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OK, yes, I confess, I’m a Star Wars Nerd. Guilty as charged. There is a magic and a joy in these stories that sings to the Geek in me. 🙂 And one of the things that makes these stories especially interesting is a little green man named Yoda.

Yoda has some great things to say, both to his young apprentice Luke Skywalker and to the audience watching Luke’s adventures. I’m going to riff in this post on some of those pearls of wisdom because they pertain directly to our fight with anxiety. We’re going to go to Jedi Boot Camp today, so dig out your lightsaber and fire up your X-wing Fighter – we’re making time with Master Yoda.

The Biography of One Master Yoda

I’m assuming that most of you already know this wise green soul, but here’s a quick summary of this character’s life and credentials. Yoda is a smallish creature belonging to a race that’s never identified in the stories. He is simply Yoda or Master Yoda. He is 800 years old, more or less, and he is a true Jedi Knight – a master of the Force, a mysterious energy that gives him great power and strength.

But that isn’t the most interesting thing about Yoda, interestingly enough. He is also the very definition of Zen Calm. Now don’t get me wrong. Just because he’s so Zen-like doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry. Baby, he gets angry. But he’s very clear about the limits of anger, or indeed any emotion. He has mastered his emotions because he understands that emotions come from thought, and his emotions are his servant, not his master.

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In fact, Yoda contends, that to be a Master of the Force it is vital to be in control of your emotions, and not the other way around. Which sets me up for my second Yoda quote (the first is the title of this blog post):

Fear is the Path to the Dark Side

In the Star Wars universe there are two kinds of Force Masters – the Jedi, and those that have turned to the Dark Side. Why do we care? Because those Dark Side Force people have one thing in common: they have let fear and anger take control of their lives.

Yikes. Sounds a lot like being an anxiety fighter, yes? We become an unwilling prisoner of our feelings and anxiety’s physical reactions, then flail around, trying to get free of those feelings and sensations, and knocking over a few lamps, people and other things in the process.

We don’t have to go to the Dark Side. And, in the Star Wars universe, even if you DO go to the Dark Side you can always come back out again. You are NOT doomed to stay there – unless you let your fear and anger continue to control you.

That’s a big thing in Star Wars – fear being the path to the Dark Side. It also spends some time talking about how easy it can to fear run away with us – unless we’re paying attention.

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Named Must your Fear be before Banish it you can!

HOW do we escape the Dark Side? We have to name our fears. We can’t fight what we can’t clearly see or get our arms around. (For some recommendations on how to name your fears see the posts HERE and HERE.) This is how the evil Emperor, himself a victim of the Dark Side, controls Luke’s father, another Force Master and the character we know as Darth Vader.

Darth doesn’t realize that he is even being controlled, at least not for a long time. He thinks he is in charge of his life, until events make it clear that in fact his life is out of control. He thinks he has good reasons to be angry and afraid, but only late in the stories does he come to understand that in letting his fear control his thinking and his life he has wreaked havoc in his life.

In Fear Mastery language naming our fears is identifying as clearly as we can the what if thinking that is making us anxious in the first place. What if someone doesn’t like me? What if my life is slipping away? What if I can’t find success? What if I never find true love? What if I’m not attractive enough?

All of these call us to the Dark Side – the place of endless analysis, endless telling over of our fears, endless futile attempts to “solve” crises that are not crises at all.

Identify what we’re running from and see it for what it is – a problem, a set of problems, even a set of urgent problems – but not a crisis. See through Flight or Fight’s reactions to our fearful thinking. Break the cycle of worry and fear and anger. Thus we begin to escape the Dark Side…

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Do, or Do Not. There is no Try.

How do we do this? We just lean in and start doing it. We suck at it in the beginning. We fight it like hell. We fall down and get up again. And again. And again. We flee and we come back. We yell and cry and shout at the heavens that we can’t do this work – then we get up and do some more.

One of Yoda’s most famous lines is the heading of this blog post section. Yoda is dismissive of trying. “I’m trying!” Luke cries, and Yoda doesn’t buy it. Either we’re doing or we’re not doing.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t take self-care breaks. Sometimes we have pity parties. Sometimes we stomp our feet and pout. That’s OK too. All part of the work. The point is we COME BACK TO THE WORK.

We expect frustration. We expect days where nothing seems to be happening. We anticipate that it will sometimes feel we’re even back to square one. This is the case for every skill anyone learns.

And it is so tempting, some days, to just want to give up, to go back to the familiar pattern of running away from our fears and how they make us feel. The answer? Keep doing. Either we’re doing or we’re not doing. There is no try.

Strong in the Force you Are…

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I have written before in this blog just how strong and stubborn anxiety fighters are – much stronger and much more stubborn than most of us consciously understand. We are all, in Star Wars terms, Jedi-Knights-in-training, and we each have the power to break anxiety’s hold in our lives.

That can be hard to believe sometimes. Anxiety is so good at undermining our self-confidence, our thinking, making us doubt ourselves and our abilities. But here’s some good news: we don’t have to believe it right now.

All we have to do is drive the practice and the regular work getting clear on our fears and shifting that thinking from crisis to problem. Like any Jedi we won’t master the skills we need overnight. Long will the days of training be (at least they will feel long to us) and we will wrestle with self-doubt and the convulsions of Flight or Fight as we face our fears and prove to ourselves that we are the master of them.

Believe, increasing self-confidence and better and better skill at not making problems/issues into crisis thinking will come with time and practice. So gird up your loins, Jedi-to-be! The Force is strong with you – and with all of us.

One Last Yoda Quote before I go –

Yoda says to his young apprentice this thing: “you must unlearn what you have learned.” YES. We have to, HAVE to see anxiety as a set of thinking responses we LEARNED early and deeply. But as the Master Jedi points out anything we learn we can unlearn, and learn differently.

Anxious thinking is a learned thing. We can learn new ways to think, new ways to map what makes us anxious and take back our thinking.

So – are you ready to come out of the Dark Side? Dust off that lightsaber, gas up the X-wing fighter and get ready to face down your fears? This is work each of us can do – for we are all Jedi, if we will do the work.

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