Some guidelines for surfing the edge of chaos…

Some guidelines for surfing the edge of chaos, while riding dangerously close to the black hole of trauma

Sandra L. Bloom MD

University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Abstract

The political scene in the USA has changed dramatically with the election of Donald Trump, and antidemocratic forces appear to be gaining momentum in other countries as well. Using a post‐trau- matic lens to view these political forces, the author summarizes social psychology research on authoritarianism, terror management theory, and obedience studies to illustrate some of the challenges that lie ahead for citizens who want to restore Enlightenment values to their rightful position and, in doing so, defeat the antidemocratic, authoritarian and antiscientific forces that are on the rise. Then, drawing upon the growing knowledge base about the power of organizational culture and the change process, the author empha- sizes the importance for any group aiming at progressive ideals to embrace a shared knowledge base, a set of shared values, a shared language and an array of shared tools for practical application in a group.

1 | INTRODUCTION

We are in crisis – all of us. The United States has reached a turning point, a moment that will determine much of what happens next. In chaos theory, this is a very special place, when a system – whether individual or group – becomes so turbulent that it moves toward the “edge of chaos”, also called the place of “far‐from‐equilibrium” conditions (Pascale, Millemann, & Gioja, 2000). The next few months and years will determine how long we stay in that uncomfortable and anxiety‐producing state before returning to what has been an increasingly corrupt equilibrium or leaping into the unknown to a profoundly new creative state – a true paradigm shift.

Living systems, be they individual people or whole societies, are constantly maintaining homeostasis, a state of healthy equilibrium. Illness represents a disturbance in this homeostasis, an imbalance that must be corrected if health is to be restored. We all heard this repeatedly expressed in the phrase “things will never be normal again” after the World Trade Center attack in 2001. That statement represents a deep understanding that a traumatic experience is a sudden, transformative event from which there is no turning back. It cannot be ignored or forgotten without dire consequences to the well‐being of the survivor. There are basically two fundamental ways that people – or a people – respond after trauma. The sought‐after outcome is post‐traumatic growth, which represents a transformative leap into an unknown future that makes it more likely that we learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating the traumatic experience. The person then establishes a new equilibrium that he or she has never been in before and that leads to a more integrated and holistic view and experience of the world and their place in it (Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun, 1998).

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