“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.” – Rachel Naomi Remen
I first met Dr. Edith Eva Eger at a funeral for a mutual friend. At the time, I was aware of just a fraction of her story, but years later, while outlining the curriculum for my Spiritual Healer Certification course, she was the first person I thought of. As a young girl, Dr. Eger survived the unimaginable horror of Auschwitz, then turned around and used her experience to help others. I’m honored that she agreed to share her story, and her healing perspective, with me.
Today Dr. Eger lives in La Jolla, CA where she’s been a Doctor of Psychology for over 40 years. She grew up with her parents and sisters in a small town in Hungary – at 16 she was a normal teenager, practicing ballet and gymnastics, going to school and spending time with her boyfriend.
Her life changed forever in March of 1944, when Hungarian Nazis came to Edith’s house and arrested her family, bringing them to Auschwitz. There her parents were killed, leaving her alone to protect her sister. Instead of allowing her time in the camp to break her, Edith dug deep within herself and found the strength to survive – learning profound lessons about life, healing and forgiveness in the process.
Here are just a few of the timeless lessons she shared with me. Tested in the most extreme conditions, they can help you to survive, heal and thrive in any situation.
1) Healing is an inside job – and you hold the key within yourself.
I often say that Earth is the schoolhouse where your soul comes to learn lessons that allow it to grow and evolve. Looking back on her time at Auschwitz, Dr. Eger described it as an opportunity to discover the part in her that no Nazi could take away — her SPIRIT. Edith credits Spiritual Healing for helping her survive months in the camp, even after both her parents were taken away from her and killed. She explained, “It is the Spirit that keeps you alive, and no one can take away your spirit.”
Today when she works with people who have experienced trauma and abuse, she shares these keys to healing:
1) Think about your thinking.
2) Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
3) Everyone can be healed if they want to.
4) Remember that your thoughts have power, and you alone control how you perceive your reality.
2) No one can take away your thoughts, beliefs and memories.
While in the camp, and for the rest of her life, Dr. Eger remembered what her mom told her in 1944 while the family was being transported to the camp. “We don’t know where we’re going and we don’t know what’s going to happen, but no one can take away what we have in our own mind.”
It was her thoughts that gave her the hope to keep living, day after day as she looked forward to a better tomorrow.
3) Never underestimate the power of love and connection with others.
While you hold the key to your own well-being, the ability to feel love and compassion for others is also critical to a healthy mind, body and spirit.
Dr. Eger explained that the people who were all about themselves in the camps didn’t survive – the connection to other people was what allowed people to make it through each day. Dr. Eger made it her mission to protect her sister, and was able to keep a positive attitude for both their sakes. She also realized that surviving in the camp came through commitment to each other, not competition or domination.
A gifted ballerina, Dr. Eger was recruited to dance for the Nazi officers, for which she was given an extra ration of bread, which she later shared with the girls in her prison quarters. Eger says months later her generosity was rewarded when those same girls rescued her when she nearly collapsed from disease and starvation during a forced death march through Austria.
She continues to focus her energy on helping and healing others in her practice, as she works with those suffering from depression and healing from abuse.
4) Healing might take time, but you can choose joy.
After nearly a year in the camps Dr. Eger was liberated, but for a period of time she was physically ill and plagued with survivors guilt.
She eventually realized that she had a choice. She made the conscious choice to transition from sickness to health, and from near death to life.
The doctor wasn’t able to fully recover and reclaim her joy until many years later when she went back to Auschwitz. She explained “ I had to go back to that lions den and assign the shame and guilt that I had survived. Revenge gives you such short satisfaction, but forgiveness gives you spiritual freedom. Forgiveness is a gift that I give myself – the choice of joy and passion – not allowing anyone to take residence in my body.”
5) There are no guarantees – you can only control your own thoughts and actions.
After about an hour of speaking with Dr. Eger, I was shocked at how closely her philosophy mirrored my own. We both understand that there are no guarantees that life on earth will be happy and painless – in fact, it is through challenges that we learn our deepest lessons, we both are strong advocates of the power of thought. But we both have faith in the power of our thoughts, and in the healing qualities of compassion and forgiveness.
I feel so privileged to have spent time with Dr. Edith Eger. We covered so many facets of healing, grief, guilt, strength, compassion and forgiveness in our conversation. The entire discussion is included in my Spiritual Healer Certification course, along with nearly 70 other videos that will help you to heal yourself and others.