The Psychology of Star Wars

Star Wars on the couch

As a psychologist and Star Wars fan, I always wanted to write something about the psychology of Star Wars. I wouldn’t be the first one to apply psychological principles to popular culture and probably not the last. One could write a whole book about the subject but I hope my short essay will capture some of the main themes present in the Star Wars movies. I might make use of some elements of the more recent films, but I will mainly concentrate on the three “first movies”: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.

I think the Star Wars universe is influenced by many cultural, social and philosophical ideas. I personally think that Jungian analytic psychology has some interesting concepts that can be applied to the Star Wars universe. Jung was especially interested in how myths, religion and dreams influence the human psyche and, what he called, the collective unconscious. This is therefore a first sketch of a psychology of Star Wars.

The psychology of Star Wars
The psychology of Star Wars | Source

A world of light against darkness

The Star Wars universe is a Manichean world. Manichaeism was a philosophy and religion in ancient Persia that believed in a constant struggle between light (good) and darkness (evil). This religion has influenced many others such as Christianism and Islam (God vs. Satan, Paradise vs. Hell). Manicheans believed that there should be a balance between the two poles (each represented by a god). This philosophy also believes that human beings are also inhabited by this struggle.

You can see that Star Wars really fits with these ideas. On the one side we have the rebellion – the force for good – against the forces of evil – the Empire. This is also visually very explicit in the films. For example, both Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are all in white in “A New Hope” as Darth Vader is all in black.

The visual symbolism is also extended to Star Wars spacecrafts. The X and Y wings of the rebellion are white as the fighters of the Empire are all back.

Finally there is the opposition of the invisible powers present in the universe: the force has to sides, the “light side” and the “dark side”. This just confirms the duality between light and darkness that is strongly present in Star Wars.

Star Wars Archetypes

According to Jung, archetypes are universal personality patterns and traits that appear frequently and can be observed across different cultures. We all have different archetypes within us. Archetypes are helpful in analyzing fictional characters as popular culture generally creates characters that are very archetypal.

Princess Leia (animus) & Luke Skywalker (anima)
Princess Leia (animus) & Luke Skywalker (anima) | Source

Anima & Animus

Anima (male) and Animus (female) are two sides of our psyche that are complementary. The “couple” Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia represents this archetype. We learn that they are brother and sister that emphasis the close relation between animus and anima. They are almost inseparable in the trilogy in the fight against the dark side.

Yoda represents the wise old man archetype
Yoda represents the wise old man archetype | Source

The wise old man

In Jungian psychology, the wise old man emerges when individuals have “resolved” their unconscious conflicts. It represents the wise part of our personality that looks after us like a Guardian.

Undoubtedly, Yoda represents the wise old man archetype in Star Wars. He is described as someone who has managed to master the force and has a deep understanding of the difficult internal conflicts that are on the path of a novice Jedi; mainly the struggle between the light and dark side of the force.

The cave scene is a good representation of Luke's shadow

The shadow

The shadow is the archetype that represents the dark side of our personality that is unconscious. The shadow is all the “unwanted” parts of us. It affects us in our lives without us realizing it. Feelings that we don’t want pass into the shadow.

I think Darth Vader represents this archetype. We need to remember that it is anger and grief that pushes him towards the dark side of the force. He also represents all the negative aspects which Luke has to fight against. Lets remember Luke’s experience in the cave in the empire strikes back. When he strikes Darth Vader, he sees his on face roll. It becomes clear that Darth Vader represents Luke’s shadow. What he fears to become.

The trickster

This archetype is best represented by the emperor in Star Wars. The trickster is a mischievous character that uses deceits and trickery to attain his goals. The way the emperor attracts Anakin Skywalker to the dark side or the way he tricks the rebellion in the return of the Jedi are good examples of this archetype.

These are few of the archetypes present in Star Wars. There are many more, some represented by the other main characters such as Han Solo or the droids or some of the minor characters. But this will be for another hub.

