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Conversations, quotes, songs, and books can be incredibly inspiring to me. One such book is Dr. Edith Eva Eger’s: The Choice. It recounts her experiences in Auschwitz, surviving the camp, and how she was eventually liberated by American soldiers. She writes that even though she was physically free after liberation, she kept herself imprisoned for years with her thoughts and how she learned to free herself from these thoughts. What strength and wisdom this woman possesses! I highly recommend her book.

Through her inspirational writings, I embark on a journey through my own thoughts and experiences, as well as those of my friends, family, and clients. I don’t know if you can relate, but I engage in a kind of ’empirical research,’ checking if what I read aligns with my experiences, if I recognize it, if I can derive something from it, and if it can help me with a challenge in my life.

The Choice

Through Stephen Covey’s book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, I had already encountered the idea that you may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. He emphasizes that you always have a choice in that. Dr. Eger echoes this sentiment in her book.

Everyone goes through various experiences in life—beautiful things and not-so-beautiful things. We will enjoy and we will suffer. Dr. Eger says, “Suffering is universal, victimhood is optional. There is a difference between ‘becoming a victim of’ and the victim role.’ Chances are we all become a victim of something at some point. We will suffer from a torment, disaster, or abuse caused by circumstances, people, or organizations over which we have little to no influence. That’s life. That is ‘becoming a victim of.’ It comes from outside. It’s that bully in the neighborhood, the boss who rages, the husband who hits, the lover who betrays, the discriminatory law, the accident that lands you in the hospital. On the other hand, there’s the victim role, which comes from within. No one can make you a victim. Only you can. We do not become a victim by what happens to us but by choosing to cling to our victim role. We develop the victim mindset: a way of thinking and being that is rigid, accusatory, pessimistic, punitive, and without healthy boundaries or limits. We are then stuck in the past, unable to forgive. When we choose the limited mindset of the victim, we become our own prison guards.”

Victim Role

Let’s be honest, haven’t we all experienced this (at some point)? Recently, a client of mine, who had just gone through a divorce, felt like a victim of his ex-wife’s impossible behavior. “She controls my life and makes me do things!” I asked him for an example. He mentioned that they shared custody of their children, and she often arrives late or doesn’t show up on her days. “I get constant calls from childcare, and then I HAVE to pick them up. It has a huge impact on my day. I have to leave work early, and…” I asked if I could make a sidestep. With his consent, I asked him how he wanted to be as a father. He described, among other things, that he wanted his children to trust him completely and feel safe and wanted. I asked him: if this is what you want, what choice do you make when childcare calls? At that moment, he had a tremendous paradigm shift, sat up, and said: I am not a victim! I choose. I can leave my children standing and hope my ex learns to pick them up. But I want to be there for my children, and I choose to pick them up!

Prisoner of Your Own Thoughts

Another client of mine is on sick leave due to burnout symptoms. In our conversations, she mentions that she depends on the approval of others and often wonders, “What will others think of me?” She is insecure and feels that good is never good enough. She always has to prove herself. Everything has to be done quick, and nothing may go wrong. After reading the book ‘The Choice,’ I understand what the words ‘prisoner of your own thoughts’ mean. Essentially, this client is a prisoner of her own thoughts. She doesn’t feel free. Not free to choose. Not free to leave a task for a while because she’s finishing something else. Afraid of not being liked. Not free to say that she won’t check her emails over the weekend, fearing her boss might not see her as a good or committed employee.

And if you often wonder what others think about things, your mind becomes very crowded. Then, you are also a prisoner of your own thoughts. You are constantly wondering what people mean with their statements, attitude or gestures. Waiting a long time for an answer to your email: Maybe he doesn’t like it? Something might go wrong? Should I have done something? Or not? Did they maybe give it to someone else? Etc., etc. Can you relate to this? Well, I can! A random example: if a client doesn’t respond immediately to my proposal: Maybe he doesn’t find it good enough? Etc. And considering that most of these thoughts are assumptions or unrealistic and unnecessarily make us unhappy, worried, insecure, or fearful.

Being Free or Feeling Free

Ask yourself more often if your thoughts are realistic or not. Whether they are based on assumptions or facts. Reflect occasionally if you have ‘become a victim of’ or if you are ‘in the victim role.’ After all, if something is in our subconscious, it rules us, but if it comes into our consciousness, we have a choice! I invite you to choose to be free.

Would you like to take a closer look at your own thoughts and feel more free? Feel free to contact me without obligation.

If you’d like to respond and/or share an experience, leave a message at the bottom of my blog or contact me.