Psychoanalysis and the Jedi: A New ID

saber Ever since the first episode of Star Wars came out in 1977 I’ve been fascinated by the struggle between the dark side of the force and the “good” side. As a psychiatrist with an interest in psychoanalytic theory, I find myself thinking about this struggle in terms of our individual struggles with our own conscious wishes and unconscious impulses and fantasies.

I’ve always been struck by the movies’ fear of the dark side of the force, and the fear of “giving in” to the dark side. It sounds a lot to me like a fear of losing control if unconscious fantasies came to light. The conscious mind (we call it the Ego) and the unconscious mind (we call the Id) are in a state of constant interaction. Through defenses that are controlled both by our conscious will and some that act through unconscious action, the flow between the Ego and the Id are managed and regulated. Sometimes we are aware of the interaction between the two and often times we are not. Analysis of the defenses can help the analyst and patient get closer to the id, or the unconscious, and become aware of unconscious fantasies, wishes and impulses.

There seems to be a popular myth behind the fear of the dark side of the force. The myth seems to be that “giving in to” anger will result in a loss of the self and loss of control. The movies seem to give the impression that anger and negative feelings have no useful value and will only lead to the loss of everything good.

The psychoanalytic interpretation would be that denying anger would limit access to parts of the self. Denying anger would then deny the Jedi an opportunity to experience their full selves. The real problem, as I see it, is that force users living in the dark side have given up access to any good part of themselves, and have been consumed only by their anger and rage. A truly balanced Jedi would then have access to their own anger and rage, but would also have access to everything else as well. In other words, to have true balance, one would be able to experience everything in the unconscious mind or the id and then be able to utilize it consciously.

To block off the impulses of the id would be to drive them out of conscious awareness and have them show up in behavior and actions that are outside of conscious awareness. That would result in the loss of contact with one’s feelings, and would make the capacity to “feel” the force impossible. The Sith, then, is a broken self. They have a fragmented conscious mind (or Ego) and are acting purely on impulse. The movies’ focus on avoiding anger speaks to the rest of us, neither Sith nor Jedi, who have a limited capacity to “feel” and be guided by feelings.  The Jedi, in contrast, would be a character with full access to feelings which would then include anger.

I think it is a mistake to think that Jedi using anger to guide them in combat are making use of “the dark side”. I think it is better to say that Jedi use all of themselves which would include all of their feelings. That is something to aspire to.

— Stephen M. Taylor, M. D.