Dr. Lise Deguire: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
Published in
16 min readSep 24, 2020


Resilient folks have hope for the future. I don’t mean that they never despair, cry or feel bad. Of course, they do! But resilient people can look ahead and see something positive in their future. Right now, during the COVID-19 epidemic, it is easy to feel anxious and unsafe. We are living through a strange and dangerous time. If we focus on the ongoing infections and death rate, we become demoralized. If we imagine winter approaching, increasing darkness, cold and social isolation, we can feel just terrible.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lise Deguire, Psy.D.

Dr. Deguire is a clinical psychologist in private practice. She is the lone surviving child of gifted, unsettled and iconoclastic parents. After being severely burned in a fire, she spent most of her childhood in the hospital, undergoing countless surgical procedures. ​She is the author of Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience From a Burn Survivor.

Dr. Deguire attended Tufts University, graduating summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from Hahnemann/Widener University. She has appeared on television and radio, and has been published in the Trenton Times, Grown & Flown.com, and Medium.com. Dr. Deguire writes a blog about psychological resilience and is a national keynote speaker. She has over 10,000 social media followers on a variety of platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I am a clinical psychologist from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, childhood burn survivor, author, and speaker. When I was four years old, I was burned in a horrific fire, on two-thirds of my body. This fire was caused by both maternal and corporate negligence. Against all odds, I survived the injury, embarking on decades of surgeries. Now, many years later, I am a healer, using my story of hardship and pain to inspire others who suffer to keep going.

Being a childhood burn survivor was devastating. The physical pain of burn care cannot be conveyed and is considered to be the most painful human experience. The surgeries terrified me. I was alone in the hospital most of the time, as my parents lived in a distant state. Also, my parents tended to be emotionally neglectful.

When I was not in the hospital, I was home with my family, trying to have a “normal” life. My parents expected me to get on with it, which was partly a good expectation and partly a terrible one. I became self-sufficient and independent and did not wallow in self-pity. However, I also had minimal parental support, even though I was severely disfigured, and bullied and teased in school.

My family itself was tragically flawed. My parents were brilliant and gifted, but emotionally self-absorbed, unable to provide the care and attention that children need. My brother Marc and I suffered without their parental care. There was mental illness, neglect, and pain, resulting in multiple family suicides.

Despite all the odds against me, I have built a beautiful life. I received a lot of love, support and help, not necessarily from my family, but from many others. I had some privilege and I also worked hard. And I was blessed with a sunny, optimistic and friendly nature.

I have written this improbable story of trauma, loss and healing in my new book, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience From a Burn Survivor. The book focuses on the theme of resilience and suggests ways the reader can foster resilience in his/her own life. It is a sad story but also a story full of love and hope. I believe that people are capable of tremendous growth. If I can survive and thrive after all the obstacles in my path, anyone can. In this year of COVID 19, economic hardship and racial unrest, the message of resilience could not be more timely.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

As a clinical psychologist, I have met so many people struggling through hardship. It amazes me what people can endure, and bounce back from, sometimes stronger than ever.

I worked with one man for years. He was intelligent, funny, kind and attractive, but he also suffered from a deformity. Worse than his deformity was his internal relationship with his deformity. He considered himself to be hideous and unlovable. He was entirely preoccupied with hiding his deformity, to the point where he wouldn’t allow himself to be hugged. He told me that he could never, ever think of himself as lovable.

But the human spirit is inspiring. Over time, we worked and worked on how he talked to himself. We paid attention to his harsh inner dialogue and worked to transform it into a warm and accepting voice. Over time, he improved.

