Transcript for Carolyn Baker: Emotional Resilience Is Essential In Turbulent Times

Below is the transcript for the podcast with Carolyn Baker: Emotional Resilience Is Essential In Turbulent Times

Intro:  Welcome to Crash Concept, where the economy, energy, and the environment are explored. Up next, fresh ideas and insights into the factors that are driving the world and shaping your future. Presenting information you cannot afford to live without, here’s Chris Martenson.

Chris Martenson:  Welcome to another Podcast. I am your host, of course, Chris Martenson, and today we are speaking with Carolyn Baker, a prominent advocate for culturing emotional resiliency in an era of transition. You know I care about that a lot. She delivers powerful observations on the social and spiritual side of preparedness in her popular blog,, and she has authored several books, including the recent Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, a book I have read and I can highly recommend. Carolyn was an adjunct professor of History and Psychology for eleven years and a psychotherapist in private practice for nearly two decades. I am a strong believer that true resiliency includes a strong, healthy mental and emotional outlook, and I am excited to delve into this very important topic at this time with Carolyn today.

Welcome, Carolyn. Really, it is a pleasure to finally speak with you!

Carolyn Baker:  Well it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Chris Martenson:  Oh absolutely, perhaps you can start then – can you provide for our audience then a sense of the type of future that you see ahead.

Carolyn Baker:  Yes, I am ready to do that. The type of future that I see ahead is one in which there will be unprecedented loss at the same time that there will be unprecedented opportunity. In addition, in terms of loss, the lifestyles to which most of us have been accustomed will be drastically downsized due to the converging crisis of energy, economics, and the environment.

Chris Martenson:  I have heard that somewhere before.

Carolyn Baker:  [Laughter] I know you have.

Carolyn Baker:  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, the escalating climate change – all of these will temper everything we do. And 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.

Now, we don’t have to look very far in communities where economic collapse has hit the hardest to see an escalation of all of these symptoms. I have just returned from Vermont, which was very hit; not the whole state, but many parts of the state were very hard hit by Hurricane Irene. And I can tell you that these issues are coming up faster than anyone can imagine.

Now, of course, these are representative of one way that humans can respond, but these are not the only ways — if we are awake and conscious now regarding the collapse of industrialized civilization. We will be preparing ourselves emotionally as well as logically for these changes. I have written two books in the past three years that detail specific ways in which we can build emotional resilience to prepare us for the future. Much of this has to do with developing a rich inner life, which then allows us to build solid community with others. And if we don’t do the inner work, it will be very difficult to establish meaningful and workable relationships with others. 

Now in my latest book, which you did not mention but I would like to make sure people know about, is Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition. I have included, actually in both books, specific exercises for doing this work that will assist the reader in developing a rich inner life and thereby facilitating the development of mutually supportive relationships.

Chris Martenson:  Now what do you mean by “inner life”? What is a “rich inner life”?

Carolyn Baker:  A rich inner life is where we take some of the attention away from the external and we begin to connect with some of the resources that are within ourselves. And a lot of times, we don’t even know that we have those resources. Consciously we don’t think about them, because we are so busy looking at the external picture and our focus is directed so much outward. This is what we need in order to develop emotional resiliency.

Chris Martenson:  Right. You know I have a good friend who runs a wilderness school that my kids are involved with, and nominally it is all about learning the tools and the tricks and the trades of living out in the woods in a primitive way. It has much, much deeper layers under that, which are the actual goals of the program. But at any rate, this gentleman was approached by an author who said, “Listen, I am writing a book on what the ultimate survival bag would look like. If you could only have like one hundred cubic inches, what would you put in that bag?” And I said, “Sure I will talk to you.”

So this author comes out, and he says, “What goes in this bag? I am going to give you like five of the cubic inches; what do you put in there?” And he says, “Nothing; I am not going to put anything in.” There are all these six, seven, and eight-year-olds running around while he is being interviewed. And the author says, “What do you mean nothing?” He said, “Well it turns out that the most important survival tool is have is what you know. It's your brain, it's your outlook, and it’s your frame of mind. That’s the most important thing.” The author said, “Well, what do you mean?” He said, “Okay, watch this.” He yells out to the kids, “Kids, I’ve just fallen through the ice, I have five minutes before I am going to freeze to death. What do you do?”

