about them beating their wives. It goes to show that we as humans, the way that we develop psychologically, somatically, energetically how belief systems are crystallized in the neurological structure of our brain. We are such complex people that no one, I believe, if I may make a sweeping generalization, is 100% good, empathetic, compassionate, peaceful. I’d also don’t believe that anyone is 100% evil and malevolent and hurtful and bad. I believe we have gradations and variances of those in our personalities, but I don’t think I could say any human would be completely saintly or completely malevolent. There are gradations and gray areas within all of us.
It’s the power of storytelling as well. If you think to yourself, “This isn’t a fictional story. This was based on other people’s experiences.” We know that Star Wars is based on Joseph Campbell’s story structure and we can see these things playing out in our own lives. That’s part of the magic of a well-told story. It teaches us lessons. This study that these professors did goes on to analyze a lot of the different characters. To share some interesting points, Princess Leia lost her mother in childbirth. She was plagued by feelings of abandonment, which Jason, you’ve talked about some of your struggles with. One of the ways she dealt with this was by seeking attention to an excessive degree. They diagnosed her with something called Histrionic Personality Disorder, which I don’t feel familiar with even though I’ve studied Psychology a lot, so that’s interesting, then C3PO.
Are we going to diagnose a robot now?
It’s funny, but he said human beings share similar traits. The professors explained that he annoys other characters with his rigidity and he’s preoccupied with rules and protocols that dysfunction often ensues. They may be characteristics of somebody with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. You could laugh like, “You’re diagnosing a robot,” but those qualities are human qualities the writers put into a robot. Han Solo is going through a period of extreme irresponsibility in much of the series. He drops out of school, he abandoned smuggled goods. He’s recklessly killing people and he’s plagued by debt.
The professors say that as he eventually grows out of these traits, his diagnosis at the onset is clear that it’s an Antisocial Personality Disorder. Jar Jar Binks, one of the most controversial characters. They encourage you to be compassionate about him because his behavior is the source of irritation. It can be attributed to an untreated and previously undiagnosed condition, which may be Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. It’s fascinating. If you look at all of these different characters here, even Jabba the Hutt, he completely lacks in empathy and remorse. His cruelty and disregard for life suggest an especially worrisome condition, which is a psychopath.
Luke Skywalker displays a long list of symptoms that suggest Prodromal Schizophrenia, which include conflict with family, failure to meet obligations, strange new religious views, reckless behavior, animal cruelty directed at womp rats, hallucinations, and grandiose beliefs. However, this diagnosis is undermined by the fact that Luke’s apparent delusions are real, as is The Force in his ability to save the galaxy. Thus, they were unable to diagnose him properly. The articles go on to diagnose Boba Fett, Yoda, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s interesting. I wanted to end this with a sweet article I came across which was called Raising A Mindful Jedi: 5 Mental Health Lessons from a Galaxy Far, Far Away, and it’s about how to help your kids be more mindful.
I thought it’s sweet, also, a formatted article. It’s on a website called GoZen.com and these lessons, these points here could also be attributed to any age, I believe. Number one was about mindfulness and meditation, which we touched upon. They go into detail about how anxiety can be confusing for kids and hard for parents to help them overcome. Anxiety does not take place in the present and that’s why it’s important to be mindful. One of the Jedi tools for overcoming anxiety and achieving mindfulness is meditation. You see this pop up a lot. One of my favorite parts and a big spoiler is The Last Jedi. At the end of that movie, that was one of my favorite parts of that trilogy. I’m not going to say what that moment is, but you know what I’m talking about, right?
It’s a meditative moment. I remember it might’ve even brought me to tears. It was powerful. A lot of people didn’t like that movie, but I thought that scene made it all worthwhile. If you haven’t seen it yet, as the reader, it’s a good moment for meditation, but apparently, it comes up a lot. It comes up in The Force Awakens, The Clone Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, where apparently, it’s revealed that Darth Vader meditates because he sits in a big black pod and it’s called the meditation chamber.
