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The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life by Dr. Edith Eva Eger
“This practical and inspirational guide to healing from the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of The Choice shows us how to stop destructive patterns and imprisoning thoughts to find freedom and enjoy life.
Edith Eger’s powerful first book, The Choice, told the story of her survival in the concentration camps, her escape, healing, and journey to freedom. Oprah Winfrey says, “I will be forever changed by Dr. Eger’s story”. Thousands of people around the world have written to Eger to tell her how The Choice moved them and inspired them to confront their own past and try to heal their pain; and to ask her to write another, more “how-to” book. Now, in The Gift, Eger expands on her message of healing and provides a hands-on guide that gently encourages us to change the thoughts and behaviors that may be keeping us imprisoned in the past.
Filled with empathy, insight, and humor, The Gift captures the vulnerability and common challenges we all face and provides encouragement and advice for breaking out of our personal prisons to find healing and enjoy life.” -Audible
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I believe I found this book on audible under recommendations and as usual it seemed like a good book for the month. I think at this point I want to read books that can change my perspective, make me feel grateful, and improve my overall sense of happiness.
- The ultimate key to freedom is to keep becoming who you truly are
Chapter 1: what now?
- We don’t get to choose what happens to us but we can decide how we respond
- Treat what happens to you with a gentle embrace
- You don’t like it, but accept it and figure out how to move forward
- Don’t put yourself as a victim but rather as a survivor
- Sometimes it just takes one sentence to point the way out of victimhood
- Is it good for me?
- Is what I’m about to do going to deplete me or empower me?
- Another tool for moving out of victimhood is to learn to cope with loneliness
- It’s what most of us fear more than anything else
- But when you’re in love with yourself, alone doesn’t mean lonely
- Loving yourself is good for your kids to because when you show them you are not losing you, then they see that they are not losing you
Exercise: Write a letter to a person or situation that hurt you telling them about how it affected you and how you felt. Next, write another letter thanking them for what that experience has taught you about yourself.
Chapter 2: no Prozac at Auschwitz – A prison of avoidance
- We disable our children when we take away their suffering
- We teach them that feelings are wrong or scary
- But a feeling is only a feeling, not right or wrong
- We are wiser not to try and reason people out of their feelings or cheer them up
- It’s better to allow their feelings and keep them company
- The opposite of depression is expression
- What comes out of you doesn’t make you sick, what stays in you does
- Whatever you practice, you’ll get better at – great, paranoia, etc
- Keys to free yourself from avoidance:
- Feel so you can heal – pick a neutral time to develop a daily practice of checking in on your feelings
- Everything is temporary
- Try tuning into your feelings and locate it in your body
- Notice how the feeling changes or dissipates
Chapter 3: all other relationships will end
- We need to learn to love ourselves and not need others’ affection, approval, or attention because all other relationships will end
- Yours with yourself will not
- Your awards and accomplishments are not who you are
- Don’t confuse who you are with what you do
- When we conflate achievements with worth, success as well as disappointment can become a burden on our children
- We honor our children when we create a culture of the joy of achievement
- The joy of working hard and nurturing our gifts
- Not because we have to, but because we are free to
- Because we are blessed with the gift of life
- Nurture gifts instead of fulfilling expectations
- The joy of working hard and nurturing our gifts
- Love means that we practice self-love, that we strive to be generous and compassionate towards others and to ourselves
Exercise: Make a chart showing the waking hours you have during the week. Label the time you spend every day working, loving, and playing. Then add up the total hours you spend doing each category in a typical week.
Are they roughly in balanced? How can you restructure your days so you can do more what is receiving the least of your time?
Chapter 4: One but, two chairs
- Honesty starts with learning to tell the truth to yourself
- Healing can’t happen as long as we are hiding or disowning parts of ourselves
Chapter 5: no one rejects you but you
- Freedom lies in accepting our whole, imperfect self and giving up the need for perfection
- Release shame by replacing it with kindness
- Fall in love with yourself, it is not narcissistic
- Once you begin to heal, what you discover will not be the new you, but the real you
Chapter 6: what didn’t happen. A prison of unresolved grief
- If we can’t move on from our guilt and make peace with our grief, it’s damaging to our loved ones, and not a complement to those who have died
- Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It’s what you do with the time that matters
Chapter 7: Nothing to Prove – A prisoner of rigidity
- If a couple says they don’t fight, that means they don’t have intimacy
- Conflict is human nature
- You can either choose to be right or choose to be free
- Everyone has their own truth and you can’t or shouldn’t convince them otherwise
- When we are aggressive, we decide for others
- When we’re passive, we let others decide for us
- When we are passive-aggressive, we don’t allow others to decide for themselves
- When you’re assertive, you speak in statements. You don’t need anyone’s permission
- The key to maintaining your freedom during a conflict is to hold your truth while also relinquishing the need for power and control
- It helps when we can meet others as they are, not as how we expect them to be
- We don’t empower others or ourselves when we launch into complaints
- No one grows with criticism so eliminate it
- This allows us to live free from unrealistic expectations and free of the anger that comes when our expectations are not met
- The best way to let go of the need to be in control is to be powerful
- Power means you have a strength to respond instead of react, to take charge of your life and to have total ownership of your choices
- You are powerful because you are not giving your power away
- If you take back your power and still want to be right, then choose to be kind because kindness is always right
- We don’t have to like the difficult or painful things that happen to us
- But when we stop fighting and resisting, we have more energy and imagination to move forward instead of nowhere
Chapter 8: would you like to be married to you?
