Thursday, July 14, 2011

Groundhog Day Curse Can Be Broken

Stuart K. Hayashi

In 1994, Bill Murray starred in the excellent comedic fantasy Groundhog Day. In the movie, Murray's character is cursed to keep re-living the same day, February 2, over and over again. When he wakes up every day, it's February 2 and everyone acts exactly the same. Only Murray is aware that the same disastrous events are repeating.

Murray's character is not a bad person (though some people, who do not understand him, tell him that he is bitchy); he doesn't seek to hurt anyone. However, he is caught in a dysfunctional behavioral pattern that is emotionally damaging to both himself and others. Fortunately, he finally comes to understand that he does have control over his own choices. Rather than be changed by external factors impinging upon him, Murray makes a long-term commitment to changing for the better -- choosing to celebrate life and sunny happiness. By making better choices, he is able to break the curse and end the time loop.

A similar pattern sometimes occurs with those experiencing undiagnosed, currently-untreated Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). One with this condition can continue a pattern of anxious attachment and self-sabotage, particularly in matters of love and relationships. It starts off so happy, but then one allows one's insecurities and emotional instability to sabotage it. One can then feel so vulnerable to heartbreak that one becomes too debilitated for the relationship to progress to the next stage. Then one can emotionally withdraw from the current partner while turning a lot of attention to some other object of fixation. The process can repeat itself.

The pattern of self-sabotage can change subsequent to someone strongly choosing to change it. This does not happen overnight, of course; it is a progression of baby steps to which one maintains commitment. In the case of someone with undiagnosed, currently-untreated BPD, I do not think this can be done by sheer will alone; it also requires guidance from an expert -- a psychiatric professional. It involves training in gaining a stable sense of identity. One promising sort of treatment is Jeffrey Young's Schema Therapy.

To enter -- or return to -- psychiatric care is not easy. Nor is it easy to look for a proper diagnosis. All this takes a lot of time, energy, and work. The therapy sessions can stir up a lot of unpleasant emotions and memories. It may initially seem easier to try to repress and evade those feelings and memories. Such an evasion is untenable in the long run; one can only vanquish those haunters-of-the-mind by confronting them with the guidance of a mental health expert. In the end, truly lasting happiness can result; loving and trusting relationships can be maintained. In the end, it is worth it. What is at stake is whether one will continue living the rest of one's life in insecurity and self-image instability, or find peace with oneself and others. It is a life-saving decision. Such happiness is the single most important project or enterprise one can work on. :'-) <3