Why Darth Vader Needs Therapy
In the Pantheon of Jungian archetypes there’s no one like him. He’s the most emulated, feared, revered, and celebrated bad guy of all time. Carl Jung himself could not have envisioned a more perfect archetypal father figure for the modern day dad. Tapping into both our unconscious minds and social conscious awareness, Carl Jung based his theories of archetypes on psycho-social patterns within the universe. Fitting then that the ultimate archetype from modern day pop culture comes from a galaxy, far, far away. Back in Jung’s time, Apollo, Loki, the wise old man, and the shadow were the popular archetypes with which people identified. In modern therapeutic practices, archetypes are mainly derived from pop culture, rather than mythological imagery, and since they dwell in our unconscious minds, we are rarely aware they even exist at all. A grown man watching the Walking Dead for example, may channel his inner “Rick Grimes” when he encounters a difficult decision or social injustice, without even knowing he is in fact projecting the behavioral traits of that character. As a therapist working with families and children I often use pop culture archetypes as points of reference for my clients. “You can be Spiderman with your friends, but Peter Parker in class” type of comparisons. The duality of many modern day archetypes and comic book heroes is what makes them so appealing.
As for Darth Vader, he is the father, the shadow, the wise old man all rolled into one, and his children, the Luke Skywalker’s of the world are so frequently mis-diagnosed because of it. It seems as though every child today has some behavioral or mental health diagnosis. ADHD, RAD, DMDD, and ODD are among the most prevalent acronyms of the day. Decades ago, it was considered rare for a child to have any of these diagnoses, yet in today’s ramped up, fast paced and hungry for answers world, one in every five kids has one. “My child doesn’t listen”, “My kid can’t sit still”, “They’re all over the place” are among the common complaints that usually lands a child in a chair across from a mental health professional.
Yet, we as a society rarely associate a causality of rebellious behavior with a child’s diet, environment, or innate developmental traits. Kids are at some point going to be naturally rebellious towards their parents. Now add 100 grams of sugar, technological over-stimulation, lack of exercise or recess time, and overcrowded classrooms to the equation and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s mainly a societal dilemma because we as parents are finding that we have less and less time to spend with our kids then we did in past generations. With the concept of the nuclear family and such antiquated rituals as family meal time eroding away, we as a society, are left with an overburdening number of questions, such as: “What’s wrong with my kids?” The thing is, there’s no easy answer. While a diagnosis is a step closer to a piece of mind for many parents, it is only the first tiny step along the therapeutic process, and it’s neither a substitute for quality family time, nor an answer in the sense that merely the therapeutic treatment of the diagnosis is essentially a cure.
Darth Vader at some point probably thought the same thing many modern day parents are thinking, “Why won’t my son listen to me?” “Why does he rebel against authority?” Look at his friends; they’re all criminals (Han Solo, Lando), mangy and unintelligible (Chewbacca), weirdos (R2D2), who think they know better than everybody else (C3PO). While this can be a cause for concern, a naturally rebellious and difficult child or adolescent is actually a healthy step towards independence. This is not to discount or discredit an ODD diagnosis, but merely to point out that even if your child does suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder, there may be a lot you as a parent can do at home to sway them to the dark side- so to speak.
Psycho-education for parents is just as important as the therapeutic piece for children, in that it empowers the parent and encourages communication between the child and adult. As a child therapist, I often find that simply monitoring their sugar intake and encouraging play can reduce the symptoms associated with ODD. Every parent I’ve talked to says they try and limit their kids sugar intake, but a recent study done by the psychology department of Yale University, showed that kids in America are consuming five times the amount of sugar then the recommended amount of 4 teaspoons a day. And while cutting out candy and sweets may seem obvious, just one 32-ounce Gatorade has the complete daily amount of sugar suggested for a healthy diet. One lemon San-Pelligrino has 32 grams of sugar, over twice the daily limit suggested for children by the American Heart Association. To find the true effects of sugar on your child’s brain, just Google it and see for yourself.
When your child runs upstairs and slams the door screaming, “I’ll never be like you!”, I’m reminded of Luke Skywalker hanging off the antennae in the Bespin Cloud City, screaming the same thing, much to Darth’s disappointment. But if Darth Vader, could come in for a session once in awhile, and search inside himself, while Luke does the same, then maybe they could both avoid chopping each other’s arms off with light-sabers.