Betrayed

Have they asked you to betray the Jedi code” – Palpatine

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Have you ever been betrayed? How did it make you feel? Were you angered by the actions of the person you trusted? Did you berate yourself for giving them your trust and resolved never to do it again? Did you grieve the act and the loss of trust that came from it? Were friendships and illusions of trust shattered?

Betrayal is such a terrible thing. Betrayal feels like a stab to the heart but it does not always kill but it does burns the soul and hardens the heart.

In the last ten days I have come to realize that to suffer betrayal is to suffer the five stages of grief. There is denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I have felt them all. The thing is, the betrayal did not happen to me. I was not betrayed. I don’t even know the people who were betrayed and have never been to the place where it happened. Their betrayal is the worst kind, because they are dying from it. It still feels as if it happened to me and to those close to me such is the insidiousness of the betrayal.

I’ll explain later.

 

“They will betray you, just as they betrayed me.” – Palpatine to Anakin

 

We have all been betrayed at one time or another. Some of us have been betrayed by our parents, lovers, friends, partners, workplace, religious leaders as well as our government. I know I’ve been betrayed at least once by all of the above. To describe it all in detail would fill a book. It should have made me bitter and unable to trust anyone. For many years it did and my grief lasted that long. I coped from the pain and anger of it with alcohol.

 

You were supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them. You were supposed to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Mythology teaches many lessons. The stories may be fantastic and far from reality but they hold a mirror up to the foibles, follies, failures, tragedies and triumphs of the human condition. Betrayal is an act which has a special place in our collective mythology.

The myths are brimming with betrayal. The Norse God Odin was a God of betrayal as was Loki. The Greek God Dolos inspired betrayal. The Slavs had Czernobog and the Hindus have Vibishana in their epic myths of betrayal. People often complain being betrayed by God. Yet betrayal is a very human trait.

Jason of the Argonaughts was married to Medea and betrayed her for another. In return she did the unspeakable and slew their children. The war between Sparta and Troy started when Helen betrayed her betrothed, Menelaus for Paris.

Prometheus defied the will of Zeus and during creation gave humans the ability to make fire and use free will. This betrayal enraged Zeus, who creating Pandora gifted her to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus. Pandora carried with her a box that Zeus had filled with every evil and misfortune that she would inevitably release upon the Earth.

 

Vader betrayed and killed your Father” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

In Star Wars there are many acts of betrayal. The relationship between the Sith Master and apprentice led to eventual betrayal. Dooku betrayed Darth Maul and Asajj Ventress. Darth Sidious betrayed Darth Plagueis and killed him as he slept.

Lando Calrissian turned over his friend Han Solo to the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett. The Mandalorians were betrayed by their own Prime Minister who handed the seat of power to Darth Maul. Finally, Anakin betrayed the Jedi Order by turning to the Dark Side and setting a chain of events that would lead to the destruction of the Jedi, the exile of survivors, the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Sith.

Obi-Wan Kenobi betrayed Anakin on the lava flows of Mustafar leaving him for dead. Later he told Luke that Vader had betrayed and killed his father.

 

 “Their betrayal will be dealt with. After you have killed all the Jedi in the Temple, go to the Mustafar system. Wipe out Viceroy Gunray and the other Separatist leaders. Once more, the Sith will rule the galaxy, and we shall have peace.” – Darth Sidious to Anakin

 

In our reality we see betrayal played out on the stage of life. Recently civilized nations, in particular America, chose to abandon and betray their true friends and staunchest allies in the Middle East, the Kurds. The ethnic and religious minorities of that place so far away are now at the mercy of a merciless invader, Turkey and its Jihadi proxies.

The reasons are purely geopolitical. The American, British and French soldiers that fought alongside their Kurdish counterparts are still devastated by the betrayal. They were there to safeguard the people from genocide. They grieve as I grieve. No one should be left behind like that especially the Kurds who sacrificed and suffered so much in the fight against ISIS. I learned this as a soldier and believe it as a Jedi.

 

You’re with him. You’ve betrayed me! You brought him here to kill me!” – Anakin to Padme

 

We can now watch the tragedy of betrayal play out in real time as if we were watching the fall of Mandalor or the purge of the Jedi by Darth Sidious and the brutal ascendancy of the Empire. Genocide and ethnic cleansing. The blood on the streets, the destruction, death and fleeing masses are real. They are the victims of betrayal. How can one not grieve? How can they ever forgive? Why did it happen?

Still the people we let down, do forgive us.

 

Forgive me, Master.” – Anakin

 

The Bible tells us that Jesus was betrayed for 12 pieces of silver by Judas. I wonder what went through the mind of Judas. How did Jesus feel? The Bible says that Jesus kissed Judas and forgave him. This drove Judas to insanity of regret and despair at his actions, so much so that he hanged himself from a tree. Joseph, the son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Taken to Egypt he became a friend and advisor to the Pharaoh and rose to the the rank of Vizier. Later he reunited with his brothers and forgiving them sent for his people in Canaan to live in Egypt till a famine had passed.

Forgiveness opens the door which leads to freedom from the pain of betrayal. We must be willing to let go of the past if we expect others to accept our amends. It is the path to peace and serenity. To do otherwise is to keep a deep resentment alive with us. We can never be free if we do. You can really only betray yourself.

 

I will not betray the Republic” – Anakin

 

There is a Kurdish saying “Berxwedan Jiyane” which means “Struggle is Life”. After centuries of suffering they know that the price of freedom is to struggle. I hope our friends and allies in North-East Syria forgive us for what we have done. They have been betrayed and proven once again that they have “no friends but the mountains”.

It is not the first time they have been betrayed. Each time they forgive and put renewed trust in those who cannot be trusted. My heart goes out to them. There is nothing more I can do but pray and hope for a miracle.

In betrayal there are no winners, only tears and regret. Can you betray the Jedi Code? Betray none least of all yourself.

#RiseUp4Rojava

https://riseup4rojava.org/

 

Don’t Panic

“They’ll panic? I’m about to panic!” – Ahsoka Tano

Don’t Panic” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

In a ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” Arthur Dent is mostly oblivious to the rest of the world and its troubles. One day he wakes up to find his house is about to be demolished to make way for a highway bypass. The local council had posted the plans and somehow Dent had failed to take notice. As this was unfolding a Vogon star ship had entered Earth’s orbit and declared to the world that the planet would be destroyed to make way for an intergalactic hyperspace bypass. Pandemonium ensues and everyone panics.

With the help of his enigmatic friend, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent manages to get off Earth before it blows up. Still wearing his night gown and pajamas from the morning Arthur Dent reluctantly sets off an intergalactic adventure that takes him across and to the end of the Universe and the beginning. The adventure begins with the default clause of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic!”.

 

“Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The Second Arrow

Alcoholics are catastrophic thinkers. We tend to imagine the worst possible outcome in all scenarios. An argument is the end of a relationship, a reprimand at work is as good as being fired and a letter from the government or IRS is a herald of financial disaster. We are the worst for dreaming up the worst case scenarios.

The Buddha alluded to catastrophic thinking when he spoke of the “second arrow”. The first arrow was what actually happened to us, the true cause of the suffering. The second arrow was the event magnified within our own minds. The suffering is worsened by our own emotional and irrational reaction to it. The first arrow is out of our control, the second arrow is within it.

 

Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Worst Case Scenarios

When I was a child I would shake in my shoes when called to the principal’s office. I was terrified of imagined and realized punishments my Father would inflict before they happened. No matter what the reason, I still feel unease when summoned by my boss at work for a private chat in his office.

In school at the height of the cold war I was named the “Doomsday Prophet” for my dire predictions that a nuclear holocaust was about to happen. It never did.

Never one to relax I was constantly on edge in the Army believing that each new day would herald more misery, corporal punishment and probably some terrible end. I listened to rumors and digested the news with alarm and consternation. My body was a ball of nervous anxiety. Fortunately my training conditioned my reflexes. To feel fear is normal but to react with panic in combat is unforgivable. .

 

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”  – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Panic Junkie

I became drawn to calamity and chaos like a moth to fire. I was addicted to anxiety and panic. Events in the world seemed to mirror what was going on inside me. With a sense I could make a difference I set off on a global bar crawl to set things right. I traveled from the famine of East Africa to air raid sirens and religious hatred in the Middle East, the fraternal war and ethnic bloodletting in Bosnia to the tribal and racial violence in South Africa.

I washed up amidst the “colorful” poverty of the Favelas and the burning season in the Amazon in Brazil. The memories play back like the frames of a movie reel. Within that collage of noise and color I remember the haze of alcohol and an undertow of fear and self loathing.

 

The Burning Issues

Something I saw in Brazil affected me. The Amazon touched my soul. The morning mist shimmering in the early light as it hung low on a still river. I remember the call of macaws as they passed majestically over-head. The dim world of the forest was silent but for the call of birds and spider monkeys complaining in the canopy high above. The forest was vast and it had the power to utterly possess me. It had the primordial and divine peace that I yearned in my own life.

The smell of smoke and the haze hung over the forest as fires burned far away. The forest was being pushed back by ranchers and gold miners who were locked in a struggle with rubber tappers and Indians. I was told in 1994 the forest would be gone in twenty years. This alarmed me.

The forest burned. The world was being destroyed and I felt growing anger and alarm. The more I realized I was powerless to make a difference the greater my resentment grew and fed my anxiety.

 

If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Did you ever hear the tragedy of Skywalker?

Irrational fear aroused within Anakin a sense of panic at a destiny he could not control. Fears were magnified in his mind and became catastrophes he could not control. The need to change and control that destiny drove him to abandon reason and allow his shadow self to dominate him.

Anakin allowed irrational fear and catastrophic thinking to bypass a life time of Jedi training. Objectivity, reason, rational decision making and sound judgement were replaced by the darker side of emotion. Emotion rather than reason owned Anakin. This ultimately led Anakin to the dark side.