They didn’t cover this in the movies per se. There was a brief scene in Star Wars: Rogue One. In the canon, which is the colloquial term for outside of the movies, the canon saga, The Clone Wars, the books, and things like that, Darth Vader does have a dedicated meditation chamber. Dark side Sith does meditate also.
This is fascinating. The more you dig into all of this, it’s interesting. Some of these things might be a stretch, but if it makes you feel good, if they encourage you to be more mindful and meditate, then why not? The second point in this article is about feeling The Force, which has been a big theme of this. Our experience is not hi to other humans, but all living things. Trees give us air to breathe. Plants and animals give us sustenance, or in our case, plants do. If only as a byproduct of our life cycle, we can help other things by nurturing them because we all share living energy, also known as “The Force,” and we’re bound together by this living network, a symbiotic circle. Humanity is one of the key components of self-compassion. If we can understand that people as a whole are not perfect, as we’ve talked about throughout this, it might help relieve some of the self-inflicted behavior.
Furthermore, when people feel alone with their stress when they internalize it and don’t see it as part of the collective human experience, they are less likely to seek support and more likely to become depressed and engage in avoidance tactics. If you’re feeling emotional, if your children or other people in your lives are feeling emotional, showing them that you understand their pain and explain that you felt the same way could help us. That’s part of using The Force. Tip number three in this article is sensing disturbances in The Force. A Jedi can sense emotion in others. They know when their friends are hurting. Point to your kids or point out to other people in your life that recognizing feelings and emotions in other people makes you more responsive and better able to help.
What is understanding if you are not empathetic? There are a lot of reasons to value empathy. It helps you be more grateful, more compassionate, more polite, a better listener, more generous. It’s important for us to teach this because we can often live in our ego. Our society often thrives off of that. It’s a crucial thing to remind ourselves and other people. You can make other people’s perspectives and emotions a regular topic. Checking in with one another, asking how you can help. Did you notice anybody that’s struggling, as we talked about earlier, when somebody might seem depressed or low or anxious? Knowing that somebody is there for them can make a big difference in their lives.Our points of view can shape the way we interpret everything in life and, thus, create our own reality. Click To Tweet
Number four is about Jedi mind tricks. The notion that The Force only influences the weak-minded is an unfortunate characterization of a Jedi’s persuasive power. Nonetheless, a Jedi can use his or her force abilities to have quite an influence to make people believe things or say things that they otherwise wouldn’t. Jedi do it by understanding the mind of others, seeing other people’s thoughts and asserting their quiet subtle powers. They reference this book called Quiet, which I’ve read a little bit of. It’s actually a good book by Susan Cain who explores the myth that leaders need to be loud and charismatic in order to be effective. In contrast, she and the research she cites suggest that the most effective leaders are often the quietest, also known as introverted. They spend most of their time listening and thinking, gathering information about those they are leading, and making thoughtful, respectful decisions based on their findings, which is influential.
Studies have found that people are much more likely to follow a leader when they think that their voice was being heard. Introverts are more likely to do that. If you’re introverted or if you know an introvert, you can help them tap into their leadership abilities and other hidden powers. Lastly, this article talks about facing the dark side, which we’ve talked a lot about here. It’s important to talk to other people about how their dark emotions are affecting them, pointing them out, raising that awareness, as we’ve talked a lot about. Reflection is important and how making positive emotions and compassion more dominant can help us be stronger, healthier, more balanced, and more mindful in general.
One thing that I also want to talk about and I don’t know that a lot of people know that Michael Jackson was a huge Star Wars fan. In fact, one of his most popular songs from the late ‘70s, the Off The Wall album, his first solo album after leaving the Jackson 5, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough. He talks about The Force in that song. Did you know that, Whitney?
I did not know that, but it sounds vaguely familiar. Maybe you’ve told me this. I almost feel you brought it up before, but go on. Refresh my memory.
