Book Summary: The Gift by Edith Eger
Edith Eger was taken as a prisoner by the age of sixteen, in 1944, by the Nazis. Together with her parents and her sister, she was put to Auschwitz. Her parents were murdered the day they arrived. Edit Eger could survive in the death camp as a dancer by dancing for the high officers there.
But she was no longer in the death camp whenever she closed her eyes. Instead, she pictured herself in a big opera house, doing what she loves – dancing the role of Juliet in Tchaikovsky’s ballet. This was the strength she had that she survived the death camp.
Today, she works as a full-time psychologist, helping others overcome their fears and past to live a long and happy life. In her book, The Gift, she shares 12 of the most important aspects of life, to live happily with no worries and to master life in general.
The most important thing to learn from her book is to forgive. She had a hard time forgiving the nazis for what they had done to her and how they had killed her parents and threatened her. But to live a happy life, you must let go of the past, anger, and hate.
You may have heard the famous saying, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” This is, of course, easier to say than to do. But with the help of this book summary The Gift by Edith Eger, you get a step closer to achieving this. In every chapter, Edith has a story from one of her clients who are most interesting to read and which the key takeaway explains in a real-life situation.
Suffering is universal. But victimhood is optional. Edith started this chapter with these words. We have no control over environmental or genetic factors. Still, we can choose whether we want to be victims. We only control how we respond to things that happen to us. If we hold on to victimhood, we build ourselves a prison, but we can change this with the power of perspective.
Edith has a powerful exercise in her book:
- Write a letter to a person or situation that has caused you pain, recently or in the past.
- Describe your feelings and how the event or person has affected you.
- Take your time, and put it all on the table.
- Then write another letter to the same person or situation. Still, this time write a thank-you letter, expressing gratitude for what the person has taught you about yourself or how the situation has prompted you to grow. Again, you don’t have to pretend to like something you don’t like. Instead, notice the healing power in shifting your point of view from a powerless victim to who you are, a survivor, a person of strength.
Edith calls it the Prison of Avoidance. The opposite of depression is expression. What comes out of you doesn’t make you sick; what stays there does. It’s important to talk about what troubles us, don’t deny it, or say it’s nothing. Talk about it. As long as you avoid your feeling, you are denying reality.
You feel lighter when you talk to someone about it. You can process what happened better this way. It will hurt the first time you recall it and the second time too, but it will get better the more often you face this problem. When you avoid the problem, you cannot heal yourself. It will always be a problem. So take the courage and talk about it. Heal yourself.
You are the only one you’re going to have for a lifetime. All other relationships will end. So practice some self-love and self-care. You are the most precious thing. Therefore, it is essential to be kind to yourself and ensure that you care for your mental and physical health.
You can try some affirmations or gratitude. Before you get up in bed or drink your morning coffee, say 5 things you are grateful for every morning. Making this a habit can do wonders with your overall mood and happiness. And don’t say yes whenever someone asks you. Instead, learn to say no when you don’t want to and you need time for yourself.
It will catch up with you if you are living a double life. Being honest starts with telling the truth to yourself.
Don’t deny what you are feeling. Tell the truth to yourself. Even when it hurts. It’s a good thing to listen to yourself. If the truth hurts, then change something about the situation. You can’t live with complete integrity, total joy, or full confidence if you are not honest with yourself.
There is a crucial foundation for every happiness and a healthy relationship with yourself. If there are things you’re denying or things that trouble you, change them. You are in power to change these things.
Guilt and Shame
Guild and shame are the most prominent negative emotions we have to fight as a human. Guilt is when you blame yourself when you believe something is your fault. Guilt can be devastating. But guilt is not remorse.
Remorse is an appropriate response to a harmful mistake we’ve made or a wrong we’ve committed. This is something good. We learn, and we get better if we have remorse.
Guilt and shame don’t come from the outside. They come from the inside. It’s a prison you build for yourself. And if we’re to live free of shame, we don’t let others’ evaluations define us. So pay attention to how many times you say “I should”, “I shouldn’t”, “I don’t deserve it” or other harmful things you are thinking.
Be kind to yourself, love yourself, and treat yourself well; these things will disappear.
When we have unresolved grief, we often live with overwhelming rage. Resolving grief means releasing ourselves from responsibility for all the things that weren’t up to use, and coming to terms with the choices we’ve made that can’t be undone.
