Life Is What We Make of It

For most people, it won't be economic hardship that harms them, but their own lack of emotional resilience that does them in.

After the fall of the former Soviet Union, in the years that followed, more than half of all premature deaths that occurred were due to the effects of excessive alcohol consumption:

Alcohol Blamed for Half of '90's Russian Deaths

MOSCOW — A new study by an international team of public health researchers documents the devastating impact of alcohol abuse on Russia — showing that drinking caused more than half of deaths among Russians aged 15 to 54 in the turbulent era following the Soviet collapse.

The 52 percent figure compares to estimates that less than 4 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by alcohol abuse, according to the study by Russian, British and French researchers published in Friday's edition of the British medical journal The Lancet.

The Russian findings were based on a survey of almost 49,000 deaths between 1990 and 2001 among young adult and middle-aged Russians in three industrial towns in western Siberia, which had typical 1990s Russian mortality patterns.

Professor David Zaridze, head of the Russian Cancer Research Center and lead author of the study, estimated that the increase in alcohol consumption since 1987, the year when then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's restrictions on alcohol sales collapsed, cost the lives of 3 million Russians who would otherwise be alive today. "This loss is similar to that of a war," Zaridze said.


It bears mentioning that while the times were economically hard in the former Soviet Union, and many people lost their jobs and therefore their sense of purpose in life, folks still had a place to live and food to eat.  Perhaps not a lot, but one marked difference between communism and capitalism is that the former provides at least the basics of sustenance.

Faced with the loss of purpose and livelihood, many Russians turned to alcohol as the means of numbing themselves out from the despair they felt. Instead of seeing the loss of a job as an opportunity to do something new with their lives, even if merely to sit in reflection ten hours a day, they experienced the loss as a form of devastation from which they sought escape.

And today, as we look around, we might notice that escapism is everywhere, whether it is found in excessive drinking, shopping, television watching, smartphones, video games, or drugs. There are lots of ways to numb out the world when it is not providing what we think we need (or deserve).

Already, suicides are the leading cause of premature death in the U.S. which is another confirmation of the idea that it's often people's reaction to hardship that determines the outcome, rather than the hardship itself.

This quote largely captures the dynamic in play:

'Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.'

            ~ C.G. Jung

Where people react badly to events and then call it fate, it bears noting that that some people seem to be made stronger by adversity, and that's not a matter of fate at all. Instead, it's a matter of how they respond to adversity. And it turns out that such skills can be learned.

Emotional Resilience

We consider emotional resilience to be equally important alongside physical and financial preparation. That's why we cover it in such depth in our live seminars. And we're going to spend a bit more time covering the topic in our writings and comments here on the site going forward. 

One of the biggest keys to daily happiness and future emotional resilience is having the ability to alter your frame of reference, or point of view, so as to alter your perception of events. 

Two people can experience the exact same event, but one might be completely thrilled by it while the other could be utterly devastated. The difference is often the scripts each person has running in their heads, which determine their individual perception of the event.

So if we can learn to alter our internal perception so that we experience more daily happiness and enjoy greater emotional resilience as a result, why wouldn't we work on developing this ability?

I recently rediscovered this gem of a short video that covers this idea beautifully.  It's worth the quick watch:


The ideas this video espouses are ones that I have found to be true for me. 

I'm the only one in control of my thoughts, and my thoughts control how I perceive the world around me. This means that I, and I alone, am responsible for which thoughts I allow to run through my head. 

When I'm projecting stories onto the people around me, as expressed in the video, it's so much easier to be miserable, find faults, and think the worst. As David Foster said, the only thing that is 'capital-T True' is that I get to decide how I'm going to see the world.

And that brings us to emotional resilience. If it's 'capital-T True' that we're responsible for our thoughts, and thoughts define our experiences, it means that one of the most important traits we can cultivate is the mastery of our own thoughts.

Just a few short years ago, this would have been a preposterous thought for me, because I was still immersed in the idea that my thoughts were the same thing as reality. Of course I am thinking these thoughts. What other way is there to react to what's happening around me?! That would have been my line of reasoning. I now know differently.

