What Cannabidiol Therapy Can Do for You

Megan, an old friend, messaged me on Facebook asking if I could write an article about her reactions to cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive sister cannabinoid to THC. Like THC, CBD binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, but they elicit a wide array of effects not hallucinogenic in nature. Some of the reported effects include an improvement in mood, increased sleep and appetite, pain modulation, and refined memory (Butterfield, 2016). It has gained popularity with an increasing number of patients interested in adopting cannabis as a form of treatment for their ailments but want to do so without experiencing the taxing head highs that marijuana is popular for.

With her permission, I am allowed to reveal why Megan chose CBD as her preferred treatment. Simply put, Megan suffers from mild depression and severe anxiety, and it took great courage for her to admit that to me when we consider the disastrous public mental health stigmas that plague Americans and ultimately turn them off from the getting help they so desperately need (Parcesepe & Cabassa, 2013). A common mental health stigma is that anxious or depressed people are weak. We know that to not always be the case.

But Megan’s story doesn’t end with this article—she wants to encourage other sufferers of depression and anxiety to not only seek possible treatments, but to seek natural treatments. Because while drugs like Prozac and Xanax have their respective benefits, one causes radical personality changes and the other yields a high potential for abuse, overdoses, and hospital admissions, especially when used irresponsibly (Harding, 2009; MacLaren, 2017). If I can use Megan’s story to spread the word that natural remedies are indeed out there and work just as effectively as synthetic drugs, I like to think that I’d be doing the world a service.

Then again, it’s very easy say that CBD therapy works, but that does not necessarily mean it will work for you. As such, this article will provide a brief rundown of Megan’s documented experiences with CBD over a period of 15 days so that you, the reader, can judge whether or not it is the right treatment option.

Before continuing, let me address the elephant in the room: CBD’s legal status. I’m sure you don’t want to obtain CBD hemp oil only to discover that it’s no less illegal in your state than THC is, so what does the legality of CBD look like both state-by-state and at the federal level? The short answer is “it’s complicated.” In December of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration articulated that any extracts from a cannabis plant are Schedule I controlled substances, effectively putting them on the same level as heroin, LSD, and bath salts. Nonetheless, CBD laws are inconsistent across the country. That is, in the 28 states allowing for the possession and consumption of medical marijuana, CBD is also legal for medical purposes. Sixteen more states have passed laws that, although restrictive, have legalized CBD. In the 6 remaining states—Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia—CBD, THC, and alternative cannabis extracts are 100 percent illegal (Summers, 2017).

Now that we’ve gotten that part out of the way, how has Megan’s time with CBD been?

Day 1: This was the first day that Megan ingested CBD to treat her anxiety. She writes in the e-mail that she used a vape oil called “FX Chill.” The device she used for ingestion was the high-grade vaporizer Yocan Evolve C. She took two puffs from it at 9 A.M. and pledged to take two every morning and two every night. Instantly, she felt rejuvenated—a little high-strung from the events of the previous day, but much less apprehensive than she would have been otherwise.

Day 2: Megan woke up slightly anxious from what she puts as an “odd dream.” To her surprise, she wasn’t as on-edge as she normally is when she wakes up, and her typical anxious symptoms like heavy breathing and rapid heartbeat were absent. She also mentions that she lost the mouthpiece to her vaporizer. Whereas before, her anxiety would have snowballed, this time she felt tranquil. “That is abnormal to me,” she writes.

Day 3: This was a Saturday, and Megan felt unusually contented. She worked in the evening and arrived home feeling calm.

Day 4: This day was an emotional rollercoaster for Megan. Apparently, she felt fine for the first half of it, then depressed toward the evening, and better at night. She also felt a tad nervous here and there.  Despite this, Megan asserted that she would continue on with CBD therapy hoping for longer-term mood improvements.

Day 5: This day was a Monday, and Megan complained that Mondays are stressful for her because they net the most traffic at her workplace. She still felt calm and collected, and it turned out to be a fine day.

Day 6: Megan explains that Tuesdays are hard because after working for 16 straight hours, she refuses to get any sleep. As a consequence of her lack of patience to rest up, she becomes very tired and thus aggravates her anxiety. However, on this particular day all her negative feelings—her depression, anxiety, and apprehension—were absent, and she only felt happy and carefree. She notes, “I am able to experience a glimpse of what life was like pre-onset of my anxiety and that was something I never thought I would see again.”