 

I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

F*k Everything and Run

Sobriety has taught me that any decision based on fear and panic may help in the short term but long term the consequence often negate those positives. In the past I would panic and make rash decisions and do something I would later regret. Often I would say “F*k it” and run away from my responsibilities. I would get drunk.

In hindsight I would realize that these actions incited by fear, anger and ultimately catastrophic thinking had done nothing for me and usually it only made matters worse. Why did I put myself through that? Everything turned out fine.

After witnessing the burning season in Brazil I entered University and studied environmental science. Two decades later I work in conservation and observe with alarm how fear and panic has hijacked rational and reasoned discourse. Short sighted decisions are made with little regard to far reaching consequences. I’m pleased to see that the Amazon is still there. There are monumental problems in the world but I have faith and believe in hope.

 

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

Know Faith No Fear

My life was one of reactivity, catastrophic thinking and panic. It’s strange that until you recognize it in others you don’t recognize it in your self. It took me to get sober and work on myself to realize how irrational many of my fears were and how catastrophic thinking ran my life.

Every time I feel the second arrow hit I pull it out immediately. Let the first arrow hurt for a bit but don’t make it worse by imagining something that is not real. Remember the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “Don’t Panic”. In other words have faith, not fear.

 

“So this is it, we’re going to die” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

The House is on Fire

I don’t want you to panic. The house is not burning down. The world is not coming to an end. There is no reason to abandon reason. If things are not right, work to fix it and put it right. Do what is within your power to do and let go of the rest.

Avoid jumping to conclusions, silence the doomsayer within and never listen to doomsday prophets. Use your own judgement and think hard before deciding.

Study and be prepared to change your view when evidence suggests otherwise. Avoid falling for group-think and hysteria.

Recognize and avoid the mob fueled by dogma and anger. You were given the faculties to make up your own mind and think for yourself. In other words, be a little like Arthur Dent.

 

Don’t Panic

Panic and catastrophic thinking is not for us. Jedi are free thinkers we respect and acknowledge our emotions but we do not react to them mindlessly. We use our brains to decide what is true while remaining tolerant of the views of others. Gathering the facts as they are, we choose how best to act in a way that is applicable, beneficial, practical and positive.

Whatever you do Don’t Panic.

 

Epilogue

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.” – Douglas Adams “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

 

 

Redundant

Use your time. You’ll find one day that you have too little of it.” – Qui-Gon Jinn to Obi-wan Kenobi

Star Wars is not a simple morality play. It has to do with the powers of life as they are either fulfilled or broken and suppressed through the action of man.” – Joseph Campbell

 

When we set off on a journey eventually we come to a cross road. The path branches into two or several directions. Some of us choose the way forward quickly, some take their time. Others look back at the road they traveled and don’t choose at all. As we move through life we also find that doors will close behind us and others open. Some of us stare longingly at the doors that have closed and miss the infinite possibilities that life presents. It is the past that haunts us and the fear of redundancy that holds us back.

 

Individuation does not shut out one from the world, but gathers the world to itself” – Carl Jung

 

Redundant

Currently I find myself in a weird dilemma. I’m redundant but I’m still employed and getting paid. This means I get up, go to work and find very little to do. Any meaning or purpose in my job has dried up. The weird part is no one seems to mind. To keep me hanging around I even got a pay rise and a glowing performance appraisal. Naturally I feel a tension between the need for stability and an inner yearning for self-actualization.

 

I can sit back, take the free ride, get paid well, take leave and bonuses and keep my mouth shut. My basic needs are being exceeded. Wouldn’t most be happy with that? The alternative is to take a risk, get out of my comfort zone and find a job that provides purpose and meaning.

 

I was 10 years old when Star Wars first came out. By the time Lucas released “The Phantom Menace” 20 years ago I was 32 and married. Now my children are grown up and view my ailing passion with Star Wars with a mix of humor and sympathy. Despite my efforts they never embraced it past the third grade. The truth is I’m getting old and holding on to the past.

 

I’m fast becoming redundant both at work and at home. I have become a prisoner of my own design. Stuck in a job that is no longer meaningful and has an expiry date. Meeting obligations that will within a few short years no longer be required. By that time the years will have settled like the sand on Tatooine. I will be as old as “Old Ben”.

 

“Jung’s concept is that the aim of one’s life, psychologically speaking, should be not to suppress or repress, but to come to know one’s other side, and so both to enjoy and to control the whole range of one’s capacities; i.e., in the full sense, to “know oneself.”” – Joseph Campbell

 

Kenobi

I can relate to Obi-Wan Kenobi. If Star Wars was a depiction of true events I wonder how Obi-Wan Kenobi felt exiled and alone on Tatooine for years. Were there pangs of loneliness and regret as he stared toward the two suns dipping below the horizon at sunset?

 

Did Kenobi feel a sense of fear and anxiety in his advancing years and mortality? Was there a sense of unfulfilled purpose as he waited the years out for a prophecy to eventuate? Did he ruminate over past mistakes, missed opportunities and losses or ponder over how things could have been done differently? I wonder how he found meaning in that long limbo of his life. Did Obi-wan Kenobi feel redundant even as he stayed to protect Luke?

 

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are” – Carl Jung

 

Doors

Alexander Graham Bell said that “as one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us”. Every ending heralds a new beginning. As one opportunity closes another presents itself. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi believed his true purpose whatever it was meant to be would some day present itself. Obi-Wan could find meaning in the years of isolation, loneliness and danger of exile.

 

 

“Individuation’ is Jung’s term for the process of achieving such command of all four functions that, even while bound to the cross of this limiting earth, one might open one’s eyes at the centre, to see, think, feel and intuit transcendence, and to act out of such knowledge”. – Joseph Campbell

 

The Monomyth

Carl Jung said that to know who we truly are we need to be complete. We must integrate all aspects of our being in order for the true self (the totality of the psyche) to emerge. The process is called individuation. Since completeness is impossible to achieve in a life time the best way to arrive at meaning is to allow ourselves to grow through life experience. One must be fully engaged in life’s journey including the struggle and suffering that comes with it. We create our own Monomyth. Each human contains within the a subconscious map of the “Heroes’ Journey”.  This “collective unconscious” is expressed in myths, including Star Wars.  They exist to help us realize our true self.

 

The ego prefers comfort and safety and resists integration. The ego will throw barriers and obstacles in our way to prevent or slow the journey. We sabotage ourselves and spend a life time looking at a closed door that we miss the doors that open for us. We stand at the cross roads immobile, rooted to the past.

 

Individuation is to divest the self of false wrappings” – Carl Jung

 

Layers

Wisdom is a product of time and experience. As wisdom accumulates we become conscious of the role of the archetypes in our lives. The archetypes are symbols that manifest themselves through the long process of individuation. In other words, we never stop evolving in to the person we are meant to be. Change is a constant and we grow in to it as the layers of our persona peel back to reveal our authentic self. The best years of our life lie ahead beyond the horizon.

 

The only choice we have is to choose and to move. In doing so we evolve.

 

I had to follow the ineradicable foolishness which furnishes the steps to true wisdom.” – Carl Jung

 

Archetypes

Obi-Wan Kenobi evolved through the archetypes in his own “Heroes Journey” in the same way that Luke Skywalker did. Along the way Kenobi experienced joy and suffering, gain and loss, pride and shame, fame and infamy, success and failure. Exile on Tatooine completed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Over the years the redundant Jedi Master outgrew the person he had been and was transformed spiritually in to something transcendent. All aspect of his conscious and subconscious were united through the experience of a lifetime of struggle and suffering.

 

The Apprentice who became Jedi and then Master and finally a Hermit was all and none of these archetypes when he met Luke, he was something far more. All Kenobi had left to do was step in to the open door and meet his destiny.

 

So every man whose fate it is to go his individual way must proceed with hopefulness and watchfulness, ever conscious of his loneliness and its dangers.” – Carl Jung

 

Paths

Paths may end at crossroad forcing us to take another direction. Doors may close requiring us to choose other doors that open. I walk the high road sober. I can walk through open doors a free man. No need to lie in the coffin of my comfort zone. Meaning can be found in a new career or I can find ample opportunity in my “weird dilemma” to apply imagination and innovation. A parent is not one dimensional but can be mentor, guide, teacher, protector, support and friend to their children in adulthood. Kenobi dedicated decades of his life to protect the child Luke while remaining hidden in obscurity. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi I can find meaning in my own exile. Like he, I can view the storm from above even though I stand within it. Life, even a redundant existence, can still mean something.

 

 

Further Reading:

 

Luke Skywalker’s Individuation” by Steve Gronert Ellerhoff. Jung Journal Culture and Psyche, Vol 9, 2015 – Issue 3.

 

The Myth is with us: Star Wars, Jung’s Archetypes, and the Journey of the Mythic Hero” by Jacqueline Botha (M. Phil Thesis in ancient cultures at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Available:

 

Becoming Whole: A Jungian Guide to Individuation” by Bud Harris ( A good introduction on the process of Individuation)

Failure

“Epic Fail”

 

The greatest teacher, failure is” – Yoda

 

I used to be terrified of failure. That fear would prevent me from starting or following up on many things. I would rather not try than fail. It was only when I faced that fear and found it was an illusion that I succeeded. At times I failed as well. How I dealt with that failure was mostly up to me. I needed improvement there. I had to remind myself, failure is normal. Failure is a teacher. Why do we have such a hard time with it?

 

People fail because of things which they have no control over. People also fail because of their own choices.  They let themselves down through a defeatist mindset, laziness or lack of commitment and motivation.  Whatever the reason, failure need not be a permanent set back.