- Figure out what you like about yourself and also what you like about the other person
- Ask yourself: Are you stronger with or without them?
- Only you can decide if a relationship depletes or empowers you
- Stop trying to figure things out and just understand and accept
Chapter 9: are you evolving or revolving?
- Change is synonymous with growth
- We hold onto fear and think that vigilance will protect us
- But fear becomes a relentless cycle, a self-fulfilling prophecy
- Listen to your own language and look out for imprisoning phrases like “I can’t, I’m trying, I need to“
- Replace them with “I can, I want, I’m willing, I choose“
- Growth and change happens by what you do, not just by what you think and say
- We aren’t born with fear, somewhere along the way we learn it
- Be curious and live in the present
Chapter 10: the Nazi in you – The prison of judgment
- To stop bigotry means to start with yourself
- Let go of judgment and choose compassion
- Freedom means choosing every moment whether we reach for our inner Nazi or our inner Gandhi
- For the love we are born with or the hate we learn
- The most toxic, obnoxious people in our lives can be our best teachers
- Write a recipe for a life well-lived
- Take the good things from your families past and add your own ingredients
- Give the next generation something delicious and nourishing to build on
Chapter 11: if I survive today, tomorrow I’ll be free – The prison of hopelessness
- Hope tells us that life is full of darkness and suffering, and yet if we survive today, tomorrow we will be free
- When you talk about a pain or trauma, acknowledge that it hurts but it is temporary and you’ve survived pain before
- Exercise: Write a list of all the things in your life and on a global scale that are better now than five years ago
- The things that are still left to be done should be a catalyst for hope
- Ask your future self: what is it you’d like me to know?
Chapter 12: there’s no forgiveness without rage – Prison of not forgiving
- Forgiveness isn’t something we do for the person who hurt us
- It’s something we do for ourselves so we’re no longer victims or prisoners of the past. So we can stop carrying a burden at harbors nothing but pain
- Forgiveness isn’t something you give to someone else, it is how you release yourself
- If you have trouble releasing someone who has hurt you, it may be that you were holding on to guilt or shame or judgment towards yourself
Conclusion: The Gift
- We can’t take away suffering. We can’t change what happened
- But we can use it to find a gift in our lives
- We can even learn to cherish the wound
Another fantastic book for the month. This book deserves the high rating and praise.
I really enjoyed how the author combined her personal narrative with important, deep, human insights that are applicable to living a full life. It really guides you in the direction to let go of worry and find true happiness.
This book touched on a lot of topics related to guilt, shame, relationships, forgiveness, fear, freedom, trauma, happiness, etc. I’ll link a handful of other amazing books I’ve read below that also cover these topics in great detail.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. This is one of those reads that’s worth revisiting every couple of years to reorient your mind on gratitude and happiness.
One Takeaway / Putting into practice:
The main takeaway from this book is is something I actually started to adopt in my own life as I was listening to this book:
- Meet others as they are, not as how we expect them to be
This is something I’ve been trying to improve on for the longest time. As a “high-achieving”, hyper-disciplined type of person, I tend to hold myself to higher standards than the average person. I’m not saying this because I’m trying to imply that I’m “better than everyone else” but rather that I understand my need for accomplishing my own goals leads to me also putting those standards and expectations on others.
This becomes very toxic and destructive when it blends into my relationships. For me, it’s easy to relax and not impose those standards on my friends or family. However, when it comes to my partner, I slowly start to impose those standards on her, which is never a good thing. I admit that I learned this the hard way. But moving forward, I’m learning to accept others as they are. Not only my partner, but also in all of my other relationships.
Finding joy and healing comes from finding compassion and acceptance for ourselves and others.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
- Trauma by Paul Conti
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
- Kick Ass with Mel Robbins
- Boundaries by John Townsend & Henry Cloud
- The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga
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