I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Edith Eger, a brilliant woman who is the mere age of 92. Edith survived the Holocaust (the death camp of Auschwitz), witnessing the brutal treatment and extermination of her loved ones and peers. Following extraction, Edith’s relentless physical, emotional, and spiritual healing ensued. Despite being illiterate, Edith later went on to obtain a Degree and Doctorate in Psychology. When asked about her views on the current status of the developed nations with a resurgence of tribalism and nationalism, Edith eloquently responded that she hopes we never witness another genocide, especially not one with the systematic organization and magnitude of the Holocaust. It is true that there have been countless other atrocities carried out to subgroups of the human population, some of which are only surfacing and meeting confrontation today. The most inspiring emergence from this interview was Edith’s presence and generosity of spirit. In the face of Edith’s horrendous experiences, she has every right to carry immense hurt and hate. Yet, it is blatantly apparent that she walks through life with grace and compassion. It is important to acknowledge that the road to this acceptance was likely hard fought, for the path of authentic healing demands immeasurable courage. Walking towards one’s pain is a rebellious act; every aspect of one’s being urges an acknowledgement of and adherence to fear. Edith’s character, responses, and visions are fully attributable to my writing today, there is much valuable wisdom to absorb. So fellow survivors, prepare to fully dive into Edith’s spirit.
I begin with this statement from Dr. Edith Eger, “Freedom is to let go and not carry hate. If I carry hate, I am a hostage of the past.” In the presence of an abundance of information and multiple uncensored outlets, the sharing of our perspectives and opinions has never been more straightforward or visible. I am a prime example of this. In accordance with this, I will be the first to admit that I am not fully immune to pessimism. I found myself steeped in a pessimistic ocean only a few short years ago. When I was immersed in struggle with no visible opportunity or healing, life felt extremely dire. With time I grew increasingly cynical, unable to recognize the humanity in others, waiting for the rug to be pulled from beneath me. I was a prisoner of intrusive thoughts, largely self-condemning and occasionally other-condemning. As a therapist, I endorse a solid venting session, especially if it contains swearing and screaming. We all house rage and hatred that when heat is applied boils to the surface and spills over. I note here that I recommend this explosion be directed at an inanimate object or a well-prepared/experienced therapist or friend. Where I throw caution to the wind is when this venting or outrage progresses into a norm (also known as a pattern). If you are reading this and find resonance, know that I am attempting to bring this to light with neutrality. The first step must always be rooted in awareness. If you have the privilege to create space (idle time) for yourself, I urge you to pause and exist with yourself. When we are lodged in a pattern, there is often little time devoted to reflection on the nature of this pattern, almost as if we are locked in motion on autopilot. Pause results in a disruption of autopilot.
Here I insert another of Edith’s skillful quotes, “We speak what we have lived.” More often than not, our external reality is a direct reflection of our internal reality. In the case that you feel misunderstood, disconnected, or victimized as I did, there is likely a storm brewing within you. I assure you that this storm demands attention for it will not ease until it is acknowledged. In my situation, the storm continued to escalate regardless of my unsuccessful attempts to ignore it. If you are attuned and courageous enough to face the storm in its initial phases, you may evade a complete breakdown. Some are skilled in the art of accepting and pivoting. Historically I have not been part of this category, my evolution has required grandiose descents. I share frequently with clients that all aspects of our being or personality contain light and shadow aspects. Regardless of your attributes or learning methodologies, they serve a purpose.
In full transparency, I required guidance to emerge from the storm. Through trial and error, I reconnected with literature and a therapist that met and walked alongside me in the darkness. Healing was unsuccessful when there was messaging to look for the silver lining or cling to hope. In this darkness, there was little hope remaining. Rather than altering this reality, I was encouraged to exist with the pain of no hope and a gaping wound. At times the pain was overwhelmingly intense; it felt as if I might shatter and die. As is obvious, I didn’t succumb to the pain, in spite of thoughts of ending the pain through other means. Edith shares, “What comes out of your body doesn’t make you ill, what stays in does.” I fully endorse this.
Evidently, the world is amidst challenge. I do not deny that many are in dire circumstances. Know that my pain recognizes your pain. Enduring this pandemic requires us to dig deep, to re-align our values, to discover new meaning and purpose. What ignites and fuels you? Follow the flame of passion. It is my sincerest hope that all can draw inspiration from this incredible woman. Allow Dr. Edith Eger to guide you in spirit, as I have. Appropriately, I end this post with her words, “Be for something rather than against something. Refuse to live in fear.”