 

That is why you Fail” – Yoda

 

 

Epic Fails

Pragmatists and realists accept failure as a reality of life. They realize that failure will occur to the best of people. Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times in his career. Mohammed Ali was defeated in the ring 5 times. Neither are remembered for their failures but for their ability to shrug off setbacks. Mohammed Ali never talked himself into losing and every failure in and out of the ring was seen as an opportunity to get better. Babe Ruth coined the line “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way”.

 

The story of the Jedi Order  is a tale of epic failure. The failings of the Jedi had disastrous consequences. The Jedi Order also left behind valuable lessons to those who came after. On Ahch-To the Force Ghost of Yoda appears to Luke and teaches him some of those valuable lessons. Yoda reminds Luke that it is alright to accept his failures. It is also essential to learn from them and move on. This revelation allowed Luke to free himself of his struggle, find balance and unite with the Force.

 

You want to go home and rethink your life.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

Reverse Clause

The Jedi used the “Mind Trick” to distort the perceptions of those they wanted to act or think in a certain way. The “Mind Trick” was used by the Jedi to avoid resorting to violence by re-framing the perceptions of their target. We can’t use the Jedi Mind Trick on people but we can use reasoning in any situation. We can use logic to persuade others to see our side. How often do we use these tools on ourselves?

 

The “Reverse Clause” is a mind hack that allows us to flip any situation on its head and look at failure from an entirely different angle. How we react to any set of circumstances is completely within our control. We can choose to react with emotion or with calm equanimity and acceptance. We can tell ourselves that a failure is a disaster or an opportunity. No given situation requires us to act one way or another but how we do is a matter of choice. This is a form of Jedi Mind Trick, there is no trick behind it. We are what we tell ourselves every day.

 

Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

Jocko

What if any failure could be redefined as “Good”? What if every failure was seen as a Master Jedi who has suddenly appeared to teach a lesson? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate Jedi Mind Trick?

 

The former US Navy SEAL, MMA coach, podcaster and author  Jocko Willink does exactly that. Every failure is seen as a lesson and an opportunity to do better. Rather than allow himself to dwell on the failure, he immediately frames it with the word “Good”. Jocko uses the “Reverse Clause” of the Stoics before the failure can mark him. Instead he finds the silver lining in failure and mines it like a raw material. As a result he can quickly move towards a solution that works to turn the failure in to success.

 

Indeed, no one can thwart the purposes of your mind—for they can’t be touched by fire, steel, tyranny, slander, or anything.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Get After It

 

In the face of failure take Jocko’s advice:

  1. Get Up: In other words take the hit but instead of staying down, Get Up.
  2. Dust Off: Take a moment to assess the situation. Be Humble. Avoid reacting. Be mindful in your response.
  3. Reload: Tool up “mentally”. Regroup. Decide to act or withdraw.
  4. Recalibrate: Check yourself and adjust as needed. Get Ready. Learn from your mistakes and apply. Focus.
  5. Reengage: Get back in to the fray. Do or do not.
  6. Attack: Confront the situation with purpose and intent. Get after it.

 

Failure provides an opportunity to improvise, learn and get better. That is what Yoda was telling Luke. Say “Good” and get after it.

 

Good!

“I lost my work”.

Good. Chance to start fresh and write a better paper. This time I will be sure to back it up.

 

“Got fired from my job today”.

Good. I can do better. One door closes another opens.

 

“I blew my job interview”.

Good. I’ll look for a better one and improve on my interview skills. I will be better prepared.

 

“I failed my exam”.

Good. I will study harder and pass next time.

 

“I got into an argument and said some cruel things”.

Good. An opportunity to make amends and practice humility.

 

“My performance review went terribly”

Good. Someone shared with me some shortcomings I was blind to and can now add to the list to work on.

 

“My girlfriend / boyfriend dumped me”.

Good. Was not meant to be then.  There is someone better for me.

 

“I got injured while training”.

Good. I’ll rest up, regroup, plan and start training again as soon as I can.

 

“I drank / drugged last night”.

Good. It’s not the end of the world. Now I know how bad that feels and why sobriety is a thousand times better. I will work the steps harder and help another alcoholic / addict.

 

 

Struggle

Training to become a Jedi is not an easy challenge. And even if you succeed, it’s a hard life.” – Qui-Gon Jinn

 

 

Safe and Warm

Sometimes I find it a struggle to get out of bed and face the day. My automatic preference would be to remain in bed, warm between the sheets and let the world go on without me. With effort I will get up and start my morning routine. I resolve to face the days challenges and I remind myself “one day a time, one problem at a time”.  The mental fog begins to clear as plans take shape. At times I struggle to find the motivation to do my work. Soon enough the day is done and hopefully I have something to show for it more than a made bed (make the bed every morning  if nothing else).

 

On those mornings you struggle with getting up, keep this thought in mind – I am awakening to the work of a human being” – Marcus Aurelius

 

The Roman Emperor and Stoic Marcus Aurelius also struggled out of bed in the cold dark mornings while on campaign in the frontiers. The security of the empire weighed heavily on his shoulders,  it was his cross to carry. Marcus arose each morning to make life and death decisions, fight the enemy and bury his fallen soldiers. He had to contend with cut throat politics and betrayals and the constant demands of Rome. All of this while he struggled with poor health, a troubled son and self-doubts. Marcus Aurelius saw these struggles as mere obstacles in his mind that could be overcome. Who could envy such a position?  Despite the burdens, Marcus Aurelius saw struggle as a path to enlightenment and obstacles as the road markers along the way.

 

I am ready to face the Trials.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

 

 

Life Struggle

To be alive is to struggle. Being human simply makes us aware of that struggle and allows us to quantity and qualify it in a subjective manner, to give it meaning. All living things struggle, that is the nature of evolution after all. It is no wonder that the human experience is inherently one of struggle but more importantly it is our innate ability in overcoming the challenges that life presents us that makes us unique. We can choose to suffer passively or struggle against suffering. The Stoics compared life to a wrestling match. At times we will get pinned down and forced in to submission and sometimes we end up on top. The important thing is we are in the ring willing to struggle.

 

Our struggles are those that reside within resulting from the things life throws at us and which we have little or no control over. Generally our struggles are an emotional response to life’s vicissitudes. It is not so much the thing that hurts or offends us but how we perceive it and how that perception affects us emotionally. The trick is to look at struggle in a different way. Victory over external struggles is usually contingent upon overcoming internal struggles. The struggle is no longer a barrier but an obstacle we work to overcome.

 

You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging” – Brene Brown.

 

 

Pushing Back

People face terrible struggles in life, many which I am fortunate enough not to suffer. I am not impoverished or unemployed, my mental and physical health is good. My family life is good. I am one of the lucky few to be working in a profession which I chose, was trained for and pays well. My sobriety is solid. I do not face persecution or discrimination. Compared to many in this world my life is blessed.

 

All that could change in an instant. What we have can be easily taken from us. People lose their jobs and livelihoods, their physical and mental capacities can fail, life’s saving and property can be taken away in an instant and their loved one’s can leave or die. Homelessness is a real possibility. Innocent or not, we can find ourselves in prison. The democracy and justice system we enjoy could be corrupted or overthrown. Peace may be shattered by war. Take nothing for granted. I try not to. It’s a good idea to remind ourselves that all things are impermanent. Life can easily pull the rug from under us.

 

I could pour myself a drink and lose everything that sobriety has bought as I spiral back in to active alcoholism. To suffer is inevitable but to struggle is largely a choice. There are those who suffer passively but do not struggle. To struggle is to push back against the suffering. Through struggle we have a chance to get out of suffering.

 

“There’s no coming to consciousness without pain.” – Carl Jung

 

 

Struggle = Meaning

Most people define “happiness” as their goal in life and they struggle to achieve whatever their ideal of happiness is. For some it may be a “perfect partner”, great job, successful career, plenty of money, adoring and loyal friends and admirers. Others may decide that happiness is a poor word for an internal state that might be best described as Eudaimonia. I’ve met people who are content in their suffering and victim-hood as if it was a good thing and do nothing to get out of it. I have also met people who find a deep sense of meaning, purpose and fulfillment in the struggle to overcome their obstacles and be the best version of themselves possible.

 

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just” – Abraham Lincoln.

 

People often grapple with the mystery of meaning and purpose; why am I here and what am I supposed to do with my life? Making choices that must be made and the uncertainty that haunts me.  Accepting the certainty that one day my children will become independent adults and I will grow old and frail. Facing the inevitability of death. This is the human condition. Loss and change is a part of life. We have a capacity as rational human beings allows to choose how to respond to that and give it profound meaning.

 

We are not alone in our struggles. Would it be better to embrace struggle rather than avoid it? Should we seek to struggle knowing that the suffering it brings is a path to serenity and peace? Through struggle we are no long a victim or passive object of suffering. We no longer suffer in vain because we struggle. In our struggle we validate and own the suffering that we feel and we choose.

 

“You must…confront…Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi, will you be. And confront him, you will” – Yoda

 

 

Trials

To become a Jedi in the Star Wars Universe a Jedi apprentice was expected to undergo a series of five trials which challenged their mental, spiritual and physical limit. In rare cases a Jedi was knighted because of their actions rather than going through the formal trials.  The action usually involved an intense struggle in overcoming a penultimate personal challenge. The ordeal ultimately defined the Padawan as a Jedi Knight. Obi-wan Kenobi’s trial was facing Darth Maul in combat after his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, was struck down. Obi-wan conquered his fear and overcame the challenge defeating Darth Maul.

 

Luke Skywalker became a Jedi Knight when he confronted Darth Vader and through reason and compassion redeemed Anakin and defeated the Sith.

 

Ahsoka Tano framed for terrorism and treachery fought desperately to clear her name to the Jedi Council. Mace Windu recognized her struggle and offered her Knighthood however she refused and left the order disillusioned.