Michael sings pretty much the whole song in a high falsetto. There’s the little thing at the beginning of the song when the baseline is coming in, he’s like, “The Force, it’s got a lot of power. I was hoping you would use The Force.” The chorus of that song, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough goes, “Keep on with The Force. Don’t stop. Don’t stop ‘til you get enough. Keep on with The Force. Don’t stop. Don’t stop ‘til you get enough.” He was a massive Star Wars fan. This whole song is that The Force is love power. He goes, “Lovely is the feeling now. I won’t be complaining. The Force is love power.” It’s this whole thing about love and The Force is one. There you go, a little Michael Jackson trivia for everyone. You’ll never hear that song the same again.
That’s a sweet note to end on, although Michael Jackson is also somebody that a lot of people have different opinions on. I’m glad that we talked about Hitler earlier. Some people can be polarizing, Darth Vader too. Everybody’s opinions and perspectives are valid and we have to remember that each of these people is complicated individuals like we are. Sometimes we make decisions that are not based in humanity’s best interest and sometimes our decisions are misinterpreted. In the case of Michael Jackson, there are a lot of things that are unknown and people can make a lot of assumptions or jump to conclusions based on the information that they have. If you feel triggered by any us speaking about any of those people, remember, our aim here is to see as much of the good in people as we possibly can. Also, respect people’s opinions that may be more focused on the negative sides of them.
Star Wars is the ultimate representation of that. I’m sure you could survey people and some are extremely triggered and see Darth Vader as a horrible person. Yet if you look at him as a whole, maybe you would think otherwise. With fictional people, we can maybe learn a lot about them. Star Wars gives us so much history on Darth Vader and a lot of the blanks are filled in. Unfortunately, with non-fictional people, there are a lot of blanks that we never get to fill in about them. It’s up to us to construct whatever story we feel most comfortable telling about them with the information that we have.
This has been such a fascinating exploration of Star Wars and its impact on the planet, its observations about human psychology and what it can teach us, what we can learn from. It gives us an opportunity to talk about mental health in a different way. I’m glad that we dove in deep. As I’ve said a few times throughout this, we have a lot more about this. There are also lots to explore there. Jason talked about some of the free resources we have like our eBooks. The book is You Are Enough and it’s designed to talk about how if you’re struggling with not feeling enough, this book can help. That’d be funny if it were called You Are Not Enough. I want to remind you that all your deepest fears are true.
Shout out to Michael Jackson. As we are wrapping up this, which has been such a delightful exploration and spelunking of one of my deepest loves, the Star Wars saga, and mental and emotional health, I want it to end on a Marcus Aurelius quote, who was an incredible emperor. There’s a great book called Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. In this term, this thinking pattern of neutrality, and no one is inherently fully good or fully bad. Marcus Aurelius says this great quote that says, “Take care that you don’t treat inhumanity as it treats human beings. Death and life, honor and dishonor, pain, and pleasure. All of these things equally happen to good people and bad, being things which make all of us neither better nor worse. Therefore, they,” as in people, “are neither good nor evil.”No matter how dark it gets, never forget the light is still there. Click To Tweet
There’s this element of neutrality that can think about that even when people do “bad” things or do good things, this is not the full picture of who they are. Do we ever get to see all the sides of a human being? Perhaps we do, perhaps we don’t. To have compassion and empathy and understanding and knowing, as Whitney said earlier, that there are silent battles that everyone is fighting on this planet. It gives us a larger scope of things that we never know fully what’s going on inside of another person. With that, my dear friend, dear reader, thank you for joining us once again. Whitney, thank you for this incredible topic. I had such a great time with you with this, as we always do. For all of the book recommendations, all of the great articles that we referenced about psychology, mental health, and Star Wars, please visit Wellevatr.com. We will see you soon with another fascinating, tangential, deep, and soulful discussion. See you soon.
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival
- National Star Wars Day
- How Star Wars Helped My Mental Illness – National Alliance on Mental Illness
- The Psychology of Star Wars Dark Side Edition
- 7 Things Darth Vader Can Teach Us About Depression
- The Secret
- Handling Social Media and Anxiety with Robert Cheeke – Previous episode
- Raising A Mindful Jedi: 5 Mental Health Lessons from a Galaxy Far, Far Away
- You Are Enough
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