Building The New World Within (8) – Groundhog Day Revisited
In this second half of the analysis of the film Groundhog Day , we will look closely at Phil’s transition and personal transformation. The first half can be read here: Part 6.
Shortly before Phil decides to “check-out of life” multiple times over, we see him once again about to report on the Groundhog festival, with his comments to Larry and Rita being: “This is pitiful, a thousand people, freezing their butts off, waiting to worship a rat. What hype!”
He then turns to the crowd behind him, calls them hypocrites (!) and vents further at his colleagues: “I’ll give you a winter prediction. It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.” The mood in this scene is indeed very gloomy. Phil’s negativity is palpable and is rubbing off on those around him.
A few days later. this scene repeats itself. Right before kidnapping the groundhog and driving off a cliff, Phil says to the camera: “There is no way this winter is EVER going to end.”
Back in the restaurant again, a few days on (this could be weeks or months later), Phil tells Rita: “I’m a god. I’m a god, I’m not the God, I don’t think…” in relation to his multiple failed attempts at committing suicide. Notably, up to that date Phil had not explored any approaches other than narcissistic ones. Instead of considering the possibility of there being a message in his circumstances, he concludes that he must be “holy”. Phil’s ego is on a roll, despite his predicament.
Rita assures him that he is not “a god”. Phil proceeds to try and convince her of his continuous “reincarnation” by proving to her, somewhat successfully, how much he knows about everyone in the restaurant. As moral support she then offers to spend the rest of the day with him as an objective witness, just to see what happens.
They spend a fairly pleasant day together and at the end of the evening it appears that Rita has noticed a small change in Phil’s demeanour. Somehow he may have started self-reflecting along the way, which might just have softened and tempered his egotism a bit.
Earlier in the evening Phil had admitted that he was “a jerk”. Later on, Rita tells him that maybe his situation is not such a curse after all: “…just depends how you look at it.” She thanks him for a pleasant day and even suggests that they do it again sometime. Shortly afterwards he tells Rita, who has fallen asleep and cannot hear him, that he doesn’t deserve a person like her.
A person can ultimately only do this on his or her own – that is, come to an acknowledgement of their own shadow side, as Carl Jung so eloquently explained. External circumstances could motivate this realisation, but in the end it has to come from within and for that to happen the ego needs to be side-stepped first.
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance. Indeed, self-knowledge as a psychotherapeutic measure frequently requires much painstaking work extending over a long period.” – C.G. Jung, 1951. .
To sustain this initial action of bypassing the ego into a momentum of constantly considering the shadow, a realisation of the benefits of becoming aware of the shadow is required first – an awareness of how this could potentially lead to the opening of doors or the entering of a new paradigm – and such a realisation would have to be stronger than the ego.
In that sense it is instructive to reflect on how long it took Phil to finally reach this stage. He preferred to die first. It took him a very long time indeed to change his perception from a glass half empty to a glass half-full, even while he was living in abundance.
Phil was initially drawn to and finally motivated to change his approach by Rita. At first he found her boring and just wanted to sleep with her, but her subliminal and continuous drawing power was the fact that, although not perfect, she was already a well-developed and whole person inside and this was something Phil could aspire to, even if only subconsciously at first.
Plato argues there that eros is initially felt for a person, but with contemplation it can become an appreciation for the beauty within that person, or even an appreciation for beauty itself in an ideal sense. As Plato expresses it, eros can help the soul to “remember” beauty in its pure form. It follows from this, for Plato, that eros can contribute to an understanding of truth. – Wikipedia 
His last words to her that night is: “If I ever could deserve someone like you, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.” Here we sense that Phil probably means it. Where previously he had told women that he loved them just to get them into bed, he now says it to a woman while asleep in his bed, without having slept with her.
Phil wakes up the next morning as before; Rita is no longer there and it is still Groundhog Day. On the way to the fair, Phil decides to give money to the old man begging on the street corner, something he hadn’t done before. He brings coffee and pastries to Larry and Rita where they usually meet every day and is polite and pleasant with them. Could it be that Phil doesn’t have ulterior motives this time? Rita notices him being out of character. We can see her surprise and natural apprehension.
In the next scene, Phil is sitting in the coffee shop reading a book, while looking around from time to time, taking the time to take in his surroundings, enjoying the atmosphere and the music. He is relaxed, not hyperactive. He seems content even. He is not obsessive, compulsive or depressive. His mind doesn’t seem to be racing. Here Phil is fully in the moment – and he’s aware of it. (If he had had a Smartphone with him, he may very well have missed this moment…)
Subsequently we see Phil spontaneously taking up talent-developing activities such as learning to play the piano and, later on, ice-sculpting. Allowing his unexplored talents and creativity to lay dormant previously most likely contributed to his prior pent-up frustrations.