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Comments 3 comments

NervousPuppy profile image

NervousPuppy 4 years ago from Sussex, UK.

There are several connections between Star Wars & Jung.

For example, A 'L'earner in Jungian psychology - leads to the word - Junglian. Jung divided the mind into 4 parts. True 'depth' psychology begins with the 4th part. Something else begins at part 4 in the Junglian outback.

One of Jungs greatest guides was exploring similarities between religions.

He once said that they are all the same.

In the West Indies there is a religion Obi.

Ken - means insight.

To place the word 'insight' between two words for 'Religion'

(as a crossword writer) Equates to 'Insight into Religion'.

Darth Vader is his darkest quarter (ie- Most unconcious part of the mind.)

Darth removes his mask & then dies. Once a part of the Unconcious is uncovered it loses it's autonomy - ie Darth Vader dies, Which in Jungian Terms means that its simply 'become concious'. ie. At that moment Luke grows. In people this process is called 'Individuation'. When you have attained this a 5th part appears that can only be described as 'spiritual'.

It's like God's signature.

In his life Carl Jung was the first to coin the phrases 'Introvert' & 'Extravert' - These words previously had not been used in psychology.

In 1937 he delivered a speech to a conference of leading thinkers. When the title of his speech was announced most of the audience thought 'here he goes again, Waffling about weird religious things.'

And at the same time a certain Sigmund Freud was speaking in the adjacent room. So 'most' left.

The title of his speech was a God. But this God, Wotan, was the German God of war. That was when he delivered his first warning.

Within 2 years he had become employed as a Doctor in the German army when it came 'visiting' Switzerland. He was in Germany for around 6 months before managing to escape. Whilst there every person he met who was Jewish, He sent for 'medical treatment abroad' and advised them to take the family !

If what I have written above awakens an interest in Jung. The 'only' publisher of his works is 'Routledge & Kegan Paul' - Who are based in the United States.

Thought that I best do a www search and found that amazon are doing them at 'considerably less cost' - So go to amazon.com and search for - cg jung collected works.

(Oh yep, It took me a very long time to read them but ended (contained) my alcoholism. (don't etc, prefer TV !)

Ermmm, Think that's the general gist of things.


NervousPuppy profile image

NervousPuppy 4 years ago from Sussex, UK.

(ME again , Suddenly occurred to me to add the following in case people are interested in reading his works.

Because there are 19 Main books (17 vols, Two of which in 2 parts)

it 'suddenly' occurred to me that to provide an 'vague'-ish approach to

reading them would be wise.

For completeness read volumes 1 & 2 etc, But for a less

'school-like' approach I would read the following to begin with as follows;

10 Civilisation in transition.

This volume gives a socialogical view of his method and as such is easier than most.

6. Psychological Types.

Allows you to 'sense/see' how his psychology works.

8. Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche

9. part i - The Archetypes of the collective unconcious.

9 part ii

5 part i - Symbols of Transformation

5 part ii

That I feel is a good way to start.

There is one book that I have read more than once - Volume 13 Alchemical Studies.

It does provide the perfect ending (in my view).

Oh yep, The 'secret' of Alchemy is not a process for transforming base metal into gold.

It is a 'psychological/spiritual' guide to how to see gold in 'everything'. At which point one

becomes the richest person alive.

If you just want Star Wars parallels then try starting at nine.

In notes that appear often in his works, You can get a fairly good direction of travel.

ie. He will cite works of his that explore various aspects of the psyche. The publisher

also adds notes on which volumes references appear in. These I used to guide myself.

ie- He will talk about a subject & say in which lectures he explored it further.

There is a danger of waffling on a little too much as I have never spoken about this before.

And so I will stop here.

Good luck and have fun if you decide to follow this path.

Dog :-)


Geekdom profile image

Geekdom 4 years ago

That was a fun original article on Star Wars.

+ interesting.

It is great to look at the characters and stories from a different psychological perspective.

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