Instead of my thoughts being generated by me, I now see it as a case where my thoughts generate the reality I perceive.  With some practice, I find I can control my thoughts, re-frame situations on the fly, and have entirely different emotional reactions to them than I otherwise used to.

Admittedly, it's only recently that I've begun to harness this skill. But I no longer believe in Fate like I used to.  Now I know that, as I'm the one creating my experiences, Fate has very little to do with 99% of life.

This is a bit scary because it means I'm the only one responsible for myself - no more room for victim and victimizer thinking. But it's also liberating because it means I am more fully in control of my thoughts which means I am more fully in control of my destiny. 


'Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.'

            ~ C.G. Jung

So the first act of emotional resilience is to understand the ways in which your thinking controls your experiences. Then you can begin to uncover the ways in which your thoughts spring from the unconscious, rather than from some adult form of "you."

This is essentially re-framing your stories before they 'direct your life.'  Re-framing is at the heart of resilience.

Mental Mastery

Placed into conventional terms that more may find accessible, in this case in an article from Forbes magazine about being a successful entrepreneur, we find many of the core principles of emotional resilience.

I'm going to go through the first seven traits of mentally strong (i.e., resilient) people from the article here with my own comments interspersed along the way.  At a later date we can cover the remaining six traits.

Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid

For all the time executives spend concerned about physical strength and health, when it comes down to it, mental strength can mean even more. Particularly for entrepreneurs, numerous articles talk about critical characteristics of mental strength—tenacity, “grit,” optimism, and an unfailing ability as Forbes contributor David Williams says, to “fail up.”

However, we can also define mental strength by identifying the things mentally strong individuals don’t do. Over the weekend, I was impressed by this list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, that she shared in LifeHack. It impressed me enough I’d also like to share her list here along with my thoughts on how each of these items is particularly applicable to entrepreneurs.

1. Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.


The above two are expansion on a favorite theme of mine, which is 'trust yourself.' 

Inherent to the idea of trusting yourself are the concepts of being responsible for your own outcomes and not ceding your power to others.  By trusting yourself, you will not waste time feeling sorry for yourself, and you will assume responsibility for your own outcomes. 

You will spend less time feeling sorry for yourself and you will cease to give away your power.

Both of these are liberating, and they are at the heart of emotional resilience. I am certain that many of the Russians who drank themselves to death felt sorry for themselves and felt utterly powerless to do anything to change their situation.

There is always something that can be done, and the easiest thing over which you have the most power is how you think about things.

3. Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

Can I get an "Amen!" for this one? Welcoming change is, of course, a biggie around here at Peak Prosperity and is perhaps the defining trait of our readership. But not everyone is suited to operate in an environment of uncertainty and change, and one of the things that needed to be learned by yours truly was to be patient and compassionate with those who are challenged, if not deeply threatened, by the prospect of change.

The dark side of embracing change is what happens when you are ready for change, expecting it, and hoping for it, yet it does not come. That can be difficult; which brings us to the next pair of traits I'd like to highlight:

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

Flipping #4 a bit, we should seek to control the things we can, especially if those things are currently out of our control. So all efforts to increase our own food, energy, or fuel production are actually acts of emotional resilience as well as prudence.

Taking charge of the things you can control is an act of mastery, while letting go of the things you cannot control is a powerful act of surrender. Both are equally important traits to cultivate.

At the same time, we accept that life is not always fair. It is full of risks for mature adults to weigh carefully and then take action.

Moving along, I want to include this next one in today's discussion because it aligns with the difficulty so many of us share in relating to others the important but difficult topics found in the Crash Course:

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

This one took me a long time to even begin practicing, and I am still not yet a master. Not by a long shot. But one of the more liberating ideas and associated set of practices for me was to begin to release my attachment to getting what I might call 'favorable responses' out of everyone.

Truthfully, we cannot know how people are going to react to anything and everything we might say, because their past is unknown to us. Their wounds and shadows are unseen even by them. So we need to let go of the need to change their thinking. We should focus instead on planting seeds that hopefully will grow when conditions are favorable. They'll eventually come over to our way of thought when they're ready. Or they won't. Either is okay.