I will never forget the day, years later, when this same man sat in my office and said, “I can’t believe I ever thought of myself so badly. I can’t even think those harsh words now.” He ended his therapy knowing himself to be the intelligent, witty, and attractive person that I had always known him to be. But now, he knew it too.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Because of the tragedies that I have overcome, including extensive bodily injury, hospitalizations, parental neglect, four suicides, and the lessons I have learned, I bring my clients a deep level of empathy and understanding. Even though I do not discuss my own history with clients, my experiences of suffering help me connect with my clients and help guide them through their own troubles. I think my clients sense that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I set out to write my memoir entirely unprepared to write a memoir. What I had was an incredible story and some natural writing ability. But any author out there knows that writing involves so many skills: craftmanship, editing, marketing, connecting, querying, etc. I was naïve.

As is always the case for me, good hearted people stepped in to help. My friend, Lisa, is a marketer. She helped me connect on social media and develop my author website. She found me speaking engagements and held my hand through numerous panic attacks. I have many other friends, as well as my dear husband, who jumped in to help. At every stage, with every roadblock I hit, one friend or another would say, “I can help you!” I have always been blessed with good friends who believe in me. Despite all my struggles, there is a lot of love in my life.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience has been defined as the ability to “bounce back.” In order to be resilient, you need to meet two criteria. First, you need to have experienced something really difficult. Second, you need to have recovered in a hardy, positive way.

There are many factors which contribute to resilience, some of which are under our control, some of which are not. For example, there is a genetic component to resiliency. Genes are obviously not under our control in any way. Also, having economic resources helps support resiliency, as does a higher level of intelligence. Living in a safe supportive community helps too.

However, there are many aspects of resilience that people can develop, with help and support. These are the aspects that I find most intriguing, because people’s capacity for resilience can be improved. I developed a mnemonic for these characteristics: G.O.A.L.S. + M.M.

G. stands for Gratitude

O. stands for Optimism

A. stands for Active Coping

L. stands for Love

S. stands for Social Skills

M.M.: stands for Meaning Making

I will share more about G.O.A.L.S. + M.M. later.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I had a neighbor once, Vickie. We became close friends when our kids were small, waiting together at the bus stop every morning. Vickie was a thoughtful, gentle, caring person. She was the kind of friend who brought your new puppy a gift, with a card saying how lucky the puppy was to join your family. Everyone loved her.

One day, completely out of the blue, Vickie’s 13-year-old son died from an undiagnosed medical condition. He literally went to bed fine and never woke up. No one even knew he was ill and certainly no one was prepared for his death.

Vickie spent months in shock, her face blank. She seemed to be on automatic pilot, just surviving each day. But gradually, over time, Vickie’s spirit re-emerged. She is a deeply religious woman and she attributes her strength to her faith. She is even kinder than before, even more thoughtful.

What I admire most about Vickie is her absence of bitterness. So many people would be crushed by the loss of their child, feeling angry and cheated. Vickie is not angry; she is somehow at peace. If you met her, you would never know she had endured such hardship. In fact, Vickie took the heartache she endured and used it to establish even kinder connections with others. That’s resilience.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I faced a lot of negative pressure when I ended my first marriage and got together with the man who became my current husband. My daughters were little at the time. I think many people thought I was making a huge mistake, for which my daughters would have to pay. There was a lot of judgment.

However, I educated myself when I chose to end my marriage. I read a lot about divorce, and how to minimize its impact on children. I was bound and determined to do everything I possibly could to help my children have a great life, divorce or no divorce.

The longitudinal studies done on divorced families taught me that it wasn’t the divorce itself that seriously damaged kids, it was how the divorce was handled. I learned how crucial it was to keep kids out of conflict, and how to actively support their positive relationship with their father. I kept as many aspects of their lives as stable as possible, providing consistency and safety. I worked to keep myself healthy, emotionally and physically, so I could really be there for them. And I kept their welfare primary my mind for the entirety of their childhood.

My girls are amazing young women. That is just who they are. They have had many positive influences around them, including their father and stepfather. My point is that even something as tough as divorce can be handled positively, with education, support, and persistence.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

The hardest day of my life happened when I was 14. My favorite person in the world was my brother, Marc-Emile Deguire. He was kind and caring and he was also a genius. He killed himself when he was only 19 years old.