 

Anakin achieved Knighthood through his bravery on the battlefield. Despite his rank he suffered terribly but never struggled in the way that matters. Anakin’s failed to struggle with his own demons and as a result he never overcame them. He showed skill, prowess, courage and intelligence yet his struggles were directed at others and the things he had little control over. Anakin struggled against a galaxy of injustice, corruption and greed which was noble but the means he applied did not always justify the ends. Death and mortality haunted Anakin. By trying to struggle vainly against the natural order of things Anakin played in to the hands of the Sith and fell to the Dark Side.

 

This is not to say that people should not struggle for freedom or justice or the causes they believe in. They absolutely should. Struggle should however, be transformative, leading us away from suffering through suffering. It should not cause others to suffer. One’s struggle should inspire others and be borne of sacrifice, love and virtue. We should struggle for the right things, in the right way for the right reasons.

 

A warrior in not born. He is the sum of the sacrifices he has made” – Klaus Yohannes

 

 

Crucified

In the bible Jesus struggled along the Via Doloros on his tortured journey to crucifixion. Jesus was beaten and flogged by his guards and abused by spectators as he dragged the heavy wooden cross through the streets to Golgotha. Along the way Jesus endured unimaginable pain and mental anguish. According to the gospels he was nailed to the cross and hoisted up to suffer a slow and excruciating death yet he chose to forgive those who tormented him rather than condemn them, surrendering instead to his fate. Through suffering and death came redemption, resurrection and salvation. The story of the crucifixion is a reminder that the pathway to physical, mental and spiritual growth and fulfillment is won through great struggle.

 

Klaus Yohannes, the Black Viking of London describes how his constant pursuit of struggle has made him the man he believes he was always meant to be. Struggle he believes is something we should seek out and embrace every day. Security is an illusion. The warm bed and easy way prevents us from reaching our potential. To prove his point he has spent years pushing his body, mind and soul to the very limits and beyond. In that zone of harrowing struggle he has found purpose, meaning and redemption.

 

On April 14th, 2019, Klaus Yohannes endured the passion of the crucifixion. Although he was not physically nailed to a cross, mentally he was. Yohannes carried a 60 kg (132 pound) sleeper on his back and walked bare chested and barefoot 7.2 miles through the streets of London. He stumbled, fell, crawled and walked one agonizing step at a time. The trial nearly killed him as the weight of the sleeper fractured and displaced his cervical vertebrae, bare millimeters from severing his spinal cord. Why? Nor for money or for fame but because he wanted to show himself he could do the unimaginable.

 

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” — Napoleon Hill

 

 

Seven Sagas

 

The Obstacle is the Way” – Ryan Holiday

 

The ordeal Klaus Yohannes endured was a test of will. From the second mile, Klaus suffered torment and considered quitting constantly but pushed on, ignoring the pleas of bystanders, his support team and his own mind and body screaming at him to stop. The struggle was the point and the way to reaching a transformative state by pushing the boundaries past any limits he had considered imaginable.

 

Like the trials of a Jedi, the “crucifixion saga” is one of seven sagas that Klaus Yohannes has set himself to undertake on his journey of transformation through the embrace of struggle. The only obstacle he perceives are those in his own mind. With the right mindset, self-discipline and preparation almost anything can be accomplished if we are prepared to overcome our own self-imposed limits. We do not need to embark on near impossible feats of endurance but we can take the attitude “The Obstacle is the Way”.

 

Klaus Yohannes said “security is an illusion”. We are not made to lie in bed, passive and inactive. Comfort, pleasure and ease may be desirable but they do not sustain us. The safety and security that we enjoy is based on struggles, usually endured by others. Life gives some an easier ride however the world will not deny anyone struggle. Yet, rarely will they ask for it. People like Klaus Yohannes seek it out every day. This is what a Jedi does and why to be Jedi is special.

 

The world will deny you many things, it will not deny you struggle” – Klaus Yohannes

 

Klaus Yohannes – The Black Viking

 

Forty Percent

David Goggins is another “modern day Jedi” who also espouses struggle as a pathway to greatness and virtue. Goggins refuses to betray himself by being mediocre in any aspect of his life. Failure as a result of his own choices is not an option.

 

The former Navy SEAL and ultra-marathon runner pushes himself to the absolute limits of physical and mental endurance. The reason for this drive is simple; Goggin’s suffered as a boy at the hands of an abusive father, he was overweight and everything about him was mediocre. One day Goggins decided enough was enough and to change his life. He embraced struggle as the vehicle with which to achieve his full potential and ultimately help others to achieve theirs.

 

Goggins likes to hammer home a mantra he took from the Navy SEALs “we only commit 40% of our true potential”. Only our own minds are holding us back. If that is true, imagine the possibilities.

 

I thought I’d solved a problem when really I was creating new ones by taking the path of least resistance.” – David Goggins

 

The Obstacle is the Way

Obstacle is the Way” could be a Jedi aphorism. Becoming a Jedi was no easy feat. It was an incredibly demanding life that required constant struggle and sacrifice. Even then, success was not guaranteed. Star Wars uses personal struggle as a recurring theme because a story without an element of struggle is pointless. The victorious struggle of the hero against the Dark Side is the point of Star Wars. The archetypes manifested in Anakin, Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Yoda, Kylo Ren and Rey all face very personal struggles with loss, grief, betrayal, self-doubt, anger, fear and despair.

 

Struggle is the underlying message of the “Hero’s Journey”. Struggle underpins the collective mythologies of the human experience including the Star Wars saga. It is not only Human to struggle, it is necessary and a virtue.

 

“The obstacle is the path” – Zen Proverb

 

Finding the Path

I still recall the loud blow of a whistle and the shouting that would rudely awaken the Platoon during Boot Camp. The mornings were brutally cold and dark. We stumbled half asleep out of the barracks, getting screamed at and shoved. Like sheep corralled we formed up on the parade square and stood shivering in the snow waiting for roll call.  How long we stood depended on how long the Drill Sergeant took to finish his coffee and cigarette. Later on operations in the blistering heat of East Africa the Platoon Sergeant had a habit of always choosing the hardest route for a foot patrol or route march. Up and over mountains we went at an inhuman pace, each carrying more than 60 pounds of kit, wheezing and cursing with each pained step. Easy was not in his vocabulary. We were forced to struggle for a reason. War, if, when it came, would be “easier” if we suffered now.  Train hard, fight easy.

 

I struggled with alcohol and overcame it. Recovery and sobriety is constant a struggle against the ego. It is never good to take the path of least resistance. I must constantly challenge myself and embrace struggle if I am to stay sober.

 

My life is far from perfect and I do not claim happiness in the ordinary material sense. The pursuit of material things brings no lasting fulfillment. I would prefer to arrive at Eudaimonia as a natural result of virtue. As much as my shadow self, the inner alcoholic, wants me to stay in bed, eat junk, be lazy and drink booze I know these things will only lead me in to ruin. Virtue is my defense. Struggle is the foundation of virtue.

 

The “Obstacle is the Way”. Struggle counters the entropy of the Dark Side that threatens to engulf us. Through struggle we are reminded not only that we live but that we can only achieve our true potential by overcoming our own inner obstacles.

 

Further Reading

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins. Lioncrest Publishing (December 4, 2018).

 

The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by Ryan Holiday. PROFILE BOOKS; Main edition (2001)

Blame

Darth Sidious at Nuremburg

 

It’s all Obi-wan’s fault. He’s jealous. He’s holding me back!” – Anakin “The Clone Wars”

 

You turned her against me!” – Anakin (to Obi-wan Kenobi on Mustafar) “Revenge of the Sith”

You have done that yourself.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

Blame. Was Darth Vader to blame for the destruction of Alderaan?

The Death Star was the greatest weapon ever devised. The sheer scale and power of the Death Star was unimaginable. The audacity and ambition that went in to its conception, design and construction was beyond anything ever attempted. Despite all of the technology, terror and control the Emperor wielded his forces had suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of the rag tag Rebel Force.

This was unacceptable, someone had to be blamed and punished. A swift and terrible punishment was needed. The Death Star moved towards Alderaan to exact “justice”. What happened next has been the subject of debate and controversy for decades.

 

I should conclude that our demonstration was as impressive as it was thorough.” – Darth Vader (on the destruction of Alderaan) “A New Hope”.

 

 

“Don’t Blame Me”

I often think about causality and blame. The two are often conflated but they are not the same thing. In my work I often deal with incidents. A mishap will occur and a as a consequence there will be some sort of loss such as an injury, equipment damage or environmental impact. An investigation will be launched to determine cause. This search for causality can often end up becoming a witch hunt.

A blame culture exists in society today which demands the allocation of blame for every fault. Causality is reduced to quickly assigning blame and meting out punishment. The result is resentment and conflict.

 

Whenever you find yourself blaming providence, turn it around in your mind and you will see that what has happened is in keeping with reason” – Epictetus

 

 

Wet the Bed, Blame the Blanket

Blame is a trait unique to human beings. There is nothing in the animal kingdom that even closely resembles it. If a dog pees on the carpet it is not going to try to deflect blame on to a two year old child. A few years ago I would have gladly passed on blame to the dog if I had had an “unfortunate accident” while completely inebriated. I was the person who would willingly pass blame on others and then ultimately finding reason for guilt, self loathing and self pity, blame myself begrudgingly without learning a thing.

No one blames others like an Alcoholic. We are true professionals in the blame game.  If we wet the bed, we blamed the blanket. If we wet the carpet we blamed the dog.

Alcoholism and all the dysfunctional and destructive habits that stem from it are not accidental and don’t arise by themselves. Someone or something, we reason, must be to blame. Where there is pain, loss and suffering there must be a reason and someone to blame. We blame our parents, partners, friends, co-workers, upbringing, education or lack of. If nothing else, God, fate or providence can be blamed.

