A few weeks ago, I posted a review on The Choice, the first book for Dr. Edith Eger. It’s a book that is mostly an autobiography of a Holocaust survivor, but it’s much more than a recital of what happened to her during the year that she spent at death camps.
The book was published in 2017, 72 years after she was deliberated at the age of 17. She had way more to share than the horror.
Her second book, The Gift is the condensed version of what the author learnt as a psychologist both from herself and from her patients about leading a happy life. A life that is not full of resentment and hate. A life in which you could let things go and forgive yourself and others.
The lessons, her messages are organized around 12 prisons you lock yourself up to.
I’m not going to discuss them one by one here, but let me enumerate them. If you stop reading and just contemplate on those prisons you already have enough food for thought for the month.
- The Prison of Victimhood
- The Prison of Avoidance
- The Prison of Self-Neglect
- The Prison of Secrets
- The Prison of Guilt and Shame
- The Prison of Unresolved Grief
- The Prison of Rigidity
- The Prison of Resentment
- The Prison of Paralyzing Fear
- The Prison of Judgement
- The Prison of Hopelessness
- The Prison of Not Forgiving
So instead of going through these prisons, let me share with you a couple of ideas from the book that really stuck with me.
You choose your responses
Dr. Edith Eger was greatly influenced by the therapeutic approach developed by Victor Frankl, logotherapy. Logotherapy is based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find meaning in life.
At the same time, you can find other influential thoughts in Dr. Eger’s approaches, such as positive psychology and I think even Stoicism, although that is never mentioned in her books.
The author claims that all those prisons that are mentioned throughout the book are built by one person. That person is you.
No matter what happens outside, you decide how to react to it. Your mental freedom cannot be taken away. Or as Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
On the other hand, once we understand that our feelings and behaviours are created by our thoughts, our interpretations and not by others’ actions, we become free(er) and we can start learning good in/from hell. Like the author had the opportunity “to discover her inner strength and power of choice” in Auschwitz.
You have the freedom to give an interpretation of every event, you have the freedom to choice how you react.
Often both partners are bullies
When she counseled families or individuals, she often found that the role of the victim was switching back and forth between people.
A wife contacted her because she was abused by her husband. As they talked, slowly the wife realized that even though the cruelity of her husband was not acceptable, but she was also bullying him. She denied him things, she used the kids as tools just to hurt him.
Often physical bullying is preceded by emotional bullying. I’m not saying that emotional violence justifies physical assault. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that things are not always black and white. Sadly, emotional violence is something barely discussed in our societies.
If you are bullying someone in a relationship, most probably you’re a control freak. You want to be in control of your partner and you always need to be right.
What you often ignore is that you are a prisoner yourself. Just as Dr. Edit Eger realized in Auschwitz that even though is physically imprisoned, her mind was freer than her guards’. If you want to break free, if you’re looking for freedom, you have to get go your need to be always right.
How to brake the dance?
When you are often angry, especially as a relationship, you have to ask yourself the question who are you really angry at. Maybe you are angry at your wife, because she told you that you have an ugly beer belly, but in reality you’re angry at yourself because you know you are too lazy, you don’t train and you consume too many calories.
When you are regularly angry, you are often in a 3 step dance with your partner:
- first, you are frustrated
- second, it escalates to fighting
- third, you make up
Then there is a peace, but it’s only temporary. It won’t last long until the frustration is resolved.
To break out of the cycle, you have to intervene at the first step. You have to consciously recognize what is going on, and try a different reaction, a different answer than your usual one. Take some notes how it went, and try something different, finetune if necessary the next times.
In The Gift, Dr Edit Eger shares her view on how people build mental prisons around themselves and how they can get of those and find freedom in their lives.
Often, we see ourselves as victims, but the way we react to events, to situations is always our choice and besides we often ignore that we are also victimizing the others.
While we could always blame the other, don’t forget that the behaviour of the other person is also probably like that because he was victimized by someone (probably by his parents), who was also victimized, and so on goes the cycle.
So what can you do?
Instead of trying to fix the others, start with yourself. The Gift gives you many ideas how to.
If you liked this article, please