It is a funny thing. If you had met my brother and me when we were children, you would have definitely assumed he would have a great life but that I would struggle to find any happiness. Marc was stunningly intelligent, graduating high school early, at the top of his class, with virtually perfect SATs. I, on the other hand, was reasonably intelligent, but massively disfigured, bullied at school, and suffering alone in the hospital for much of my childhood. Yet here I am, alive, well, and thriving, while my dear brother, my favorite person, took his own life. Such is the mystery of resilience.

What did I learn from Marc’s suicide? I learned how vital mental health care is, and how a good therapist saves lives. It is part of my job now, as a clinical psychologist, to help people overcome the darkest times of their life. I do this work as a clinician. I also hope to inspire and reach more people with the stories and lessons in my book, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience From a Burn Survivor.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

My brother Marc took excellent care of me. He was only 5 years older, and it wasn’t his job to worry about his little sister. But our parents were limited people; they tended toward self-absorption and they frequently overlooked our needs. Marc stepped in to look after me.

Once in 7th grade, I was being bullied and tormented by a group of girls, one of whom threatened to beat me up. I had never been in a fight in my life and I was terrified. My parents were in the middle of a divorce at this time, and they were upset and preoccupied with their own problems, as usual. But Marc was there for me.

I remember bursting into the house crying. Marc came downstairs and asked, “What’s the matter?”

I sobbed, “Leslie said she’s going to beat me up tomorrow. I don’t even know how to fight. I don’t know what to do.”

Marc looked at me calmly. He was 17 years old, and a pacifist. Marc was skinny, with long hair, acne, and thick glasses. I don’t think he had ever been in a fight his whole life. However, in this moment he became fiercely calm. His eyes beamed into mine. “You tell Leslie that if she lays a hand on you, I will come and fight her.”

In the end, no one beat anyone up, thank goodness. To this day, I have never been in a physical fight. What helped me in that moment was knowing that I had someone in my corner, and that I wasn’t alone. I had a protector, someone who cared enough about me to fight for me, even though it would have scared him too. But he would do it for me, for his little sister, if he had to.

Marc’s kindness, his attunement and his devotion to me kept me alive. He taught me, though his example, how to be kind and attuned to others. So now, even though he has been dead for more than 40 years, I follow his example in my work, helping others keep going.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

I developed a mnemonic for resilience skills called G.O.A.L.S. + M.M. Let me explain.

G. is for Gratitude. Resilient folks are grateful folks, and grateful folks are. . . happy! The capacity to be grateful for what you have, instead of sad about what’s missing, this capacity is strong among the resilient.

Think about the stories I have been sharing about my brother, Marc. I can still cry over the painful shock of his death, and the fact that I literally miss him every day of my life, with an ache in my heart. Or, I can celebrate his life, and everything that he gave me, as a loving, protective, amazing brother. I was so lucky to have him! I work to be grateful for having my brother, instead of being bitter over his early death.

O. is for Optimism. Resilient folks have hope for the future. I don’t mean that they never despair, cry or feel bad. Of course, they do! But resilient people can look ahead and see something positive in their future.

Right now, during the COVID-19 epidemic, it is easy to feel anxious and unsafe. We are living through a strange and dangerous time. If we focus on the ongoing infections and death rate, we become demoralized. If we imagine winter approaching, increasing darkness, cold and social isolation, we can feel just terrible.

The optimist in me would suggest focusing on the positives. Despite our current crisis, there is reason for hope. There are armies of scientists, all over the world, scurrying to develop, test and manufacture vaccines. We may have to wait awhile before the vaccines are safe and available. But, in the long run, help is coming. There are many good, hardworking scientists out there, looking to help us all.

A is for Active Coping. Resilient people do their best to improve their own situation. They are not passive, and they do not sit and wait to be rescued. No, they assess their problem and figure out any way that they can actively help themselves. And then they enact their plan, and work hard to solve their own problems, as much as possible.

