I look forward to Groundhog Day every year. Not because I particularly believe in the mythos of a groundhog’s mystical ability to recognize its own shadow on an arbitrary date on a calendar thereby foreseeing future weather patterns, nor that a human can become a gopher-whisperer/translator and is able to decipher whether the rodent saw its own shadow. No, I await the date annually to have an excuse to rewatch my favorite movie of all time…you guessed it, Groundhog Day.
The principle of this beloved 90’s comedy, as per Rotten Tomatoes, is: “Phil (Bill Murray), a weatherman, is out to cover the annual emergence of the groundhog from its hole. He gets caught in a blizzard that he didn’t predict and finds himself trapped in a time warp. He is doomed to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right.”
My views on the genius of Bill Murray’s acting, or the directing abilities of the legendary Harold Ramis, are not what this article is about. Rather, it is the last line of the movie’s synopsis, that somehow, we are doomed to relive the same day repeatedly until we get it right.
So it goes with relationships and conflict.
When I am honest with myself, and my personal contribution to conflicts I have participated in, I become aware that I may have utilized escalatory strategies. It may be subconscious, or quickly explained away with a simple ‘they started it.’ Nevertheless, deep down, I am aware of my own strategic poking, phrasing and actions that may seem innocuous to a casual observer, but were purposefully meant to trigger the other, as a rebuke for triggering me.
This continuous escalation, triggering and retriggering, becomes a cycle and a habit. For some, it can even become an addiction. This becomes increasingly difficult to move past.
Similar to Phil.
Only when Phil was able to accept the situation he was in, and became the absolute best version of himself, letting go of what was beyond his control, was he finally able to move to the start of a new day.
As the movie progresses, Phil does less to control or react to events, rather, chooses to carefully respond: from doing what he could to make one man’s last day on earth more comfortable, to saving another from choking. Only by improving himself with art and music, and genuinely caring about those around him, did he build a community, eventually earning the care and respect of those around him.
The same goes with the dissolution of a relationship. Once we can accept the situation of separation, we have choice. Do we relive, revenge, rebuke and restoke the flames of conflict? Or do we choose to move to fresh beginnings, gain closure from past conflict, and build a future with intent.
Just as Phil Connors needed assistance from several people to learn, grow and care, a mediator can be an important part of your plan for a new future. From creating stable parenting plans, budgeting asset division, and calculating support, they also help in creating a different level of communication between you and your co-parent. They can bring clarity, reduce anxiety, and help inform you of the benefits or risks of a particular agreement. A good mediator helps guide you to somewhere different from where you are right now, transitioning from conflict to agreement, from being stuck in the same pattern, to being ready for a brand-new day.
So next Groundhog Day, or any day for that matter, enjoy the movie, go to sleep, and wake up to something different.