I learnt about The Choice from Ryan Holiday’s newsletter, like about so many other books. As I’ve been always interested in history and in psychology, I decided that this book can completely jump my queue and I started to read it almost immediately.
I didn’t regret it.
Dr. Edith Eva Eger is a native of Hungary just like me. She grew up in Kassa (Kosice). She was born as the youngest sister among 3 children in a Jewish family.
Apart from Klara, the middle sister, who was studying violin in Budapest, all of them were deported to Auschwitz in 1944, where the parents were murdered the first day and two girls finally survived the war despite all the different marches and death camps.
Later, two sisters, Edith and Magda immigrated to the USA and Klara went to Australia. All of them were escaping from the communists.
I don’t want to go through the biography of the family in this article, if you are interested you can read about it in the book.
Dr. Edith Eva Eger who is still very active at the age of 94 years, she went on to become a clinical psychologist both to support others’ and her own healing.
In her first book, The Choice she shares not only her traumas but what she learned since she was deliberated and how she truly deliberated herself.
Let me share three ideas from the book.
Suffering != victimhood
You cannot avoid suffering. Life is very often about suffering. You might want to think that it is not, but you don’t have control over everything. In fact, you have no control over most of the things in life.
Following the Stoic idea, you should accept this and everything you have no control over just as a fact of life. As Dr. Eger said, “whatever plans are being outside our door, I can’t control”.
On the other hand, what you can control is how you live in that moment and how you react.
You might suffer, but you don’t have to be a victim. Victimhood is optional. Suffering comes from the outside, but “in contrast, victimhood comes from the inside.” We can only become victims if we hold on to our victimization. “We develop a victim’s mind — a way of thinking and being that is rigid, blaming, pessimistic, stuck in the past, unforgiving, punitive, and without healthy limits or boundaries. We become our own jailors when we choose the confines of the victim’s mind.”
She explains that it’s not about blaming the victims, how could one be blamed who was sent to gas chambers?
It’s about how you interpret your sufferings.
We can always choose our attitude
Later in her life, Dr. Eger met and developed a friendship with another Holocaust survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a neurologist, a psychiatrist, the founder of logotherapy and the author of the seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning.
In that book, he shared his own experiences from death camps, which were very similar to Dr. Eger’s. And I don’t mean the obvious, the way people were tortured and abused, but his observations of people. How people reacted and what attitudes helped them to survive.
As Frankl wrote and Dr. Eger quoted, “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.”
No matter what is going on around you, you can always choose how you respond.
We always have a choice.
Ask for it!
I was happy to read when she mentioned that if you want something, you should always ask for it.
I had the same feeling, I wrote about it in the fifth chapter of The Seniority Trap and now I got some confirmation.
I repeat, if you want something, ask for it!
As Dr. Eger wrote, it doesn’t mean you’ll get it. But at worst, you’ll know where you stand. You will have more information, and you will be seeing what’s actually real instead of a reality created by your fear.
Often, we only don’t ask for things because we are afraid of rejection and we miss out on precious opportunities. Here is a great TedX talk on this topic.
The Choice is much more than a book about the survival of the Holocaust. It’s much more than a memoir. It’s a book about practical advices of how to heal your soul, how not to live in fear, but to enjoy a full life. I highly recommend reading it.
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