WARNING: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow. Read at your own risk if you haven’t yet seen the movie.
When I was 9 and my sister 6 years old, a group of kids from the elementary school we’d just begun attending followed us home. They called us names and threatened physical harm. The intimidation escalated a week later as the girls chased us to our front door demanding we fight them. They tried to break in through windows where we stood defending ourselves with bug spray.
My sister and I told our mom, who paid a prompt visit to the children’s home to put a stop to the bullying. Their mother pushed and threatened to punch my mom who attempted to address the matter civilly. Later I learned that this same parent used physical violence daily to not only discipline her kids but to vent her frustrations and solve interpersonal disputes.
I cannot recall how the situation was resolved; I only know the confrontations ceased in our case (though not with our peers). The experience changed the way I perceived bullies, however. Every time I crossed paths with those kids in school, I felt sorry for them. They never seemed happy, and teachers didn’t seem fond of them. Eventually they were expelled due to continued misconduct. I saw through their inflated postures and defensiveness and sensed their pain.
This became the lens through which I viewed human behavior. I understood that almost no one is innately horrid. [i] Dig deeper into those who commit atrocities towards others, and you’ll find most perpetrators feel somehow afraid and unlovable. This doesn’t mean we tolerate nefariousness—that’s what healthy boundaries and a justice system focused on rehabilitation (preferably one like Norway’s) can address.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” —John Lennon
Part one of this article began exploring how we can end millennia of war and today’s increasing polarization between the light and the dark, as depicted in the Star Wars saga, including its most recent, The Last Jedi.
First, we realize that all humans have within us both light and dark. We see this in Episode V, Empire Strikes Back, when hero and Light warrior Luke Skywalker gives into his anger when fighting Darth Vader and consequently loses a hand. Shortly after, Darth Vader, the galaxy’s most villainous character after the Emperor, succumbs to the pull of empathy by saving his son’s life.
Second, with regard to nature vs. nurture, we understand that most who act like scoundrels are not born; they’re created. [i] (Read part one to understand this further.)
For centuries, we’ve seen each other as other. Each of us perceives at least one person or group as opposite us, a threat, someone with whom to compete or to overcome. But what if we experimented with the notion that we’re all the same fundamentally, connected by the heroism of being human, our imperfection, our power and our frailty, our love and desire to be loved, and in our fear of losing love or of being unlovable?
“To condemn you would be to condemn me, and we are the same. ” —Garret John Loporto, How You Change People, Wayseer.org
If there is someone whom you despise, can you at least acknowledge that “the Force” is within each of us and all that lives (in the plant kingdom, animal kingdom, etc)? Recall the Hindu greeting Namaste, meaning I bow to the divine in you. It doesn’t mean you have to like those to whom you nod inwardly.
Once you’ve got that down, consider the ways in which you’ve participated in harming those you scorn, perhaps not personally but people who remind you of them. Let’s consider some of the most obvious recipients since these are the object of worldwide focus.
U.S. President Donald Trump demands hefty doses of attention, praise, and validation, while his former rival, First Lady, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, stands accused of dishonesty and corruption. Might there be someone in your life whom you’ve coddled or idealized, used to feel safe and loved or to build yourself up? Whom have you belittled for being authentic, attacked for being vulnerable, or teased for not measuring up to impossible standards? Whom have you emotionally or mentally hurt or neglected in the past?
We’ve all engaged in these types of behaviors. Waste not energy on self-blame or guilt. Rather, let’s take responsibility for the ways in which we can foster healing and bring our planet back into balance and harmony.
We could begin with the ancient Hawaiian prayer or mantra, Ho’oponopo, used traditionally to heal relationships between two or more people. It can also be used privately to heal your relationship with and forgive yourself or to send an intention to heal past hurts and traumas between you and another person or group.
It goes like this:
Please forgive me.
I’m so sorry.
I love you.
Don’t force it. Notice your emotional response. Is there resistance? If so, then simply say it to yourself. Be patient and kind with yourself. Let this be a practice, a journey.
Kylo: Did you come back to say you forgive me? To save my soul?
[Kylo advances, drawing his lightsaber. Luke defends with his, and they fight.]
Luke: I failed you, Ben. I’m sorry.
You may also enjoy this guided version.
Worldwide conflict will not end long-term until we’ve resolved the battle between light and dark within ourselves. It’s much easier to love our enemies, so to speak, when we’ve healed and learned to love ourselves.
Another favorite practice of mine is metta bhavana or loving-kindness mediation. For 15 or 20 minutes, breathe gently and recite the following to yourself:
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer danger.
May I be free from suffering and healthy in body and mind.
May I be happy and at ease.
Feel each word and experience its effects in this now-moment. When you are full, either in this session or in a future one, extend the prayer to others, changing the “I” to “you” or “they.” Practice first on someone whom you love easily, until you feel able to pray for a national or world leader or someone you’ve labeled foe, for whom you struggle to find compassion.
May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer danger.
May you be free from suffering and healthy in body and mind.
May you be happy and at ease.
Prefer a guided meditation? Try this one.
Notice over time how your attitude towards others changes. You may even begin effortlessly to treat others with radical kindness.
What happens when someone’s poor behavior is met with grace instead of the shunning or criticism they expect? It confuses them. It even rewires their brain. If this occurs repeatedly, they begin to see themselves in a more positive light. Depending on the individual and how deep their wounds, it could take between a few days and an entire lifetime. Try not to think about how long the road ahead. Consider the power you have to in each interaction to make just a tiny bit of difference.
You have the power, with your love, to alchemize fear and hate and to light up the world, putting a stop to the cycle of fight, win-lose, peace, and more fighting. And don’t forget: you’re not the only real-life Jedi. There are thousands of us around the world who have chosen once and for all to put down our lightsabers and open our hearts. We don’t have to convince everyone. We need only to tip the scales.
That’s an ending I’d like to see in the Star Wars saga’s Episode IX. Does anyone have access to (and could share this with) J. J. Abrams?
—Allison Brunner, LCSW, Body Talks Therapy
[i] Oxford University Research Psychologist Kevin Dutton argues that between .75% and 1% of the human population is born with untreatable psychopathy or brain abnormalities precluding the Hannibal Lectors of the world from feeling empathy or remorse. For the purposes of this article, we’ve focused on the remaining 99% to 99.25%. As noted above, though, this is all about tipping the scales.