CHOICES & RESILIENCE
I love to read, but I am not sure I can say that I am enjoying the book I am currently reading: “The Choice”.
The Choice is an autobiography of a Jewish woman, Edith Eger, who survived Auschwitz. As a 16-year-old, Edith’s family was rounded up by the Nazis and taken to the concentration camp. There, she lost both parents. Remarkably, she and her sister managed to stay together, enduring unspeakable atrocities for two years before being liberated by the Allies.
It is quite frightening to realise what a fellow human is capable of doing to another human being. It horrifies me to realise how cruel others can be – but then if I am honest with myself, the reality is that we are all capable of cruelty.
Following the holocaust, life continued to be incredibly difficult for Edith. The impact of the trauma was unrelenting, until she finally realised that she did in fact have control of her destiny.
As I read that story, I was amazed at Edith’s resilience. While others around her gave up, she survived. How? As Viktor Frankl (another famous survivor that she later met) proposed: “we ultimately all have choices no matter the situation.”
The premise of Edith’s book is just that; we always have a choice: “We cannot choose to have a life free of hurt. But we can choose to be free, to escape the past, no matter what befalls us, and to embrace the possible.” Edith had no choice in her circumstances and what her captives did to her, but she did have a choice in how she would respond.
Edith realised that she did have a choice about the thoughts she had, whether she would sink into the miry pit of her own self-pity, or whether she would look for hope.
She did have a choice to either forgive, or hang onto the bitterness.
I often wonder why it is that some people, like Edith, are more resilient than others are. I suspect it is a result of our early life experiences; whether or not our parents encouraged us to deal with our own problems and face life with a sense of optimism and gratitude, rather than a continual battle for our rights. In our current age, I fear that we are too focused on our “rights” while ignoring that fact that we each have “responsibilities” that go with those rights.
Life can often be challenging and unfair, not just for us personally, but also for our children. When things do get tough for our children, our initial response is to jump in and save them, to protect them from harm. However, in doing this, we might not realise that we are actually disempowering our children and taking away from them their right to choose.
Our roles as parents, and educators, is not to “bubble wrap” our children, or to try to remove all obstacles that they may face, but to walk beside them and help them to realise that they always have choices.
Encouraging resilience is the key to a person’s ability to thrive.
If you are a person who is suffering, “The Choice” would be a harrowing read, yet it may also help you find healing and peace.
Dr Paul Browning