How can writing save us according to Boris Cyrulnik

What do Georges Perec, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Duras and Boris Cyrulnik have in common? They have in common the words to say to themselves, the words that allowed them to overcome their traumas, the words to become resilient and live a fulfilling life.

Although there is no scientific study to date on this subject, the power of writing on the psyche is enormous. This is what Boris Cyrulnik tried to explain in a book published in 2019 , he the “pope” of resilience. he says that for forty years his life was silent, until he decided to write this book.

Sharing your suffering is not enough to reduce the impact of the injury on you. You also have to become an actor. What writing allows, assures Boris Cyrulnik , saved by words. In addition to emotional support and verbalization.

Who is Boris Cyrulnik?

Boris Cyrulnik was born on July 26, 1937 in Bordeaux . He is an internationally recognized neuropsychiatrist. He was born into a family of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, who arrived in France in the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation, his parents sent him to a boarding school to prevent him from being deported.

His parents died in deportation to the Auschwitz camp. He narrowly escaped a roundup during the war. Despite everything, he was able to lead the life he dreamed of. He was taken in in Paris by a maternal aunt, Dora, How to start a Wikipedia page for someone who brought him up. Boris explains that it was this traumatic personal experience that prompted him to become a psychiatrist.

When he realized that his parents were missing, Boris Cyrulnik then decided to write their biography to give them a burial. He wanted to write to get to know his parents better.

Boris with his mother

Boris Cyrulnik was not only content to become a psychiatrist: he is also an ethologist, psychologist, neurologist and psychoanalyst. Its goal has always been to decode the human machine. He traveled the world in search of information. From the 1980s, he dedicated his existence to the popularization of his knowledge through his books.

Here is a selection:

  • Monkey memory and human words (1983)
  • The Birth of Meaning (1991)
  • Affective Foods (1993)
  • From the Word of a Molecule (1995)
  • Whisper of Ghosts (2003)
  • Ugly Duckling (2004)
  • Of flesh and soul (2006)
  • Under the Sign of the Link (2010)
  • When a Child Kills Himself – Attachments and Society (2011)
  • Wounded Souls (2014)
  • At night I will write suns (2019)

The link between writing and reconstruction

Boris Cyrulnik laments that there is no scientific research on the power of writing on the psyche. To start writing, the person must feel a desire, caused by loss or lack .

For Boris Cyrulnik, the lack of his parents developed. He had no memory of them. He then fed a wonderful tale around them. He has developed an imaginary world: it is always the first step towards writing! Writing often begins as a compensation for a lack, a void.

A person can live despite trauma. But, at a given moment, what is frozen in the body and the mind following this trauma, must come out and be verbalized in any way, under penalty of triggering unhealthy pathologies. Emotional support and verbalization are two important factors in resilience – a theme so dear to our physician author.

To save us, writing must be “developing” and structuring. It will have no effect if she turns to rumination. Wikipedia editors for hire can be seen as a tool for resilience if it allows the person to transform their story. Something can be done with any life story, arranging the words in a way that reshuffles the trauma.

An example of resilient writing: Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo’s daughter , Léopoldine, tragically drowned on the Seine in 1843, at the age of barely 20. The novelist-poet was inconsolable and very affected. He adored his daughter! The untimely and tragic death of his daughter and his son-in-law will have a great influence on the work and personality of Victor Hugo .

Léopoldine- Victor Hugo

The novelist learned of his daughter’s death from the press. He will then devote many poems to the memory of his daughter, notably the famous “Tomorrow, from dawn…” .

Writing as therapy

A lot of people start writing after the sudden announcement of cancer, for example. They write to keep the doctor’s violent diagnosis at bay. They write to regain control of their lives and to exorcise the evil that is eating away at them.

Some women write about their sick journey to explain their struggle to their families and their children. It also makes it possible to endure the disease, to tell this path strewn with pitfalls towards recovery.

The disease is terrible because of the treatments and the possible consequences. The outcome can be dramatic. But, by writing, the person can act, take things in hand and play down the situation. Some people find themselves creative in this way. To write about one’s illness is to accept it rather than suffer it.

Words have an impact on ailments. It’s a reality! The sick person draws strength from writing, which he probably never suspected before. Everyone who writes under such circumstances finds comfort in their writing. Talking about his illness becomes a commitment. By exposing it, the person breaks the taboo that surrounds him. Why hide your illness and be ashamed of it?

