Adapted from Rising Strong
One of the truisms of wholehearted living is You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness.
Walking into a story about disappointment or failure can feel like being swallowed whole by emotion. Our brains are hardwired to protect and that often means wanting to run or fight. At work that can look like rationalizing, hiding out, and/or blaming others.
Even with small, everyday conflicts and disappointments, physical and emotional intolerance for discomfort is the primary reason we linger on the outskirts of our hard experiences, never truly owning the story. We disengage to self-protect.
There’s a pivotal scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Yoda is training Luke to be a Jedi warrior, teaching him how to honorably use the Force and how the dark side of the Force—anger, fear, and aggression—can consume him if he doesn’t learn how to find calm and inner peace.
In this scene, Luke and Yoda are standing in the dark swamp where they’ve been training when a strange look comes over Luke. He points toward a dark cave at the base of a giant tree and, looking at Yoda, he says, “There’s something not right here.. . . I feel cold. Death.”
Yoda explains to Luke that the cave is dangerous and strong with the dark side of the Force. Luke looks confused and afraid, but Yoda’s response is simply, “In you must go.”
When Luke asks what’s in the cave, Yoda explains, “Only what you take with you.”
As Luke straps on his weapons, Yoda hauntingly advises, “Your weapons, you will not need them.”
The cave is dark and thick with vines. Steam eerily rises off the ground while a large snake winds its way over a branch and a prehistoric-looking lizard perches on a limb.
As Luke slowly makes his way through the cave, he is confronted by his enemy, Darth Vader. They both draw their light sabers and Luke quickly cuts off Vader’s helmeted head. The head rolls to the ground and the face guard blows off the helmet, revealing Vader’s face. Only, it isn’t Darth Vader’s face; it’s Luke’s face.
Luke is staring at his own head on the ground.
Walking into our stories of failure and hurt is like walking into that cave in Yoda’s swamp. It can feel dangerous and foreboding, and what we must ultimately confront is our own fear.
The most difficult part of our stories is often what we bring to them—what we make up about who we are and how we are perceived by others. Yes, maybe we failed or screwed up a project, but what makes that story so painful is what we tell ourselves about our own self-worth and value.
Owning our stories means acknowledging our feelings and wrestling with the hard emotions—our fear, anger, aggression, shame, and blame. This isn’t easy, but the alternative—denying our stories and disengaging from emotion—means choosing to live our entire lives in the dark. It means no accountability, no learning, no growth.
To harness the Force, we must own our stories and live our truth. In we must go.