Many people are baffled when they find themselves experiencing the same type of relationship problems, over and over again, with different partners or the same partner. They often conclude that it’s the partner that is the problem, and feel victimized by the ubiquity of this issue. We, however, have a different stance on this, one that emphasizes personal responsibility. And one that is best exemplified by the the 1993 Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. While many see this movie as another mindless, goofy Bill Murray movie, there is a deep, profound message here, for relationships in particular and life in general. On the surface, Murray plays a jaded weatherman who is forced to relive the same Groundhog Day over and over and over again until he learns how to truly love. Each morning he awakens to the horror that his life has not changed at all, that he is forced to repeat the same day over yet again, with the same small-town people he despises saying the same things and doing the same things they always do. No matter what he tries to do, even killing himself, every morning he is back in the exact same situation. There is no escape from his daily living nightmare. Without anyone to talk to who understands what he is going through, Murray engages in a very slow process of trial and error. He has all eternity to practice in, so he tries just about everything in an effort to get to another day.
Without realizing it, many people find themselves in Murray’s situation, as they find themselves always waking up to the same type of intimate relationship, over and over again, year after year, regardless of who they are with. For some unknown reason, every partner they have ever been with doesn’t quite have what it takes to give them the love they truly desire. Every relationship ultimately ends up in the same stale place, missing something essential, or repeating a unhealthy pattern of distance, unavailability, neglect or even abuse.
The lesson of Groundhog Day is that nothing will change in our lives until we change from the inside out. Our lives are a perpetual treadmill of opportunities for learning, constantly coming our way, again and again, until we heed the call and shift our attitudes, perceptions, feelings and/or behavior. As long as Murray used, manipulated and lied to people, to gratify his own ego and for his own selfish, condescending amusement, he kept getting the same results. It was only when he began to cultivate and act with genuine compassion, empathy and love for others that he got a different result. When he stopped blaming and feeling victimized by his situation and took responsibility for the fact that this was partially his own creation, it finally shifted.
So if you feel stuck on an endless treadmill of unfulfilling relationships, or no relationships at all, look inside for the answers. Who and what are you attracting into your life? What gratification do you get from reliving these behaviors and feelings over and over again? What needs to shift inside of you before you start getting a different result? What lesson have you not learned yet? What keeps coming up again and again in every relationship, or every attempt at trying to start a relationship? What is the universe trying so hard to tell you, that you just don’t understand?
Like Murray, we have all of eternity to learn our lessons. We can bring our dysfunctional patterns from day to day, from relationship to relationship, or even from life to life, if we need to. But for many of us, there comes a point when the pain, frustration, loneliness or dissatisfaction cracks through our denial and defenses, and we realize that we are the ones who must change.
Many of us cannot see our own blind spots in relationships, and need the guidance of others to help us through the darkness. Fortunately, when we are ready to learn, to listen, and to discover the truth about ourselves and our relationships, we have many more options than Bill Murray’s eternal trial and error. We can start right now with humility, remembering the wisdom of Suzuki Roshi, who said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s there are few.” Admit that you are an “expert” at some dysfunctional relationship pattern that you may not even realize you are creating, so certain are you that it comes from someone else. By invoking your beginner’s mind, with a genuine curiosity and wonder about yourself and your relationship patterns, you open up the possibility of new ideas, new learnings, new responsibilities, new attitudes and new behaviors entering into your consciousness, your relationships and your life. And like Bill Murray, there will come a day when you awaken to a different song on the radio and a different song in your heart. Only then can you experience a higher level of fulfillment, and begin to understand the next opportunity for learning which is patiently waiting for you, whenever you are ready to receive the call.