We suffer the most when we believe that we have no efficacy in our lives, that nothing we do can improve the outcome. This book will help you understand that our feelings and thoughts create our behavior; much of our suffering stems from the misconception that we can’t be loved and genuine – that if we are to earn others’ acceptance or approval, we must deny or hide our true selves.
1. We do not change until we’re ready. Sometimes it’s a tough circumstance – perhaps a divorce, accident, illness, or death – that forces us to face up to what isn’t working and try something else. But readiness doesn’t come from the outside, and it can’t be rushed or forced. You are ready when you are ready; when something inside shifts and you decide, Now I’m going to do something else. Change is about interrupting the habits and patterns that no longer serve us. If you want to alter your life, you don’t simply abandon a dysfunctional habit or belief: you replace it with a healthy one. You choose what you are moving toward. You find an arrow and follow it. Of course, it doesn’t mean, you have to throw everything and start from scratch. Whatever you’ve done, it’s brought you this far, to this moment… Finally, remember: it isn’t to become the NEW you, but the REAL you.
2. Suffering is universal, but victimhood is optional. There is no way to escape being hurt or oppressed by other people or circumstances. The only guarantee is that no matter how kind we are or how hard we work, we are going to have pain. But we each get to choose whether or not we stay a victim. Many of us stay in that prison forever, because it feels safer (subconsciously). We ask “why? why me?” over and over, believing that if we could just figure out the reason, the pain would lessen… We search for answers, for understanding. But when we ask why, we’re stuck searching for someone or something to blame – including ourselves. Instead of asking “why me?”, ask “what now?” We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how to respond to our experience.
3. In every crisis, there is a transition. Awful things happen, and they hurt like hell. But these devastating experiences are also opportunities to regroup and decide what we want for our lives. When we choose to respond to what’s happened by moving forward and discovering our freedom to, we release ourselves from the prison.
4. The opposite of depression is expression. What comes out of you doesn’t make you sick; what stays in there does. Often, the emotions we don’t allow ourselves to express or release stay bottled inside, and whatever we’re holding on to affects our body chemistry and finds expression in our cells and neural circuitry.
Don’t inhale your anger to your breast.
Many of us are in the habit of reacting instead of responding to what’s going on. We’ve often learned to hide from our emotions – suppress them, medicate them, run away. But you can’t heal what you don’t feel.
5. A feeling is just a feeling, not your identity. Whatever you practice, you become better at. If you practice tension, you are going to have more tension. If you practice fear, you’ll have more fear. Denial will lead to denying more and more of your truth. Face the past, then release it: you are only driving by… You are not living there anymore! How? Let the feelings come. Let them move through you. And then let them go. This is how we release ourselves from the prison of AVOIDANCE.
6. The fear of abandonment or the prison of self-neglect. It’s very dangerous to put your whole life into someone else’s hands. You are the only one you’re going to have for a lifetime. All other relationships will end. So how can you be the best loving, unconditional, no-nonsense caregiver to yourself?
7. A label is not an identity. Too often we’re boxed in by expectations, by the sense that we have a specific role or function to fulfill. Instead of limiting ourselves to one role or version of ourselves, it’s good to recognize that each of us has an entire family inside. There’s the childish part, the one who wants everything now and fast and easy. There’s a childlike part – the curious free spirit, adept at following whims, instincts, and desires without judgment, fear, or shame. There’s the teenager who likes to flirt and risk and test boundaries. There’s the rational adult who thinks things through, makes plans, sets goals, figures out how to reach them. And there’re the two parents: the caring parent and the scaring parent. Well, we need our entire inner family to be whole. And when we’re free, this family works in balance, as a team.
8. The Prison of Unresolved Grief. Most of us suffer because we have something we don’t want, or we want something we don’t have. All therapy is grief work. A process of confronting a life where you expect one thing and get another, a life that brings you the unexpected and unanticipated. Grief, in reality, is often not about what happened, it’s about what didn’t happen. When we have unresolved grief, we often live with overwhelming rage… We are prisoners and victims. We are constantly regretting about something. We are dreaming of changing the past. It’s what we experience when we can’t acknowledge that we are powerless, that something already happened, that we can’t change a single thing. We don’t have control, but we wish we did.
Resolving grief means both to release ourselves from responsibility for all the things that weren’t up to us, and to come to terms with the choices we’ve made that can’t be undone. Yes, it’s hard to be where we are, in the present. To accept what was and is, and move on. Yes, it’s good to keep crying for those we’ve lost, to keep feeling the ache, to let ourselves be in sorrow and accept that it’s not ever going to go away. But if we can’t move on from our personal guilt and make peace with our grief, it’s damaging to our loved ones, and not a compliment to those who’ve died. We have to let the dead be dead, to stop yanking them up again, and again, to let them go and to live our own best lives so they can rest in peace. !!! Grief can be an invitation to revisit our priorities.
Edith Eger is a psychologist practicing in the United States. Born to Hungarian Jewish parents, she is a Holocaust survivor and a specialist in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Next post – The Story of Harmless Bullet. Chapter 28