What does it mean to be truly resilient? Using equal parts narrative and humor, psychologist, author, and biologist Joan Borysenko explains what the arc of transformation looks like, and means, for the clients who come to us during times of suffering.

According to Borysenko, suffering arises when we encounter interruptions to “life as usual.” Like Virgil’s Dante, she says, we encounter a type of purgatorio in our darkest moments, which also serve as periods of reflection. Here, she says, we reside in a place between “no longer” and “not yet.”

Here, Borysenko explains what happens as we move through this transition stage, and what waits for us at the end of it.

“We all need purgatory time,” Borysenko says, “in which we take time to reflect on our life.” It’s a rite of passage, she adds, on our way to a new, better place. At the end of our journey, she says, we arrive at our own version of paradiso. And even though we may not be the same people after our hardships, Borysenko adds, we’re more enlightened, more resilient, and better able to weather whatever challenges may await us ahead. 

Joan Borysenko

Joan Borysenko, PhD, is a Harvard-trained cell biologist, licensed psychologist, and spiritual educator. A pioneer in mind/body medicine and psychoneuroimmunology, she’s president of Mind-Body Health Sciences, LLC and a New York Times bestselling author of 17 books.