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Is Using the Force the Best Medicine Of All?

Something strange happened this week at work. A disturbance perhaps?

The mood can be serious and pensive as we discuss our patient's problems.

And then something surprising happened over the water cooler. This week staff and patients alike were reflecting on something that I would have not initially imagined would perk people's moods up.

With the clocks soon about to turn back and winter just about to push any residual autumnal warmth to a galaxy far far away, it was a trailer for a film that had everyone excited!

"Oh did you see it?"

"Yes it looks really amazing!"

These are grown adults.

Yes you probably already know which film I am referring to. It could only be one thing.

Star Wars.

It's back again, but I guess it never really went away.

So just what's going on here with these films?

Nothing that I have ever seen causes such a global "ooh" and "ahh." Just why did the world go into melt down this week with the release of a trailer? Especially as the prequels were oh so disappointing.

We have been here before haven't we? Isn't the definition of madness doing something again and expecting the same result? And I should know being a psychiatrist.

It clearly taps into something within us.

The parallels between psychology and the films have been commented on previously. The Freudian and Jungian parallels to the Star Wars mythology with Yoda acting as an analytical and behavioural therapist all wrapped into a wisely old frog have been dissected.

Even academic journals recently debated if Darth Vader was suffering from an impulsive subtype of borderline personality disorder. Those feelings of emptiness propelling him towards the dark side!

For me, a doctor and a self confessed Star Wars fanatic, I think it comes down to those feelings and emotions locked in to my amygdala as a young boy when I first saw that huge space destroyer shoot lasers at the rebel ship and within a few minutes this terrifying bad guy, Darth Vader sweeps through the captured ship and demands it "torn apart!"

Fireworks were going off in my limbic system.

Scenes like that filled with movie magic and special effects that made you feel as if you were looking into space itself do not die easily. And it was always on TV at Christmas time, when school was out and presents and chocolate were not far around the corner.

So it's very apt that these new films will be released at Christmas time, exactly where they belong in my book. The best Christmas present of all.

But not everyone has happy memories of childhood, and I have spoken to patient's who describe Star Wars as acting like absentee parents or role models when they were growing up.

Morality was abundant throughout the films. Does Han Solo take the money and scarper or help his friends? Does Princess Leia give up the location of the rebel base or face torture herself? Self-sacrifice versus what my Dad would call being a Mensch. A Jedi Mensch!

And then you have themes of growing up itself, Obi Wan is the grandfather figure. He sees the bigger picture when Luke can't and gently steers him in the right direction whilst allowing him to make his own mistakes. This is similar to what we aim to do when guiding patients in a psychodynamic way.

Relationships are explored. The romance between Han and Leia, the bromance between Chewie and Han. And of course the crush Luke has on the Princess only to find out she's his sister.

Awkward. Just like puberty and adolescence itself can be.

(The author a Self Confessed Star Wars Geek at Halloween")

At the Blue Tree Clinic, a psychiatric clinic where I work, we often use analogy and metaphor to help clients.

People do often feel anger, pain, suffering from being depressed or bereaved from exiting difficult relationships or the death of a loved one or coming to terms with their mental health difficulties in general.

We often talk of people's dark sides and encourage them that there really is light at the end of the tunnel. Happy endings can happen. The rebel forces can win!

Watching films that promote hope, can have a supportive and comforting role. Not everyone has kind and supportive families and friends; as much as we wish they did. Studies conducted at medicinema, (a charity I volunteer at) have shown that going to films can reduce feelings of pain and agitation and be a very good social intervention for those in need.

Additionally the latest NICE guidelines for reducing aggression in psychiatric intensive care wards advises the creation of a film club as one of its recommendations.

When you have amazing films like these to watch and take something from, you can't help but feel something positive when that soundtrack starts and those yellow words float over the screen.

In a way that we somehow suspected the prequels might turn out to crush our hopes and dreams for a new star wars film in 1999 - I must confess that something tells me these new sequels might just be the films we've been looking for....

May the Force Be With You. Always.

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