A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Star Wars isn’t the first movie you think of for social anxiety. No character in the series actually suffers from shyness or has difficulty speaking—unless you count R2D2 and Chewbacca. However, Star Wars does have a message we can use, considering the Force (mindfulness) and the Dark Side (social anxiety).
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Written and Directed by: George Lucas
BEN (OBI-WAN) KENOBI
Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.
Mindfulness is being conscious of the present moment and aware of our surroundings. That guy we pass on the street…that girl we have a crush on at school…our friends…our family…we’re all a part of the same galaxy, not so far, far away. We shouldn’t view them as the “other” and fear them. We need to use the Force to realize they are ordinary living beings just like us, who have their own fears and anxieties.
Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.
The Dark Side, or social anxiety, comes from not being mindful of the present moment. We worry about what to say in the future or regret what we said in the past. Or worry about what others will/have think/said about/to us. To ease anxiety and have a clear mind, we need to stay on the light side of the Force, which is the present moment.
I can’t get involved! I’ve got work to do! It’s not that I like the Empire. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right now. It’s such a long way from here.
We may know that we have social anxiety, and not like it, but we falsely believe there’s nothing we can do about it. We believe it will take too much work to overcome our social anxiety, and we don’t have enough time, so we don’t bother trying. But that’s not true. If one poor farm boy from Tatooine can destroy the Empire and save the galaxy, we can overcome social anxiety. Once we learn the ways of the Force (mindfulness), all it takes is incremental steps of Jedi training (exposure) to keep the Dark Side (social anxiety) at bay.
These are not the droids your looking for.
These are not the droids we’re looking for.
He can go about his business.
You can go about your business.
Move along. Move along.
Jedi mind tricks = speaking confidently. Often times, with social anxiety, we speak in questions, afraid to make declarative statements. It’s hard to win over friends and significant others that way. If we speak with confidence and look people in their eyes, it will work like Jedi mind tricks on them and they will be more apt to listen to what we have to say.
The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. You will find it a powerful ally.
In a way, social anxiety is like being weak-minded and falling for Jedi mind tricks—except the Jedi pulling the mind tricks on us is ourselves. The voice inside our heads feeds us negative and anxious thoughts about ourselves and others, and we believe them because we don’t know any better. We haven’t learned the ways of the Force yet. The problem with social anxiety is that we don’t even realize we are having these negative thoughts. Once we learn to use the Force, (through mindfulness) we will start to recognize when we are pulling Jedi mind tricks on ourselves, and then we will no longer fall for them.
Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.
You mean it controls your actions?
Partially. But it also obeys your commands.
When we learn the Force and become mindful, we will become aware of our thoughts. Once mindful of our thoughts, we can then learn to ignore the negative ones that cause social anxiety. Then we will have better control of our actions because we have a clear mind, focused on the present moment.
It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.
I used to think meditation was hippie nonsense, just like Han Solo. But after trying meditation myself, I’ve recognized its powerful effect. In a way, meditation is a simple trick—just training your mind to be more conscious of your thoughts. It’s simple in concept, but difficult in practice. Luke Skywalker didn’t become a Jedi master overnight. He needed practice and training with the Force, as do we with mindfulness and meditation.
This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.
With the blast shield down, I can’t even see. How am I supposed to fight?
Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.
With social anxiety, our eyes don’t deceive us, but our mind deceives what we see, through false interpretation. We take other people’s physical actions, eye movements, and looks toward us as negative, when in reality, they may not be. We also often believe that we look worse than we actually are. And we think that our nervous shaking, stuttered speech, and other signs of anxiety appear worse than they actually are.
I call it luck.
In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.
We may think that confident extroverted people who are free of social anxiety are simply lucky and were born that way. And we believe that we are unlucky to be born shy and anxious. But it’s not all luck. Confident people have acted in ways throughout their lives to suppress the Dark Side (social anxiety), just as we’ve acted in ways to enhance it. But no matter how deep entrenched in the Dark Side of social anxiety we are, we can always turn to the light side of the Force—just ask Darth Vader.
Who’s the more foolish… the fool or the fool who follows him?
We shouldn’t think of ourselves as fools just because we have a socially anxious thought, such as, No one cares what I have to say, so why bother saying it? We are only fools when we believe our foolish thoughts and act on them. If we have a negative thought, we can use the Force (mindfulness) to notice it, then dismiss it as false.
Your powers are weak, old man.
You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
The voice inside our head may say that we are weak and have no chance to overcome shyness and social anxiety. But just like Darth Vader, our thoughts are wrong. We can strike our social anxiety down to an extent that we are able to do powerful things that our former shy selves couldn’t possibly have imagined. It begins with the Force (mindfulness) then takes consistent Jedi training (exposure).
While Luke is flying his x-wing around the death star…
Use the Force, Luke… Let go, Luke.
To use the Force and be mindful, we need to let go of our preconceived misconceptions of social anxiety from the past and be present in the moment. To make a “one in a million shot” and hit a tiny exhaust port on a giant Death Star, we need to let go and be present and focused—not dwelling on mistakes from the past or worrying about situations in the future. It’s difficult to remain mindful and present at all times, but a daily practice of meditation can help.
Remember, the Force will be with you… always.
It’s takes years of training to become a Jedi master, just as it takes a lot of practice to be a meditation master. Meditation is something that can’t really ever be truly mastered. But if we make meditation a daily practice, then it will be with us later when we may find ourselves in a social situation that causes anxiety. At that point, we shouldn’t be thinking about mindfulness and meditation. “The Force” will be with us without us having to think about it.
So how can you learn the ways of the Force? Here are some of the Jedi masters that helped me:
Arm yourself with lightsabers (apps):
These are just a few resources—there are thousands more available online for free. Every Jedi has a unique fighting style, so try different kinds of meditation and see what works.
May the Force be with you.