Review: The Choice: Embrace the Possible, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. Scribner.

Book Description (from NetGalley)

 

A powerful, moving memoir—and a practical guide to healing—written by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, an eminent psychologist whose own experiences as a Holocaust survivor help her treat patients and allow them to escape the prisons of their own minds.

Edith Eger was sixteen years old when the Nazis came to her hometown in Hungary and took her Jewish family to an interment center and then to Auschwitz. Her parents were sent to the gas chamber by Joseph Mengele soon after they arrived at the camp. Hours later Mengele demanded that Edie dance a waltz to “The Blue Danube” and rewarded her with a loaf of bread that she shared with her fellow prisoners. These women later helped save Edie’s life. Edie and her sister survived Auschwitz, were transferred to the Mauthausen and Gunskirchen camps in Austria, and managed to live until the American troops liberated the camps in 1945 and found Edie in a pile of dying bodies.

One of the few living Holocaust survivors to remember the horrors of the camps, Edie has chosen to forgive her captors and find joy in her life every day. Years after she was liberated from the concentration camps Edie went back to college to study psychology. She combines her clinical knowledge and her own experiences with trauma to help others who have experienced painful events large and small. Dr. Eger has counselled veterans suffering from PTSD, women who were abused, and many others who learned that they too, can choose to forgive, find resilience, and move forward. She lectures frequently on the power of love and healing.

The Choice weaves Eger’s personal story with case studies from her work as a psychologist. Her patients and their stories illustrate different phases of healing and show how people can choose to escape the prisons they construct in their minds and find freedom, regardless of circumstance. Eger’s story is an inspiration for everyone. And her message is powerful and important: “Your pain matters and is worth healing: you can choose to be joyful and free.” She is eighty-nine years old and still dancing.

 

My Review:

As a psychotherapist, I was looking at this book from at least two perspectives: the first, my response to a truly amazing and moving life story; the second, how Dr. Eger’s book might be used to help patients facing traumatic memories.

I am in awe of Dr. Eger–she demonstrates an extraordinary degree of resilience combined with an equally rare gift for forgiveness. Some have said that, when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. But Dr. Eger has made a lemon soufflé.

I work with patients who have traumatic histories, and find that often they are so enmeshed in their past pain that they cannot move past it, nor are they able to put it out of their memory by accepting that it is past, cannot be changed, and the only direction to move is forward. But that is a message that many cannot process. I have found also that for some patients, hearing an inspiring story does not give them more courage, but rather they feel discounted or take it as a personal failure that they cannot move forward as this other very brave person has done.

It is abundantly evident that Dr. Eger is an extraordinarily gifted individual, and for those fortunate enough to work with her toward their own healing, they are blessed. So, I would tell patients about this book, and suggest they might find inspiration in it; those who can accept this exceptional story and choose to follow the lessons it offers might be very much helped by it.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to read and review.

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