This brings us to a brief exploration of an element known by different names, but interpreted similarly by different thought and belief systems and schools of psychology. Among others it is known as Life Force (Eastern Religions) , Eros (Plato) and libido (Freud and Jung). For reasons of brevity we will for now focus on libido, mainly from a Jungian point of view, although we will consider Freud as well:
“According to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, the libido is identified as psychic energy. Duality (opposition) that creates the energy (or libido) of the psyche, which Jung asserts expresses itself only through symbols: ‘It is the energy that manifests itself in the life process and is perceived subjectively as striving and desire.’ (Ellenberger, 697)” – Wikipedia 
According to Jung and Freud, libido can be channelled into creativity. These two well-known psychoanalysts had different views on the nature of libido and these differences contributed to an eventual split between the erstwhile colleagues. We won’t explore these differences in depth, but in short, Jung felt that Freud’s interpretations were emphasising the sexual aspect too much.
Both of them agreed, however (as do some Eastern and other thought systems, in relation to life force), on the need for channelling the libido energy, and that a clear objective for channelling it is not necessarily present when a person does so. This is often, or usually, a subconscious process, which explains why, for example, artistic results are so incredibly spontaneous, random and highly original.
In psychology, this channelling process is known as sublimation.  It is when libido is suppressed and not channelled in any way, or when it lays dormant that it causes “irregularities” or problems in the psyche, which could result in neuroses or the symptoms thereof.
Sexual activity would of course be the most obvious and natural method for channelling libido, but is not necessarily a sufficient channel other than a short-term solution. In the context of self-development, libido energy needs to be channelled into and is indeed one of the driving forces behind human creativity.
The unrefined libido energy is then processed and converted into a more refined form and results in something completely different. Not all results are obviously sensual, as in say, tango dancing for example, but all creative processes provide pleasure and satisfaction during the creation and appreciation processes and result in highly refined and elevated outputs. This would include any and all creative activities such as, but not limited to, painting, singing, writing, dancing, performing arts and creative hobbies, and so on.
These highly rewarding activities which lead to balance and contentment are the results of channelled libido combined with cultural, environmental, subconscious, spiritual and other motivations. When a person is truly bored, s/he is prone to seek out a channel for their libido other than just the sexual – that is if their energy is not canalised into distracting and time-consuming activities with no real meaning or value. For Freud, the ability of a person learning to channel the libido effectively was a good sign of maturity.
On a different note, inspiration towards creativity can also be spiritually influenced from the outset, either subconsciously or consciously. This spiritually- or consciousness-driven inspiration can be the driving force behind creative pursuits or projects, rather than or other than libido. This is somewhat in contradiction to the libido theory, but these forces are, in fact, complementary to each other – a topic which we will explore more in-depth later on. In support of this, a point to ponder in the meantime is the fact that when a person’s libido is in hibernation, for example, it would not necessarily affect their interest, motivation or energy in relation to pursuing creative activities.
After Phil’s talent-developing activities we see him waking up once again on Groundhog Day – this time in high spirits. When he leaves his room he meets the same fellow he meets every morning at the top of the stairs, but this time, instead of being rude or ignoring him, he quotes to him a few lines by poet T.S. Coleridge: “Winter, slumbering in the open air, wears on his smiling face a dream of spring…,” which leaves his counterpart visibly inspired and with a positive outlook for the day.
That evening in town, Phil again sees the old man who was begging on the street corner, weak and struggling to make his way in the cold weather. Phil assists him and takes him to hospital. The old man passes away though, and Phil finds it really hard to accept. In the following (recurring) days he attempts various ways of trying to rescue the old man and save him from dying, but without success.
Coming to terms with the inevitability of death has an impact on Phil. This is an interesting development and sharply in contrast to him trying to take his own life earlier on. We see Phil looking up at the night sky, shortly after a heart-resuscitation effort failed. Phil then takes a different approach and instead of trying to save the man from dying, he tries to make it easier for him during his last hours, buying him restaurant meals – something the old man could never afford.
