Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind edited by TRAVIS LANGLEY

A movie called Star Wars took our world by surprise. Four years before it would be rereleased with the subtitle A New Hope, George Lucas’s ambitious “space opera” combined many kinds of storytelling in a sprawling sci-fi setting and quickly became the most successful movie ever made to date.

This essay collection offers a fascinating psychological analysis of the compelling and complex universe of George Lucas’s richly rendered Star Wars series. A group of expert contributors examines such topics as family ties, Jedi qualities, masculinity, girl power, and the values embodied in both the “dark” and “light” sides of this psychologically spellbinding world.

If you are a Star Wars fan (like me), you’d probably be interested in anything to do with the franchise and would have probably purchased this book to see what psychological ailments afflict the main characters. The book is quite well written but it’s pretty low-level psycho-analysis and it doesn’t go into any groundbreaking details about the characters.

darthvader-screengrab.jpgI liked the Darth Vader chapter and how he wasn’t actually a psychopath but more of an evil person.

Psychopathic qualities are insufficient to account for the range of evil, though. Simply lacking empathy does not necessarily mean that a sociopath delights in harming others. Some psychopathic individuals (whether psychopaths or sociopaths) can become productive members of society, channeling their fearlessness and lack of inhibition into constructive activities. The so-called James Bond personality refers to a high-functioning individual with some psychopathic traits, subclinical narcissism (being egotistical but not malignantly so), and Machiavellianism (being pragmatic and manipulative)

Written by a team of doctors, experts, and mega fans, Star Wars Psychology dissects the themes and topics of the movies while relating them back to scientific and social concepts. Many of the articles also use Star Wars to illustrate examples of psychological and sociological theory. This book is sure to appeal to people who love Star Wars and/or psychology buffs. While some of the theses proposed by some of these essays are those I’ve heard before or are obvious, others might make you see Star Wars in a whole new light.

The virtues of the Jedi

image.jpgWhereas the DSM categorizes and describes mental illnesses, positive psychologists developed the Character Strengths and Virtues manual (CSV) to identify people’s better qualities scientifically. The list of virtues looks much like a path to becoming a Jedi:

• Wisdom and knowledge.
• Courage.
• Humanity.
• Justice.
• Temperance.
• Transcendence.

The Jedi Masters teach their Padawans from an early age to quiet their minds in order to be able to connect with the Force. This connection with the Force is a form of mindfulness, which refers to paying attention to the present moment on purpose, without judgment or distraction.5 It turns out that the Jedi might have been onto something. Jedi or not, mindfulness has many physical and psychological benefits

Most would probably look at this book and categorize it as “pop psych”, a well-researched and professionally written book of essays intended to be devoured by the legions of Star Wars geeks everywhere. I am part of that group. It’s an OK read but by no means something that I would read again.

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