Skipping over a few to bring up the final trait for discussion, we get to the idea of being in a marathon as opposed to being in a 100-yard dash:

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? With thanks to Amy Morin, I would like to reinforce my own abilities further in each of these areas today. How about you?

This one is really, really important. Staying power is everything in this game. The powers that be are doing everything in their considerable power to drag things along, deny reality, and pretend as if we're the nutty ones for thinking that perhaps the way we are doing things is unsustainable. 

I'm interested in the ways in which we help each other celebrate our successes and the ways in which people apply their energy in measured and calculated ways.

I know many of you are already doing these things, and I want to encourage you to keep sharing your successes and failures, because it's important for others to see and learn from them.


If I could share one thing with everyone the one thing that has changed my life more than anything and helped me to become more prosperous, content, and happy it's the importance of learning to control one's own thoughts.

To do this one has to be willing to turn inwards and face some troubling territory. What we might have thought was 100% real and true about ourselves, friends, enemies, co-workers, and life itself turns out to be uncomfortably malleable territory.

In essence, becoming emotionally resilient is about going inwards and developing self-mastery. Even though I know that I will need these skills given the future I think is coming, I would be pursuing mastery here, because these skills are incredibly important, no matter when one happens to be alive.

It is my impression that most Western cultures, mine especially, spend zero time on this subject. Worse, we're conditioned to feel shameful in moments of emotional upheaval, and so we ship ourselves off for drugs and counseling to limit the gyrations.

Those ups and downs are actually gifts, because it's during these intense moments when we grow and learn the most. It's actually how we are wired. I'll go further and say that if the ups and downs were not meant to be experienced, then we wouldn't be wired for them.  We'd be like turtles placid and unflappable.

But we're not turtles. We're messy, vibrant, alive beings, capable of experiencing intense emotional swings, which I no longer label as 'high' or 'low' or 'good' or 'bad,' because those assign values to them, as if one set were to be sought and the other avoided.

Instead, with mental re-framing, I now know that without experiencing one extreme, the other extreme has less meaning and thereby less value for me.  Phrased as a paradox: In order to love completely, one must come to terms with grief. That is, if you want to experience love more deeply, then expand your ability to withstand grief. And vice versa.

Emotional resilience is not an easy thing to obtain, because it cannot be bought, and there's no seminar that will give you mastery in a single weekend, no matter how pricey. It's a set of daily practices that one commits to, and works with, and ebbs and flows with.

We're human. And mastering emotional resilience is a life-long challenge that is anything but a fixed target.  We grow and change, and the world is constantly shifting around us, and new circumstances constantly present themselves to us. So our job is to cultivate a broad set of skills that will serve us through the droughts and floods that will mark our individual lives. We'll explore this theme in greater depth throughout 2014.

And so I invite you to explore this topic with me and share your considerable experiences in working towards emotional resilience within yourself. 

~ Chris Martenson

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

This is a great post.  I want to add my two cents for all of us struggling to master our thoughts. 

How many of us feel hijacked by unwanted anxiety, fear, anger, etc?  We try all kinds of things including meditation and other cognitive practices and yet we just never seem to quite get there.  Why?  Often, the answer is that we have trauma in our history.  It can be shock trauma like a car accident, a fall, or a difficult surgery, or it can be developmental trauma from growing up in a household where the caregivers were in some way abusive or neglectful.

Cognitive approaches to healing trauma simply don't work because of our basic nervous sytem physiology.  Our response to trauma originates in the most primitive part of the brain including our amygdala and our brainstem.  These are the parts of our brain that highjack our here and now even the original experiences are long over.  Cognitive approaches to healing trauma don't work because these approaches work with the neocortex.  In order to heal trauma you have to work with those primal impulses that originate in the primitive part of our brain.

The good news is that lots of very smart people have figured out effective ways of truly healing trauma without reliving it (please ignore the recent piece on 60 Minutes about exposure therapry for vets; horrific!), so that we can develop increased resilience and self-regulation in the face of predicaments and challenge. The original experiences become part of our history rather than something we keep reliving.

