Well, you have a choice. Edith Eger is now 89 years old. A Hungarian Jew, in 1944 when she was 16, she and her family were packed off to Auschwitz, all her choices taken away from her, other than the decision to live. Her mother's last words of, “Just remember,” she says, “no one can take away from you what you’ve put in your mind.”, and this is what keeps her spirit alive. As a talented gymnast and dancer, she goes deep inside herself to cope with the appalling horror going on around her, the absolute randomness of life and death. She and her sister miraculously survive their one year of horror; their survivals are a miracle, the two of them pulled out of a pile of dead, Edith with a broken back and typhus, amongst other health issues.
But the biggest scars are of course psychological. It takes a long time, and Edith is wonderfully open and candid about the struggle both mentally and emotionally. She marries a fellow survivor, they have children, they flee Hungary, they move to America. Life is not easy, they are immigrants, they have few skills, but eventually they make a comfortable life for themselves. All the time, however, she is tormented. One of the reasons she goes to college as an adult student is to try to make sense of herself, and also try to help others. Which she achieves most magnificently, becoming an eminent psychologist, opening her own practice, and still practising today. Her success has rested on her exceptional ability, through her own traumatic experiences, to unlock the trauma, the conflict, the reasons for her patients being in the state they are in, and then helping them fix it. She is big on how we allow ourselves to become victims of our pasts, how we let the victimisation we suffered or experienced actually turn us into victims. And how we can let go of all that, and become the best person we can be. Through her helping others, she has also healed herself.
This book is both a very powerful memoir, and a lesson for living, helping find the essence of our ourselves that is locked inside of us. We do have choices in how we respond to adversity, to times of stress, how we behave in our relationships with those close to us. This is not a self-help guide to becoming a better person, but a most generously shared and intimate account of just one person's journey back to self-acceptance and self-love.