”Whatever Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger”: A Sociological Analysis of Uses of the Concept of Resilience. The Case of Boris Cyrulnik’s Self-Help Books Readers

Open access


This article offers a social science analysis of the resilience concept’s success and common sense uses. Based on a sample of letters from the readers of the French author Boris Cyrulnik’s self-help best-sellers, the article first depicts the characteristics of the attitude of the letters’ authors towards Cyrulnik and what they expect from him. Second, it proposes to understand resilience as a language game used to communicate about suffering and then analyses why certain readers feel resilient while others don’t. It concludes that this way of reacting to adversity (i. e., tapping one’s inner resources, never giving up) is particularly desirable in a context where autonomy has become more prestigious.

Adger, Neil. 2000. Social and Ecological Resilience: Are They Related? Progress in Human Geography 24(3): 347–364.

Alexander, Jeffrey. 2004. Cultural Pragmatics: Social Performance Between Ritual and Strategy. Sociological Theory 22: 527–573.

Bonanno, Georges A. 2004. Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience: Have We Underestimated the Human Capacity to Thrive After Extremely Aversive Events? American Psychologist 59(1): 20–28.

Bowlby, John. 1958. The Nature of the Child’s Tie to His Mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 39: 350–371.

Brand, Fridolin S. and Kurt Jax. 2007. Focusing the Meaning(s) of Resilience: Resilience as a Descriptive Concept and a Boundary Object. Ecology and Society 12(1): 23.

Carel, Havi. 2008. Illness. Durham: Acumen.

Castel, Pierre-Henri. 2012. La fin des coupables. Paris: Ithaque.

Cavell, Stanley. 1979. The Claim of Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cyrulnik, Boris. 2006. De chair et d’âme. Paris: Odile Jacob.

Cyrulnik, Boris. 2004. Parler d’amour au bord du gouffre. Paris: Odile Jacob.

Cyrulnik, Boris. 2001. Les vilains petits canards. Paris: Odile Jacob.

Cyrulnik, Boris. 1999. Un merveilleux malheur. Paris: Odile Jacob.

Das, Veena. 2013. Institutions psychiatriques et vies singulières. La maladie mentale en contexte de pauvreté urbaine. Pp 135–160 in Face aux désastres. Une conversation à quatre voix sur la folie, le care et les grandes détresses collectives, edited by Anne M. Lovell, Stefania Pandolfo, Veena Das, and Sandra Laugier. Paris: Ithaque.

Das, Veena. 1998. Wittgenstein and Anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology 27: 171–195.

Davidson, Debra J. 2010. The Applicability of the Concept of Resilience to Social Systems: Some Sources of Optimism and Nagging Doubts. Society and Natural Resources 23(12): 1135–1149.

Dumont, Louis. 1985. Essais sur l’individualisme. Paris: Le Seuil.

Ehrenberg, Alain. 2010. La société du malaise. Paris: Odile Jacob.

Fairclough, Norman. 2013. Critical Discourse Analysis. The Critical Study of Language. London: Routledge.

Fassin, Didier and Richard Rechtman. 2007. L’empire du traumatisme. Enquête sur la condition de victime. Paris: Flammarion.

Fletcher, David and Mustafa Sarkar. 2013. Psychological Resilience: A Review and Critique of Definitions, Concepts, and Theory. European Psychologist 18(1): 12–23.

Folke, Alan. 2006. Resilience: The Emergence of a Perspective for Social-ecological Systems Analyses. Global Environmental Change 16: 253–267.

Frank, Arthur. 1995. The Wounded Storyteller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Glaser Barney G. and Anselm A. Strauss. 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Hawthorne: Aldine de Gruyter.

Holling, Stanley C. 1973. Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4: 1–23.

Ionescu, Serban and Colette Jourdan-Ionescu. 2010. Entre enthousiasme et rejet: l’ambivalence suscitée par le concept de résilience. Bulletin de psychologie 510: 401–403.

Kaplan, Herbert. 2006. Towards an Understanding of Resilience. A Critical Review of Definitions and Models. Pp. 17–83 in Resilience and Development: Positive Life Adaptations, edited by Michael Glantz and Johnson, J. New York: Plenum.

