Boris Cyrulnik

A Scarecrow’s Autobiography

Boris Cyrulnik continues here his study of resilience, the ability to rebound after a traumatic event (aggression, natural catastrophe, bereavement, etc.). What are the conditions that make resilience possible? In this book, Cyrulnik examines in detail one of the conditions that he considers essential. Referring to the legend of Saint Martin, who is supposed to have cut his cloak in half to share it with a fellow creature in need, Cyrulnik says that it is by clothing trauma victims in “a cloak of words” that we enable them to become resilient.

On the one hand, the narrative of the traumatic event makes sense of what happened, and so saves victims from sinking into meaningless absurdity — a situation that would forever diminish the value of their lives in their own eyes. On the other hand, the fact that others listen to their narrative enables victims to use their trauma to reconstruct themselves, instead of burying, denying or hiding their trauma — acts that would further devalue their lives. It is thus the narrative that simultaneously bestows meaning and value, both of which are indispensable for resilience.

This unique book expresses hope, a deep love of life and great courage.

• Boris Cyrulnik breaks the silences and taboos that politeness has imposed on how we deal with unhappiness. He explains why it is essential to let trauma victims talk, to listen to them and to really hear what they have to say.

• A new approach to psychotherapy based on resilience, the quality that enables us to bounce back after suffering unhappiness.

Boris Cyrulnik is a neuro-psychiatrist and a director of studies at the University of Toulon, France. He is the author of many highly successful works, most notably Un merveilleux malheur(1999), Les Vilains Petits Canards (2001) and De chair et d'âme (2006). His works include Les Nourritures affectives (1993), L'Ensorcellement du monde (1997), Le Murmure des fantômes (2003) and Parler d'amour au bord du gouffre (2004).