I really appreciate that Peak Prosperity offers a place for these discussions because in my opinion this is the single most important part of preparation. When TSHTF, all you have is your own abilities in the moment.  Nobody knows what twists and turns we will face and we can all improve the likelihood of faring well by taking care of our inner world as well as our outer.




This is very important subject, and thanks Chris for introducing it so well.  A couple of things, from my own experience, to add.
First, I agree with suziegruber that it is very hard for some people to control and discipline their thoughts. Trauma of various types is a huge problem for many.  Mental side effects of our industrial diet and sedentary lifestyle is another factor in influencing our thoughts. And some folks draw the short-end of the stick when it comes to the happy brain chemicals.  So, despite knowing conceptually how important it is to develop mental resilience, it is a lot easier for some than others.  Things didn't work out well for David Foster Wallace, despite the real and true insights he gained when he was well. 

So there is a lot of healing that may need to happen, unlearning new habits, before we can build new ones.  Personally, I had to spend a good few years in mid-life undoing the effects of traumas and phobias that had a profound grip on me, unconsciously so, just as the Jung comment attests.  I found inspiration in a lot of places, in particular Eckert Tolle, and also in Jung. But I believe strongly that life will meet you where you are if you let it - many people I know in the same situation just happened to find the right message for them when they were ready to turn inwards and face whatever was ailing them.  My pet theory, not a novel one, is that most of today's running away from reality is linked to us not wanting to take a good look inside.  It's just too painful, and it is.  But ultimately much more painful not to.

Second, one of the best tools I've been learning to help me in this process is acceptance of whatever is coming along in life, as well as coming along inside me.  Most of my own dysfunctions (habitual reactions/emotional patterns, anger, controlling, negativity) were really programmed in patterns triggered in response to certain events.  Years and years of trying to control the world. At first I would get so upset with myself when one of these patterns triggered and I would have a "I've been meditating for months now and I'm still doing that" type moment, that really wasn't helpful.  Once I learned the habit of just accepting whatever comes along, both inside and outside myself, being aware of it, and moving on, I began to make more progress.  Mindfulness really is powerful. Eventually I was able to get to the heart of the various things stuck in my psyche and causing me a world of trouble.  But it was an attitude of acceptance that allowed them to arise, after years of me trying to push them away.  And it's a lifetimes work, you're never done.

If we each have the ability to stare reality in the face, and not flinch (as the old saying goes) then we will all be doing ourselves and the world a favor.  I mention this because there will be a lot coming along in the future that will need to be accepted, not reacted to.  There will be too much to try to control, too many things that just look really wrong and will need attention.  But we will get overwhelmed so quickly if we react mindlessly to everything that breaks or doesn't work out how we expected. And lots of things are going to break.  The serenity prayer is going to be a very useful tool for all of us I expect.

I share Dimitry Orlov's position. 
When it all goes pear shaped I'm going to throw myself out the window. 

The ground floor window. 

I fear for those who are committed to the status quo. You know- the A type personality determinedly climbing over the backs of their fellow workers to reach the top of the pyramid.

Nah! Come to think of I really don't care what happens to them. 

There is an outer, objective reality - the one captured on a video or measured by an instrument - and there is the emotional experience that each of us has of a given event.  The thing I can address - for free, how's that for EROEI - is the emotional impact of the event on myself and ultimately, that power of self-mastery is my ability to remain as happy as possible under a broad array of circumstances.
Ah, but how to get there.  I agree with what another poster said.  I feel that cognitive approaches towards this mastery - reading a book and "thinking" my way to victory - was the slow way, at least for me.  That is because at the core of the issue is an emotional state - "being happy" - and so I feel the key for me was to find a system that used my feelings and emotions as the primary guide to discovering and healing what needs addressing inside myself.

At my place in this journey I still feel every annoying thing initially, but I can usually identify the cause of my distress more rapidly, and release the associated negative emotions quickly.  If its something I've encountered and worked on before, it can be a matter of a minute to 80% release something that used to make me upset for hours or even days.  New and/or severe stuff can take quite a bit longer, but its all possible to address and a quick & dirty release can reduce the severity of impact by at least half which really helps.

