Philip Goldman: How can we make sure we don’t fall victim to Groundhog Day?

How can we make sure we don’t fall victim to Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Day is one of my favourite films. For those who haven’t seen it, the film depicts how, trapped in a time loop that repeats the same day over and over again, Phil Connor (played by Bill Murray) has many choices for how to live his life, leading to a steady decline in his behaviour. Finally, after hurting himself and others, he chooses to use his life to love himself and those around him. And the ‘curse’ lifts.

So far, so Hollywood, but back in the real world and for many of us, it may well seem that we are living through our own pandemic induced Groundhog Day. Perhaps we’re also having similar feelings of despair to those experienced by Connor. Which is why it’s important that we think about how the life and the events we’re presented with have meaning and how they can be teachers that can encourage us to grow.

Learning a tough lesson
Groundhog Day’s message is that we can escape from the dilemmas we’re in by adopting the right attitude. As Connors discovers, it’s a tough lesson; but to learn it is to gain the means to transcend the troubles of life. It can be easy to fall victim to the hidden opponent within us that tests and challenges us. In the Kabbalah, this opponent or force is described as ‘Sutan’ (later translated to Satan), which means an opponent that is woven into the fabric of life to test us and help us grow.

In the context of this extended pandemic and as we the drift into the colder, darker months, one place we can start, is to remind ourselves that we have choice in who we choose to be. “Between stimulus and response there is a space,” said Viktor Frankl, Austrian Holocaust survivor, and psychiatrist. “In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Let go of the fight or flight
By remembering this we are letting go of the startle (flight/fight/freeze) response which gives us access only to our amygdala (vital for emergencies, but not for creative responses to daily life situations), so that we have access to our pre-frontal cortex which integrates our whole brain and being. We can soften into a stimulus rather than bracing ourselves against it, then consciously choose the next step with all the creativity of an integrated brain, rather than striking out in a reactive, habitual way.

One way of adopting the right mindset is by asking ourselves a series of questions around how we’re looking after ourselves:

  • How do I ensure that my energy remains positive and it inspires rather than depletes others?
  • How am I managing my own energy?
  • Am I aware of what energises me and what depletes me?
  • Do I have strategies to ensure that I do most of what energises me and delegate those activities that don’t?
  • How do I use adversity as an opportunity?

The answers may reveal where each of us sits in terms of harnessing the energy we need both for our own physical and mental health, and the health of the people and the organisations around us, and how we approach our challenges.

My go-to if I am feeling low energy is to be out in nature, breathe fresh air, walk in a wood and appreciate the miracle of life. It helps me return to a sense of gratitude for the blessings I have.

Our ability to return to a calm state is key
We will all lose our sense of perspective at times and become emotional and unreasonable, but is our ability to quickly return to a calm state that is key. After all, it worked for Phil Connors!