I see that Anakin Skywalker plays a central role in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
There is something beautiful in how Anakin is written The prequels show his journey from a gifted and innocent child and youth to someone who – through loss and trauma – descends into bitterness, resentment, and hatred. Darth Vader isn’t just a regular villain and evil character. He was the boy Anakin who later became Darth Vader through how he responded to his own loss and pain.
THE ARCHETYPES OF STAR WARS
The original Star Wars trilogy was explicitly written around archetypes, especially Luke’s hero’s journey, and that’s one reason it resonates so widely.
These archetypes mirror universal parts and dynamics in each of us in a clear and simple way that brings out their essence. We are fascinated by these stories because, somewhere in us, we want to better get to know these sides of ourselves.
WHERE DOES THE FASCINATION COME FROM?
We may be fascinated with archetype-rich stories for a couple of different reasons.
The fascination may be built into us through evolution. Fascination with archetype-rich stories helps us to get to know more about these universal human dynamics, and that gives us a survival advantage. It helps us relate to them more consciously when we meet them in the world or in ourselves.
We are also inherently whole, whether we notice it or not. Our mind seeks to bring this wholeness into consciousness. One way that happens is through a fascination with what appears as “other” while it’s in reality us. And archetype-rich stories are an especially good way for us to learn more about universal dynamics and how they may play out in our life and in ourselves.
A third reason, which rests on the two other, is that all (?) human cultures emphasize archetypal stories. We grow up with fairy tales, mythology, and other classic archetypal stories. This may even further encourage our inherent draw to these stories.
ANAKIN & JUDAS
I’ll focus on Anakin’s journey to Darth Vader here, and Darth Vader’s redemption, and leave out the other archetypal dynamics in Star Wars.
For me, Anakin is an example of how we sometimes respond to our pain in a way that hurts ourselves and others.
In the case of Anakin, he indulged in hurt, anger, and reactivity. And when this becomes extreme, some like to label it “evil”. (I don’t find it a useful label.)
Judas is a similar figure. He is an image of how we all sometimes react to our own hurt and pain by betraying our inherent kindness, clarity, and wisdom. Judas betrayed Jesus. We sometimes betray our own clarity and wisdom by how we react to our own pain.
And there is no lack of these types of figures from fiction and history. Sometimes, they are presented as just inherently evil. Other times, we are presented with a background story that presents their journey from a relatively healthy person to one who indulges in reactivity to their own pain.
ANAKIN SKYWALKER & DARTH VADER
Anakin’s story shows us what happens when we respond to our pain with reactivity, and specifically bitterness, victimhood, and so on. We all do this, sometimes and in typically less dramatic ways.
And Darth Vader is both an example of how it looks when we live from this, and that we always have an opportunity to turn it around. He turned it around at the very end of his life. He chose to meet his pain and respond to it differently, in a more honest and vulnerable way.
HOW WE RESPOND TO OUR PAIN
We can respond to our emotional pain in two general ways.
We can react to the pain. This can feel good at the moment. And it’s really a distraction from the pain, it tends to create more pain, and it also reinforces the habit of reacting to pain.
And we can befriend our pain, which invites healing for how I relate to it (reinforces a habit of befriending instead of reacting to) and it invites healing for the pain itself.
When we react to our pain, we seek to distract ourselves from the pain. And the best way to ensure distraction is to go into compulsions and a pattern of indulging. We can be compulsive about and indulge in just about anything: Work. Status. Perfection. Sex. Relationships. Entertainment. Food. Anger. Sadness. Ideologies. (Political ideologies, conspiracy theories, etc.) Spirituality. Awakening. Healing. Religion. Victimhood. Blame. Bigotry. And so on.
A MIRROR FOR OURSELVES
Anakin and Judas and a wide range of similar figures from fiction and history are a mirror for ourselves.
What stories do I have about each of these? What do I find when I turn that story back to myself? Can I find genuine examples of how and when it’s true?
How do I react to my own pain in a way that hurts myself and others? In what situations have I done it? Can I find specific examples?
How is it to befriend my pain instead of reacting to it? How is it to explore this when the pain is milder and I am in a supportive setting of exploring how to befriend it? How is it to support and deepen a new pattern in how I respond to my pain?
This is an ongoing process, and it’s important to have some compassion for ourselves in this exploration. Many of us are trained to react to our pain instead of befriending it, at least when it comes to some types of pain and in some situations. It’s often an ingrained pattern, and something we have learned from family and culture.
How is it to befriend any reactions in me when I notice I still sometimes react to my pain instead of befriending it?
SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE IT FOR OURSELVES
Most or all of the approaches I write about in these articles can be used to explore this for ourselves.
We can use tonglen, ho’oponopono, and forms of prayer to shift how we relate to this in ourselves and others. We can shift how we relate to our own pain, and what triggers our pain.
We can use inquiry to examine our beliefs about our own pain, and what triggers our pain, and find what’s more true for us. (The Work of Byron Katie.)
We can explore how our mind – largely through associating mental representations with sensations – creates its experience of all of this, including the identities we create around it. (Traditional Buddhist inquiry, Living Inquiries / Kiloby Inquiries.)
We can engage in dialog with these parts of ourselves. We can listen to what they have to say and how they experience the world and us. We can help them see things in a way more aligned with reality. We can learn to recognize them as parts and relate to them more consciously. And so on.
We can find our nature and what we are in our first-person experience. This helps us recognize all of this as coming and going and living its own life, and it’s not what we more fundamentally are. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.) Read More