Of course, if whatever-it-is requires direct action, I can still decide to take whatever actions I need to once my emotions are released, but at that point, I'm acting rather than reacting which tends to result in better outcomes for me.

I can also see other people more clearly too, since I'm not filtering objective reality with my own emotions quite so much.  (I still do - just not quite as much)

There are lots of systems out there that provide a structure for learning this skill (variously religious, New Age, or scientific), but I have to agree with Chris that the ability to notice, then understand what makes me upset, and then to be able to release it on my own, without either drugging myself, buying something expensive, or blaming someone else (or spending a boatload of money on someone else to do it for me) is just priceless.

The Best Thing Ever!


Being aware of the voice in one's head and occasionally redirecting it can make a big difference in one's outlook. Sometimes, when I find that I'm having a particularly bad day, I can snap myself out of it by saying to myself, "You know, actually it is not bad that so much has gone wrong today, because that means a lot of good things are bound to be coming my way soon." (I believe the universe seeks a natural balance, like osmosis.) Then, before I know it, I'll start wondering about all of those good things and which ones are about to transpire and I'm in a new state of mind. 
Steve Chandler,"life coach", uses the concept of taking responsibility for as much as possible in one's life as a form of self-empowerment. Finding a way to take responsibility for your contribution to a poor situation, even when it would initially appear to be someone else's fault is empowering. You have the choice to be a "victim" or an "owner" and until you "own" the situation, you won't have the ability to change it.
The one phrase that I occasionally hear uttered by my kids, but never let go uncontested is, "You (he, they, it, etc.) made me mad angry, so I had to _______________ (fill in the blank)." When I hear this, I remind them that no one else can make them mad. Being mad is a choice that they have made in response to an action of someone else or a situation that they are in. They can chose to be happy, or relieved, or thankful or a variety of other feelings if they pause and look at that event from a different angle. 

I don't worry about alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide as problems for regulars on this website.  We are looking ahead and facing the problems that are headed our way.  These are more likely to be problems for people who are choosing to be blindsided by coming events.
What I worry about is what level people will be willing to reduce themselves to if they or their children are hungry.  Also, what will people with defective moral compasses do if law enforcement becomes overwhelmed.

Chris talks about controlling thinking.  This is an issue that I have spent no small amount of time working on and still do.  What I personally have found whilst sitting on a meditation pillow is that I have marginal control over my thoughts in the short run.  I certainly have found no off button for my brain when I don't need it's input.  Because I can't entirely control my brain and it can be a bit repetitive, to put it mildly, I have worked on the ability to ignore it when it isn't being helpful.  I'll laugh at the unhelpful or repetitive ideas it spontaneously comes up with or just ignore them.

The thing about what is coming is this.  The currency collapse does not have to be a free for all.  We can roll up or sleeves and work together to save who and what we can, or we can fight over the remaining resources.  The choice is ours.

Being retired (involuntarily), I have some time on my hands.  One of the things I am trying to add to my life right now is the habit of "adding value."  There are people around me every day that could use a hand.  I happen to have two of them and they are not always busy doing other things.  I can choose to watch reality TV or go out and pitch in.

I don't like to be long winded but I can't resist an upbeat story.  Saturday, I started a long return trip from a memorial service.  I was in a hurry because of a family health issue at home.  I was driving through a small rural town in Oklahoma at 10 pm and had a blowout.  My hybrid doesn't have a spare tire.  The place normal cars have for a spare tire is taken up with a battery.  I am 20 miles from the nearest place where I can get a tire.  Roadside assistance tells me that there are no wreckers available for 12 hours.  Along comes a small town police officer.  We discuss the situation at some length.  He leaves, opens up a local convenience store/gas station and brings me part of a tire plug kit.  He refused payment for the kit.  I was able to plug the damaged tire enough to limp to the next town.  He spent perhaps an hour doing a good deed and in the process, saved me perhaps six hours of additional delay.  Since I can't return the favor directly, I intend to pay it forward.

