Darth Vader, Anger and Dr. Marshall
A lot has been written about Star Wars and its characters. Some French psychologists even went that far to diagnose Darth Vader with Bipolar Personality Disorder (BPD). They later defended themselves with the statement that during training, it makes sense to have a “proto typical” example that is known to many, to make identifying of symptoms easier.
I am not sure if I agree with diagnosing Anakin Skywalker and if BPD would be my conclusion, but indeed some core attributes and issues could be identified already in the second trilogy and in the first one. Of course, that was deliberately added to explain his turn to the dark side. As the Star Wars story is all about conflict between good and evil, it has many similarities with classical and modern tragedies.
In general people get angry when they perceive that they are treated badly, and that harm is done to them. Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD., in “The Surprising Purpose of Anger” (2005) stresses that the cause of anger is “our evaluation of what has been done…” (p. 5). Rosenberg states that we make judgments of others, which cause our anger and that these judgments are “an alienated expression of unmet needs”.
So, this means that when we allow ourselves time to analyse our immediate reaction before we express it, we may express ourselves differently and better with a more positive result: We will be heard.
The booklet written by Rosenberg is a gold nugget between the masses of stuff written about anger and anger management.
Anger can become a shield and when anger is expressed, people feel less vulnerable. Being in-tune with your needs and expressing them leads to feeling positive about the present and the future. It means we are less likely to judge others (negatively) and therefore we are less likely to express anger.
The way Dr. Rosenberg discusses “anger” as a gift and a product of our thinking that “challenges us to connect to the unmet needs that have triggered this reaction” is reflective of the key distinctions of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC goes deeper into the anger to identify what is the root of the anger and what is needed. Rosenberg compares anger with a warning light on the dashboard of a car. It indicates that something is not quite right, and that attention is required to “the needs” of the engine.
The Four Steps Involved in Implementing how to Handle our Anger
STEP I: Although, the cause of anger is not what triggered us, it is important to identity the trigger or stimulus because this leads us to the root of our anger which is an unmet need. Unmet needs are often expressed through the judgments we create that in-turn lead to angry thoughts and behaviours.
STEP II: The cause of the feeling is not the trigger of the feeling as it is not the action of others that makes us sad or angry or afraid. The cause of the anger is the evaluation we give to the event. For instance, if we think that what someone else has done is wrong or bad or irresponsible or inappropriate, we use a moral judgment and this moral judgment causes a feeling. Rosenberg states that by stating that our anger is triggered, we can place guilt feelings on the other person. In other words, “your behaviour triggered my feelings”, means that “your behaviour resulted in my feelings” (Rosenberg, 2005, p. 7). When we use Nonviolent Communication, we do not perceive the other person as responsible for our own anger.
STEP III: When we get in touch with our needs and we can express these, the anger disappears and turns into other feelings of frustration, sadness or fear. Rosenberg states that “the basic function of our feelings is to serve our needs” (p. 11). Anger, however, does not help us to get our needs met; it disconnects us from our needs. Anger is a diversion as it is based on judgments of others’ behaviours: That these others have done us wrong and that they deserve to be punished.
STEP IV: How to communicate with the other person? When we talk with the other person about our feelings we need to disclose how it came we had such as strong response (revealing the trigger), as it influenced our evaluation of the event. The most important part however, is disclosing our needs and when these are identified, the anger is transferred into other feelings. Finally, we need to formulate a clear request of what we want from the other person in relationship to the (new) feeling) and the unmet needs.
I do think that people who express raw anger, do not want to remain in that dark place. It is not a happy place and it is like being seduced by the dark side, but it only brings more darkness and no power.
Rosenberg, M.B. (2005). The Surprising Purpose of Anger: Beyond Anger Management: Finding the Gift. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press.