Writers and resilience through writing

Writing can allow us to choose the images in our past, which will act on our mental world. Because all lack, even unconscious, must be filled at some point or another.

This was the case for certain writers or poets, among the most famous: Stendhal, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Duras, Jonathan Swift, Guy de Maupassant, Jean Genet or even Colette .

All of them have constructed stories to appropriate their lives, to create a feeling of existence. Out of 35 of the most famous French writers in the 19th century, 17 suffered the loss, death or separation of one or both parents. Orphan writers are also numerous: Charles Baudelaire, the Brontë sisters, Dante, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edgard Allan Poe, Léon Tolstoï, Voltaire, Byron, Keats, Georges Pérec, Romain Gary, etc.

Others have been rejected, neglected or illegitimate children. They fought loss with written words. When a loved one runs out, it takes words to fill the void. Leo Tolstoy, who lost his mother extremely young, writes “Childhood”, whose hero Vladimir is 10 years old. The adult author imagines the suffering he should have felt when his mother died. This is how he mourns that he was unable to do at the age of 18 months.

What appeases is not the word, but the work of finding words and arranging ideas, which allows the control of emotions. This is why the traumatized can write poems, songs, essays, novels,… in which they express their suffering, whereas they are unable to speak about it face to face.

The field of the wound is by far the most fertile because the best way to stitch up a tear is to “stitch the wound with words”. Writing relieves, but does not heal. Writing alone brings together the main defense mechanisms:

  • intellectualization
  • daydreaming
  • rationalization
  • sublimation.

Not to mention the secondary benefits of taking a step back, of becoming exterior to yourself, of controlling emotions. What fills the mental world of people who write is not the real, but rather the representation of this real through reverie and narration. It is this aptitude that we all have to transform representations of the past that is a factor of resilience.

Art: a function of resilience?

Poetry, writing, drawing, painting, art in general, all the arts can be seen as artistic practices of resilience. Art is a good way to get out of its haze and light up your life. Art, and especially writing, has a restorative function. Creation can become like a means of survival for some people.

“Le rafeau de la méduse” by Théodore Géricault , “ Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, are stories, historical among others, put into images. During the 1914-18 war, a medical officer came up with the idea of ​​asking soldiers to write about how they saw things going and to address an imaginary letter to someone.

He then found that those who had written had fewer mental disorders than the others. Because the simple fact of writing, the day before the fight, had already caused the beginning of a reshuffle of the horror that was going to occur.

Nowadays, the theater is often used, for example, for experiments in so-called sensitive neighborhoods, where plays are put on with artists, with the help of educators, sometimes fueled by events in the neighborhood. .

“At night, I will write suns”

“I know now, thanks to the intimate stories from my heart, and the stories of shattered childhoods, that it is always possible to write suns. How many, among writers, orphan children, neglected, rejected children, all of whom have fought loss with written words? For them, the simple act of writing changed the taste of the world. Lack invites creativity. Loss invites art, orphanhood invites romance. A life without actions, without encounters and without sorrows would only be an existence without pleasures and dreams, a pit of ice. Crying out your despair is not writing, you have to look for the words that give shape to the distress in order to see it better, outside of yourself. You have to stage the expression of your unhappiness. Writing bridges the chasm of loss, but it is not enough to write to regain happiness. By writing, crossing out, scribbling arrows in all directions, the writer mends his torn self. Written words transform suffering ” , writes Boris Cyrulnik in his book, “ La nuit, j’écrirai des soleils ” , published by Odile Jacob in 2019.

Let us not neglect the power of the imagination to fight affliction … I recommend this book by Boris Cyrulnik , which is difficult to classify in a category: at the same time, a scientific book, of literature, of psychology , Of the history,…

You will learn a lot of things in this book: about the baby, about childhood, about parental links, about writers, about how our brain works.

As a conclusion

We agree on one point: not all stories come from trauma. For example, Pierre de Ronsard , a Renaissance poet , wrote his famous poem, “Mignonne, let’s go see the rose…” because he was in need of his lover.

Either way, the work of art fills a void or a vital need in our lives. Writing too. Primo Levi wrote: “ I wrote what I can’t say”.

Writing saves life sometimes. Words make it possible to escape, to flee reality, or to build oneself, or to invent a world or to tell a story. Writing is life: there is no choice to be made between one or the other!

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