Grief is a natural process, and it’s crucial to allow yourself to feel it. Don’t try to push the pain away. Allow yourself to grieve. Cry when you need to. Scream when you need to. And eventually, you will start to heal. Free yourself from the shackles of regret and grief. Release yourself from the responsibility for the things you couldn’t change.
Conflict is human. Edith helped a lot of people strengthen and improve their relationships. But she often discovered that they’re not in therapy to learn how to negotiate conflict; they want her help convincing others to conform to their point of view. As a result, she often heard sentences like “I want him to..” and “I want her to…”.
But you can’t want something for another person. Eventually, you are doing it yourself, but it’s wrong to convince others to do what you want. So stop denying someone else’s truth. Instead, listen carefully, try to be helpful, and don’t insult or criticize your partner. No one grows with criticism.
Many live as though they have something to prove, having the last word. What are you defending? What do you want to prove? Every human is fallible. You don’t have to prove your worth. Drop the agenda. If you have something to prove, you’re still a prisoner.
Would you like to be married to you? Resentment can be a dangerous feeling, and it can be especially dangerous for other people, people who you love. I’m sure you found yourself in this situation: You are angry at your partner or a friend. You tell them what they did wrong, accuse them, and so on. But ultimately, are they really the ones you are angry with?
In all cases, resentment comes from within. When we’re angry, it’s often because there’s a gap between our expectations and reality. But the other person can’t influence what you expect. How would you like to be treated by your partner? With loving, kindness, and deep understanding. So give this, and you will receive it.
Fear can be the most devastating thing that keeps you from living your dreams. Generally, you are only regretting what you don’t have done. But, a paralyzing fear can strip you from all wishes and dreams. And releasing the fear starts with you.
We hold on to our fear, hoping it keeps us safe. But by playing save, we miss all the beautiful things that can happen to us. If we could leave our comfort zone for a tiny bit to let new experiences into our lives. Change your vocabulary from “I can’t, I’m trying, I need to” to “I can, I want, I choose.”
It doesn’t take courage to strive for perfection. It takes courage to be average. To say, “I’m okay with me.” To say, “Good enough is good enough.” If you strive for other people’s approval, you make a prisoner out of yourself.
When we live in the prison of judgment, we don’t just victimize others. We victimize ourselves. And unfortunately, it’s human. We have control over how we judge others. Try to be alerted and present, and you will notice when you judge someone. If you notice it, stop it immediately.
If someone offends you and judges you, tell yourself, “Human, no more, no less. Human, like me”. And ask: “What are you here to teach me?”
You live a better life if you don’t judge people based on their actions, how they are, etc. Everyone has a strange side. And your life is lighter and more joyful if you don’t judge the other person. So let go of judgment and choose compassion.
It’s tempting to confuse hope with idealism, but idealism is just another form of denial. You don’t do yourself good by saying: No pain, no glory, or others have so much worse. This may be true, but don’t neglect your feelings. Say to yourself that it hurts. But also know that it is temporary.
Idealism is when you expect everything in life to be fair, reasonable, or easy. It’s a defense mechanism, just like denial or delusion.
Forgiveness is not something we do for the person who’s hurt us. It’s something we do for ourselves. When we free ourselves from the past, we no longer carry the burden that harbors nothing but pain. But forgiveness isn’t simply put saying: “I’m done with her.” Forgiveness is when you honestly forgive the other person with your whole heart.
Doing this right unleashes a powerful, joyful, beautiful feeling. It’s like you’re being freed of shackles that held you down for a long time.
Here is a powerful exercise:
- Sit down in a quiet place, and close your eyes.
- Take some deep breaths and try to go into a meditative state.
- Picture the other human who harmed you, and imagine he is a cute little newborn. He’s crying and utterly dependent on his mother. Hold the cute little baby in your arms, and forgive them for what they have done to you.
We can’t take away suffering, and we can’t change what happened, but we can choose to find the gift in our lives. We can even learn to cherish the wound. When we heal and come to terms with our scars, they become a source of strength, a reminder of our resilience and power.
Read inspiring quotes: The Gift By Edith Eger: 19 Powerful Quotes
Wounds and struggles are inevitable, but they don’t have to be the end of the story; they can be the beginning of a new one.
This summary of The Gift by Edith Eger should help free yourself from the shackles of the past. But, if you want to know more, I recommend you read your book. After every chapter, there are short exercises to further strengthen what she is teaching in her book.
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