Carolyn Baker: Emotional Resilience Is Essential in Turbulent Times

Carolyn Baker, therapist and prominent advocate for culturing emotional preparedness in times of transition, looks to the future and sees a great many people at risk of unprecedented loss. Loss of jobs, loss of lifestyle, loss of wealth, loss of relationships and quite possibly loss of life as society becomes increasingly traumatized by secular economic slowdown and growing resource scarcity.

I have watched the Crash Course several times. So this is already happening dramatically and far more rapidly than anyone could have anticipated. Peak Oil, the end of money as we know it, escalating climate change all of these will temper everything we do. This is the new normal, and there is no going back to the "old" normal. These drastic and daunting changes will invariably and unequivocally invoke enormous emotional responses in people, as they already are, in terms of fear, panic, anger, depression, despair, and in many cases off-the-charts addictions and suicides.     

But Carolyn also sees unprecedented opportunity ahead for those who are mentally and emotionally prepared to meet the coming future.

What will determine who prospers and who doesn't? In her professional opinion, two things: meaning and purpose.

Both history and scientific study show that those who are able to connect their existence to something greater than their human ego are much more likely to persevere through adversity. When faced with the same set of circumstances, those who maintain a positive narrative are far more likely to gain mastery over their own reactions and mobilize themselves in constructive ways. Notable learnings on this have been drawn from the Nazi German concentration camps (Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning) and post-collapse Soviet Russia (Dmitri Orlov's Reinventing Collapse).

To find meaning and purpose, Carolyn advocates a process called 'inner transition,' which focuses the individual on answering two questions: "Who do I want to be?" and "What am I here to do?" The process is about redefining our relationship to work, to each other, and to the world around us - in short, redefining what "prosperity" means. For too many in the recent past, prosperity = money. In a future where many current professions and industries may no longer exist, those who respect the work they do - whatever it is - will find much more fulfillment than those remaining fixated on a specific income level that they may not be able to return to.

This new prosperity includes richer relationships with one's self, loved ones, and the community. Carolyn warns that almost none of us is wired to thrive emotionally in isolation. As she puts it, 

[W]ithout this kind of preparation, even the most re-skilled person who has made excellent logistical preparation will very likely be overwhelmed in a world of terrified, angry, depressed human beings. A person can have the most awesomely equipped "doomstead" on earth and yet completely lose their grip emotionally in just a few minutes, without emotional and spiritual resilience.     

And she emphasizes the critical significance of having a mindset that the change the future is bringing will lead to better destinations. In Carolyn's mind, it's a chance for us as a global society to reach a higher plateau:

I believe that we are all standing on an evolutionary threshold in which we have the possibility not only of creating a new culture, but actually becoming a new kind of human being that will understand how to live with connection with ourselves, with each other and with the earth. So much of the suffering and acts that will happen in the meantime, we have to be prepared for. But if we can work with it instead of resist it, that evolutionary leap may be possible.    

In the full interview below, Chris and Carolyn explore these topics in much more depth, including the specifics of the workshops Carolyn runs across the country to help individuals develop their "emotional toolkit."

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Carolyn Baker (runtime 35m:45s):

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Carolyn Baker, Ph.D.,was an adjunct professor of history and psychology for 11 years and a psychotherapist in private practice for 17 years. (She is not, and never has been, a licensed psychologist.)

Carolyn is available for speaking engagements and author events and can be contacted here. She has authored the following books: Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition (2011),  Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse (2009), Coming Out of Fundamentalist Christianity: An Autobiography Affirming Sensuality, Social Justice, and The Sacred (2007), U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Didn't Tell You and The Journey of Forgiveness: Fulfilling The Healing Process.


Our series of podcast interviews with notable minds includes:


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

It’s interesting that as a culture, we have become so bereft of the spiritual and of essential awareness, that this advice seems new and complete whereas it is ancient (as acknowledged later on the podcast) and yet missing a fundamental center as well as ancillary components (which are not acknowledged).  The dots are being connected in a circle only to go round and round about an assiduously ignored center, approximating it but never actually entering and truly experiencing it.
Also, it surprised me that as a psychotherapist, Carolyn has only recently become aware of Steven Levine’s work.  He is brilliant and his book, Waking The Tiger, presents valuable insights (if you can endure the relentless repetition and the poor editing).  His approach, however, seems to be geared more to singular traumatic events as opposed to the long term grind of cumulative micro- (and occasional macro-) trauma that we are more likely to experience in years to come.

In addition, I have some problems with the statement condemning industrial civilization.  It has given folks such as Carolyn the opportunity to go jetting around the country speaking at various workshops as well as use this incredible tool called the Internet.  Balance and moderation are essential. 

If you think things are harsh over in your neck of the woods, things are pretty rugged for the indigenous people of Australia.
The young men had to be prepared thorougly to become the new providers. When they were considered ready they were initiated, which entailed a testing of their endurance and knowledge. At the end of the initiation they were taken to the edge of a high cliff overlooking the ocean. They did not know what would come next.

They were then told to look at the beauty of the world. And of all the beauty, they were the most beautiful.

Admire the sunrise and ask yourself  "Is this the last sunrise for me?"