So why do people so readily choose to assign blame? Does it make any difference? Will blaming others or even ourselves for misfortune help? Does it right the wrong?

 

As a mountain of rock is unshaken by wind, so also, the wise are unperturbed by blame or by praise.” – Buddha

 

 

Survival Mode

I learned the meaning of blame, guilt and punishment as a child. Living with siblings we were quick to blame each other to avoid parental wrath. Children naturally seek favor. If a parent seeks to punish a sibling for a misdeed perhaps it will make the other child look better. No one wants to be punished for something they didn’t do and will avoid punishment for something they did, if possible. Blame can be used to absolve oneself of any responsibility by passing it on.

Sometimes blame is necessary for survival. Living in a catholic orphanage taught me to be a survivor. The Nuns would constantly seek out scape goats among the children in their care. A misdeed or grievous sin would be uncovered and the culprits sought out. Collective punishment would be dispensed unless a confessor came forward to claim responsibility and penance. Ultimately those responsible and on the sidelines of the trivial matter (stolen sweets or similar) would begin to blame each other until the shell of lies and denial cracked and confessions came flooding out in waves of helpless tears.

Children under the age of ten and as young as five were forced to denounce each other and hide behind a layer of mistrust and suspicion in order to avoid physical and mental abuse. By the age of eight I had developed a keen ability to liar, deceive, cheat, con and hide the truth. I was very quick to blame anyone but myself.

 

It is easy to see the faults of others. But difficult to see one’s own faults” – Buddha

 

We care to Admit

My blame mentality blossomed during my drinking career. Every lost job, black eye, broken relationship, falling out, argument and hangover was blamed on anything but my own actions. I saw my anger, resentments, belligerency, aggression and selfishness as natural and proportionate responses to life. Misfortunes were not my fault there was always someone else to blame. This mindset keeps us in denial and ultimately in addiction. I had however stopped fooling others. I was only fooling myself.

The blame mentality does not seek to rectify and remedy but incriminate and punish. Deep down we know the truth and the truth is no one is to blame when things are just the way they are. All we need is the power to admit it.

 

Today I escaped from the crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn’t from outside me but in my own assumptions.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

Taking Action

When we wake up to the truth and look for cause instead of blame we can begin to take action. Seeking causality allows us to understand the problem, quantify the effect and identify solutions that resolve the issue, not compound it. What it takes is a willingness to admit our own faults, acknowledge the harm done, clarify and seek to make amends and forgive others for the role they played.

Once we isolate the cause of our problems we can avoid falling back in to the blame game. Some times blame is reasonable and justified as long as causality is established. The end goal should be to address cause, take action and finally move on. Let’s consider a scenario that helps illustrate this point. Imagine two people who have been drinking at separate bars get in to their cars at the same time and decide to drive home. Along the way, they meet.

 

What are conflict, dispute, blame, accusation, irreverence and frivolity? They are all opinions, and more than that, they are opinions that lie outside of our reasoned choice” – Epictetus

 

 

T-Boned

The first drunk gets in to his car and some miles on drives through a red light and hits another car driven by the second drunk who is speeding. Who and what is to blame for the resulting injuries and damage?

The first drunk may tell the court that he got laid off from work and had had an argument with his wife and decided to go to a bar. He may also offer that the driver of the other vehicle shared blame as he should have slowed on approaching the intersection instead of speeding and was also drunk at the time. Those are excuses and opinions, not causes.

Ultimately the cause of the accident was the running of the red light. The conscious decision taken by the driver to drive while intoxicated led to a lapse in judgement. The first driver was found to be responsible for causing the accident through his actions. The second driver was responsible for driving whilst under the influence but shared no responsibility for causing the accident. Recognition of blame either way is voluntary. We see it all the time in the court rooms. People will accept a fine or a prison term but not the blame. Causality establishes blame whether a person accepts it or not.

 

You must stop blaming God, and not blame any person. You must no longer feel anger, resentment, envy or regret.” – Epictetus

 

 

No Blame

Even now if I don’t get my way I look for blame. Alcoholics have a reactive attitude; we are prone to extremes of emotions. I have to rein myself in and to avoid jumping to conclusions, making assumptions and playing the blame game. Introspection and self reflection is required. The goal of causality is to gain knowledge. Ask yourself these questions when looking to blame:

 

What happened?

Why did it occur? (Ask why five times to get to the root cause).

What is my role in this?

How can I / we remedy it or make amends?

How can I / we prevent this from happening again?

What can I / we learn from this?

 

Blame is not sought. Why looks for cause, not blame. How and what energizes action and focuses on solutions. Not everything in life is as simple as a T-bone at an intersection. Cause and effect can be more subtle and complex. As an alcoholic I have to keep things simple and ask “what role have I played in this?” If I am accountable I admit it and accept the consequences of my actions. I seek to make amends, learn from my mistake and resolve to do better.

In other words…if you are pointing a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. Hesitate before blaming.

 

In a way, you have determined the choice of the planet that’ll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station’s destructive power… on your home planet of Alderaan.” – Tarkin “A New Hope”.

 

 

Alderaan

So can we blame Darth Vader for the destruction of Alderaan and the death of two billion “innocent” sentient beings living on the planet when the Death Star opened fire?

At the beginning of “A New Hope” the Tantive IV was intercepted by the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator, boarded and seized by Darth Vader. As part of the operation Senator Leia Organa of Alderaan was captured and accused of being a Rebel agent.  In order to reveal the greater conspiracy against the Empire, Leia was interrogated. When that failed they threatened her home planet with annihilation if she did not cooperate.

The final order to fire was given by Admiral Tarkin, not Darth Vader. The target was selected because it was Leia’s home and because the Imperial command had enough evidence to consider Alderaan a willing party to the Rebellion and therefore an enemy. This fact does not does not absolve Darth Vader from guilt but it brings “blame” in to doubt.

Darth Vader was tasked by the Emperor to recover the stolen blue prints of the Death Star and eliminate any direct threat posed by the Rebels. Vader was also the Emperors apprentice and watchdog on the Death Star to oversee its commissioning. While Tarkin gave the order to fire on Alderaan he did so with the tacit approval of Vader. Tarkin may have been in command of the Death Star but Darth Vader held the strings and had ultimate power to veto any command Tarkin made.

The Dark Lord could have killed Tarkin with complete impunity should he have desired. Leia knew this and always blamed the destruction of Alderaan on Darth Vader.

 

If we would lean this way, whenever we fail, and would blame only ourselves and remember that nothing but opinion is the cause of a troubled mind and uneasiness, then by God, I swear we would be making progress”. – Epictetus

 

 

Lessons learned

I’m not sure how a trial at an intergalactic tribunal for war crimes would have played out. If they had survived and been prosecuted for war crimes, Tarkin, Vader and Palpatine would have all shared responsibility in the heinous acts of the Empire including the destruction of Alderaan. Had a tribunal been staged by the New Republic it may have been enlightened enough to determine why it happened and understand the reasons for that.

The Republic would have avoided embarking on a “Witch Hunt” bent on blame and revenge and instead sought reason and justice. While it would be small compensation for the loss of life on Alderaan, lessons would have been learned from the tragedy. Those lessons may have been used to prevent history from ever being repeated.

Blame does little more than keep wounds open. Worse it adds salt to them. Reconciliation, harmony and peace are impossible with blame. Addressing cause, acknowledging suffering and accepting responsibility not only reconciles it lifts people to a higher place and bridges differences. Knowledge is gained, justice is served. Isn’t that after all the Jedi way? If we all avoided blame perhaps the world would be a better place.

 

There is no ignorance there is knowledge” – Jedi Code

 

 

Blame by Threepio

C3PO had a built in blame mentality chip as part of its personality algorithms. This was due to the lack of defensive weaponry integrated in to protocol droids. Protocol units were completely unarmed and expected to be able to use negotiating and reasoning skills to stay out of trouble. When confronted with specific threats or fault the protocol was to resort to blame. R2D2 provided a convenient target for blame.

I wonder if the Threepio and Artoo were in a co-dependent relationship but that is for another article.

 

Don’t blame me.  I’m an interpreter. I’m not supposed to know a power socket from a computer terminal.”

“That malfunctioning little twerp (Artoo). This is all his fault! He tricked me into going this way, but he’ll do no better.”  

“It wasn’t my fault, sir. Please don’t deactivate me. I told him (Artoo) not to go, but he’s faulty, malfunctioning; kept babbling on about his mission.”  

“Deactivate! Well, on the other hand if you hadn’t removed his (Artoo’s) restraining bolt…”  

“I would much rather have gone with Master Luke than stay here with you (Artoo). I don’t know what all the trouble is about, but I’m sure it must be your fault.”  

“Listen to them! They’re dying, Artoo! Curse my metal body! I wasn’t fast enough. It’s all my fault! My poor master!”  

“Help! I think I’m melting! (to Artoo)This is all your fault.”  

I don’t know what all this trouble is about, but I’m sure it must be your (Artoo) fault.”

The Inner Child

A child stolen is a lost hope.” – Moral “Spheres of Influence” The Clone Wars

 

Truly wonderful the mind of a child is” – Yoda.

 

Let’s not kid ourselves; Star Wars is essentially for kids. I’m not ashamed to say that I like Star Wars and don’t mind being called a “big kid” because of it. We go to the movies to escape reality for a while and to enjoy ourselves. Even to remember what it was like to be a child again.

 

As a ten year old I saw Star wars for the first time when it hit theatres in 1977. The experience was indescribable. It blew away all expectations. My life was changed from that evening 42 years ago.

 

Ever since that I day I feel that same sense of wonder every time I sit down to watch the original trilogy. The nostalgia dented only by the re-mastering and editing that replaced the original cinematic version. The movies belonged to my generation. Star Wars was made for us. It belonged to us.

