Social Anxiety and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

SAinEmpire

In part one of “Social Anxiety in Star Wars” I looked at Episode IV: A New Hope, and how using the Force (mindfulness and meditation) can help us overcome the Dark Side (social anxiety). Luke Skywalker was only briefly introduced to the powers of the Force in Episode IV. It wasn’t until Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back that Luke met the Jedi master Yoda, who taught him the full powers of the Force. So what can Yoda teach us about social anxiety? Find out we will.

YODA

All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.

Social anxiety comes from constantly thinking and worrying about the future. What people will think or say about us. The key is to keep our minds where we are–in the present moment.

YODA

A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger… fear… aggression. The dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice. 

In a fight, or in an ordinary social interaction, we feel fear. The Dark Side (social anxiety) flows through us, and it causes us to avoid that situation again. But if we continue down that path and always avoid any situation that causes us discomfort, then social anxiety will consume us. We must use the Force and confront our fear so it no longer has control over our destiny.

LUKE

Vader.  Is the dark side stronger?

YODA

No… no… no.  Quicker, easier, more seductive.

LUKE

But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

YODA

You will know.  When you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

The Dark Side (or social anxiety) may seem stronger than the Force (or mindfulness) but it is not. It is quicker and easier for our minds to jump to all the negative things that can happen, but we can train our minds with meditation to stay calm and at peace in the present.

LUKE

But tell me why I can’t…

YODA

No, no, there is no why.  Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions. Mmm.  Mmmmmmmm.

Luke continually questioning “why” is similar to socially anxious people always questioning “what if.” We consider every possible negative outcome of a social interaction. What if they think this because I say that? What if they don’t like what I say? What if… No, no, there is no what if. We need to clear our minds of these negative thoughts about every potential thing that others may think. We can’t know what others are thinking, so we need to stop worrying about it.

Yoda tells Luke to use the Force to lift the X-wing from the swamp, but he doubts he can do it.

YODA

So certain are you.  Always with you it cannot be done.  Hear you nothing that I say?

LUKE

Master, moving stones around is one thing.  This is totally different.

YODA

No!  No different!  Only different in your mind.  You must unlearn what you have learned.

We may think that social anxiety is impossible to overcome, but it is only in our minds. Social anxiety develops because of false ideas we have in our heads and prolonged avoidance. But we can unlearn the false ideas we’ve learned through cognitive behavioral therapy, and we can undo the effects of our avoidance through gradual exposure.

LUKE

All right, I’ll give it a try.

YODA

No!  Try not.  Do.  Or do not. There is no try.

Sometimes we fool ourselves by saying we’ll “try” to speak up and talk this time, but then we don’t. And that only adds to the avoidance, which makes it harder to speak the next time. Like Yoda says, we need to do, not try. If we speak up once, it will become easier and easier the following times.

Luke uses the Force and tries…

Slowly, the X-wing’s nose begins to rise above the water. It hovers for a moment and then slides back, disappearing once again.

LUKE

I can’t.  It’s too big.

YODA

Size matters not.  Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hm?  Mmmm.

Sometimes we may feel ashamed of our physical traits, such as our size, looks, or voice, etc. We fear that others will judge us for those physical defects, which fuels our social anxiety. But superficial stuff like that matters not. The physical traits that we hate so much about ourselves, others may not mind. They may not notice them. Or they may actually like them.

LUKE

You want the impossible.

Yoda raises the X-wing from the swamp.

LUKE

I don’t… I don’t believe it.

YODA

That is why you fail.

Luke failed to raise the X-wing from the swamp because he didn’t believe he could, just as we fail to overcome social anxiety because we don’t believe we can. We may think we can’t do it without some outside help or magic power, but we have the ability within ourselves. If we develop our confidence and self-esteem, social anxiety can be conquered.

YODA

Concentrate… feel the Force flow.  Yes.  Good.  Calm, yes.

For social anxiety, the force is being present. In the moment. Free from sadness over the past and free from anxiety over the future. Those things are out of our control. All that matters is now. When we concentrate on the present moment, we will feel the Force, be calm, and anxiety free.

LUKE

They were in pain.

YODA

It is the future you see.

LUKE

Future?  Will they die?

YODA

Difficult to see.  Always in motion is the future.

No one can predict the future, but that is exactly what we try to do with social anxiety. We think we know that others will react negatively to something we do or say, so we refrain from doing and saying it. But like Yoda, we can’t see the future. We don’t know that others will react negatively to something we do or say, so we shouldn’t be afraid to say or do it.

VADER

You are beaten.  It is useless to resist.

Darth Vader is the epitome of the Dark Side. He voices the negative things we say to ourselves in the depths of social anxiety–that we are beaten and it’s useless to try to overcome it. But just like Vader was wrong about Luke, we are often wrong about ourselves and capable of much more than we think. Luke got his hand cut off by Darth Vader’s lightsaber, but he still didn’t give up his fight against the Dark Side. No matter how low or hopeless we may feel about our social anxiety, we can always continue to fight it.

LUKE

Take care, you two.  May the Force be with you.

…and also with you.

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6 thoughts on “Social Anxiety and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

  1. Pingback: Social Anxiety in Movies | Tim Barry Jr.

  2. Pingback: Social Anxiety and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi | Tim Barry Jr.

  3. Pingback: Social Anxiety in Movies: Star Wars | Tim Barry Jr.

  4. Pingback: Social Anxiety in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace | Tim Barry Jr.

  5. Pingback: Social Anxiety and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones | Tim Barry Jr.

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