Have a nice day. :slight_smile:

I had an interesting experience around reading this that speaks to many of the ideas expressed by Chris and in the comments.  As I was reading it, my wife was sitting next to me.  I told her I thought she might find it interesting and asked if she wanted me to read it out loud to her.  She refused, guessing that it was another one of those "If only you would get these ideas, things would be better" moments - which to be honest was true at least to some degree.  I decided it wasn't a good idea to share at this moment and continued to read silently. 
I began to watch the embedded video, but then the kids asked me to tuck them in.  I thought I stopped the video, but once I was in the kids bedrooms, I realized it was still playing.  My wife watched it while I was with the kids.  As she watched she commented - and from her comments, it seemed like the emotional experience of the guy in the supermarket had grabbed her and she wasn't hearing the larger idea that one can choose ones reaction to a situation.  Her comments centered mainly around how negative the video was portraying this terrible experience of modern life carried to extreme. 

We watched the video together this time.  She talked about how she lived in the big city once and experienced what the guy in the video was experiencing and how she moved out of the city and he should too and why are we watching this negative video and so on.  I was so certain that she was having a "What the hell is water?" moment.  And then I had a similar moment - "How can she not see the main point of the video - she's got to get this and I'm going to make her get it."  Needless to say, things went downhill from there.

She went to brush her teeth and I went for a walk in the very cold, moonlit and snowy woods where I was able to center myself enough to realize that maybe she was the one who was getting it and not me.  Maybe her idea of moving out of the city was a metaphor of choice and taking action on the things one can control - even one's thoughts - and my idea that the message was operating only at the level of we have a choice in what we think - was the narrow interpretation.  I had a choice in the middle of the conversation with her to try to convince her of my point of view - or to join with her trying to talk the guy into moving out of the city and finding a less stressful, more rewarding way to earn a living - or to choose any of a number of other responses.

I live and I learn.



This is a subject near and dear to my heart. My two cents on the topic can only come from my experience.

  1. Some people find this balance and "emotional responsibility" via a religion. I was trained in the Christian ethic of "all things work together for good." Trusting the universe to spit out an eventual positive outcome put me a frame of mind to look for the good in situations. All I can say it it worked for me.  Add to that the Native American practice of choosing a spirit animal. Ever notice they never choose names like Hiding Rabbit and Nervous Chicken?  I chose a Hunting Falcon: an animal that was anything but a victim. (You have to decide if you want to accumulate pity or respect in this life. Victims generate pity; those who take responsibility for their lives generate respect. And I say this as a former Hiding Rabbit.)  I also found is much to admire in Eastern Religions about practicing living in the now.
  2. But, for me, I needed to add a layer of 12-step responses. As suziegruber and marky said, above, many people suffer from childhood traumas. I was one of them. All I will say about the abuse was that 1 out of every 3 women and 1 out of every 7 men is abused as a child. It helped that I no longer felt like I was the only one who went through this, but what really started things in the right direction were two concepts: "Keeping it in the day" and that what I could control ended at the tip of my nose. Al-Anon's Adult Child program  stressed that we cannot control people or events, and that we were responsible for our own lives and our responses to others. Part of the responsibility was to make amends for any injury I had done, which helped me get rid of emotional baggage. Part was to make a "searching and fearless moral inventory" of myself.  Oddly enough, I needed someone to point out my strengths should go on that list, not just my weaknesses and failings.
  3. The last thing that gave me emotional resilience was being goal-oriented. Chipping away at a realistic goal gave my life balance and focus.  Whether it was the goal of raising healthy, emotionally balanced kids, working on an engineering degree in my career field, or--now--working on becoming resilient and starting a sustainable business, doing something every day toward a goal is sanity-inducing and calming in an insanely nervous world.
As a parting shot, here is a trick that worked for me. I am the sort of person who makes endless "To Do" lists. I started incorporating an ER item on each day's list. ER stands for Emotional Relief - something that only matters to me, but feeds my soul. So if no one else really cares that the pine straw is all over the hedges in the front of the house, I will go and pick it off because it bugs me, and I feel better when I've accomplished that small task. This practice treats my emotional needs as important.

