January 7, 2019 by lucieromarin
Well, it’s only the seventh day of the year, and I think I’ve accidentally already read the best book of 2019. The Choice, by Dr Edith Eva Eger, is part Holocaust memoir, part clinical practice memoir, part migration story, part trauma theory, part therapeutic counselling, worked into an all-engrossing whole. ‘Unputdownable’ is kind of a silly word, I know but it really does describe the book. I can’t do it justice, so I’m not going to bother trying.
It’s the first book I’ve found that rightly stands as a companion to Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, different, but equal (rather and men and women are said to be!). You could happily start with Dr Eger’s book and then move to his, especially if you prefer a more fluid narrative style. (Hers is a bit more story-like, and his is a bit more essay-like, if that makes sense.) As he was her mentor after the war, her memories of him might add a little character to a reading of Man’s Search.
She also references Corrie ten Boom, and, if you haven’t already read The Hiding Place, you might find it an interesting companion memoir to The Choice. Even if you’re not into reading Christian stuff anymore, I think it could still be worth reading in this context, if for no other reason than a memoir of watching your family be murdered because their faith was such that they could not refuse to protect the innocent is something very different to reading a sermon.
The Choice, completely without meaning to, also reveals the cruellest aspect of psychological abuse and explains why survivors of cults or cult-like abuses of obedience, need their own counselling modality. Eger recalls that, as they entered the concentration camp, her mother told her, “They can never take from you what you put in your mind.” This advice saved her life, and, ultimately, her sanity. The ability to choose what you put in your mind is the ability that preserves human dignity and freedom even when that freedom has been stolen in every other way. And it is this ability that is stolen from the cult-survivor. She cannot choose what she puts in her mind. It’s not that she won’t, it’s that she can’t – certainly not for long time, anyway. And even once the survivor does start to wonder if she could or should try to change her life, all that happens when she ransacks her mind for something to draw from, is that she finds nothing there except the crap that her authority figure left behind. No wonder she clings to it. Until this is understood, survivors of high-demand communities, encapsulated communities, and relationships founded upon abuses of obedience, will not be counselled properly.
Well, that’s a side-issue, but it was an important one for me. I recommend the book.