Day 7: Nothing of much importance happened on this day. Megan went out at midnight to celebrate her friend’s 21st birthday, emphasizing that while she normally feels uncomfortable in social situations of that nature, she felt like she could handle it well.

Day 8: On this day, Megan felt tired and restless but still wasn’t anxious. She worked a run-of-the-mill 8-4 shift and arrived home, relieved to discover that her boyfriend, in a gesture of affection, had completed an assortment of household tasks for her. However, he was troubled by things going on in his life, and Megan did all she could to make him feel better, but nothing worked. Even so, with the help of CBD, she felt more than capable of handling the acute stress associated with trying to console a partner who’s clearly distressed.

Day 9: Here, we start to notice a theme of liberation. Megan once again expresses that she just feels free, like all her troubles are ever present but minimized and less threatening. Later on, however, a rude and obnoxious customer triggered an episode of aggressive anxiety in her. She took a few more puffs of CBD to quell her frustration, but didn’t feel much better afterward.

Day 10: This was a bit of an off day for Megan. Still upset from yesterday, she cried intermittently but was able to pull herself together. In addition, she attended lunch with her dad and dinner with friends, and on both occasions, she drank alcohol.

Day 11: “It was a fairly normal Monday,” Megan writes. She experienced very little anxiety.

Days 12/13/14/15: After forgetting to take CBD on Tuesday and Wednesday, Megan’s anxiety came back in full force, with feelings of extreme sensitivity, despondency, loathsomeness, and most of all, doubt about herself and her capabilities. When she resumed treatment late on Wednesday and into Thursday, she could get back to living life on her terms again, attesting that all this time CBD has worked wonders for her and that she wouldn’t know what to do without it. The quality of her life, she states, has improved dramatically, and she didn’t realize how much better she felt until she missed her dosages.

Based on Megan’s feedback, does CBD therapy work? If so, is it within your best interest? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

I would like to thank Megan for opening up a window into her life and allowing me to post this article. It is people like her who remind us that depression and anxiety are not simply character flaws, but rather afflictions that, much like a physical disability, can be treated and coped with. I hope that through sharing her story today, I can lift the stigma off mental health issues just a little bit and encourage my audience to finally request help.

 

References

Butterfield, D. (2017, February 09). CBD: Everything You Need To Know About Cannabidiol. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://herb.co/2016/07/26/everything-you-need-to-know-about-cbd/

 

Harding, A. (2009, December 08). Antidepressants change personality, study suggests. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/12/08/antidepressant.personality.changes/index.html

 

MacLaren, E. (2016, October 06). Xanax History and Statistics. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://drugabuse.com/library/xanax-history-and-statistics/

 

Parcesepe, A. M., & Cabassa, L. J. (2013). Public Stigma of Mental Illness in the United States: A Systematic Literature Review. Adm Policy Ment Health, 40(5), 384-399. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3835659/

 

Summers, D. (2017, March 22). Is CBD Oil Legal? Depends on Where You Are and Who You Ask. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/cbd-oil-legal-depends-ask

Are You the Master of Your Fate?

“And this is the nature of the universe. We struggle against it. We fight to deny it, but it is of course pretense. It is a lie. Beneath our poised appearance, the truth is we are completely… out of control.”

– The Merovingian, The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

My History and Systems of Psychology professor posed an interesting question to my class the other week: you arrive home and surprise your girlfriend with a large and expensive bouquet of flowers, but how does she react? Does she run up to you with tears of joy in her eyes, and hug you with all the love in the world? Rather, does she react with scorn, convinced that you’re fruitlessly trying to repair your damaged relationship through presenting something as meaningless as a bouquet of flowers whose colors she finds ugly?

Context could help with predicting her reaction. If the relationship was healthy, then she would be more likely to give you all the love she has to offer. Alternatively, if the relationship was on the verge of its imminent dissolution, then she would be more likely to kick you out of the bedroom and force you to sleep on the couch for the night! Even if there is no context to clarify her reaction, no matter what, she is going to react one way or another.

The flower bouquet scenario was brought up in regards to a class discussion on explanatory reductionism, a set of philosophical ideas that states all universal phenomena, from the stars in the sky to the deep blue seas, can be explained by breaking them down into readily understandable terms. According to this paradigm, elements are broken down into molecules, which are broken down into atoms, which are further broken down into protons, neutrons, electrons, and a nucleus. Reductionists argue that by reducing complexity down to its simplest form, we can understand virtually everything in the universe, including free will.

