This is inspired by the book The Choice by Edith Eger. Even in hell, hope can flower. We do have choices.

Choice is an essential part of self improvement that I thought I would dedicate a blog about the power of choosing and understanding whatever your current situation is we all have choices

Dr Edith Eger, a world-renowned psychologist at 90 years old, wrote her memoir of surviving Auschwitz. The book highlights that even in the deepest despair, hope and possibility can be found in the most unlikely places. In fact that pain and trauma can be a gift to help you live again with a life-affirming strength and resilience. She is in her 90s and still working.

I recently heard Edith being interviewed. She said: “We have the possibility to choose to turn our greatest pain into an opportunity to discover something within us that we don’t think is possible. To be the person we were supposed to be and to have freedom from the past.”

The reason this resonates with me is that I believe so many people are in pain because they feel guilty, because they judge themselves, because they either expect more of themselves or

they constantly beat themselves up for what they haven’t done or what they have done, or judge themselves for what has been done to them instead of realising and accepting where they are now and choosing to see they did their best with the knowledge they had at the time. People should be praising themselves for their courage to want to live a better life and then choosing daily to follow the true path and choosing to build on the good and not let the bad diminish their energy and spirit.

We can all choose.

She told soldiers in a speech: “Your suffering has meaning – you can’t change what happened, you can’t change what you did or what was done to you. BUT YOU CAN CHOOSE HOW YOU LIVE NOW.”

What a powerful message for us all to live by!

Let me say it again YOU CAN CHOOSE HOW YOU LIVE NOW.

Small choices I believe make up our life and have the ability to change our lives for the better.

I remember one of the first things I wrote on the board with my first class. I was 21 years old and they were 11. Only 10 years difference. Picture it – a challenging London school where some of the children had unfortunately already suffered great pain. To give you some context one of the of the children’s fathers had recently been put in prison for shooting a policeman (this child had the soul of an angel).

I wrote ‘CHOICE’. I explained they had choices whatever they had been told or experienced and they could choose to learn and this choice would help ensure they opened up more doors in their lives. I told them if they chose to do the work there would be more possibilities. Two of these lovely children became bridesmaids at my wedding and some of the children did indeed achieve great success as a result of making good choices. I still believe this today; we have to choose not to let our past, our pain and struggles define us but choose to let the struggles teach us valuable life lessons. The resources/skills we need to cope with challenges help us to grow. We will never grow if we are comfortable and not challenged, as we have no need to.

Unfortunately some people feel too overwhelmed and instead of choosing to have a learner’s mindset, they stay stuck and don’t do the self development work to develop the skills they need to live a happy and fulfilled life.

If you want to stop struggles/pain/trauma defining you the first thing I advise is CHOOSE TO FEEL THE FEELINGS. Don’t bypass the feelings, don’t numb the feelings with quick fixes like alcohol, food, drama, too much television etc. These quick fixes are instant gratification that make you feel worse after delaying our gratification. Working towards our long term goals is where the true happiness and fulfilment comes from. CHOOSE TO GET HELP DEALING WITH THE FEELINGS/EMOTIONS. Don’t just talk about the feelings or medicate a feeling. Literally get help to feel the feeling. A good coach or therapist can help you do this.

I loved the analogy I recently heard on the HEAL documentary: if a caterpillar is in a cocoon and I cut him free he will not fly away he will die. The caterpillar has to do the work to change from the cocoon to the butterfly. The suffering is the same for people if they bypass their feelings they won’t have developed the skills needed to get them out of their pain, anger, sadness. They won’t become emotionally resilient and they won’t have the skills needed to manage life’s day to day challenges. If you don’t allow yourself to feel your feelings, it is also difficult to experience the joy and riches of life.

Second advice is don’t hold a secret. A secret of pain or abuse by yourself or another person creates SHAME. THE SECRET HAS YOU IMPRISONED. It can create a victim mindset instead of a victor mindset. You will literally be imprisoned in your own mind. Edith Egar was a victor because she choose to use the trauma to help others deal with their trauma. However it took her 20 years to even talk about Auschwitz. So however long your problem has been going on you won’t be free until you share it and make sense of it.

Edith said: “I could choose my own freedom, I could name my own feelings of rage, worthlessness, sorrow, regret, I could let them swirl, let them rise and fall, let them pass. And I could risk letting go of the need to punish myself for having lived. I could release my guilt and reclaim my whole pure self.” [I HAVE PUT THIS IN QUOTES FLEUR. IS IT A DIRECT QUOTE? IF NOT TAKE THE QUOTE MARKS OUT and change it to ‘Edith said that SHE could ….] She felt guilty because when the prison guard said ‘Is this your mother or sister?’, Edith replied ‘Mother ‘which decided her mother’s fate: the older ladies were killed as the Nazis only wanted to keep the stronger people to do the work in the factories.

Edith’s mum, before she was put in the gas chamber and killed, told her daughter: “We don’t know where we are going, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but no one can take away from you what you put in your mind.” I love this as it teaches us we always have a choice what to put in our mind. It helps me to understand that it is not what happens that matters, it’s what you do with it. She also explained when she was giving therapy to soldiers with PTSD – POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER – it showed her how differently the different soldiers dealt with their amputations. For example, one man rolled around on the floor screaming ‘I can never been the man I once was without my legs’, and another soldier rolled in his wheelchair and said how grateful he was still to be alive and that he was nearer his own children at this height and could literally look them in their eyes and take them for a ride in his chair. This extreme example highlights how differently the two soldiers had made sense of their new situation.

Hence my third advice is that once you have acknowledged your feelings, choose daily what you will put in your mind. We can reprogramme our own mind from a negative mindset to a grateful, learners mindset but it does start with a choice.

This leads to my fourth bit of advice: CHOOSE FORGIVENESS.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself by not letting the past rule your life. Self-forgiveness is the hardest. Don’t hold on to the past, don’t hold on to past failures and mistakes, don’t hold on to the anger and blame. You can only enjoy all the riches of life if you forgive.

As Edith said: “We cannot choose to have a life free of hurt but we can choose to escape the past and embrace possibility. I invite you to be free.”

My final advice is CHOOSE A WAY FORWARD.

The final chapters of the book are examples of Edith helping people recover from their own trauma.

She says to a parent that has lost a son: “Acceptance isn’t going to happen over night. And you’re never going to be glad that he’s dead. But you get to choose a way forward. You get to discover that living a full life is the best way to honour him.”

It is often the case that we think we are born this way or that way and so we cannot choose our path. But this is not the case. We can choose a way forward. If we find peace within and stop blaming, we reclaim our power. My children will often say that it’s not fair, that it was her sister’s fault. If we continue this through to adulthood we stay in a child’s mindset. There is no freedom to choose without responsibility. Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. We need to choose to use it.

My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.

I personally struggled and suffered through my entire childhood and for the years after, trying to cope with the guilt and emotions of being an abled-bodied person when my sister is disabled and with a mum who, in my eyes, was perfect as she was so selfless. Having to be perfect to be loved was my pain point and not being able to share my feelings and worries – how could I have anything to worry about after all I was able-bodied? I, however, after many hours of self development and reflection have chosen to have joy, love and passion and use this drive and pain to help me help others – initially as a teacher for 23 years and now as a coach.

I hope this blog helps you to not let your past struggles or pain define you but to empower you to choose HOW YOU LIVE NOW.

I would like to leave you with OPRAH’S QUOTE

  • With every experience, you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice.

Choose love, peace and contentment and you will live with many happy moments. !

Fleur Prime – Life Coach for anybody that knows that they want to live a better life and wants kindness, support, knowledge and guidance to get them there.