And bang! These six, seven, and eight-year-olds they just – they immediately – one says, I am going to get the tinder, one says, I am going to get the kindling, and a third one – another set – says, we are going to go off and get the larger wood. And somebody else whips out a bow drill, and within five minutes from wood only to a fire, they had it going. And he said, “This is what I am talking about.” “And the author was stunned. What is happening here?” He said, “Well these kids have learned that they don’t rely on or depend on anything, really, other than they have or can obtain for themselves.

So that is true resiliency.

So if I am hearing you right, you are saying that there are these troubled times coming, and it's one thing to get our physical infrastructure set up and that’s wonderful and we should do that. Maybe we are growing food, we have a garden, and maybe we have learned how to be more energy resilient. But when times get tough, knowing that we’ve got the equivalent of a deep larder inside [ourselves] is a really important survival tool, as well as maybe a growth tool. Is that what you are saying?

Carolyn Baker:  Absolutely, yes.

Chris Martenson:  So what are the key tenents, then, of emotional resiliency? How do we go about fostering that?

Carolyn Baker:  Well, emotional resilience means many things, but among them I would consider foremost establishing a relationship with the sacred or something greater that allows us to find meaning in our experiences. The word sacred is not a religious word at all. But as I use it, it just simply means something greater than the rational mind and the human ego.

We find this not in people or in institutions outside ourselves, but deeply within ourselves, generally through the emotions and through our appreciation of beauty and creativity. When people have a connection with something greater, they are more likely to find meaning and purpose in their lives in general. And in what are likely to be the daunting realities of collapse, specifically.

In my book, Sacred Demise, I noted the work of Victor Frankel, who was a Holocaust survivor and wrote a book called, Man’s Search for Meaning. In that book he states that in the Nazi death camps, of which he was a survivor, it was the people were who able to find just a little bit of meaning in their daily experiences who were able to endure the horrors of their situation and stay centered amid what was going on around them.

And so we begin to develop emotional resilience by becoming familiar with our emotions and our intuitions. Particularly, what have come to be known as the so called, “dark emotions” like grief and anger, fear and despair. In my book, I provide specific exercises that people can use to work with these emotions, to utilize them in becoming more resilient, more empowered, more alert to what is going on inside of them and within their environment. And without 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.

Chris Martenson:  You know I have had some experience with this in my life, where I have noted that depending on which story I have running in my head, my experience can either be completely miserable or completely joyful. It's really that profound. It's the idea of having the right narrative in play.

So you are suggesting that if individuals can start to work with those narratives, potentially also gain mastery over their own reactions, and understand the pathways inside of themselves that lead to one set of emotions arising rather than another, that these are all components of resilience?

Carolyn Baker:  Absolutely, and by doing this, I believe that people are going to have more options emotionally. If one response doesn’t work, well, you might have a whole tool kit that you can draw on.

Chris Martenson:  Right, so as I look into this and to paraphrase a little bit, you have said that infinite growth is possible, actually, as long as we are talking about internal growth. What do you mean by that?

Carolyn Baker:  What I mean by internal growth is, again, looking at these emotions, working with them, not being afraid to really go through them. In the word “emotion” we have the word “motion.” And a lot of times people will say, “Ahh, I don’t want to deal with grief, because I’ll get stuck in it.” Or maybe any other emotion. But you know, if we allow ourselves to go into that emotion – and I want to emphasize we need to do this with support of some kind  – we find that those emotions just naturally flow and change, and we don’t get stuck on them or in them. We actually move through, and generally we find ourselves bigger people having much more of a repertoire emotionally than we knew we had.

Chris Martenson:  I am really intrigued when you say it's good to do this with support of some kind. A general question or response that we get a lot at our site is that people are often in mismatched partnerships, meaning that one of them sees these changes unfolding and wants to respond to them, and the other partner does not either see them or wants to remain in denial around them. And this creates some tension. How does – if you were in that sort of a relationship, how would you find the support you needed?

Carolyn Baker:  Well, you know, over the past two years, I have doing a great deal of life coaching around collapse. And many of my clients have been dealing with the sense of aloneness in their world, perhaps with partners or family members who are not on board with the reality of collapse, or maybe they are just finding themselves in a milieu where there is no one to talk about preparation with.

So one of the first things I suggest to such individuals, whether or not they are in a partnership with someone else, is that they get themselves connected with a Transition group or some other group of folks who understand collapse and are preparing for it. I believe that we absolutely cannot prepare in isolation. So connection with others is the first action step in dealing with estrangement. And I also suggest – and I give these out in workshops a lot – I suggest that people read the article that your wife, Becca wrote on Dealing with a Reluctant Partner, which I believe is still on your website.