At the same time, there is something deeply unsettling about explanatory reductionism. If we were to assume that, for instance, free will could be broken down and summed up as nothing more than an illusion the brain constructs for itself to reconcile a startling lack of control, then what does that say about us as a species? If we could use explanatory reductionism as an avenue toward perfectly predicting how our girlfriends would react upon the presentation of an expensive bouquet of flowers, then one might argue that it would take away a lot of the luster—the charm and the mystery—that make life worth living in the first place.

Consider the difficulty of describing a long walk on the beach with a beautiful woman you are maddeningly attracted to, sipping on an apple martini and sinking your toes into the sand as a gust of refreshing cool air brushes your face and the sun sets in the distance. As uniquely placid such an experience of consciousness may be, it therefore cannot be reduced to a few paragraphs in a science textbook that you would read once and take a test on the following week. But if a reductionist’s approach can be taken to the stars in the sky, the deep blue sea, and the molecules that constitute an element, what is to stop us from taking it to the mechanisms behind human consciousness and for the purposes of this article, free will?

Free will has always been a sensitive religious and spiritual subject because people despise being told that they do not have it, and they will go to great lengths to convince themselves that they are somehow special for having it. “Well, of course I have free will. After all, I chose what I wanted to eat for breakfast this morning, and I chose what I wanted to wear to work.” But rarely do they ever stop to consider where their choices come from, and how they are made.

The issue of free will became apparent to me after watching HBO’s critically acclaimed Westworld (2016). In Season 1, Episode 10 (“The Bicameral Mind), one of the hosts, or synthetic humans, discovers that what she interpreted as an awakening of self-awareness was yet another behavior that somebody had preprogrammed into her. Despite having thought she was in control the whole time, it turned out that control was simply a string of computer code. Aptly, the host snatched the tablet out of the programmer’s hands, and broke it, content with perpetuating the lie that her choices belonged to her and nobody else. Maybe the lead writers of Westworld were trying to communicate something about humanity’s own understanding of power, control, and freedom. If we discovered that our choices were under the control of something more powerful than ourselves, we, too, might react in the same way.  As the Architect puts it in The Matrix Reloaded, a movie that’s received heavy scrutiny for preaching determinism every five minutes, “Denial is the most predictable of all human responses.”

Whatever the case may be, I do not argue for free will because if there is no such thing as a “higher” or “lower” species, then there is very little to separate us from a spider, dog, chimpanzee, or rhinovirus. And yet, we never say that spiders, dogs, chimpanzees, or rhinoviruses possess free will—only that there is something special about the human being that endows him or her with the fantastic ability to choose. Why, then, must we always assume that our choices have any more weight to them than those of other species on the planet?

If you look at the animal kingdom, a lion’s life is essentially on rails from birth until death. The lion will hunt, look for food, and procreate, but nothing that the lion ever does will deviate it much from evolution’s prescription of its behavior. And if we happen to intervene on a lion’s hunt for its prey, we’ll take a step back and affirm that “it’s just nature. Let the lion do its thing,” as if to say that humankind should refrain from obstructing an animal’s lifestyle because unlike animals, humans benefit from being able to choose everything.

I’m not saying that humans are by and large incapable of choice because that’s a tough pill to swallow. To a certain degree, denial of the relative impossibility of free will is necessary toward maintaining sanity. What I am saying is that the decisions we make but that we think aren’t automatic are automatic, and the work of Ivan Pavlov would concur.

Ivan Pavlov was the first physiologist to systemically uncover the origins of learning. He discovered dogs that had been conditioned to associate the ringing of a bell with the presentation of a bowl of food would produce significantly more saliva than dogs that had not made the association, and thus even when the bells were rung but the food was withheld, the conditioned dogs would salivate anyway. This was considered a landmark study because it demonstrated that learned behavior can occur involuntarily when the subject is conditioned into pairing a stimulus with a physiological response to that stimulus.

I remember learning about classical conditioning in high school and thinking about how cool it was to catch myself in the middle of an automatic behavior. For example, I clean my retainer every morning by placing it into a glass cup, filling the cup to the brim with hot water, and letting a dissolvable antibacterial tablet eradicate all of the plaque while I take a shower. One day, I happened to leave my retainer in the cup without cleaning it, so I never stowed it away into its respective plastic case. Before going to sleep, I then reached for the case and opened it, and curiously, it was empty! “Oh… That’s right,” I reminded myself. “I forgot to clean it today.”