 

We often tend to ignore how much of a child is still in all of us.”  – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, “On Death and Dying”

 

 

Kids Stuff

Children still enjoy Star Wars of course. The prequels  entertained the millennial generation and the current trilogy has been made for the current generation of kids. Let no one tell you otherwise, Star Wars is meant for the kids first and us critical and adoring adults second.

 

The way we view Star Wars can even differ between generations. In “How I met your Mother”, Barney comes to the conclusion that a girl he is seeing is much older than he is because she hates the Ewoks. Barney reasons that because she was a kid when Star Wars first came out and a teenager when “Return of the Jedi” screened in 1983 the Ewoks to her were annoying at best. The Ewoks were cute and adorable and made for the kids. If Barney’s girl fiend hated Ewoks, he reasoned, she would have to be up to ten years his senior. This also annoyed Barney, he could not be with someone who hated Ewoks.

 

The Ewoks were annoying, I still find them mildly annoying but Star Wars is a modern fairy tale and while fairy tales have a moral they are also written for children or at least the inner child in all of us. Time to get over the Ewoks.

 

The Ewok LineHow I met your Mother

 

Blessings

Children are a blessing. My life changed when I had kids. All of the sudden there was more than just my self to live for. I was responsible for another human being that was powerless in every way and utterly reliant on me. This is a revelation that only a parent can describe. In one sense it is amazing beyond words and in another it is utterly terrifying. Your mortality is revealed as is your human vulnerabilities. Every selfish act becomes shockingly apparent. There is no hiding from the truth. You have the most important job on the planet to fulfil.

 

For me it was not enough. I loved my kids of course and tried my best however alcohol was more important to me. There were nights when I drank secretly in the study while my wife and kids slept completely oblivious to the fact that I was drunk. If they needed me in the middle of the night I would probably have been completely incapable of caring for them.

 

Thank God for their mother who truly looked after their every need and never drunk. I can only imagine what would have happened if they had been left alone in my care. Who was the bigger child in all of that I wonder. It is my biggest shame as an alcoholic. A Father is meant to protect his kids and put them first always. This is not sacrifice but a sacred duty.

 

We did not come into this world loathing ourselves or wishing to numb or feelings. As small children, we operated from a place of wonder, curiosity, spontaneity and creativity.” – Christopher Dines, “Drug Addiction Recovery: The Mindful Way”

 

 

Memories

I recall being a child. I remember Star Wars and a lot of other cool things that happened. There are also plenty of memories of a drunken Father, my mother’s bitter tears and despair at a husband who put money for food in to his drinking and stayed out for days and nights. One day I saw my mother taken in an ambulance and that’s the last time I saw her before I saw her lowered in to the ground in a coffin.

 

The years that followed were not childlike in any normal sense of the word. There were orphanages, homes and hostels, abuse from care givers and intermittently my drunken Father would appear. No wonder I hated the Ewoks when I went to see “Return of the Jedi” at 16. They were lame and stupid and reminded me of everything I wanted to forget, my childhood. The promise of Star Wars had failed me.  The inner child within me was smothered out, all but dead.

 

Alcoholism was the natural progression from that point.

 

Oh Annie, you’ll always be that little boy I knew on Tatooine” – Padme.

 

Growing Up

Its no wonder then that when I finally became sober I had to rekindle my long lost inner child. Not just the “big kid” that comes out to rough house with the kids and make a convincing go at playing dress ups at parties without feeling completely foolish. Also not the petulant and obstinate child I became when I was drinking. Playing the drunken idiot was also easy. The inner child is something different. It is something wonderful.

 

The inner child represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself.” – Carl Jung

 

 

The Divine Child

If you could personify the divine I have no doubt it would appear as a wide eyed and amazed child, playful, curious and innocent. This inner child would be eager to learn and discover and create. She would have boundless energy, enthusiasm, optimism, empathy and compassion. Most of all, the child would have an imagination that knows no limits.

 

Now think Star Wars. Is Star Wars not for the inner child that resides within all of us? I would say that Lucas created Star Wars from his own inner child for the child in everyone.

 

Carl Jung created the “divine child archetype”. Star Wars fans may recognise the young Anakin as the embodiment of the archetype in “The Phantom Menace”. Anakin was innocent and vulnerable but at the same time he was far beyond his years in so many ways. He could repair racing pods and knew his way around a ship. The boy had an amazing talent for racing pods and had the instincts of a survivor.

 

There was something compelling about Anakin which drew Qui-Gon Jinn to him and endeared him to Obi-wan Kenobi. Anakin was a powerful force sensitive, incredibly intelligent while at the same time naive and easy to mould. At first sight he was an ideal candidate for Jedi training but something troubling loomed within him. Yet to all he appeared to be the “chosen one” as foretold in prophecy.

 

“You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flow into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.”  – Carl Jung

 

 

Supreme Meaning

Krishna, Jesus, Horus, Dažbog and Zoroaster were all divine children who were born under auspice circumstance to bring great change to the world. King Herod did all he could to stop the prophecy of the coming messiah by having all new born male babies slaughtered. Mary and Joseph forewarned fled to Egypt to keep Jesus safe. Demons plotted to kill the baby Zoroaster but failed.

 

Anakin was the Jungian “divine child” archetype of Star Wars.  Darth Sidous sought out the “chosen one”, Anakin, to either kill him or preferably bring him to the Dark Side. The new born twins Luke and Leia were secreted away in to hiding after Anakin’s fall. The truth kept from them until the prophecy could be fulfilled. The children were the hope for the future of the galaxy.

 

Yoda in essence was also a symbol of the divine inner child manifest. Despite his 900 years of age he recognised the divinity in children and allowed his inner child to shine through before and after his transcendence to the Force. In exile that inner child was still alive in Yoda with all its wonder, wisdom, humour and optimism.

 

“In every adult there lurks a child and eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention and education. That is part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole.” – Carl Jung

 

 

 

Vulnerable

Yet the inner child is vulnerable. In “Revenge of the Sith”, Darth Sidious completed the conversion of Anakin through the slaughter of innocents at the Jedi Temple. The massacre of Younglings by Anakin is symbolic of the final destruction of the inner divine child. It is the loss of final hope and the future.

 

For children are the future. A society that forsakes its children has no future. A person who denies his inner child also betrays his soul.

 

“I believe that there is a sacred child-like spirit in all of us (often referred to as our younger self or sacred inner child), one we can access and heal in recovery. We can gradually learn to integrate our youthful spirit into our everyday life. There is sweet sacredness when a person truly dedicates himself or herself to reclaiming his or her forgotten and abandoned inner child.” Christopher Dines, “Drug Addiction Recovery: The Mindful Way”.

 

 

Recovered

So it is with Alcoholism. The disease eventually all but snuffs out the inner child within us. That is a tragedy. In its place the shadow inner child emerges to fuel our addiction. The shadow child is the dark, spoilt, belligerent and selfish brat that clawed, kicked, screamed and berated us in active abuse.

 

Recovery heals the shadow child and restores the inner divine child. We learn that the divine child is a manifestation of the Higher Power within us. It has been all but snuffed out but a tiny glow remains in a sea of blackness. Soon that glow becomes a flame. For me it is the Force that burns within. With time it has grown brighter kindled by walking the 12 Steps.

 

I have had to grow up, perhaps for the first time in my life. The inner child has guided me along the journey and still does. To be Jedi is to allow the inner child to step forward and be heard.

 

“When you learn how to re-parent yourself, you will stop attempting to complete the past by setting up others to be your parents.”  –  John Bradshaw, “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child”.

 

The Inner Child

The inner child is that small still voice. You will know it when:

  • A creative idea takes root in your mind and you feel excited about it.
  • You look up at the stars at night, witness a glorious sunset or wander through nature and feel awe, joy and a connectedness with creation.
  • That “kid like” excitement and abandon you get visiting a theme park and getting on rides.
  • The mystery and wonder that causes the heart to race and time to stand still when you get that first kiss.
  • The thirst for life and yearning to explore.
  • The feeling you get when the light in the theatre dims and everyone hushes as the 20th century Fox anthem plays and then the words “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away” appears and then fades  to  the loud crescendo of the opening note of the Star Wars musical score and title.

 

Listen also to the Child when you are feeling down, it is trying to tell you something when you feel;

  • Regret at abandoning an idea you was excited about.
  • Frustration at being denied your creativity or held back.
  • Depression that comes with not being able to fully realize your self.
  • Grief over loss.

 

These are natural responses. It’s OK to be not OK. Let the inner child in you express itself.

 

Be a Kid

If you approach life with the eyes of a child you do so with the divine guiding you. The world suddenly reveals that there is still wonder and beauty in it. Despite the odds there is still hope for the future. People become inherently good despite their shortcomings. Life will not be all “Puppies and Kittens” but it does get easier. Your mind will seek to create rather than destroy, to flow with, rather than resist and to accept rather than reject what life offers. Let life surprise you for certainly it will.

 

Learn from the wisdom of children and take something from their insights like Yoda did.  No matter what happens allow your inner child to completely take over the next time you watch Star Wars. Learn to be a kid again. Ewoks or no Ewoks, I guarantee you will enjoy it.

 

Star Wars (Original release crawl 1977) Lucasfilm Ltd.

 

Further Reading

John Bradshaw; Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 1990. ISBN 978-0-553-35389-1.

Third Man

 

Are you an angel”  – Anakin

 

Imagine being hopelessly lost in the desert. Walking for miles as the sun beats down.

The distant line of mountains seems to be now closer after days of walking in the blistering heat and nights spent huddled against the cold.

Eventually whatever water you had is gone. Thirst torments you and hunger gnaws at your belly.

You mutter to yourself mindless thoughts. Apparitions of strange figures come in waves of hallucinations at night.

You dream of water and hear voices in the wind. The sun rises and you greet it knowing you won’t see the end of the day.