Phil has started to care about people. He has discovered empathy. Life has taken on meaning. It has become worth living – to the extent that Phil understands that it is worth living not only for himself but for other people too. He has discovered purpose. He is now prepared go out of his way to enhance the lives of others, and by extension his own, without having ulterior motives. Phil has arrived at natural altruism. Selfishness is not a virtue any more and if greed felt good before, it no longer has that much meaning or appeal.
In the next scene, Rita, Phil and Larry are back at the Groundhog Day ceremony at Gobblers Knob. This time, Phil’s report goes as follows: “When Chekov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope, yet he knew that winter is another step in the cycle of life. But standing here amongst the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
Phil is speaking from the heart here, and from the soul too, and the people around him are visibly touched and inspired. He has moved much closer to his real self than ever before and he has also developed a level of maturity, being able to appreciate the cycles and seasons of life, instead of wanting to escape mid-season.
Both Larry and Rita congratulate him on his speech and Rita invites him for coffee, but Phil declines as he says he has a few errands to run, which would indicate that Phil’s priorities have shifted.
Phil’s complete transition is starting to transpire. We notice how he has gotten into a routine of supporting people in the community. We see him perform various altruistic acts as part of his daily activities. In a way, Phil has become a community worker, voluntarily so. Later on we see people organically reciprocate (in most cases), often in different ways, even if only to thank him verbally, and we can sense the community atmosphere and spirit, which Phil has become part of.
During the final scenes of the film we see Phil expressing his love for Rita authentically and she accepts his declaration. The time-loop (and shadow loop) ends. The next morning, Phil wakes up and it is finally the day after Groundhog Day (!). Phil and Rita decide to live in Punxsutawney together.
In the end, Phil was still the same person, but dramatically altered: he was deeper, more authentic, more real, more genuine, more actualised, more adept at being comfortable with his talents and skills, because he had developed them.
He didn’t lose his personality, nor his character; he just became more refined within them, with a different outlook on life. Finally Phil found meaning in purpose which caused him to become responsible and this resulted in him cultivating a sense of duty within. He became more of a contributor to his environment than an exploiter of it. He became more humane and altruistic and he learned how to love authentically – he became a more complete human. Finally, he had made a choice to live within a community and be part of its natural ecosystem. Without planning it specifically, along the way he had found personal leadership within. In this sense Phil very much became a pillar of his community and, by extension, society.
1. Further analysis
Phil had choice and will and at first chose all the shortcuts, but due to the repetitive nature of things, he could finally only but seek meaning in the banal and mundane – in everyday life. He came to grips with not being the centre of the universe. Due to the hard knocks of life he learned humility, which facilitated him being able to finally live more from his authentic Self than his ego self.
Phil returned to his real Self (he “returned home” – See Part 7), which was there from the start, from his birth. All he had to do was strengthen and develop it to become aware of it and to fully discover it. This was only possible once he had relaxed his ego and processed (some of) his shadow. Phil developed skills he never knew he had and he reached much more potential than he ever would have, had he not been challenged by life. In the end, Phil managed to grow up.
Phil arrived at liking himself (he didn’t previously and he admitted it). He could see himself more clearly too. By being able to see his shadow he also came to see his light and gained an appreciation for it (without egotistically thinking he was holy) and he could better distinguish between the two. 
“To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”
— Carl Gustav Jung
A well-developed Self in a person tends to draw other people to it organically – it draws those who have processed their shadow and those who haven’t – those who live from their shadow and those who do not. A strong Self therefore tends to be accompanied by well-developed intuition, which helps to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic people. (Rita rejected Phil until he became authentic).
Over time Phil got to see the real Rita, not just the object of desire she represented to him at the start and not just another trophy piece in the end. Rita came to realise that there was much more to Phil too, because after Phil’s self-development there really was (much) more to him.
People who have really worked on themselves (their Selves) in terms of self-development, purposefully or naturally, are able to notice and appreciate that within each other. Communities usually function very well with these individuals due to their natural sense of responsibility and their ability to naturally enhance the community spirit. This is important, because a strong community spirit and cohesion will be needed in future in order to live responsibly and sustainably without conflict on a planet with finite resources.
2. Dealing with the shadow
In the context of this essay, the fantasy aspect of the time-loop element in the film relates to the actual shadow-loop that humanity perpetually finds itself in due to our dualistic paradigm of dark and light. Let’s start looking closer at how we might end this shadow-loop individually and, by extension, collectively:
Ironically, only once Phil fully embraced “the futility of life” (his outlook was primarily negative at first – he saw the glass as half-empty), did life start to take on some meaning with him seeking out a higher objective to live for and aspire to – beyond his daily work routine and beyond basic self-gratification. Only when Phil finally discovered or became aware of (a) higher purpose did he gain the willpower to face his shadow, because he realised that his (own) shadow was blocking his progress.
