Parenting is a spectrum.
Like all things in life, parenting is an art of seeking a balance between two extremes.
You can also see this spectrum in Attachment Theory, below.
This spectrum view of reality can make life feel like a minefield, with danger to the left and danger to the right.
But, awareness of these spectrums can help us in taking on a more "gameful" perspective when it comes to living our lives. Mindfulness of these tendencies may be combined with understanding and loving kindness in order to appreciate our own errors and the errors of others.
If we cultivate the understanding that these extremes are within all of us and that we are all on a collective journey through life in the pursuit of balance, we may gain an appreciation for all of these patterns, however, they manifest in ourselves or others.
Why the Picture of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo?
With an understanding of parental spectrums, we have some helpful context to begin considering the tragic story of Ben Solo as a cautionary parable about the abuse implicit in neglect.
According to the fields of Interpersonal Neurobiology and Symbolic Interactionism, we are not so much "individuals" but "components of a 'social unit'". In other words, we are designed to complement and depend upon a (healthy) integration with others. Because of this built-in interconnectivity, the act of neglect, indifference, and isolation is a much more violent act than people are typically aware of.
In a world where availability bias makes us overly concerned about explicit physical forms of abuse, it is too easy to dismiss or overlook the abuse implicit in neglect.
This is why the hyperbolic parable of Ben Solo is so important and useful.
By all measures, Ben Solo was poised to become the most positive and helpful person in the galaxy. Son of Han Solo, Son of Leia Organa, Nephew of Luke Skywalker, and Grandson of Anakin Skywalker. Ben's fate of love and glory could not have been more guaranteed.
So why did he "turn dark"? How did Ben Solo become Kylo Ren?
Despite all of his inherent privilege, legacy, and fortune, Ben Solo was crushed and contorted by neglect.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about abusive negligence is the plausible deniability of the abusers (in this case, Han and Leia).
According to the story, Han and Leia sent Ben away because they "sensed Snoke's interference" and "the sensed the overwhelming power within Ben"... and because of some "profound tragedy" (which may have been a death of Han and Leia's second child). Whatever the case, these two parents were too busy smuggling, racing, gambling, and playing politics for either of them to provide their struggling child with the Secure Attachment he so desperately needed.
While there is, of course, a time and place to defer to "professionals" and "seek outside help", the act of sending Ben to study with Luke is a clear demonstration of negligence escalation. If we are supposing that the child in this scenario needed secure attachment, this act of "shipping Ben off" is the equivalent of putting gasoline on a fire. Underscore the plausible deniability of Han and Leia-- instead of addressing their role in the dysfunction, they sent Ben away-- further isolating and abusing him, implicitly undermining his essential mental needs and literally fracturing his psyche, setting the stage for Luke, and the incident that completely breaks Ben's mind, driving him to become Kylo.
Which brings us to Snoke. What does Snoke represent in all of this? I see Snoke as a helpfully ambiguous symbol in this analysis. Snoke could represent negative societal influences, Snoke could represent the inherent darkness born within everyone, Snoke could represent a real abuser, a predator and a manipulator who orchestrates the situation, affording better access and control of a victim.
Snoke is so helpful in this perspective, because, whatever you believe he is representing, Snoke provides us with an observable representation of "The Darkness" that is ready, poised on the edge of existence, eager to swoop in and occupy the vacuum created by neglect.I find this to be a great illustration of the importance of parents. In this digital world where most parents have found that Netflix and video games afford them a generally docile and complacent child, this use of technology papers over the importance of human connection to the developing person. While the young person preoccupied with digital entertainment might not feel any pain or mental/emotional discomfort, they are losing years of their life to a synthetic interjection of "connection" of "social interaction". While a genuine, healthy relationship with parents, caregivers, and other people has a cumulative value which builds over time, the synthetic relationships with digital characters distort and degrade the developing person's ability to interact with others in the real world creating unrealistic expectations and a social/emotional vacuum which provides abusers with an excess of access and leverage.
This is the case in the story of Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. While Ben might not have been sitting in front of a screen for the majority of his developing years, he was often alone, providing Snoke with an abundance of time to develop influence over Ben. Ben's lack of healthy connection afforded Snoke the space to cultivate thoughts of resentment, paranoia, self-loathing, and desperation which fueled Ben's self-fulfilling downward spiral. From the "profound tragedy" to the "destruction of the Jedi temple", Snoke was there, capitalizing on Ben's neglect, using one moment of neglect to intensify another moment of neglect, laying the mental/emotional groundwork which ultimately led Ben to flee his family, running directly into the hands of his abuser.
Again, the ambiguity of Snoke provides us with a helpful variety of analogies. Is Snoke the mental dysfunction and self-destructive impulses which run amock within us when we are isolated and misunderstood? Or, is Snoke a literal abuser, diabolically engineering scenarios which distort the collective perception of enough people, in a way which ultimately drives Ben to internalize a collective delusion which simultaneously drives him to punish himself while fulfilling the expectations of others-- in the most sorrowful demonstration of dysfunction. By this I mean: Imagine a world where you perceive a collective narrative so powerful, wherein, you are cast as "the villain" and despite your resistance to that role, you fill that role out of a sense of duty and love towards the very people you are compelled to oppose (see Wayne's kyber crystal explanation for more on this). While this may seem totally insane to you as the reader, it's important to appreciate the symbolic nature of Star Wars. Meaning that, while it may seem insane to don a black cape and mask, reviving an empire of death and destruction in order to satisfy the (distorted/untrue) expectations of your loved ones... it's important to understand this as a symbolic demonstration of the negative role fulfillment that many people take on after years of being exhausted by fears and the tension between expectation and reality. Hope vs. "Pragmatism".
Sometimes it just makes sense to surrender to villany, to give up the struggle that is "virtue" and "joy". Not to excuse or condone villany. But it is an attempt to illustrate the social-emotional ecosystem, the very machinations which can drive a person to become their own worst enemy. And while Kylo sympathizers get to blame Snoke or Luke, or Leia, or Han... The most interesting thing is that we all have these characters, these archetypes, everpresent in our head and in our lives and our heroism and our villany are shaped by whichever archetype we listen to the most. It may not look as explicitly evil as Kylo's self-defeat, but the same dynamics can be at work. And the only true antidote to this is connection.
Because ultimately this is about shame.
And whether the shame was generated externally or internally, the only remedy to shame its assoicated downward spiral is connection, communication, and empathy.
The key here is getting these concepts to the people who need them most. Whether you're experiencing neglect, committing neglect, or witnessing a situation of neglect, get the word out: Connection, communication, and empathy.
And please, if you see a child being neglected or isolated, please do your best to remedy that situation.
PS. as a final reminder, another tool for overcoming the corrosive effects of neglect is "The Four Agreements":