French psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and author Boris Cyrulnik examines how periods of agony can lead to new strength. Brunswick’s Olivier Jay reports
When Boris Cyrulnik was a child in German-occupied France during World War II, Nazis murdered his parents. A foster family took him in to protect him. In 1943, he was captured along with others during a Nazi-led operation in Bordeaux. He escaped by hiding in a synagogue and later eluded Nazi searches by disguising himself as a farm boy, under an assumed name – where he stayed until the end of the war.
That survival story motivated what has become a star career in psychiatry. Cyrulnik is now 79, a French doctor, ethologist, neurologist and psychiatrist best known for developing and popularizing the concept of psychological resilience for a wide audience.
He published several books, including the popular titles Talking of Love: How to Overcome Trauma and Remake Your Life Story, and Resilience: How Your Inner Strength Can Set You Free From the Past, both published by Penguin.
In 2002, as member of a public commission for national reforms under then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, he worked with Emmanuel Macron, who was elected President himself this year. “I was fascinated by him,” Cyrulnik says of Macron. “He wants to triumph at anything. We saw him as a future leader.”
But it is his work on resilience – the quality of being able to recover successfully from injury or disaster – that is perhaps Cyrulnik’s greatest insight. Like people, companies can endure a crisis and emerge stronger, he says – but not unscathed. This kind of growth requires sustained commitment: a willingness to change and maintain solidarity with your team members.