Phil processed his shadow by travelling through it. A mistake many people – including Jungians – make is to interpret shadow work as having to always spend time in the shadow. This is an interesting approach, but fails to fully recognise the nature of the shadow, because if we hang around (in) there perpetually we will be assimilated by it and live from within it. (See Part 5 – Chicken Little and her friends were assimilated by the fox.)
It is true that a person cannot remove him or herself from their shadow completely, because there is dark and light in all of us – we all have a shadow, but we can live aside of it (much of the time), without suppressing it. If we don’t make this effort, we will end up like Phil in Groundhog Day before his breakthrough – we will remain in an endless shadow-loop. This is our current predicament as a global society.
There is a reason for that, of course, and this is that in our immaturity as human beings we are still intrigued and fascinated by the shadow. This is obvious in how it is more or less celebrated in film and fiction and how popular those narratives are. The difficulty in acknowledging this truth comes from our egos often protecting our shadow sides, because we tend to harbour (some) sympathy for it – and this is partly what leads to the will to avoid responsibility. However, whatever is within us collectively is reflected outside of us in our physical environment. The chaos we see in the world externally reflect our collective chaos internally.
Transcending the shadow means neither suppressing it, nor living from it, nor being intrigued or fascinated by it. Once we have travelled through our own shadow, we create the space and time to reflect upon it in order to step out of it and live mostly outside of it and are able to observe it (in order to “keep it in check”). The same goes for the ego.
In that sense, we have then become “lighter”, less shadow orientated. This is what enlightenment means in a practically achievable sense. We can live our lives (much) more liberated from our shadow. Completely being drawn back into it or being enticed and intrigued by it then becomes much less common or likely. It is evident then that dealing with the shadow needs to be encouraged from childhood.
Said differently, we have to work through duality to arrive at non-duality, as challenging as that may sound. Both exist at the same time in this paradigm, but non-duality is mostly spiritual and related to consciousness. Duality is more related to the unconscious (not being conscious) and the forces of polarity. A person can arrive at and live in non-duality consciously (on a spiritual level) to a large extent and this should be aspired to. By becoming conscious (of the shadow and converting it) we evolve.
A non-duality-based paradigm (in terms of consciousness) will become more accessible once we have aligned ourselves to it. Fortunately, the universe is already assisting us in that endeavour.
The shadow does not only exist for individuals but also for nations, regions and groups of people. Some have processed their shadow more than others. To achieve a more stable, balanced and peaceful world, much shadow-processing will be required, and by some groups more than others. The bottom-line is that not everyone is equally peaceful. Should we manage to process our shadows to some extent we would have much more tolerance and respect for each other and have a much better chance of living “together” as a responsible global community.
The alternative is that some nations, regions and areas will continue to regress while others continue to progress. The rise and fall of civilisations, dynasties and empires is an intrinsic feature of world history. However, just as there are progressive individuals in regressing societies, there are regressing individuals in progressive societies. Overall, the majority of people just go with the flow, whichever way it goes. This has always been so. On an individual level we need to consider where we are within the above contexts, what our roles are within them, and where we hope to be in future.
The era we are currently entering will require a new understanding of the concept of progress and that of being progressive – one completely different to the one we have at present.
To be continued…
© 2015. All Rights Reserved. Gypsycafe.org
This is Part 8 in a series.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Interpretations of Jungian, Freudian and Mayan concepts are the author’s and are used to motivate certain philosophical arguments within the context of this essay. Jean-Jacques Montagnier writes under a pen name. He has a career in adult education, is a student of psychology and philosophy and is involved in non-commercial life coaching.
Readers are encouraged to share the link to this page: http://gypsycafe.org/2015/05/31/building-the-new-world-within-8/
Citations and References:
 Film: Groundhog Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_%28film%29
 Quote: reprinted in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 9 Part 2
 Concept of Eros: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eros_%28concept%29
 Chi and Libido: http://tongrenworld.com/Chi&Libido.htm / Life Force and Vitalism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitalism
 Libido: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libido#cite_ref-7
 Sublimation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublimation_%28psychology%29
 Jung Quote: “To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”
— Carl Gustav Jung
 The (Mayan) 9th Wave: http://calleman.com/2015/04/28/why-follow-the-ninth-wave/