As the majority of the UK picks its way through yet another lockdown, shuffling past a Christmas that many would rather forget, the wise words of psychologist, best-selling author and Holocaust survivor Dr Edith Eger may offer some solace against the stubborn backdrop of uncertainty.
“The most damaging prison is in our mind, and the key is in our pocket.”
In her #1 New York Times bestselling book “The Choice”, and “The Gift” Eger recounts her journey from imprisonment at Auschwitz to liberation and then on towards her own mental freedom. In spite of the horror she and millions of others suffered, Edith nonetheless describes our minds as our biggest prisons, to which we already hold the key. It is liberation from our own negative, self-destructive incapacitating thoughts that brings us true freedom:
“When we escape our mental prisons, we not only become free from what has held us back, but free to exercise our own free will.”
We have the power of choice, and we can choose freedom, writes Eger. We can choose how we look upon what has happened to us. We can choose how we will respond.
We can focus on the usefulness of our experiences. How have they been helpful to us? How have they nourished us? In the solution focused approach, we encourage our clients to focus on the nuggets of usefulness from their everyday experiences, with questions such as ‘What’s been better?’
And, writes Eger, if there is no such usefulness to be found when we look out, we can look within. In the solution focused approach, we encourage our clients to do so with questions such as ‘Given what you have been through, how have you manage to cope?’ ‘What strengths have you drawn on to keep going?’
As Eger points out, “It’s not what happens to us that matters most, it’s what we do with our experiences.”
When we are deep, deep down; our neurochemistry flatlined, the top – where all the mental freedom and inner peace hangs out – can seem a long way up.
Likewise, when we are flying so high, so fast, too fast to think; too busy to check-in with ourselves – cortisol and adrenalin fuelling our way forward and blocking out everything (and everyone) else – inner peace and mental freedom might as well reside on another planet.
And yet, there is always choice. We can choose to look up, to stop, to breathe, to make a cup of tea, to practice gratitude, and to remember how strong we really are.