Circling back to religion, I have learned to turn the phrase "love your neighbor as you love yourself" on its ear. I've found that you are only capable of treating your neighbor well to the extent that you treat yourself well. In my opinion, a healthy self-love means not seeing yourself as a victim, and having a sense of agency.


Chris, your quote from Jung is wonderful. Jung’s way of making the unconscious conscious was to analyze dreams. The words spoken as well as the imagery in dreams are the connection to the unconscious and the collective unconscious. For over half my life, I’ve dedicated much of my reading and time to Jung’s writings and his concepts of archetypal symbols.  The symbols I’ve discovered in my own life are what hold ultimate meaning for me.  Hopefully, sleep/dreaming is not something to be discarded or seen as a waste of time. It is at the essence of our soul, if one can pay attention to it.
To analyze one’s own dreams, the purpose is not to correct, cure, or rescue oneself from life’s predicaments, but rather to penetrate the core of them. Giving attention to dreams in our time is something that many don’t do, and it’s often difficult because it’s not made a habit. I consciously tell myself before falling asleep to remember my dreams, which definitely helps me remember them in the morning. Sometimes I have time to jot down notes, but not always.

The goal for me is not to master my emotions, but to make sense of them through the symbols in my life. According to Jung, we all have a shadow side to our personality and he made clear that it was to integrate the shadow into our being, not ignore or attempt to control it or cast it out. This is the most difficult struggle for me, and I would guess for most people. It is much easier to blame someone, or project our shadow side onto someone or something else as the aggressor or scapegoat.

What is the anima mundi of our time? This is a good question for all of us to ask ourselves.  To me it seems pretty dark at the moment, but is it? Or is it that I can’t bring myself to integrate that darkness. I remind myself, often it’s in the darkest hour that light breaks through. I’m also reminded of this quote…

“Not everything painful is truth, but very often truth is painful.”  - W. Geigerich

For that matter, here’s an interesting perspective on this written by Wolfgang Giegerich (2003).



"The good news is that lots of very smart people have figured out effective ways of truly healing trauma without reliving it (please ignore the recent piece on 60 Minutes about exposure therapry for vets; horrific!), so that we can develop increased resilience and self-regulation in the face of predicaments and challenge. The original experiences become part of our history rather than something we keep reliving."

Would you be so kind as to give me some labels that describe the type of  therapy you were talking about in the above quote? Thank you.

eexpo,Sure.  Thanks for asking. I am a particular fan of Peter Levine's creation called Somatic Experiencing ( and which acknowledges how trauma affects our physiology, particularly in the primitive parts of our brain.  Peter has written a number of helpful books, both for practitioners and everyone else.  I particularly like "Healing Trauma" and "Freedom from Pain." Peter has helped numerous people resolve debilitating I am a Somatic Experiencing practitioner professionally because it helped me resolve my own challenged history in a way that cognitive practices could not.  Picture being completely unable to sit still to meditate because I was simply too anxious.
Other modalities that directly address trauma include Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a modality created by Pat Ogden, who originally worked closely with Peter Levine before co-creating Hakomi and then creating her own thing in Sensorimotor.  Hakomi ( is also a body-based healing modality that emphasizes a bottom up (what's happening in the body right now) rather than top down (what am I thinking and how am I rationalizing my experience) approach like Somatic Experiencing does.
I also deeply respect the writings of Robert Scaer who has also written a number of great books on trauma and the body.  The most accessible is "8 Keys to Brain-Body Balance."  You can hear a great interview with him here: .
The key here is bringing the felt sense of the body into the conversation, tracking that felt sense in addition to our thoughts.  I find it very, very powerful for increasing resilience to bring body awareness to the forefront in addition to the power of our minds.

By now we all know about Freud's cocaine abuse.  Did you know the Carl Jung had a mental breakdown?  Afterwards he took up astrology as a pastime.
No point to this, other than we are all just humans trying to make our way the best we can.


With the right awareness and settings the psychedelics also offer robust healing in non-traditional form.