Tears come to your eyes but they are dry, an attempt to cry is nothing more than a tortured croak.

You stagger and fall and blackness finds you. With eyes open you see the cosmos spiraling before you, all the planets and stars arc above.

You feel a presence, it bring you peace in the hour of death. It speaks to you and urges you on. You stumble as if in a dream.

The presence never leaves you it tells you everything will be alright and to keep going. You obey.

Voices come out of the dark, water, hands grip your shoulder and you see a face. Salvation has come.

 

“Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road, there is always another one walking beside you” – T.S Elliot ” The Wasteland”.

 

Lost

There are countless stories that tell of the presence of an “other” when life was in peril. Shackleton recounts that such a presence was felt by his group as they wandered across the Antarctic wilderness held in the place between this life and the next.

 

I have no doubt that Providence guided us…it seemed to me there were four and not three.” – Sir Ernest Shackleton

 

Yossi Ghinsberg an Israeli backpacker who nearly died while lost in the Amazon jungle also recounted being led by a young girl who appeared to him just as he gave up hope. The experience left an indelible spiritual mark on him.

 

Frank Smyth the British climber attempted Mount Everest in 1933 failed and narrowly survived the descent. Later he recounted the welcome presence of another person who followed him during his ordeal. To him the guiding presence was real and it eliminated all loneliness and fear in him.

 

Soldiers in war, shipwreck survivors and castaways, people lost in the wilderness, survivors of natural disasters and terror attacks all recount experiencing the presence of a benevolent presence that helped them survive beyond their physical and mental limits. The presence gave them comfort and courage against the odds and this helped saved their lives. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “Third Man factor”.

 

An angel. I’ve heard the deep space pilots talk about them. They’re the most beautiful creatures in the universe” – Young Anakin to Queen Amidala “The Phantom Menace”

 

The Protector

Intense physical and mental duress can have a profound effect on the brain. No one knows for certain whether the “third person” is a hallucinogenic effect caused by the release of a burst of dopamine and possibly Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The effect of DMT is very similar to those reported by people who claim to have had a near death experience. In a recent study people who had had NDE’s reported experiences of spiritual transcendence similar to subjects who took DMT psychedelics like Ayuhuasca.

 

Is the “Third Person” effect simply a coping mechanism, a mental trick, a survival reflex triggered by a brain that knows it is dying? Some believe the “Third Person” a guardian angel that intervenes in the time of greatest physical, mental and spiritual anguish.  Does it matter whether the “Third Person” comes from deep within our psyche or is a manifestation of something divine if it leads to salvation?

 

The human psyche has a persona and an ego at the conscious level. Deeper in our subconscious resides our anima and animus. The shadow, the darker side of our nature also resides there. Why not also a guardian angel? The “Third man factor” is a protector and guide that resides deep within us all?

 

 “Death is just the beginning.” – “Destiny” The Clone Wars

Guardian Angels

The appearance of a spiritual guiding force in the time of great need is often used in fiction. In Gravity (2013) Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) visits Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) after he has floated away in space to his death. Kowalski speaks to Stone and urges her not to give up and helps her survive. The guiding spirits in “A Christmas Carol” transform Scrooge as they reveal his faults and show him a way to his own salvation.

 

Guardian Angels are nothing new. They appear to the prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus was said to have been visited by angels during his wandering in the wilderness and again as he suffered during the crucifixion. Guiding spirits occur in every culture; Zoroastrian, Chinese, Slavic, Aboriginal lore describes them as benevolent spirits who look over their human charges and keep them safe.

 

In Star Wars the Force Spirit is the ephemeral and benevolent presence that comforts and guides those it visits. In “Ghosts of Mortis” Anakin is visited by the “Force Ghost” of Qui-Gon Jinn who tells him he can bring balance to the force. Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda are also visited by Qui-Gon Jinn. In “A New Hope” Luke is guided by the disembodied voice of Obi-wan Kenobi giving him the courage and presence of mind to complete his mission. At the end of “Return of the Jedi” Luke and Leia are visited by the Force Spirits of Yoda, Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi. Luke himself becomes a powerful Force Spirit. In “The Last Jedi” his Force Spirit projected to Crait where he comforted Leia and confronted Kylo Ren.

 

    “Eternal life…

    “The ultimate goal of the Sith, yet they can never achieve it; it comes only through the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.

    ―Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn

 

NDE

I can’t say I have ever had a near death experience like Ernest Shakleton in Antarctica or Frank Smyth on Everest. I have been exhausted enough to hallucinate while in the army. I was on operations patrolling for days on end with little sleep. My thoughts were disordered and I knew that the visions and voices in my mind weren’t real. The “Third man factor” experience is described as lucid and ordered while hallucinations are dreamlike imaginings.

 

Some Alcoholics who have had spiritual experiences which directly resulted in sustained recovery report the presence of a guiding presence. Some describe this as a blinding light of love and compassion while others describe the visit of a man or a woman or a deceased love one. These spiritual experiences tend to happen at a moment of great spiritual, mental and physical torment.

 

I have had the “Rock Bottom” experience and while I did not see a presence I definitely felt it. The sensation was real and tangible in every way. I knew immediately that I had nothing to fear and that everything would be fine. The presence imbued a love and compassion that was transcendent and impossible to articulate. I felt at home. From that point I never have drunk again.

 

Fear is a disease; hope is its only cure.” –  “Blue Shadow Virus” The Clone Wars

 

Finding Hope

I read somewhere once that an atheist will deny the existence of God until the day he finds himself with nothing and is utterly alone, without hope and facing death. At the end of hope the atheist finds hope, not in changed fortune but in the presence of a spiritual force that guides him to salvation.

 

Very few people ever call on a “power greater than themselves” until the time they need it. Even an atheist faced with his own physical demise will ponder at the wonder of the cosmos and the symphony of creation. A part of them will wonder at the mystery and purpose of life. While denying someone else’s concept of God they might come to a deeper understanding of a divine truth.

 

The Force can be a source of strength when I need it. The Force can be a source of calm and serenity in times of turbulence. Understanding and patience can be the little inner voice that comes from the Force when confronted with difficult people and situations. It is the guiding and comforting presence when facing calamity. The Force can be the hand that guides you out of harms way, a candle in the dark that leads the way to the light.

 

Whatever your concept of God or a Higher Power might be the important thing is to realize that no one is ever truly alone. When you need the will to carry on past your imaginable limits, there is a power you can fall back on within you. All you need to do is accept the hand that’s offered.

 

Geiger, John (2009). The Third Man Factor. Toronto: Viking Canada.

The Shadow

Luke, trust your feelings – Obi-Wan Kenobi

When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.” – Yoda

 

We are each made up of three distinct aspects. There is the Shadow, the Watcher and the Persona. The part of me which I know best and which presents to others is the persona. The Shadow is what lurks beneath the surface of my consciousness and my ego. It is the Dark Side of the psyche, the inner beast. The Watcher is the unseen observer, the inner pilot which comes from the Force. Today I would like to talk about the Shadow.

 

This meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is….” – Carl Jung

 

Ahuyuasca

A friend of mine recently came back from Peru where he had attended an Ahuyuasca retreat*. Over a period of three days he participated in ceremonies where he took a brew made from the Ahuyuasca plant. The plant is a potent psychedelic drug. Users can attest to profound life changing experiences under its influence.

 

My friend was curious and being a veteran of recent wars he had deep seated issues he wanted to confront and resolve. Depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, self doubt, suicidal thoughts and PTSD clouded his existence as it does with many other veterans.

 

During one of the ceremonies my friend came face to face with his Dark Side. Decades of repressed emotions were revealed and released. Spiraling deep in to a dark abyss his whole being was made apparent in all its millions of facets. All of the guilt, self doubt, the anguish and pain he held within, all the buried memories were revealed to him in a swirling sea that stretched to eternity. The vision was tangible and alive. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time.

 

“….For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad…..” – Carl Jung

 

In that swirling chaos of his subconscious my friend found that he could let go of all that held him back and find peace at last if he chose. His past, present and future became as one. All time was now. Every place was now. Separation and duality did not exist. In that dimension he realized the illusion of self for what it is.

 

The effect the experience had on him was cathartic and complete. My friend had had nothing less than a deep spiritual experience.  I was drawn to this story because it sounded like the spiritual experience that had placed me on the road to sobriety. I had also met my Shadow. The difference was I didn’t take Ahuyuasca then but had fallen into a deep psychic rift leading to a mental and spiritual personal hell which I came back from as if reborn.

 

“….It is the world of water…..where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences me” – Carl Jung

 

 

 

The Beast

Carl Jung wrote about the Shadow. Jung stated that every person has a Shadow, a Dark Side, which is always present. Some of us keep it buried deep within our psyche and never know of it. Others allow it to bubble to the surface and manifest on occasion but maintain control or keep it buried much of the time. Fewer people are dominated by the Shadow. Very few people are even acquainted with their Shadow. It is the repressed morass of everything we don’t want to know about ourselves. The conscious Ego refuses to acknowledge the Shadow at all.

 

The Shadow is like the creature that lurked in garbage compactor of the Death Star; hidden and insidious yet indifferent. The Cave on Dagobah was a symbol of the intrinsic Shadow. A place best avoided. The Shadow is in us but we’d rather not know about it.

 

The Shadow is not necessarily evil. To label anything evil or malign is convenient but not always accurate. No person is inherently evil but the capacity to do terrible things resides in all of us. The Shadow of the psyche plays a hand in that. At the same time the Shadow can also have positive aspects such as risk taking and competitiveness. It can also be entirely unknown to us and have us act in ways that baffle us and those around us. You may not notice your own Shadow but others do and they’ll rarely be up front with you about it. Likewise you will see it in others. You will project your own shadow on others and find fault there.

