Resilience and altruism: How to be happy after adversity

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Resilience and altruism: How to be happy after adversity

How do some people overcome and emerge stronger from life’s adversities, professional crises, or even serious personal trauma? The answer: resilience.

Negative events occur in anyone’s life that conditions their future development and impacts their emotions, stress management and even their vision of life. In this way, they change our mental scheme and influence our way of facing our day-to-day.

Therefore, we need an emotional buffer to overcome these wounds. Without it, these episodes can undermine our self-esteem and lower our mood until we reach depression. This buffer is called resilience, which is born from our inner strength that we are all capable of developing to a greater or lesser extent.

A surprising story … What does resilience have to do with the Nazis?

The concept of resilience was put into vogue by the French physician Boris Cyrulnik. This neuropsychiatrist was born in Bordeaux (1937) into a family of Jewish immigrants. Yes, in that terrible time 😰. When he was only 5 years old, after the Nazi occupation, his parents were deported to concentration camps and a large part of his family also disappeared.

But his suffering did not end there, little Boris was arrested by the Gestapo, the French police associated with the German army, at the age of 6 and a half years. In those surreal conditions as he tells it, he managed to escape without being able to go very far. A Red Cross nurse saw the little boy and beckoned him to hide under the body of a dying woman and managed to save herself. Out of 1,700 people arrested, only Boris and this lady were survivors.

Resilience, a message of hope

After fleeing from here to there, Boris was taken in by a family who kept him under the fictitious identity of a non-Jewish boy named Jean Laborde. At the end of the war, this family encouraged him to study medicine and become a psychiatrist.

As a young man, Boris realized that, after everything he had been through, he could understand the causes of trauma and try to help others overcome these events. As he tells it, after experiencing a tragedy we become defensive. And when we go back to life and suffer less, very often people have an altruistic desire.

Cyrulnik extended the meaning of the concept to “the ability of the human being to recover from trauma and, without being scarred for life, be happy.”
Resilience gives us a hopeful message. It was previously believed that when a person suffered a trauma or emotional breakdown, they were marked for life by pain and suffering. However, now we know that it is not entirely true, since if the person overcomes that wound he becomes someone resilient.

Why do resilient people become altruistic?

According to Boris, when people have gone through adversity they know what suffering is and a desire is born to help others so that they do not go through the same thing. Furthermore, to overcome these deep and painful wounds the secret is hidden in solidarity, in love, in contact with others; in short, in the affections. In fact, it is proven that altruistic people can experience great satisfaction in helping others. Helping other people increases our own strength and empathy.

That is why there are so many stories, even of successful entrepreneurs, who after suffering from a painful event they leave business life to focus on people in need or who have been through something similar. Like the story I told you in a previous post about Catalina Escobar, who after suffering the loss of her young son decided to sell her international company to start a foundation that has helped reduce poverty in Cartagena and infant mortality by 80 %.

“Altruism helps us fight pain.” Boris Cyrulnik
How can I boost my resilience? 🤔

Resilient people turn life’s shocks into opportunities for improvement. And, like all abilities, we can learn to enhance it. In this way, in the face of negative events, we can overcome and emerge stronger.

Here are 5 tips to build your resilience 👇

✔️ Focus on the present: The only moment we are able to control is our present. Constantly looking at a painful past only makes us more sad and the future generates anxiety. Plan your future, live in the present.

✔️ Cultivate healthy relationships: Having a supportive family and social environment will help us face adversity better than if we were alone.

✔️ Listen to yourself: Sometimes we avoid facing our negative emotions; however, they tell us what we need. We should not avoid our emotions such as sadness or anger, it is better to listen to ourselves and give ourselves space to find a solution.

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