Over the past few years, I’ve been coming across more and more information and resources that teach the fact that our thoughts carry power — for good or for bad. As I’ve endured my own hardships, and watched friends and loved ones do the same, I’ve struggled with how to navigate the thoughts that accompany these situations. In walking this life’s path, there is one powerful thing I’ve come to learn and am trying to more fully develop in myself: We can choose our perspective in any circumstance.
Last month, my book club read the book “The Choice: Embrace the Possible” by Dr. Edtih Eva Eger. Dr. Eger is an Auschwitz survivor who then went on to become a psychologist. In this book, she relives all that she experienced in WWII, and, through the lense of her profession, begins to process what happened to her and others. Who better to instruct us on “perspective in any circumstance,” than someone who has lived through what she has!
During her captivity, she had a mantra. It was the thing that literally kept her going from day to day: “If I survive today, tomorrow I’ll be free.” She mentioned the difference of her mantra from that of many others she met throughout her journey. She tells of a fellow prisoner who was counting down the days to Christmas, convinced that they’d be liberated. When the anticipated day came and went with no freedom granted, the woman died the day after. There is true power in how we choose to see our circumstances! We can see things how we want to. We can give the benefit of the doubt rather than be offended. Count the blessings instead of the drawbacks. After a good cry, search for a reason to smile. Choose to survive today, and tomorrow we’ll be free.
The following are a few of my favorite quotes from the book, and some of the thoughts they inspired:
… there is no hierarchy of suffering. There’s nothing that makes my pain worse or better than yours, no graph on which we can plot the relative importance of one sorrow versus another… comparison can lead us to minimize or diminish our own suffering. Being a survivor, being a “thriver” requires absolute acceptance of what was and what is. If we discount our pain, or punish ourselves for feeling lost or isolated or scared about the challenges in our lives, however insignificant these challenges may seem to someone else, then we’re still choosing to be victims. We’re not seeing our choices. We’re judging ourselves (p. 8).
I love the permission she gives us to accept the reality of our individual limitations and our own pain threshold. She is teaching us here that we all don’t need “an Auschwitz” to know loss or pain. She encourages us to acknowledge our own reality, regardless of anyone else’s life experiences. In the same way that we shouldn’t compare our suffering, we also shouldn’t compare life’s journey in general! I’m not, nor ever will be, the mother of seven who homeschools and makes fresh bread from the grain she grew in her garden when she isn’t blogging or running her small business out of her garage … And that’s okay!! The reality is, we all have our limitations, our abilities, our own suffering and successes. It’s exactly these differences that make this world so diversely beautiful.
I would love to help you discover how to escape the concentration camp of your own mind and become the person you were meant to be. I would love to help you experience freedom from the past, freedom from failures, and fears, freedom from anger and mistakes, freedom from regret and unresolved grief–and the freedom to enjoy the rich feast of life. We cannot choose to have a life free of hurt. But we can choose to be free, to escape the past, no matter what befalls us, and to embrace the possible. I invite you to make the choice to be free (p. 9).
Don’t you wish she were your therapist!? From someone who has endured some of the earth’s vilest atrocities, come these beautiful images of joy and freedom! And she tells us that it’s our choice. We can decide to live this way. This last quote I share is what I feel to be the initial step in becoming someone who truly can choose the freedom Dr. Eger invites us to have.
… we have a choice: to pay attention to what we’ve lost or to pay attention to what we still have.
I invite us all to start our journey of choosing joy and freedom by counting our blessings. Just as she says, we can look at what we still have even if it’s only the promise of tomorrow. Even if all that seems to be left is our beautiful beating heart inside. Choice is a power that we can use no matter the circumstance. And our choices truly can set us free.