The Power of Choice (Top Gun, Groundhog Day and James Blunt)

I've been thinking a bit of late about the power of choice and how this fits into the whole concept of how we always have choice to play out the different aspects of our life in the 'shadow' or in the 'light'.  To refresh people's memories on what the concept of light and shadow means - for each 'story' (or archetypal pattern) we play out in our lives, we are called to make choices.  And the key choices we make are whether we play out a 'story' in the light or whether we play it out in the shadow.  This decision doesn't just play out in the big issues we have in our lives, it plays out in the day-to-day decisions we make.  In fact, it's the day-to-day small decisions that are often the crucial ones.  As Caroline Myss often says, God is found in the small things, the small choices we make, not in the big flashy ones.

Choice and our Contracts

With each of our archetypes in this lifetime we bring in a myriad of 'contracts' to play out - some of them 'big' but most of them are 'small'.  I've come to see that every time you make a choice which impacts your life - even in small ways (like whether you choose to exercise today or not) - you are playing out one of your 'contracts'. 

Now the thing with our sacred contracts is that they are not optional.  We've made a decision to play out certain stories or themes in our life - committed to a number of plots and subplots if you like.  But what's crucial here is that whilst you've committed to a particular theme or story line, you have a choice as to how that story plays out.  You can choose whether it plays out in the shadow or the light. 

Top Gun - the archetypal hero's journey

So let's look at an archetypal story and see how this might play out.  In the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise's character 'Maverick' plays out the archetypal role of the hero.  The hero's journey in a nutshell is the journey of personal empowerment.  And typically there are three stages to the hero's journey.  The first stage is where the hero realises that in order to uncover who he or she really is, that they have to leave the tribe.  The second is what many consider the difficult stage, where the hero goes through a personal journey where they come to terms with who he or she really is and understands both their strengths and weaknesses.  in the third stage, having realised who they are, the hero returns to the tribe, now strong in an understanding of their own identity and boundaries and conscious of what they bring to the group. 

In Top Gun, Tom Cruise's character Maverick is struggling with his identity in the beginning.  He is seen as a flyer with great potential who hasn't yet achieved everything he can - a rebel who isn't trusted by his unit.  On the death of his partner, he enters the second phase of the hero's journey and leaves the 'tribe'.  He has a crisis of confidence - and needs to 'find his feet' on his own - needs to understand his role in what happened and he also goes through a period of doubting whether he has anything to offer.  During that period he refuses to connect with anyone (even the movie's love interest) and he wants to do everything on his own.  The peak of the movie - and where Maverick makes the choice to move out of the second phase into the third phase of the hero's journey - is when they are in the 'dogfight' at the end of the movie.  We see Maverick have a crisis of confidence, he is scared to engage in the fight and at one point we think he is leaving the fight and potentially leaving his 'wingman' (Ice) to face the opposition alone.  We see him struggle with the choice - does he listen to his fears or does he hold strong in who he is and make the courageous choice.  In true Hollywood style, he makes the courageous choice and comes back in and saves the day.  And this time, as he flies he flies with strength and conviction and is able to be a part of the 'team' - he makes the choice to play the hero's story out in the light by making the courageous choice.

The key here, in linking this back to what I've been saying about the shadow and the light, was that Maverick (Tom Cruise's character) reached a point where he had to make a choice to let his fears beat him or to learn from what has happened and make a different decision to the one he would have made before, the courageous choice.  And whilst for most of us, our choices are never that large and are never accompanied by such a fanfare, the contract choices we make are often those between the fearful choice and the couragous one.  Had Tom Cruise's character Maverick made a different decision, he would still have been playing out the hero's journey, but he would have chosen to play it out in the shadow - understand what happens when you make choices out of fear.   

Groundhog Day - we never get just one chance to get it right

In yesterday's article, I highlighted the choices we are all faced with during our lives as part of the Sacred Contracts we have chosen to play out here.

At the risk of mixing movie metaphores from yesterday, one other crucial point I need to make here is that we never get just once chance to get it right.  Whilst the movie Groundhog Day might be fictitious in the way it plays out, in our lives we will often find that the same situation presents itself in a different format with different players over and over again.  We may not wake up in the same day over and over again as Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day did - but whether in relationships, in our job or in other aspects, we are often presented with the same dilemma, the same choice to make.  And when I work with people on their past lives, the same often applies across lifetimes. 

So how do you break the loop? How do you move out of your own personal Groundhog situation?  The key is making your choices out of love and not out of fear.  When we are driven by fear, when we make our decisions out of fear, we are committing ourself to playing out the same loop over and over again until we learn the lesson we commited to learn.  When we make choices out of fear, we are committed ot playing out the story in the shadow and not in the light.  Now, on some occassions it seems that we learn what we learn to learn through playing a story out in the shadow - albeit unpleasantly - but more often than not it appears that we keep playing out situations until we learn to choose the 'light' path.


Same Mistake

It was actually James Blunt's song 'Same Mistake' that inspired me to write this article.  I've embedded a video of his song for those of you who aren't familiar with his work.  The anguish he expresses in this song around making a choice, expresses the anguish that many of us feel when we are stuck in a Groundhog Day type 'loop'  - trying to understand why we keep making the same mistake over and over again:

"I'm not calling for a second chance,

 I'm screaming at the top of my lungs.

 Give me reason, but don't give me choice,

 because I'll just make the same mistake again...."

James Blut also recognises that the mistake he is making is his alone - it's nobody elses. This is important, because often we are tempted to blame others for our loop.  Phrases such as "I just keep attracting the wrong people", "Why does this always happen to me" - are all suggestive of the problem being outside ourselves, when the clear common denominator in all the situations is actually the person themselves. James Blunt says:

"And so I sent some men to fight,

 and one came back at dead of night

Said he'd seen my enemy,

Said he looked just like me." 

The Power of Choice - breaking your Groundhog Day loop

So how do you break your own personal Groundhog Day loop? The simple answer is that you break the loop by making decisions out of love and not out of fear.  When you can do this, the victory is already yours.  The victory is in the action rather than the outcome.  Some more specific steps are:

  • Identifying and understanding the fear or fears relating to a particular 'loop'- sometimes this is relatively easy.  Other times this is not as easy as it sounds, as the fears that relate to a particular 'loop' aren't always that obvious.  This is particularly true if the fear relates primarily to a past life or past lives.  When this happens, we feel it in this lifetime as an 'irrational' fear that we can't explain.  (An example of an irrational fear would be when someone says "I've always hated it when people touch my arm - I don't know why, I've always been that way.")

  • Once you've understood the fear or fears, recognise the lessons that you should take from the event in which the fear(s) occurred - a simple example of this would be if you've been burned by fire, recognise that keeping a safe distance from it is a good idea.  Overcoming your fear in this instance doesn't mean putting your hand back in the flames.  But at the same time it doens't mean that you never go near fire again. 

  • This is the important one - make the courageous decision, don't bow to fear. Now although I've put this as the last step, don't feel that you have to get the other two steps right before you do this one.  Quite often just taking this step can actually resolve and release the issue.  And even if you still need to work through the other two steps, you can still be reinforcing the decision you are making to break the loop by making decisions out of love instead of out of fear.

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