What is resilience? Interview with Dr. Boris Cyrulnik

The essence from an interview with Dr. Boris Cyrulnik

What is resilience?

The simplest definition: the ground is resilient if, after a flood or a fire, it is able to provide life for new plants, new animals, starting another kind of life. It is not the same as before, but renewed.

To start a process of resilience you need two things:

  1. A) Affectivity (to receive feelings/vibrations of love beyond words)
  2. B) Narrative (to give meaning to what happened with words)

How is love and resilience connected?

The brain of a baby who does not receive love become atrophic, it withers, due to lack of stimulation. It can even be shown on a photograph. The two frontal lobes withers, the limbic system withers and the cortex, the brain, acquires a dysfunction. Why, because of being deprived of love, deprived of daily interaction, smiling, loving it. The dysfunction of the brain is a consequence of being deprived of love.

Do we not develop if we do not receive love?

Love is nourishment. Without love our brain is destroyed. It is easy to see on a photo that the brain of a baby that is isolated has become dysfunctional.

In the public discourse we do not talk about love. For many it is not a serious topic. Do we need to change and put love on the agenda?

It depends on the definition of love. Love is not sex. To simply talk with someone out of interest for him or her is to love him or her.  The fact that you want to talk with him or her has far more impact than the information, the content in itself. It is an exchange of feelings. Love is life. Without daily love everything stops.  All developments are blocked.

How can we stop resentments from being passed on, sometimes generation after generation?

Hate and resentment prevent resilience. Resentment can be transmitted if the parents transmits the hate and the suffering to their children by talking about it. However, if the parents start a process of resilience they will resolve their trauma and not pass on resentment and suffering. It is always possible to stop this transmission.

In this Forum we are talking about discovering harmony in a world of difference. How can we find harmony?

It is impossible to ‘become myself’ on my own, alone. I need to build my own resilience, with the support of other people.

What inspired you to study human resilience?

I think my first years in life were very happy, but due to the war my father joined the French army 1939, ended up in hospital and was then arrested in the hospital by the police of the country for which he was struggling and he disappeared in Auschwitz. My mother was arrested three years later 1942 and disappeared in Auschwitz as my whole family did. I was left alone 5 years old and it was a real trauma. However, I was soon surrounded by a lot of good people. I did not know their names, who they were, but they were around me and I trusted them very much and I developed resilience.

We talk about how personal transformation can lead to global transformation, how everyone can participate in making the world a better place. What is the role of resilience in this?

Triggering a process of resilience is about escaping the prison of our past.  Psychosomatic syndrome, to be traumatized, means to be a prisoner of our past, to keep on thinking about the same images, same words, same scenery. Being unable to talk about other things, it becomes impossible to function and to love. To trigger resilience in a traumatized person, we must help him or her to start thinking about a project, a dream. If we can help him or her have visions, ideas, plans for the future, it is the starting point of a process of resilience.

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