A second example of behavioral automaticity from my experience comes from routinely charging my smart phone, as its battery power does not last long. I spend a large portion of the day sitting at my desk writing articles, completing homework, and editing YouTube videos, and thus I look behind me quite often to see if my phone has received any text messages or Facebook notifications. However, when I unplug my smartphone to listen to Pandora and type a paper, I still check behind me to see if I have received any notifications, even when my phone is sitting on my lap. I’m sure you’ve experienced a similar phenomenon: you experience a mini heart attack when you can’t find your car keys, only to discover that they were in the palm of your hand the whole time. How silly of you!

Above were two rather mundane representations of what a lack of free will might look like, but they get you to contemplate the extent to which behavior is rhythmic, especially since most of our days consist of a pattern in that we wake up, attend to school and work responsibilities, and go to sleep. Everything in between—brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and watching Netflix—is on autopilot. If we make even the slightest alteration to our schedules, like going to the bar instead of watching a television show on Netflix, we exhaust many cognitive resources adjusting to it. After a while, however, it just becomes another box that we check off before the next day kicks in, and we don’t waste time on giving it a second thought.

Next, consider the science behind dreaming versus wakefulness as it applies to the debate of free will. We still don’t know how and why we dream, but we can be confident that dreams occur in REM sleep, or deep sleep. Dreams have also been speculated as protective mechanisms against the overwhelming bombardments of stimuli that we take in every day. In other words, the brain staves off information overload by taking these stimuli, including people’s faces, music lyrics, and smells and tastes of Chinese food, and weaves them into cohesive narratives that the hippocampus goes on to convert into memories. If dreams are therefore an unconscious response to the stimuli that the brain has encoded in the past 8 to 10 hours, our behaviors are likewise generated in large part by the unconscious mind, and everything we do, from going on a blind date to eating a slice of pizza at two in the morning, is nothing more than a story that’s been written out well in advance but that the brain has to “act out” by virtue of the vast amount of information that it sorts through for the sake of its ongoing survival. But if wakefulness cannot function without a certain amount of sleep and dreaming, who is to say that we have any more control over our wakeful states than we do over our dreams?

Matsuhashi and Hallett (2008) might be able to answer that question. They wanted to test the lag time between when the brain consciously intends to move and when movement is actually carried out, hypothesizing that if the conscious intention to move is what supposedly generates the movement, an action they referred to as “movement genesis,” then the movement should occur after the conscious intention, and not before it.

In Matsuhashi and Hallett’s study, participants were instructed to randomly perform brisk finger movements every time they heard a tone, and refrain from expending mental energy by counting the number of movements already made and planning when to make the following movements. They made sure to only move their fingers whenever a thought of finger movement had precipitated it. On occasion, a specialized stop signal was played that informed the participants of their intentions to move and thus signified to them to immediately cancel finger movements thereafter.

A graph of tones documents two key test conditions: (1) before participants are made aware by the stop signal of their conscious intentions to move their fingers, and (2) after participants are made aware of their conscious intentions to move their fingers but cannot cancel their movements because the stop signal was played too late. One subject yielded a lag time of about 1 second between his conscious intention to move and movement genesis, that is, he moved his finger 1 second before even thinking about it. As such, Matsuhashi and Hallett concluded that movement genesis occurs on multiple levels of the unconscious mind and is not as simple as thinking about when to move first, and carrying out the movement itself second. The evidence indicates that a movement is carried out well after any thoughts of movement have been created.

Obviously, there is more to be said about the topic of free will—about its philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience—but with what little evidence we have at our disposal thus far, there is a lot going on beneath the surface of every decision we’ve made and are going to make.

Maybe our minds just have minds of their own.

 

Reference

Matsuhashi, M., & Hallett, M. (2008). The timing of the conscious intention to move. European Journal of Neuroscience, 28(11), 2344-2351.

“Positive Intelligence” (Review)

Last summer, I listened to “Positive Intelligence” (2012), an audiobook by Shirzad Chamine that my father introduced me to. You can also find a paper version of the text available for purchase at PositiveIntelligence.com. In it, Chamine explains how our minds are controlled by 10 entities, or “Saboteurs,” each with their own intents and motivations.

The 10 rather arbitrary Saboteurs, as their name suggests, sabotage our emotional health by corrupting our thinking, and thus account for much of the pain and anguish we feel in life. For example, the Judge is the primary Saboteur which all other Saboteurs stand in service to. Its job is to relentlessly heckle and scrutinize you for your every little mistake as a way of pushing you toward some much needed improvement. Sound familiar?