"The good news is that lots of very smart people have figured out effective ways of truly healing trauma without reliving it (please ignore the recent piece on 60 Minutes about exposure therapry for vets; horrific!), so that we can develop increased resilience and self-regulation in the face of predicaments and challenge. The original experiences become part of our history rather than something we keep reliving."
Would you be so kind as to give me some labels that describe the type of  therapy you were talking about in the above quote? Thank you.
One modality that my wife Becca uses extensively in her practice is called 'focusing.'  It draws upon many of the same ideas found in somatic experiencing, and I am a fan of any modality that uses the story we hold about an event as the starting point, but then openly inquires from there with an emphasis on finding the places in the body where the residues reside and from which other threads and connections emanate.
In my experience, talking only does almost nothing.  Or if does something, it does it very, very slowly.  Instead I've found that real shifts happen and happen quickly if I have involved my body in the process.  I've witnessed this to be true for many other people of widely varying ages and backgrounds.
In fact, the difference between talk-only and talk-plus-body involvement is so profound I am rather puzzled by why traditional therapies remain centered on talk-only.  
You might think that eventually results would speak for themselves.

Being a Gestalt psychotherapist by practice, I SECOND and THIRD the idea of body language in the mode of healing and making "the unconscious conscious."
It has been said in psych books and communication texts that TALKING is about 20% of communication. Tone of voice, facial expression, bodily movements and even rigid body postures TELL much, much more (the other 80%).  Even the choice of words.  As Fritz Perls said: "follow the energy, the movements on ALL levels," and ESPECIALLY do Gestalt Dreamwork, to get much faster results, as each dream has a message for your life concerning your present situation that may be somewhat determined by your past experiences.  "Lose your mind, and come to your senses."  In other words, get out of your head and come to your body, for the body does not lie, for example,  kinesiology.

I have seen and experienced minor "miracles" of the "aha" (enlightenment) experience whereby the past as well as the present is quickly healed and resolved.

If you have never tried it, please do so and evaluate your OWN experience.

I am so convinced that Gestalt psychotherapy is exceedingly crucial in today's world that I offer you both a complimentary session if we can ever meet up.  I am a certified yoga instructor from KRIPALU Center, a Ph.D. in sociology, an ex-Jesuit of 15 years, author of Community Action and the Poor and just turned 80!!  Tons of experience.
It would be my pleasure to somehow pay back for all you two do with

Additionally, for some experiences of the type of body work I recommend, see my "Spiritual Poetry," at   Better yet, come to Costa Rica for a R & R.

With gratitude,  Ken

Les, you are correct, he had a mid-life pychotic break (or crisis) for about five years in his early forties. In his words what saved him was his exploration of his unconscious. His experience through his own analysis made him interested in all kinds of alternate studies including occultism, astrology, alchemy, Eastern philosophy, Native American mythology, as well as many other mythological studies. He also had a pretty tumultuous family life (marital affairs) and was fairly hands-off in raising his five children. His wife was from one of the wealthiest families in Switzerland which allowed him to quit his clinical job and write more. So you're right, he was just a human being and his writing was not always organized well, but his concepts live on to this day and are finding more followers in all areas of study (he was neglected and dismissed for many years for a more cognitive or mechanistic view).In his later years, through his process of individuation he was able to make amends with his wife and children. He was no saint and he struggled through life like most of us, which is what has always made him interesting to me. Also, to me, the break between Freud and Jung sheds light on that Jung was more balanced in his approach to psycho-analysis (or analytical psych.).
Kenneth P, Gestalt psychotherapy is amazing! Congratulations on such a rich life, and Chris should definitely take you up on your offer.

Hi Chris,Yes, I agree with you completely about the difference between talk and talk plus the body awareness piece.
A big reason why talk therapy is still so prominent is that our healthcare system requires that reimbursable modalities have a significant evidence base before they will reimburse for them.  That is a hugely expensive undertaking.  Many of us in the Somatic Experiencing community including myself are finding ways around that by working with agency leaders willing to think outside the box and to get creative about funding.  It's kind of like spreading the word about the Crash Course.  If we persist long enough, the momentum gathers and real change happens.
– Suzie

Here is a nice little website that I find is great to visit first thing in the morning to get my daily dose of positive thinking, getting me started each day in the right frame of mind.