Chris Martenson:  Mm, hmm.

Carolyn Baker:  Secondly, I coach people in specific ways to communicate with partners and family members and friends about collapse, because often the way they are doing it is not working. And all of this has kind of motivated me to create a one-day workshop on relationships in the Long Emergency, which I am delighted to take to any community where we can get ten or more people together to work on these issues. And I ask people to consider bringing their partner or family members to the workshop with them, so that they can work all together. Because I want to honor the concerns of the people in their lives who are resisting talking about and preparing for collapse.

Chris Martenson:  Absolutely. I can’t resist, how would people contact you in order to bring that workshop to their community?

Carolyn Baker:  They only have to email me at

Chris Martenson:  Okay.

Carolyn Baker:  And so, in fact, in all the workshops I do, I structure specific ways in which people can build community with each other in the workshop and take these tools home to utilize them there to deal with isolation and be more connected.

Chris Martenson:  Okay, that sounds like a very important workshop. When my wife and I do workshops, it is a piece that comes up a lot, and that is how do we manage the emotional aspects of this: dealing with friends, colleagues, co-workers, reluctant partners, people who – it's that sense of aloneness in the face of aloneness and the sense of something that seems so large. Why wouldn’t we want all the support we can possibly get? It's very challenging times, and as I look across the landscape today, it couldn’t be more obvious. All the warning signs that people such as yourself, myself, and many others have been talking about are there, suggesting that there is going to be no return to the old normal. There is some sort of new normal coming.

And reading Dmitri Orlov’s work around his study and observations around what happened when the former USSR collapsed, the number-one predator in that land was alcoholism and suicide; I guess those were two predators. But they are often related and become one. So what you are talking about is that we want to avoid going down that path, because those are actually avoidable outcomes, aren’t they?

Carolyn Baker:  Yes they are, absolutely. Wherever financial collapse is hit the hardest right now, we can see a spike in all of those things. So we really need to be prepared for that. As a matter of fact, when I was in Vermont, I met with two different groups with helping professionals that were so ready, so ready to really go deeper in this whole topic, because they work with folks who are being directly affected. And they are being squeezed by the whole collapse of health care and so on. So these are just incredibly important and timely issues.

Chris Martenson:  So if there is really no chance in returning to normal, if we define that as like steadily increasing living standards for as far as the eye can see, the writing is clearly on the wall, yet really very few people seem able to face or assimilate the dots into a coherent picture that leads to either or both internal or external change. Why is that, and how do we help, or is there anything that we can do?

Carolyn Baker: nWell I think it's because, particularly in the United States, we’re a very young and adolescent nation. We don’t have a long history – we don’t I think, have the historical maturity that a lot of nations have. So it's very difficult for us in this culture that is, of course, so inundated with consumerism and media. It's very difficult for us to really take a hard look at issues, because everything in this culture invites us to distract. So that is the number-one thing. I am constantly running into people who are saying, “I want to talk about anything else but this.” It's often very hard for people who have children to really go to these places.

So my encouragement is, my hope, my optimism is that a lot of people are waking up. I encounter this more and more.

Chris Martenson:  I am certainly seeing that as well. Right now, I am noticing that in certain circles this is sort of a surreptitious awakening, where behind closed doors we will have one set of conversations and in public maybe another, but certainly people are closer to the pulse of things, oddly. So the people who have the most to lose, people who are really deeply embedded in the status quo, by which I mean very wealthy, well-connected people, certainly seem to get it. There is almost a class divide here in some ways for me. I think that – I am noticing that there are some classes of people who seem to be getting this story more — a little bit more quickly, and it's not just socioeconomic. But there are groups that seem more predisposed to the idea that change could happen and they want to be in front of it, and other groups who seem less disposed to that. Do you notice this, and do you…have you noticed it? Jim Counselor talks about it in terms of – he breaks it grossly into regions, thinking some regions are going to be better off than others.

But a lot of people very cautiously and carefully are trying to select the communities and areas that they are going to live in, in part because they are hoping that some areas are more resilient. Have you noticed that there is really a distinct difference between certain locals and certain locations, as compared to others?