 

There is in every one of us, even those who seem to be most moderate, a type of desire that is terrible, wild, and lawless.” – Plato “The Republic”

 

 

Primal

We all have an inner moral compass. Much of our personal views and morality is based on societal norms and the influence of our family and friends. It is often said that a person who is “well raised” will display moral virtues even under the most testing conditions. Yet, a sense of morality is also built in to our psyche. We intuitively know right from wrong. Children are naturally empathetic and caring. An infant that is deprived of affection and human touch will fail to grow and likely die. To be human is to be more than just a product of our environment. There is a blend of nature and nurture in everyone.

 

Yet the Shadow resides within us all. Jung said it extends all the way to Hell. It is part of our nature and buried in the recesses of our psyche to levels you cannot imagine. The Shadow pulls at our sleeve and appeals to the Darker Side of our nature and manifests as aggression, selfishness and greed. There is an evolutionary advantage to that. After all as humans we are driven to compete, dominate and consume. Without that drive our species would not have evolved, prevailed and ultimately populated the Earth.

 

At the same time coexistence and cooperation has been a requisite for survival and mutual benefit. There remains a duality in Humans, a Yin and Yang derived from millions of years of evolution. But like it or not everyone is a loaded gun. You, I and everyone are capable of good, bad and even terrible things.

 

Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is” – Carl Jung

 

 

Archetypes

In Mythology there is usually a Hero and a Villain. Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero with a Thousand Faces” reminds us of this timeless formula. George Lucas based Star Wars on Campbell’s “Heroes Journey”.

 

We meet the Shadow in Star Wars. There are Heroes and Villains of course but none of the characters act always as expected. Some of the heroes are less than heroic and some of the villains also show redeeming virtues at times. Real life is no different. In reality we are both Hero and Villain in our own life story.

 

The “Heroes Journey” calls the protagonist to face his Shadow, overcome it and come out better from the experience. Along his Journey the Hero can also be a Villain and an Anti-Hero. This doesn’t only make for a good tale but it also develops character and provides an important lesson which is the purpose of myth.

 

Han Solo, Asajj Ventress, Boba Fett, Cade Bane, Lando Carlissian, Mace Windu, Quinlan Vos and Qui-Gon Jinn were neither all Hero nor all Villains. Each of the characters displayed attributes both good and bad. They were complex individuals who acted for reasons that seemed correct to them at the time. The Empire was not entirely bad either nor was the Republic entirely good. The Shadow was in everything. That is one of the gems of Lucas’s creation.

 

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-wan Kenobi

 

 

Living with the Shadow

The Skywalker family seemed utterly cursed. Anakin of course was haunted his entire life by the Shadow of Vader. Leia struggled with her own inner Demons. There was the perpetual conflict in Leia between a responsibility to her family and to her position. Luke was torn by his own inner doubts. On Dagobah he came face to face with his Dark Side in the Cave, a crucial part of his training. Luke confronted it again, for real, as his rage took decades later and he almost killed his nephew. Kylo Ren equally infected saw beauty and purpose in a nihilistic pursuit of power.

 

Yoda summoned his Shadow and overcame it allowing him to unify with the Force. Obi-wan Kenobi also invited his Shadow “out to play” and let it cut him down thus releasing him to also unify with the Force,

 

The best way to deal with your Dark Side is to face it, know it and accept it. Ignoring the Shadow does not work. Trying to kill the Shadow is impossible. We Alcoholics are often warned of the danger of the Ego. The Ego we are reminded has a tendency to become inflated. In time we lose our humility to Ego and allow ourselves to be led astray. In fact the much maligned Ego is not all bad. It is essential to our persona as long as we don’t let it get away from us. The Shadow on the over hand is the overlooked enemy if we let it dominate and control us.

 

“It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both” – Robert Louise Stephenson (Author of “Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde”)

 

Source: Star Wars (Luca Films)

 

Jeckyll and Hyde

Someone once told me that alcohol does nothing more than bring the real persona to the fore. That scared me because it meant that I was not a nice person. It also meant that I did not know myself at all.

 

If you knew me sober and then met me when I was drunk you would no longer know me. You would be confronted by a personality completely different to the individual you had previously met. The act of taking a drink had chemically altered my brain. After a single drink I was no longer the same person. One drink would lead to more drinks and the transformation would progress.

 

Eventually I would no longer resemble my sober self more than a passing physical resemblance. I resembled the duality of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde. Drunk I was as base, antisocial and destructive as Mr Hyde.

 

Eventually the Shadow began to take over my persona entirely.

 

“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

Three Steps

Look deep in to the soul of an Alcoholic in the later stage of addiction and you will see the Shadow staring back. The person you see is now the Shadow having completely taken over the person’s psyche. It is frightening if you pause to think about it. Even the Ego has been muted and forced down. The Ego needs the body to survive and won’t endanger it willingly. The Shadow does not care.

 

What remains in the late stage Alcoholic is the manifestation of something primal, desperate and nihilist. There is utter selfishness, anger, rage, self pity, self loathing, denial, indifference, resentment, grief and more than anything an urge that must be fulfilled at any cost. This is the Shadow. The only way out of the Shadow is through a spiritual cure.

 

In order to break from my Shadow I had to confront it through admission of my Alcoholism. My disease showed itself to me in all its detail. I saw clearly the harm I had caused to myself and others. I saw the past and the future laid out before me. The present moment stood still and I knew that I was on the edge of a great chasm.

My Shadow was laid bare before me. It was like I was detached from my body looking down at me and seeing myself for who I was for the first time. At that moment I turned to a Higher Power and asked it to take my burden. I became willing to let go without regret or reservation. In that moment I knew the shackles had been removed. I was free.

 

“In these ways, the personal shadow reinforces, encourages, and becomes dependent upon the addictive behavior to express itself, to have any existence in the light outside of the closet, the attic, and the basement where it has been locked up and hidden for so long.” – David Schoen “The War of the Gods in Addiction”.

 

 

The Journey

What I meant by a spiritual cure is not Divine Intervention but Faith in a Higher Power. The road to recovery for me had only begun at that moment. In order to express Faith I had to work. Self discipline and tenacity was necessary. Constant and honest introspection was required. I completed my personal inventory and admitted my faults and litany of wrongs to another and to my Higher Power. Little by little my Shadow began to dissipate becoming less black and dense. The spiritual burden I carried became lighter. I began to know myself more in weeks than I had in decades.

 

The process never ends. Daily introspection is required. Admit faults without hesitation. Seek to make amends where appropriate. Make a daily inventory and meditate on the Shadow often. Review, adapt, modify and improve continuously. Knowledge accumulates and wisdom follows.

 

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung

 

 

 

Integrate

Once you acknowledge and accept that life is suffering and you suffer you can begin to dissect the reasons why. It will come as no surprise to discover that much of our own suffering comes from our own choices. Many of those choices will be contrary to your stated principles, values and virtues. An Alcoholic must at last confront the Shadow which afflicts his life and struggle to overcome it. Only by accepting that reality and seeing things as they really are do we stand a chance. Paradoxically healing comes from integrating the Shadow in to our consciousness.

 

We must constantly question the paradigm we find ourselves in. Does it represent reality or a projection of your own psyche? We must also decide what our values are and the virtues we wish to demonstrate. Are your thoughts, habits and actions objective and in congruence with those stated principles, values and virtues?

 

A Jedi constantly questions his or her reality. A Jedi trusts her feelings because she knows they are valid. Jedi are never satisfied with appearances alone and delve deeper to uncover the truth discarding what is false or redundant. Jedi practices such as meditation, physical training, mindfulness, awareness, objective inquiry and self discipline all serve to keep a Jedi in reality. Cooperation, diplomacy, reasoned discourse and respect for others creates an environment incongruent to the Shadow. Jedi strive to uphold the Code.

 

Light repels shadows and only barriers that we construct with our own minds create them. Light offers clarity through knowledge while the Shadow conceals the truth. A Jedi is simply someone who knows who they are both good and bad, warts and all. They know and accept the Shadow and fully and mindfully integrate it.

 

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”  – Carl Gustav Jung

 

 

Being you

My friend found answers in his quest for knowledge through Ahuyuasca. In reality all he did was confront his Shadow and fully integrate it in to his being. This he did through acceptance and surrender to the experience. As a result all of the repressed memories and emotions he carried were released. From there he was able to walk away from the experience a free man at least for a time.

 

Isn’t freedom from suffering what we all seek?  Is it enough to confront the Shadow? Is a spiritual experience alone enough to reach self actualization and lasting serenity?

 

The attainment of virtue, clarity of purpose and wisdom should be the pillars we seek in life. This is the highway on the journey to enlightenment. By confronting the Shadow we come face to face with our Dark Side and knowing it we can better know ourselves. Knowing ourselves we can then begin to lighten the shadow and express what we repress. We invite our repressed feelings out to play. We integrate our Shadow in a constructive way rather than leave it buried deep within our psyche.

 

All our lives we are conditioned to be and act a certain way. We repress and hide aspects of ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge. Our persona is a mirror of what family, friends and society wants from us. The Shadow retains the hidden morass of repressed memories and emotions like the refuse and the beast in the garbage compactor on the Death Star. Embrace the aspects of the shadow that serve. Be you entirely not a second rate version, a mere shadow of yourself.

 

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Jung

 

 

*Authors Note: I do not personally endorse or recommend the use of Ahuyuasca or any other psychedelic drug without the full supervision of a competent practicing psychiatrist. There are many retreats in South America and elsewhere that offer Ahuyuasca ceremonies. Readers who are considering traveling to a retreat and using the drug should fully research the topic beforehand and seek medical advice prior to proceeding with the experience.

 

Further Reading

Related article on Star Wars.com: https://www.starwars.com/news/star-wars-in-mythology-the-shadow

Jung, C.G. (1969). Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious [sic], Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1), Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-09761-9