Chamine tells you to give your Judge a name as a way of identifying it so that when it appears to hijack and “sabotage” your thought process, you can strip it of its credibility. He talked about the creative names people gave their Judges; the Destroyer and the Executioner are two examples. I call my Judge the Chief Executive Cognitive Mediator, or CECM for short, because it mediates many of the higher-level cognitive processes that constitute rational decision making and emotional regulation. I also call it the Chief Executive Cerebral Mediator.

Other Saboteurs include the Avoider, the Controller, the Pleaser, and the Hyper-Achiever. They are malicious by their nature, but they served an important survival function in early childhood by steering us away from particularly dangerous threats, such as a hot stove, busy traffic, or a tiger. The main premise of Chamine’s book is that while the Saboteurs continue to remain useful, they are not needed as much in adulthood, mainly due to how our brains have developed enough for us to flee danger through the use of basic intuition and common sense.

Chamine believes that the greatest enemy we face in life is not the government, our parents, spouse, coworkers, or managers, but rather our very own internal mental conflicts—our Judge. And to a certain extent, he’s right. There were moments where an annoying customer would make me feel terrible at work only to find myself feeling even worse upon ruminating on it at home. It’s always been my reaction to the event and not the event itself that’s caused the majority of my depression. Unfortunately, Shirzad Chamine’s “Positive Intelligence” lacks in soundness for the simple fact that many if not all of his techniques for conquering the Saboteurs are just plain impractical, and also that his definitions of what Saboteurs even are prove to be very nebulous.

Regarding the impracticality of his techniques for conquering what he calls Saboteurs, Chamine has made me question his credentials on one too many occasions. He explains that the Sage is what’s used to overpower the Saboteurs, and that at a biological level, the Saboteurs dwell in the limbic system while the Sage dwells in the prefrontal cortex. If you activate your Sage, you can tone down your Saboteurs, and in order for your Sage to gain greater control over your Saboteurs, you have to “build up your PQ brain muscles.” This can be accomplished by fully immersing yourself in any activity that stimulates the senses, such as going to the bathroom, driving to work, and eating lunch. While I do agree with Chamine that distracting yourself from distressful feelings is a good way to work through them, it is not as simple as just doing a few “PQ reps” every day. Rubbing your fingers together (yes, that is a technique he proposes) is not going to allow you to recover from the deficits in your mental health.

The other issue I had with “Positive Intelligence” is Chamine’s ineffective attempts at precisely defining the Saboteurs. It was a relief to attach some words to the negative thoughts that constantly plague my mind, but I also found myself struggling to identify the Saboteurs based on the terminology that Chamine used. Extending from this issue is how he never quite specified where the Saboteurs activate in the brain, apart from the Saboteur-rich limbic system and the Sage-rich prefrontal cortex. Emotions are much more complex than Chamine leads his audience to believe. It would have been nice if he were to at the very least show brain scans of patients in “Sage mode” and “Saboteur mode,” differentiating between the emotional signals that fire in response to a problem and the rational thought that is required to solve the problem.

For the reasons discussed above, I cannot recommend Shirzad Chamine’s “Positive Intelligence” for readers who are oriented toward more scientific literature. His evidence for the Saboteurs is barebones and simply insufficient. It’s nonetheless a great self-help read.

The Secret to a Happy Life

In case you don’t already know, I am a strong advocate of the biology of human behavior. I believe that every psychological experience can be understood in physiological terms. Unfortunately, technology has restricted us in our capacity to identify where complex emotions such as anger, surprise, or joy occur in the brain. What’s even more restrictive is that it’s made it difficult for us to define this thing we call “happiness” in terms of something that we can readily feel, posing the question, is happiness also a complex emotion? In other words, does happiness come and go, or does it stay with us?

How you answer this question depends on a number of factors, including your past experiences, religious beliefs, values, and how you derive meaning from your existence. Personally, I define happiness as the sum of subjectively pleasurable experiences that a person accumulates in his or her lifetime, but even this definition isn’t enough to do the word sufficient justice because to many, happiness means so much more than that. Without happiness, what’s the point of even living? For reasons that I will discuss, I’m quick to treat happiness as more of a state-of-mind and less of a fleeting emotion.

You’ve probably been taught that happiness is meant to be pursued, and that it could later be obtained if you make all the right decisions. According to this logic, after you attend school, work for an X number of years, get married, have children, make millions of dollars, then and only then will you be textbook happy. The problem is that it places too much of an emphasis on waiting for happiness and hardly any emphasis on choosing to be happy right now.