Laugier, Sandra. 2013. Veena Das, Wittgenstein, and Stanley Cavell. Le care, l’ordinaire et la folie. Pp 161–185 in Face aux désastres. Une conversation à quatre voix sur la folie, le care et les grandes détresses collectives, edited by Anne M. Lovell, Stefania Pandolfo, Veena Das, and Sandra Laugier. Paris: Ithaque.

Lichterman, Paul. 1992. Self-Help Reading as a Thin Culture. Media, Culture & Society 14: 421–447.

Luthar, Suniya S., Dante Cicchetti, and Bronwyn Becker. 2000. The Construct of Resilience: A Critical Evaluation and Guidelines for Future Work, Child Development 71(3): 543–562.

Macé, Marielle. 2011. Façons de lire, manières d’être. Paris: Gallimard.

Marquis, Nicolas. 2015. Allowing for Social Desirability in Reception Studies. The Case of Self-Help Book Readers. Bulletin of Sociological Methodology 127(1): 58–71.

Marquis, Nicolas. 2014. Du bien-être au marché du malaise. La société du développement personnel. Paris: PUF.

Masten, Anne S. and Dante Cicchetti. 2012. Risk and Resilience in Development and Psychopathology: The Legacy of Norman Garmezy. Development and Psychopathology 24: 333–334.

Masten, Anne. S., Karen Best, and Norman Garmezy. 1990. Resilience and Development: Contributions From the Study of Children Who Overcome Adversity. Development and Psychopathology 2: 425–444.

Norris, Fran. H., Susan P. Stevens, Betty Pfefferbaum, Karen F. Wyche, and Rose L. Pfefferbaum. 2008. Community Resilience as a Metaphor, Theory, Set of Capacities, and Strategy for Disaster Readiness. American Journal of Community Psychology 41(1–2): 127–150.

Olsson, Lennart, Anne Jerneck, Henrik Thoren, Johannes Persson, and David O’Byrne. 2015. Why Resilience Is Unappealing to Social Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations of the Scientific Use of Resilience. ScienceAdvances 1(4), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4640643 (15.09.2016).

Orgad, Shani. 2009 The Survivor in Contemporary Culture and Public Discourse: A Genealogy. Communication Review 12(2): 132–161.

Richardson, Glenn E. 2002. The Metatheory of Resilience and Resiliency. Journal of Clinical Psychology 58(3): 307–321.

Rutter, Michael. 1999. Resilience as the Millenium Rorschach: Response to Smith and Gorrell Barnes. Journal of Family Therapy 21(2) : 159–160.

Rutter Michael, 1985. Resilience in the Face of Adversity – Protective Factors and Resistance to Psychiatric Disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry 147: 598–611.

Simonds, Wendy. 1992. Women and Self-Help Culture: Reading Between the Lines. New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press.

Sontag, Susan. 1990. Illness as Metaphor. New York: Penguin Books.

Southwick, Steven M., George A. Bonanno, Ann S. Masten, Catherine Panter-Brick, and Rachel Yehuda. 2014. Resilience Definitions, Theory, and Challenges: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. European Journal of Psychotraumatology 5, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4185134/ (15.09.2016).

Tisseron Serge. 2005. La résilience. Paris: PUF.

Tugade, Michele M., Barbara L. Fredrickson, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2004. Psychological Resilience and Positive Emotional Granularity: Examining the Benefits of Positive Emotions on Coping and Health. Journal of Personality 72: 1161–1190.

Ungar, Michael. 2008. Resilience Across Cultures. British Journal of Social Work 38(2): 218–235.

Werner, Emily E. and Smith, R. S. 1982. Vulnerable But Invicible: A Longitudinal Study of Resilient Children and Youth. New York: McGrawHill.

Winch, Peter. 2009 [1958]. L’idée d’une science sociale et sa relation à la philosophie. Paris: Gallimard.

Winch, Peter. 1964. Understanding a Primitive Society. American Philosophical Quarterly 1: 307–324.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 2010 [1953]. Recherches philosophiques. Paris: Gallimard.

Woods, Angela. 2013. Rethinking “Patient Testimony.” Journal of Literature and Science 6: 38–54.

Swiss Journal of Sociology

Revue Suisse de sociologie/ Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Soziologie

Journal Information

CiteScore 2017: 0.40

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.181
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.975


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 95 95 63
PDF Downloads 73 73 45