In my psychology practice, there are two kinds of clients. Some clients come in, suffering and looking for support, which I am happy to provide. Other clients come in, also suffering and looking for support. But, after they have cried and blown their noses, these clients ask me, “What can I do? How can I help myself?”

I don’t have a magic wand for my clients. But even in the midst of terrible suffering, there is usually something a person can do to help themselves. Maybe they need to concentrate on getting a good night’s sleep. Or eating three meals a day. Or getting outside for a long walk. And these clients, the ones who ask, these clients will return the next week, having done their homework, ready to do more work to help themselves.

L is for love: Resilient folks are loved, and they feel themselves to be loved. Interestingly, you don’t have to be loved by everyone. Most of us think you need to have loving parents in order to make it in this world. And of course, it is best if you do! But research has shown that many abused, mistreated children can still have a resilient recovery as long as they feel loved by someone. Perhaps that someone is their grandmother, or a neighbor, or a teacher. (Perhaps that someone is their beloved brother, Marc.) The point is that we require love to thrive, but we don’t require love from everyone. We just need someone, someone who truly cares for us.

S is for Social Skills: Resilient folks are good with people. They make friends, keep friends, and form enduring relationships to sustain them. Good social skills come into play during crises, when people need help from others. Those people who are warm and polite, who remember to say “please” and “thank you,” these are the people that others naturally want to help.

I used to work in a hospital, years ago. I would see patients come and go, temporarily disabled and hoping to heal. Some patients would be cranky and difficult. They would criticize the staff and complain about the food. Nothing the staff did would ever be good enough. Other patients would smile every time a nurse walked in, remembering the nurse’s name and saying, “thank you.” Some patients would even get to know the nurses’ kids names, asking if little Tyler liked his first week of kindergarten.

Which patients do you think got the best care? The nurses were always professional. They did their job and took care of every patient, regardless of the patient’s social skills. But some patients got that little extra bit of kindness and attention, because those patients were friendly and caring. Their good social skills attracted them the extra care that they needed.

M.M. is for Meaning Making: In the end, after suffering a great crisis, resilient people construct some meaning out of their trauma. People need to feel that they have learned something, or grown, or contributed in some way, so they don’t feel their suffering has been in vain.

People who are religious can have an easier time making meaning out of their trauma. Remember my friend, Vickie? She is Christian and takes great comfort from the Bible and from her church community. I know her faith kept her going, and I’m sure she believes she will see her son again, someday, in heaven.

People who are not religious in the traditional sense can still find meaning in their suffering, For me, I feel that all the tragedies of my life: the fire, my hospitalizations, the bullying, my brother’s suicide; all these tragedies make me a better healer. The memories of my own suffering help me connect quickly and deeply with clients. To be clear, I don’t talk about my own pain! My own issues never come up in session. Nevertheless, I use the memory of my own losses to help me connect. And now I am telling my stories of pain and resilience in my book Flashback Girl, seeking to inspire readers to have hope and keep going.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I wish that everyone would have the chance to have (at least) ten sessions of psychotherapy with a really good clinician. Life is hard and challenging, and people suffer through many disappointments. Most people just endure their pain alone and keep going. That was my experience as a child.

Now, as a psychologist myself, I witness first-hand how much emotional healing can occur. People need to be in the hands of an expert to help them sort through their pain, understand what they have been through, and plot their path toward a better life. I wish everyone had the chance to receive this kind of support. I think it could make the world a better, kinder place.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

There are so many people I admire, I am overwhelmed with having to choose just one! I admire people who are excellent at their craft, emotionally authentic, and consistently kind. I admire Oprah Winfrey as a journalist and interviewer, and also as a force of good in the world. I admire Pope Francis, whom I think is a sincerely good man, trying to bring peace and love to people.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for asking. My book, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience From a Burn Survivor, is being released on September 15. If you would like to read more about my story, you can order the book from my website, which is LiseDeguire.com. I am also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. I welcome all new readers and followers.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market