I can tell you with confidence that, by virtue that I have clothes on my back and air in my lungs, I am happy. But alas, I don’t have a million dollars in the bank, so I’m not as happy as I could be. Have you noticed a contradiction yet? I complained about how I haven’t made enough money, yet at the same time negated the things that enabled me to make the money in the first place.

Such contradictory logic could be the result of erroneously mixing happiness with hedonism, which are not the same thing. They don’t even fall under the same category. Happiness has to do with the state or quality of being subjectively contented over an extended period of time. Alternatively, hedonism has to do with superficially indulging one’s self in pleasurable activities in a fixed period of time, like getting wasted at the bar, eating large quantities of Taco Bell, or playing a match of Call of Duty. These activities are indeed fun, but they are too short-lived to foster a conventionally happy life.

The question remains as to how happiness can be reconciled with hedonism. How do you will your mind into being happy when pleasure is so finite and intermittent? It’s simple: enjoy the high points in life as much as you can, but don’t be so discouraged by the low points. Because they, too, can be pretty special.

Why You Might Be Self-Destructing Without Even Realizing It

Almost every scientific textbook teaches us of the placebo effect, a tactic used by researchers in which their subjects are provided with treatments that they expect will elicit certain reactions. Depending on the nature of the control treatment, subjects may react in ways that confirm the researchers’ expectations, providing contrast to the experimental treatment so that a conclusion can be drawn. The same can be said for the rest of us in that our behaviors, like the reactions subjects have to the placebo pills, are nothing more than projections of our inner beliefs. This phenomenon is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, and you might not have known about it before. Or you might have already known about it, in which case you should probably stop reading this article. What knowledge do you possibly have to gain here?

That right there was a micro self-fulfilling prophecy. I assumed that because you already possessed knowledge on the topic I was covering, there was virtually no value to be gained in continuing to read about it, which might have prompted you to close the page without giving the article a chance. That is, either you knew about the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies, or you didn’t know about the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies. The end result is the same: you don’t walk away feeling like you’ve learned anything new. At least if you stuck around long enough to finish reading the article, you might have learned something of interest.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are defined as beliefs we have about ourselves that cause them to become true in reality, oftentimes unknowingly. My favorite example of the self-fulfilling prophecy is the journey of Anakin Skywalker.

Star Wars fans like to condemn the prequel trilogy because it pales in comparison to the original and was incompetently directed. You wouldn’t know it, but Revenge of the Sith (2005) is actually one of my all-time favorite movies. I find that it explores Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader quite adeptly, and is an intriguing character study.

Anyone who is familiar with the Star Wars universe knows about the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. Anakin fell victim to the self-fulfilling prophecy upon dreaming of his wife, Padme, who died in childbirth. His visions eventually became so disturbing, and his fear so paralyzing, that he went to extreme lengths to prevent his dream from ever happening. He joined the Dark Side, murdered children, and betrayed his long-time mentor, who was basically a father figure to him for more than half of his life. Padme ended up dying in childbirth anyway, and Anakin became the infamous Darth Vader who would go on to destroy entire planets. His transition from Jedi to Sith is an exemplary demonstration of the self-fulfilling prophecy because his fears about his wife’s death are what caused his wife’s death.

Every day, self-fulfilling prophecies can either undermine or nurture the relationships we have with ourselves and others. We might not be aware of them at all times, but we can be certain they are lurking somewhere in the far background, regulating our attitudes toward the world and guiding the behavior that follows. This creates a positive feedback loop of action and reaction, cause and effect, which invariably manifests itself in the real world.

Another example of the self-fulfilling prophecy is the difficulty people experience in trying to find dates and cultivate meaningful, long-lasting relationships. A multi-billion dollar industry was founded on the idea that the dating world is overwhelmingly complicated, and that the average person can no longer find love by conventional means. People contemplate why love has eluded them for so long, endlessly convincing themselves that the standards for beauty have reached enormous heights and that it would be impossible for anyone to ever like them. And yet, have they not stopped to consider that their notions of what constitute beauty and glamour are what inadvertently cause them to appear as unattractive to outside observers and therefore experience difficulty in finding dates? Maybe if they stopped believing they were so unattractive, they would become supermodels.

Since our moods are so strongly affected by our internal self-beliefs, the next time this article comes to mind, I would advise you to take note of something. Focus on your mood in the moment and observe how it is affecting those in your presence, looking for any slight change in people’s behavior toward you. You’d be surprised that how you view yourself deep down goes a longer way in getting others to like you than the façade you spend so much energy sustaining.

Be less like Anakin and more like Luke. Don’t murder children!