Thanks for that interview, Chris; I really enjoyed it.   I agree that the internal preparations for our transition are as important as the external preparations, and there are very few people in the peak oil community talking about that.  This is mostly, I think, because our culture is so physically-oriented that we feel like we’re really making progress if we stock up on food (which is important, of course) but we don’t feel the same urgency to learn how to be patient with our family or help our neighbor even if they’re on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
I second the recommendation to get involved with a Transition group; I helped start one in our town and it’s been great to have the support of that group.  You can go to to find out if there is already a group near you, if not, you can start one!


At one point you talked about having private conversations about the coming crisis and public conversations avoiding the topic. You described the way I have been acting. Only those very close to me know my views and the constant preps I’ve been doing. In public I act as if life will always be the way we see it now. I don’t feel brave enough to talk to people about this issue.

Everyone once and while I will give my true opinion to someone and I am met with blank stares. I then quickly retreat.

Thank you,


Will, I hear you.  In fact, the 3 E’s has almost become a sort of "dirty little secret" for me in some circles.
It is rather odd, but then Chris did make a great point:  the narrative that is in your head at the moment can dictate if the "spin" is positive or negative.  If people are not curious to be engaged and ask more questions, then I don’t bother.  Never liked the marketing age anyway.  It’s all hype and no substance.

have a good weekend,


And then the weak were kicked off?

And then the weak were kicked off?
Probably. I said things were rugged. Not as rugged as they are going to be.

Almost six years ago,  January 2006, I began building a community of like-minded, preparation-oriented people.  At the time I wasn’t even aware of Peak Oil, the Transition movement, or even the term Intentional Communities.  I just had an intuitive sense that it was time to get ready.  I bought a large tract of land in rural Tennessee and began offering lots to like-minded people.
It’s been an interesting journey that I have recorded in my blog.  From the outset, we focused on the positive aspects of getting in tune with a more natural setting and being in harmony with people in the community.  We adopted the catch-phrase, "in harmony with nature and people" to describe what the Village was all about, but my philosophy has always been grounded in self-sufficiency and conservative, frugal libertarianism.  So, in the early days, we were pretty unusual. We weren’t into the old hippie style communal living or even the progressive-leaning transition movement.   I just wanted an old fashioned neighborhood with good values and supportive people like the one my folks grew up in.

As the economic meltdown came along, our focus shifted to more hard-core physical preparations and my blog reflected a sense that I needed to warn people.  We have come a long way with preps for the long haul.  But over the past six months I have reached the conclusion that most people now get it that things aren’t going to get better any time soon, whether they are ready to acknowledge it publicly or not.  There is a general gnawing sense of continuous if not cataclysmic decline. 

I concluded the time for warning is over.  What people need most now is support and encouragement to get through this.  Fortunately, the Village has slowly matured.  Over the years we managed to attract people of strong character, strong values and outstanding achievement.  During the period when I was focused on physical preps, I found that even with a strong sense of purpose, the constant prepping for a bad, uncertain future was just depressing.  Thankfully, it’s been wonderful being surrounded with positive, strong people who see the same things I do and are physically prepared, innovative and supportive.

Bottom line, no matter how independently strong, or self-sufficient you believe you are, it takes an inter-dependent  community.

 I read Sacred Demise when it came out. I remember finding parts of it interesting but, as a clinical psychologist and therapist also with 40 years experience, I have to say that I found the relentless spiritual focus to be difficult for me. Folks who just want to focus on the nuts and bolts of adapting to new realities without pondering too many imponderables will have a tough time with the book, IMHO.CS 

Spiritual discovery was important for me in understanding my uniqueness and willingness to pursue a better life while going against the grain. Now I am more balanced, educated, and happy with myself once I realized I was fine the way I was and didn’t need to constantly upgrade to bigger houses and tvs and fit into debt consumer culture. I am happier now than I have been in a long time. I am now starting to learn simple gardening, raising chickens and other small animals, keeping a good pantry, and living very frugally financially.
Also to echo one of the posters here, I don’t find it neccessary to completely withdraw from modern culture (industrial civilization) and it’s benefits in order to make my spiritual journey. I am a practical person, and realize that the Internet (in particular) had a lot to do with truth seeking and the spiritual journey I have taken. In addition, the ability to travel to see family and friends, have air conditioning, and use email have been invaluable advancements. I am not so quick to condemn progress to spite the bad effects of ponzi-based progressive systems; indeed moderation is important. Moderated advancement of culture is still worthwhile, imo. Do we all really want to go back to horse and carriage times?

OT: It is interesting that the article intro mentions global warming and the picture shows what appears to be chemtrails in the background sky. Must have been taken in California.

I have been aware of Stephen Levine for decades, but I wasn’t talking about Stephen Levine: I was talking about PETER Levine, originator of Somatic Experiencing. 
Yes, industrial civilization has given us penecillin and put people on the moon, but presently, it is killing the planet and the entire earth community. Think about it: Is it worth that price?

