Several days ago I wrote an article, Enough with Brain Injury Awareness. In that article I shared that brain injury awareness is good, however that moving beyond being aware for the “believer” — one who acknowledges and realize that their life has been impacted by a brain injury — is essential to creating a good life. Awareness, in and of itself; can leave the individual angry and stuck if that awareness does not lead the individual to accept what that awareness has revealed to them. That was my case for years after I became aware that I had experienced a traumatic brain injury when I was 10 years old. With out getting to a place of acceptance the “mental ascent” or “awareness of my traumatic brain injury” seemed irrelevant, because I had not grasped the significance of my awareness because I bought into denial. Both my denial and the denial of other people, who wanted or needed me to remain in denial; for whatever reason. What I discovered through my process was that I needed to grieve my awareness to be able to move from being bitter to better in my life. I needed to grieve my awareness, to come out of isolation.
“In my experience, I needed to move from a place of mental assent to being able to own my awareness through grieving my awareness (reality) before I could move beyond being bitter to becoming better in life. In my experience, I needed to move from a mental assent of my awareness to an acceptance of my awareness to be able to move from being bitter to being better to be able to create a good life for myself through taking action.” Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA
Last night I watched a movie that illustrated moving from bitter to better through becoming aware, grieving the awareness (moving from bitter to better) to being able to create a good life for the character. The movie, Groundhog Day; with Bill Murray. If you have not seen this movie “Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and committing suicide numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.” Wikipedia. In the movie, we see that Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors; is not a happy person to begin with in life. As the movie continues we see that Phil Connors appears to be bitter and angry as he relates to his co-workers and the town’s people of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in his role as a news anchor in the movie. He also appears to be all alone in his self-absorption.
Initially, Bill Murray’s character seems to be dumb founded and in denial to what is occurring, as he wakes up each day to the same song and announcement on his clock radio. This denial continues until he realizes that the same events are occurring day after day a phenomenon in which he finds himself powerless to change. With this awareness he initially becomes increasingly angry at the similar events that are occurring every day, which leads to him to realize that there does not appear to be consequences for his behavior. As a result, he begins to exploit the vulnerabilities of the small town atmosphere of the town in which he finds himself stuck and unable to leave each day. He does this through taking a money bag out of an armored truck, using his acquired knowledge of people and events by taking of advantage a town’s woman and then of Rita, his coworker played by Allie MacDowell as well as some of the other towns’ people. In his exasperation and desperation, Phil then attempts to commit suicide in many ways on different days, only to wake up the next morning at 6:00 am with the same song playing on the clock radio. As the movie continues, he then uses information gained through asking questions of the television crew and the towns people to continue to exploit the information for his own gain.
After this behavior goes on for many days,with repeated slaps from Rita (television crew member) played by Allie MacDowell; Phil begins to have spiritual awakenings. He realizes that each day never changes and begins to recognize that being angry at the events that he can not change(through his mistreating of others), attempting to bargain his way out of the situation (through manipulating, exploiting and taking advantage of both his fellow crew members and town’s people) and by being depressed (resulting in multiple suicide attempts and failures) does not work, that Phil arrives at a place of acceptance. The movie’s plot reveals that once Phil arrives at a place of accepting what he can not change, that he begins to use what he has been given (events and circumstances) that he can not change; in ways to empower and enhance both his, his crew’s and the town’s people lives. As the movie continues we see how Phil’s behavior toward both himself and other people changes from being exploitative and manipulative to being genuine.
As we see in this movie, Bill Murray’s character; Phil Connors could have remained trapped by the awareness of his being stuck in one day. He could have continued to be angry at his set of circumstances. In his anger and frustration, Phil; could have continued to exploit and take advantage of his fellow television crew members and the town’s people. He could have stayed focused on being depressed over the things that he could not change. Instead, Phil reached a point in his experience where his awareness became an acceptance of what he could not changed, so that he could begin to enrich both his life and the lives’ of his television crew and the town’s people. And so he did, by learning to ice sculpt, play the piano and go about helping various town’s people to enhance their lives and well-beings. Although the movie’s plot is fictional, what is shown to have been learned by Phil can be a benefit to all of us.
As illustrated in the movie, Groundhog Day and through the character of Phil Connors as played by Bill Murray, awareness in and of itself can lead the individual to becoming bitter in life. Instead of being empowered by the awareness through the process of reaching a place of acceptance, awareness can leave the individual feeling like they are a victim of their awareness. Awareness, in and of itself; can then leave the individual believing and feeling helpless over what can not be changed. On the other hand, awareness; through the grieving process — moving beyond denial through anger, bargaining and depression to a point of acceptance can lead the individual living with a brain injury to be empowered to take a different course of action. A course of action, as Phil Connors took once he arrived at a place of acceptance for what could not be change. A course of action that helped Phil to choose to take a different course of action to create a good life for himself.
Choices that would empower, enhance and give him the ability to be of service to the people who were part of his life. As with Phil, we can choose to use our place of awareness to move us through the grieving process of what we can not change; so that we can change the things that we can by taking action through acceptance. Action that can lead us to create a good life for ourselves instead of being caught in a “time loop” by mere awareness. Acceptance and action that will enrich and empower us to be victors in life, instead of reinforcing the notion that we are victims of a traumatic brain injury of other kind of brain injury. Action that will result in our lives becoming better. And as with Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors; our transition from being bitter to better will occur through a series of awareness’ — as we transitioned through being angry by trying to change the things we can’t (bargaining) and surrendering to what we can’t change (acceptance) — so that we can learn how to celebrate our lives as we use our gifts, talent and abilities in ways that work for us (Action). By doing so, both our lives and other people’s lives will be enriched.
Through making the transition through the grieving process — Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining — I was able to get to a place of Acceptance. Acceptance that gave me the courage to see my life change; by taking the action to move from being bitter to better in life through using my awareness of being impacted by a brain injury to discovering how I could use my gifts, talents and abilities in ways that would work for me.”
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