Carolyn Baker:  Yes, I have, and for every rule there is an exception. I have noticed that in places like – just having been in Vermont – there is a tremendous consciousness there. I was noticing that there is more receptivity there a few years later from the last time I was there, so that many of the things I said two years ago, I would have been laughed out of the room, or people would have gotten up and walked out. But especially with the recent disaster there, people were very, very open and receptive. But you can go down the road five houses away and somebody doesn’t want to hear about it. It's interesting because we were kind of talking when I was in Vermont about – Counselor talks about, “Oh, don’t go to the west; there is no water there.”

So here in Colorado, we have our water issues, but people were sort of laughing about the fact that when I left there (Vermont) and went to Colorado, people were sort of warning me, “Oh you know, not enough water, not enough water.” So I have been joking with them about, “Well you want to talk about water, you guys have had too much recently.” So with all the natural disasters, with climate change, and so forth, it's kind of a crapshoot. We really don’t have any hard and fast rules at all. Again, it's that inner wisdom that I have asked people to follow in terms of what calls them and what feels like the place where you need to be.

Chris Martenson:  Well, that is interesting that you phrase it that way. I have been noticing – I was just on the phone giving a bit of a sermon to an MBA class recently. At the end I was asked, “What businesses do we go into in a post-Peak world?” And instead of giving the usual, here’s your more resilient business piece, I talked to them instead about what has been true for me, which is that the most important job you can possibly have going forward, is one that you personally have an attachment to it's purpose. You get it on some deep visceral level; this is a job worth doing. And if the money is there, great. But money shouldn’t be our guiding beacon anymore.

When I was in MBA school and I graduated in ’98, that was all about the money, right? But now my advice is for people to really follow that inner guide and say, “What is it that I really want to do?” Because I think it is time to follow our hearts in this regard and follow our intuition. What do you think?

Carolyn Baker:  Absolutely. I have a whole chapter in Navigating the Coming Chaos about meaning and purpose. There are two questions that I keep inviting people to ask themselves. One is, who do I want to be in the face of this collapse? And secondly, what did I come here to do? I just suggest that folks keep asking that second question when they are in a dilemma about what is my life work, how best can I serve myself. I deal with this a lot with people who call me and say, “I have had this job for thirty years, and it’s gone; it will never come back. I have to reinvent myself, what do I do?” And that is one of the first steps that I lead them toward: What is my meaning and purpose? How do I find that?

Chris Martenson:  Well, a while ago you said that, of course, there’s loss involved in this story, but there are also extraordinary opportunities. So one of the opportunities that you are surfacing now is the opportunity to reinvent ourselves in the face of this larger reinvention that is happening. How does somebody really go about discovering what it is that they are here to do?

Carolyn Baker:  Well, one of the ways that they can do that is, I think, working with other people. Again, I want to emphasize getting involved with Transition groups. There is also a newer group, which some people might be aware of, called Resilient Circles, at It's another resource for creating neighborhood and community awareness and food security. As you mentioned Dmitri a while ago and how important it was for people in the Soviet Union to stay together, to protect each other, watch each other’s backs, not go out too late, and never by themselves. And to start to build this kind of connection now. I think that through that process, oftentimes that becomes a catalyst for people to go, “Oh, yeah, there is this something inside that is calling me.” You talked about prosperity, and I just want to clarify that we need to redefine prosperity. It means something very different from what we’ve known it to be in this culture. None of us is going to be prosperous as mainstream culture defines it, but we may very well be able to have what we need and really enjoy life, perhaps even more than we do now.

Chris Martenson:  Oh, I absolutely agree with that, and we’re going to have to – not just redefine prosperity, but redefine, I believe, how it is that we interact with the larger world. By which I mean not just the human-based one, but there are clear signs that are abundantly obvious, whether it's falling water tables or just disappearing soil or species loss, or really, it's the larger biodiversity piece or soil destruction turning it into dirt, if not losing it outright. All of these pieces are actually just screaming, I think pretty loudly at this point in time.

So what we are talking about is simply redefining not just our relationship to money, but our relationships to each other and to the larger world around us. This is an enormous period of maturation, if we are going to use your analogy of saying that our country culturally is in an adolescent stage. We want to become young adults in this story, so we have to figure out what works, keep doing that, what hasn’t been working, so we want to stop doing that, and then we want to figure out what new things we might need to start entertaining as ideas. What are those in your mind?

