we interviewed Dr. Boris Cyrulnik, neuropsychiatrist and author of “Flesh and Soul” published by Editions Odile Jacob. He explains the recipes of happiness.
Is there a definition of happiness?
Dr Cyrulnik: Happiness is a completely heterogeneous concept. It is often confused with the well-being, success and social climbing. This word means so totally different nature of events. Everyone has their own idea of joy and unhappiness sources. And it changes with age. But to be happy, you have several conditions to be met, both physiological and environmental level, especially in the first months of life. We are not in a Cartesian approach with a cause that will have an effect. Several elements are essential to joy , and if one of them fails, everything collapses.
What do you mean by physiological aspect? Some people are meant to be happy?
Dr Cyrulnik: We know that there are people whose brain is capable of carrying a large amount of serotonin. This neurotransmitter is responsible for feelings of pleasure and well-being. They will be stimulated cerebrally, more awake. They will somehow “easy joy.” But this is not enough to be happy! It takes safety and emotional and social stimulation. If we put these people in a situation of emotional isolation, sensory deprivation, there will be a drop in serotonin secretion. A gene can not be expressed if there is not a favorable environment.
You cite as key period the first months of life. Can you tell us more?
Dr Cyrulnik: The last weeks of pregnancy and the first months of life are critical. Children should be very surrounded during the first months. Two out of three children will benefit from this environment “secure”. They will be able to have fun exploring the world and learn because they are reassured by relations “routine, stable and rhythmic.” Even a “small carrier” serotonin that goes well being surrounded in the months after birth is more easily pleased. Conversely, even a “large carrier” of serotonin, if it does not receive proper attention after birth will be easier unhappy.
Do you think “What does not kill us makes us more strong”, as Nietzsche said?
Dr Cyrulnik: Wrong! When one suffers trauma, we become more sensitive to subsequent trauma. Injured people are becoming increasingly easy to hurt. Look depression. Relapses usually occur for reasons more and more light. The more we mistreat people, the more it makes them unhappy!