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Resilience in Times of Chaos

By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D



Change is the one predictable characteristic of life and the one we find hardest to deal with as we face challenges in our daily life. Nancy Wood in Spirit Walker tells us:

            From the impoverished strength of youth

            We begin our journey to the other side of life,

            Knowing nothing except the way is long

            And filled with the unexpected.


Well-known author, Germaine Greer tells us, “Perhaps catastrophe is the natural human environment, and even though we spend a good deal of energy to get away from it, we are programmed for survival and catastrophe.” 


This time of chaos and catastrophe is asking a lot from everyone. My experience right now is that many people are highly stressed, reporting anxiety, depression, and trauma re-surfacing. The frustration level is high! This is the time to revisit our skills in survival, adaptation, and resilience. The drive for survival in challenging circumstances is in our DNA as much as our reactions to stressors. Let’s review!


Joan Borysenko in her book, It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change, cites the three secrets of resilience in dealing with challenges:

  1. A resolute acceptance of reality

  2. A deep belief that is meaningful

  3. An uncanny ability to improvise.


Similarly, the 1st step in the Twelve Stop Program for addiction is to admit our

problem.  Accepting change, the unexpected, and catastrophe as an inextricable part of our reality is very important. Our culture has tended towards the belief that there is something wrong if we are not happy most of the time and without stressors.


Part of the meaning of life is knowing that joy and sadness, fear and peace, love and hate are all part of life. To everything, there is a season! We need purpose, which may become the path to meaning in a bigger way. Our difficulties and challenges help us create our purpose.

The woman who lost her daughter in a drunk-driver accident began the program Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) that is required by most all municipalities as part of education for people who have had DUIs. The parent of Ryan White, who died from HIV/AIDS-related illness, founded the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program which provides a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care. The parents of Conner Taylor, who took his own life in 2016, have started the Conner Taylor Foundation ( to fund scholarships in his name and to support the local mental health organizations.

We could look at a laundry list of problems affecting all of us. For the well-informed this is daunting. Then we add your specific issues, and it may feel very overwhelming. Previous trauma coming to the surface is a problem faced by many at this time. The fault lines are exposed when we are challenged.

First, ask for help! Find resources and people who can assist you. Connect with friends, relatives, colleagues, anyone you can. Reach out! Do something new. Think about trying a new game, sport, cooking, yard work, any different activity. Laugh! A sense of humor is very helpful under any circumstance. When thinking negatively, try switching channels to a positive thought.

Of course, the basics of getting enough sleep, eating good food regularly, exercising, and taking time for yourself, are always helpful. My new Apple Watch is prodding me to get more steps, breathe more deeply, exercise more often, dance frequently, among so many other things. Having a friend you can take walks with, work out, or stop for coffee is good.

As Dr. Borysenko tells us, have an “uncanny ability to improvise.” Own the reality, give yourself some empathy and then think about how you can move forward. Reach out! Reach in! We can do this inch by inch, moment by moment Take the challenge.


Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator. She is the author of the Life Weaving Education Curriculum that teaches creative, effective holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video or in-person sessions), seminars, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Relationship Therapy call

816-509-9277 or;


Photo credit: Chrissy Speer

Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

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