Carolyn Baker:  I wanted to offer some other options here. In addition to the plethora of resources that I offer in my book, I want to emphasize training and healing trauma. I have become very interested in this lately, because number one, I believe all of us on some level have grown up in an industrialized civilization and have been, to some extent, traumatized. I believe there is going to be a lot of trauma increasing around us as these changes begin to unfold. And so one of the things that I am working with right now and getting some training in myself is a modality called, “somatic experiencing.” People can find out about that at This is a modality that anyone can use themselves, and you can use it with other people. It was developed by a psychologist named Peter Levine, that he developed as a result of a terrible accident that he had himself. And I say this because I believe that much of our future may be traumatic on a number of levels. Somatic experiencing teaches people how to stabilize the nervous system and utilize resources that are innate in our own physiology to help us move through traumatic experiences.

I also encourage people to develop some kind of skillness practice that takes their attention into the inner world at least once a day. This is one of the most important pillars in building what I call an internal bunker.

Chris Martenson:  Mm, hmm.

Carolyn Baker:  We hear the survivalist talking about building a bunker with his wife and kids and weapons and food and all of that. But we need to build internal bunkers. And I also encourage people – and this, of course, is along the lines of what you just said about the relationship with the earth community – I really encourage people to connect with nature on a regular basis, and not to do that casually, but with great intention. Spend time in nature in silence, and perhaps take a journal with you and write or draw your awarenesses and allow yourself to be nurtured by nature. To commune with it, and above all, listen to it.

And then another piece that I have been talking about a lot lately is how important it is to create beauty and joy in your life. Preparation can and should be fun, at least sometimes. So the use of poetry, dance, music, story, and art to nurture your soul and balance the darkness with joy is very, very important.

Chris Martenson:  I couldn’t agree more. I really truly believe that it is how we conduct ourselves during the journey that is really important. And you asked two questions that you would like to leave people with to think about: who do I want to be, and what is it I want to do. It's around that first part though, who do I want to be, and how do I want to be in all of this. I think it's really important that we have gratitude. Because we still have just a tremendous abundance, historically speaking. We have immense resources in front of us, as scary as it all looks, because yes, there is some loss. We are losing some things; our monetary system is no longer functioning properly. In my judgment, our leaders have absolutely no clue about the real nature of the predicament actually is, and they are going to preserve status quo at all costs. And unfortunately, some of those costs are risks such as the potential destruction of our currency, etc., and so forth. Big scary stuff.

At the same time, the sun rises every day. We still have our faculties and wits and in most cases our health with us, and so everything is still possible in that world. So here we are, and it's today, whichever day people are listening to this. What would you recommend for somebody who is hearing this and is interested in saying, “You know what? I am ready to dive off into that.” You mentioned Transition Towns, you’ve mentioned some other resources. What’s that first step for somebody who is just coming into this and says, “Um, I think I need to learn more about this.” What would they do?

Carolyn Baker:  Well, this is going to sound really kind of hokey, but we are speaking of gratitude, so I would like to invite that person, even if it is a cloudy day, to go outside and just kind of look at the sun and close their eyes. And say, “Thank you, sun, that you are there, and that you are still warming the earth, and that we have all these resources because of you.” And notice what they feel in their bodies as they do that. And then they might want to begin reading one or both of my books. Certainly we have great lists of books and documentaries on just learning about Peak Oil and the collapse of industrial civilization in general.

I want to invite people to consider reading my books, and also, I am traveling around the country now as much as possible doing workshops on navigating the coming chaos, living in turbulent times. My next one is going to be on October 15th in Chico, California, with my friend Susie Gruber, and Jerry Allen. And you can find details of that event on my website. I will also be doing one in Nevada City on November 19th and then, you know, I am just really open and if people want me to come to your community. If you want to organize one of those workshops, they are fantastic. So just contact me at

Chris Martenson:  That is fantastic. I hope people do take you up on that. I really believe that we have some immense challenges in front of us, and that how we respond to them is of critical importance. Many of our old tools and old ways of responding are probably ill-suited for this new reality that is coming. We are going to have to really be bold. And the interesting part to me, as I look back on all of this, is I see that many of the skills and practices are not new ones, are they? They are actually quite old, aren’t they?

Carolyn Baker:  Absolutely, and you know, as people ask me, are the behaviors you advocate new approaches, or are they the return of forgotten wisdom? I say yes. And by that I mean that both are true. We desperately need to return to ancient perennial w