The Choice


The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith Eger. On the contrary, they helped her learn to live again and tell her unforgettable story.

Favorite quotes from the book:

“Why now?” I asked. This was my secret weapon. The question I always ask my patients on a first visit. I need to know why they are motivated to change. Why today, of all days, do they want to start working with me? Why is today different from yesterday, or last week, or last year? Why is today different from tomorrow? Sometimes our pain pushes us, and sometimes our hope pulls us. Asking “Why now?” isn’t just asking a question - it’s asking everything.

What happened can never be forgotten and can never be changed. But over time I learned that I can choose how to respond to the past. I can be miserable, or I can be hopeful - I can be depressed, or I can be happy. We always have that choice, that opportunity for control. I’m here, this is now, I have learned to tell myself, over and over, until the panicky feeling begins to ease.

Why do we so often struggle to feel alive, or distance ourselves from feeling life fully? Why is it such a challenge to bring life to life?

Memory is sacred ground. But it’s haunted too. It’s the place where my rage and guilt and grief go circling like hungry birds scavenging the same old bones. It’s the place where I go searching for the answer to the unanswerable question: Why did I survive?

We can choose what the horror teaches us. To become bitter in our grief and fear. Hostile. Paralyzed. Or to hold on to the childlike part of us, the lively and curious part, the part that is innocent.

Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond.

The truth is, we will have unpleasant experiences in our lives, we will make mistakes, we won’t always get what we want. This is part of being human. The problem - and the foundation of our persistent suffering — is the belief that discomfort, mistakes, disappointment signal something about our worth. The belief that the unpleasant things in our lives are all we deserve.

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis. If I am changing, what am I in the process of becoming?

I’ve never met a person who would consciously choose to live in captivity. Yet I’ve witnessed again and again how willingly we hand over our spiritual and mental freedom, choosing to give another person or entity the responsibility of guiding our lives, of choosing for us.

I reminded myself that I was there to share the most important truth I know, that the biggest prison is in your own mind, and in your pocket you already hold the key: the willingness to take absolute responsibility for your life, the willingness to risk; the willingness to release yourself from judgment and reclaim your innocence, accepting and loving yourself for who you really are - human, imperfect, and whole.