Well, this is exactly my point: The nuts and bolts aren’t enough–unless human beings are nothing more than eating, sleeping, and survival machines. Of course, that’s the legacy of the Enlightenment which really wasn’t all that enlightening. When people are going psychotic all around you, becoming violent and hysterical and highly irrational or when perhaps there are virulent pandemics about or when you yourself are feeling ready to crack emotionally, I believe you will no longer find matters of spiritual and emotional preparation "imponderable" because they are likely to pulverize you unless you have been consciously working on them. So much for the perfect "nuts and bolts" doomstead.

Thank you for the correction.  I indeed meant Peter Levine (but had been thinking about a Steven Levine in a non-related discipline) when I referenced Peter’s book, Waking the Tiger.
With regards to industrial civilization, is it industrial civilization per se that is killing the planet or the inappropriate use of it?  If you are opposed to industrial civilization, where would you draw the line?  Do we get rid of everything electronic and electrical, chemical, and mechanical?  Do we get rid of paper, clothing, lumber, tools, fasteners, etc? Where does it stop?  Do we go back to the primitive use of fire?  For example, if everyone eschewed higher technology and relied on fire for warmth, comfort, and cooking, we’d probably be polluting the atmosphere even more than we presently are.  Where would you choose to draw the line? 

Let me say they are already falling apart in my sphere. Overwhelming to say the least. I work in a "helping profession" and have been nearly overwhelmed by the breakdowns I am seeing. And I can say that the most gentle people can really fall apart in terrible ways, especially with the aid of various addictions. So I feel like I have (as I imagine many others have) witnessed this breakdown ensuing. One challenge is to convince people that finding meaning and purpose is sufficient. I really believe it is, but it is so hard to get to the point of educating people on this point after they have already lost their job, are in foreclosure, can’t pay for their kids’ needs, etc…
So it seems to be far better to prepare in advance. Spirituality, i.e., keeping focus on one’s meaning and purpose, looks to be both the preventative and the cure.  Easier said than done.
thank you as always Chris and I look forward to reading your most recent book Carolyn

When in the 10th grade, Man’s Search for Meaning was required reading.  In retrospect what an absolutely naive call on the teaching’s staff behalf:  an audience of suburban teenagers in 1987.  I can’t image a wider gap between the author’s and the audience’s realities.  However, it struck a cord in me, and the message of that book has resonated within me.

I would just like to share my spiritual anchor in this crazy mixed-up world:  my family, and especially my children.  Do not interpret this as  "I am a slave to my children’s needs and wants", no not at all.  I am not a  "soccer" mom running around frantically from point a-to- b-to c lifestyle going everywhere and being anywhere.  No.  I manage working part-time, managing a small house hold and I must admit that I have a very hands-on partner who is active in all respects to raising children.  

I earn less so that I have more time with my children.  And by "time" I mean factoring double the time adults tend to think is needed for certain tasks:  like getting dressed, washed up, eating breakfast, etc.  And there is joy in those "humble" moments.  And I hope that my actions impart to my kids that calm in an age of hype; reflection in an age of panic will give them the fundamental emotional skill sets to thrive in any future. 

Thank you Caroline for giving me that leg-up to help me gain more clarity into my spirituality and its practical side.  You would think that both are mutually exclusive, but they are different sides of the same coin. 



WE don’t have to "do" anything. Collapse is doing it for us. The point is not to be arguing about the "good" and "bad" of civlization, but to be preparing for the end of it. When it comes time to build the next culture for real, then we can have discussions about the good and bad of civilization, but that will happen only after we have felt the devastating loss of the one we have. Without that loss, everything else will be mental masturbation.

I recently presented a half-day workshop to helping professionals in Montepelier, Vermont. It was an awesome experience for them and for me. They said exactly what you are saying. I’d be thrilled to present such an event in your area with your colleagues. Contact me if you like at

It’s not a matter of any doing something.  It’s a matter of condemning industrial civilization when industrial civilization is only a tool, a tool that can have either a positive or a negative influence, depending upon HOW it is used.  To reject a tool because it is used inappropriately is, in my opinion, unwise.  It would be like throwing away a hammer because someone bopped someone else over the head with it.  The problem is not with the tool.  The problem is with the user(s) of the tool. 
Frankly, I think dialogue about the "good" and "bad" of civilization can be useful, but ONLY if it leads to action, rather than mental masturbation.  Endless talking and rumination ultimately leads nowhere and tends to subtract from resiliency rather than add to it. 
And it is highly improbable that civilization will just end.  It will most likely be reshaped into a form different from what we have become accustomed to (as it has many times in the past) but civilization ending?  Most unlikely.  History shows that only high localized and isolated micro-civilizations disappeared or "ended".  Macro-civilizations have been shrunk, shifted, relocated, absorbed, or in some other way, altered in form, but short of a planetary cataclysm (such as a celestial body impact), the complete eradication of civilization is highly improbable. 
In addition, while I agree with you that we need to prepare for a change in civilization (or "the end of it" as you term it), to not plan for the creation of a new civilization until "we have felt the devastating loss of the one we have" seems short sighted and ill advised.  It’s akin to not preparing for a natural disaster until after it happens.  Preparation on the way down is good but preparation for the way up cannot be implemented until disaster happens?  That just doesn’t make any sense.