Boris Cyrulnik in 20 & ç. - Ludovic MARIN / AFP

  • Every Friday, 20 Minutes offers a personality to comment on a social phenomenon, in their "20 Minutes with ..." meeting.
  • Neuropsychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, resilience specialist, analyzes for 20 minutes  the factors that allow you to go through this personal and collective ordeal.
  • He also anticipates the changes that this health crisis will have on social relationships, work, relationship with religion ...

Nothing will be like it was before. The coronavirus health crisis has changed our lives, our certainties, our projects ... Neuropsychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, resilience specialist, analyzes for 20 Minutes  the factors that allow some to overcome this personal and collective ordeal. When others do not have the same weapons to bounce.

With confinement, each of us found himself facing himself. Is this an opportunity to take stock of your life and set other priorities?

It depends on how we built ourselves before. If, during our development, we have acquired protective factors (a stable and affectionate family, self-confidence, speaking skills, a friendly network, internal resources, etc.), confinement will be experienced as a period of rest where we will stop running, like a soothing. We will have worked, listened to music, shared with our family ... We will emerge from confinement a little better than before, because we will have acquired an additional protection factor and we will be able to project ourselves.

Who are the people most vulnerable to this situation, from a psychological point of view?

Those who, before confinement, underwent vulnerability factors (the sick, people with an abusive family, delayed language, poor academic results, a poorly valued profession, poor quality housing, etc.) face confinement in bad conditions and live it as a trauma. They will come out of it with additional fragility.

But can they still create resilience factors?

They will have to make great efforts to manufacture protective factors. By asking for psychological assistance numbers, which will relieve them a little, even if that will not be enough. They will have to go further after confinement to feel better, by initiating psychotherapy or by rebuilding their protective factors (recourse to a priest or an imam, sports practice, links with friends, etc.)

Does the fact that the pandemic is a test that we had not experienced in a recent History make it more difficult to manufacture these factors of resilience?

Yes, because it is the first time in World History, in seventy years, that we have lived without plague and without war in France. We were not prepared for such a crisis. Whereas previous generations knew that misfortune was frequent: life expectancy was lower, infant mortality was higher… Boys were trained from a very young age to violence in the perspective of war, because violence was an adaptive value.

Our current society is necessarily more vulnerable, because this crisis has surprised it. Especially since for the past seventy years, we have confused progress with happiness. However, this virus is a side effect of progress: it is the result of overconsumption and excess mobility. We must therefore expect that with this catastrophe, unemployment will surge, the state will go into debt for at least thirty years, and that the number of suicides will increase.

Some of us have lost a loved one with coronavirus and could not accompany him during his last moments. How to overcome this loss, when in addition the ritual of mourning could not be respected?

Some people were unable to say goodbye to a loved one or attend their funeral, making mourning impossible and causing them to feel guilty. To overcome this ordeal, we must invent new mourning rituals, by organizing virtual ceremonies where we talk about the deceased in front of his photo, for example. We will feel less guilty.

Are Covid-19 Patients Who Have Recovered At Risk of Psychological Backlash?

For most of them, no. Because it often happens, in a biography, to pass near death. This will only be the case for those who felt abandoned by their loved ones during their hospitalization. It is not the virus that shocks them, it is the loneliness they have felt.

During this crisis, we also saw the emergence of inglorious behaviors: neighbors of caregivers who asked them to move, people who denounced others for non-compliance with confinement. How do you analyze this?

It is fairly systematic during all psychosocial disasters: the majority of the population is courageous and generous. And a minority organize the black market, indulge in denunciation, develop scams ... A desire to take advantage of the situation.

Friends, families, colleagues ... Is this experience also an opportunity to put social ties back at the heart of our lives?

Yes, because before this crisis, we were embedded in a culture of sprinting in the name of professional success. And during confinement, we rediscovered the slowness and the pleasure of friendship. It is certain that after this crisis, we will attach more importance to the weaving of the social bond and that this will modify daily behavior: we did not see each other enough, we will meet more.

How can this experience change family relationships?

It will do it both ways: the domestic tyrants took advantage of the confinement to be even more so, at the risk of breaking up the family at the end. On the other hand, people who took advantage of confinement to express their attachment, to play with their children, will come out of confinement by having improved the relations of the home.

Can the united gestures that have been expressed continue with the recovery?

Solidarity networks have been created in the neighborhoods and people say hello or smile on the street, when they did not do it before. And probably, these new solidarities will continue after confinement. In countries that have suffered a war, we often see solidarity growing among people who have experienced the same ordeal.

Social inequalities were further highlighted during this crisis. Do you think that seeing public policies act more on them in the coming years is pure utopia?

Unfortunately yes. Because social inequalities worsened during confinement. The unemployed and those who had difficulty making ends meet will see their daily difficulties increase. And those who were already well on their way to life will rebound very quickly.

Pressure on workers is likely to be intense with the economic recovery. Will not the productivity requirement which will increase with regard to them oppose the decline that some have taken vis-à-vis their professional life?

If, and conflicts with employers are to be expected. The Medef has already warned that it would be necessary to double work, which created the fury of the unions. This is what happened after 1945. One can imagine that wages will stagnate, that working time will increase or that work will be shared more.

Certain trades usually devalued (cashiers, garbage collectors, postal workers) were highlighted during the crisis, but can the social hierarchy really be transformed?

We realize that "small jobs" are essential. After the current crisis, one can imagine that some of these trades are upgraded socially and perhaps financially. But also that the government is still reviewing the numerus clausus to increase the number of doctors trained in France.

You seem to believe that we are going to change consumption patterns. How? 'Or' What ?

It is a cultural debate between those who want to restart the economy, consumption and mobility as before, and the others. If they are the first to win, it will help to make other viruses. As happened in the 17th century, when traders put in place the same silk transport processes, which encouraged the circulation of plague bacilli.

But some French people will say that it is no longer possible to live as before and will want to change society. By consuming more locally, by traveling less far, by reducing livestock ...

The French maintained a real distrust of politicians. Will it increase after this crisis?

When there is social disorganization, the figure of a savior almost always appears. This is how a dictator is democratically elected. This systematic distrust of politicians therefore risks bringing an extreme party to power.

Are we also heading towards a return of the religious?

After each crisis, an outbreak of religion takes place. We saw it in Haiti after the earthquake, or in Colombia after the war with the Farcs. Because anxiety drives crowds to submit to a supreme authority to seek a form of appeasement.


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  • Containment
  • Psychology
  • Covid 19
  • Coronavirus