Which Phil are you?
Groundhog Day is not just a movie, and definitely not just a romantic comedy. It offers the perfect depiction of spiritual transformation, or what I refer to as personal evolution. If needed, see here for a synopsis and reviews of the film (but then see the film, please).
What is personal evolution? It's just what it sounds like: an individual's social, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth. It's the life adventure of trying to live up to your potential. As Phil the weatherman, the star of Groundhog Day, demonstrates, this does not have to be a journey consciously taken. In fact, much of the time along the way, it is not, and this is often not a good thing. A life consciously lived is more satisfying, deep, meaningful, and (I think) rewarding than being pulled along by forces that seem outside of your control. You have control over a lot more than you think.
The story of Phil the weatherman's personal evolution begins on a completely unconscious level. Your personal evolution can happen consciously, and you can facilitate moving more quickly to where you want to be. Here, I will introduce what I believe are the 7 phases of personal evolution Phil passes though on his way to his ideal self. In my experience, they represent a pattern commonly seen in human nature. Each of the phases may be recognizable either in yourself or others - see if you can spot yourself in one or more of the following throughout your life up until now.
ONE: Phil the Narcissist. "This shouldn't be happening to me." In this stage, Phil is always dissatisfied. He has a lot of the things he wants, but it's never enough. Everything he does is self-centered. Phil the film character is a classic Narcissist who seeks fame, adoration, status, and power, but you don't have to be narcissistic to be focused on yourself. In the most literal meaning, to be self-centered is to view life through the lens of: How does this affect me? Sometimes this isn't about being stuck-up, it's about being short-sighted, not seeing far (if at all) beyond yourself.
TWO: Phil the Hedonist. "Woohoo!" Once Phil has gotten over the shock of why he keeps repeating the same day over and over, he realizes this can be used to his advantage. This goes a step beyond self-centered, because Phil is taking advantage of the situation and everyone in it. People get hurt, depressed, terrified, jailed, and possibly even killed. Because all Phil knows at this point is how things will be reset the next morning, he doesn't worry about anything deep or meaningful. He's living in the moment, because it's all he has. He goes only for cheap thrills and anything that immediately feeds his ego.
THREE: Phil the Manipulator. "Things are going to be the way I want." When throwing caution to the wind doesn't inspire him anymore, Phil steps up his game to more complex thrills and personal gain. He'll spend more time on planning and learning about the things and people around him, so he can make things turn out a certain way. He asks Rita, the woman he's pursuing, what kind of man she wants, and then he tries to portray (rather than be) that person. He's gotten more observant, is using his wit, and gets bigger and better rewards, and he is counting on what happens once he falls asleep, when everything he's done is reset to 6 a.m. on February 2nd.
FOUR: Phil the Confused. "Why isn't everything turning out the way I want?" Phil is starting to question things, which is good. He may be noticing the limits of his power, which is ultimately a good thing, but he's tired of the same ol' same ol' and can't accept that his power is limited. He's been pursuing love, but in trying to manipulate it to his liking, he's been figuratively and literally slapped in the face repeatedly. It's getting depressing.
FIVE: Phil the Suicidal. "What's the point in doing anything?" The good part is that he's thinking more deeply about more meaningful things. Yet when Phil has done all the fun things he wants over and over until they're not fun anymore, and when pointing everything to his advantage is no longer rewarding, he feels empty. "I've come to the end of me," he tells Rita, his love interest, before walking away and taking a bath with a plugged-in toaster (and jumping off a building, stepping in front of a truck, driving himself and Phil the ground hog off a cliff, etc.).
SIX: Phil the Truthseeker. "Who and what can I ask?" Phil becomes an honest man. He's still confused, but he starts to accept what he cannot change. He starts to tell Rita about the time loop and asks for and accepts her help. He tells her he's killed himself so many times that he doesn't know who he is anymore. This is good, in a way, because his lost ego is no longer the driving factor behind most of his actions. He starts to read books, ask people to teach him things and takes interest in their personal stories. He does random acts of kindness. And yet, the clock resets to 6 a.m. February 2nd each morning, as it has for what may as well be an eternity. This can be hard some days. He's not stable in his newfound truth, so there must still be something to learn.
SEVEN: Phil the Wise. "The power is in the present moment." Through all of these stages, Phil has learned so much, and yet more was needed to break the spell of Groundhog Day. He needed to learn now to fully dive into and live in the moment. This phase contains a combination of the most adaptive characteristics of other stages: knowing yourself (the self-centered or Narcissist), living in the moment (the Hedonist), being curious (the Confused), asking deep and meaningful questions (the Suicidal), acceptance, learning, and good-deed-doing (the Truthseeker). Still, the whole wise self is more than the sum of its parts, because he didn't suddenly transcend the time loop as soon as he hit the Truthseeker stage.
No. More than possessing these qualities is respecting others' paths and truths. At the end of his last February 2nd, Phil is no longer portraying the person that Rita wants - he has actually become the person he wanted her to think he was. And this evolved over time (the indefinitely long loop of Groundhog Day) into something that showing all the signs of actual love. It's marketed as a romantic comedy, so it had to end with love conquering all. Dr Yvonne Kason compared the quest of spiritual transformation with the concept of the "purification of the heart," and we all know the heart is focused on love.
It's Groundhog day - again - and that might mean that we can use the cultural phenomenon of the film and its hero's journey to inspire us to examine our own lives. You might answer the question, What if you had to live the same day over and over again? with what are ultimately self-centered, superficial, or pointless answers, like Phil in his early stages of transformation. And, like Phil and anyone else, these will all be some part of your journey. Maybe, though, just maybe things can get better, and you can do better - better than you ever thought. All you need is inspiration, which you can get by watching Groundhog Day, if you want, but if not, then try this: just imagine that all the love you ever wanted awaits you, and let that be your inspiration.