…this is a pressure to evolve our cultures. Often we’re not motivated to change until circumstances get really painful. Many spiritual teachers describe coming to a sense of perspective of acceptance, resilience to change, and enlightenment only as a result of working through intense suffering. Of course there will be some who don’t choose to change for the better. It has been said that war brings out people’s true nature. Some people do horrible things and others show a heroic side. It appears some are showing at this time a self-serving nature while others show compassion; we will see the truth about ourself and others.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ardell Broadbent.
Ardell’s primary self-employment is editing dissertations and coaching graduate students in completing their degrees. She is mom to her teenage daughter. She also is a creator of educational games and a writer.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Igot a masters degree in psychology, thinking that I wanted to be a counselor. I had tried a few related jobs, but I had put myself thru school by editing. It turned out that was a valuable skill set at a time when many had gone back to get advanced degrees, some of them while working, and they didn’t have the time to get up to speed on all the details needed to get a dissertation in shape. I enjoyed the work, including the flexibility of working remotely. After my daughter’s first decade, and after helping so many people get their ideas out into the world, I felt I needed to get my own contributions out, and started writing.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
This is one with a lot of relevance for today. Pema Chödrön wrote a book called When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice in Difficult Times. I also got a lot from her CD set called Getting Unstuck. In a nutshell, it talks about what we can do when we get triggered or upset by both minor everyday stuff and major challenges. Why it resonated with me so much is that, I think that like so many people, I grew up learning how to manage my behavior very well, but I’d never been taught how to manage the underlying emotions and thought patterns that lead to the impulses behind dysfunctional behaviors. That left me feeling like the real me just wasn’t acceptable. I really believe in therapy and have benefitted from it, but this was at a time when I didn’t have the time or money for therapy, I listened to that CD set whenever I was driving, for about three years straight. I never did get very consistent with meditation, but that CD set was my therapy. Getting Unstuck:
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
First I want to give you my perspective on death or you’ll just think what I say is callous. I had three close friends who each had a few minutes of being clinically dead during a surgery. They described to me what is called an NDE or near death experience. The one friend didn’t leave the operating room but could see herself below. The two other friends both saw and left the operating room, and described journeying to outer space. The experiences weren’t dreamlike to them. Because I know them personally, I was confident that they weren’t motivated by wanting attention from a sensational story. That sparked my interest, and I started to heavily research NDEs, even reading about the medical explanations that present reductionist rationales for the various sensations or experiences that are typically described as part of an NDE. As a researcher, I know how to read that dense medical text, but I don’t find the medical explanations convincing. Surveys of USA, Australia, and Germany suggest that 4% to 15% of these populations have had an NDE; 15% of the U.S. would be almost 50 million. I think we should take that seriously. If death isn’t the end, you don’t fear death. Even some who don’t believe in an afterlife have sometimes described how a terminal illness gave them an intense appreciation for people and experiences that they’d never made it a priority to pay attention to. It seems the silver lining here is that facing our fear of death can motivate us to live more intentionally and more joyfully.
Here’s a second silver lining. Certainly we will grieve for losses and suffering of friends and family members during this pandemic. Yet this can help us correct our societal excesses. For example, many civilized governments have not legally allowed a way for those who wish to die to do so peacefully, even if they have lived a long life and now feel useless and in untreatable pain. In the few U.S. states that allow euthanasia, the process can be lengthy and complex, involving doctors’ letters and legal forms. Not everyone can manage the time and expense of that process. We have situations in which people can be kept in pain or a vegetative state by technology, when they wish to simply pass on, maybe not even for themselves but to not bankrupt their families with medical bills. I’ve heard that those who work in emergency care are the most likley to create their own “do not resusitate” orders, because they see the way people have no control at that point. Many cultures have dignified ways of managing death; we call ourselves an advanced society, but we don’t have that. My ex described to me when he and his two adult daughters brought their beloved cat to the vet for a painless death because his quality of life seemed to be moving toward unbearable. He said it was a moving experience as they petted their cat and shared memories. He said he had a flash of insight that this is how it would be for us at some point. Some day we will allow ourselves this same priviledge our pets have.
Here’s a third silver lining. To some, spirituality is simply to take a larger perspective. A larger perspective might help us to recognize the extent to which humans have sought to control rather than harmonize with nature, sometimes in obviously dysfunctional ways. We could be at peace with covid 19 as simply a balancing force of nature, not an evil foe. Remember when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park because the bison and elk populations were growing so big that biologists showed they were starting to starve in the winter? That re-introduction started a chain reaction. Gradually the whole area became green and lush again instead of over-grazed, and all kinds of animals came back and thrived. Humans are out of balance. We are destroying other creatures’ ecosystems as well as polluting our own. If God or nature is culling us to a sustainable number, it seems almost a kindness that those more affected are disproportionately those who already have lived a long life and/or have a reduced quality of life due to severe illness. Maybe we in older generations need to be downsized so that there’s a decent quality of life for the next generations.
A fourth silver lining is that this will shake up the status quo of putting up with how crappy life is for so many people. In the U.S. for example, so many are suffering. Almost nobody wants this society we’re living in. The majority of workers deal with chronic stress about time and money. Almost half of Americans report consistent loneliness. According to the Pew Research Center, over half of teens report bullying as a “major problem,” and 70% of teens say depression and anxiety are a “major problem” among their peers. But we can’t agree on how to fix things. Many turn to drugs and consumerist entertainment, which don’t help the underlying challenges. It might seem a pandemic on top of all that will make everything all the worse, but it might not. It can shake us from the “just world hypothesis,” which is a cognitive bias. It’s the idea that people generally get what they deserve. This motivates many to chalk up their own luck or privilege to their good characteristics and wise choices, and others’ misfortunes to somehow being their fault. In a pandemic, this idea just can’t hold, so more people may start to think differently about how our actions and inactions affect others.
A fifth silver lining is that this is a pressure to evolve our cultures. Often we’re not motivated to change until circumstances get really painful. Many spiritual teachers describe coming to a sense of perspective of acceptance, resilience to change, and enlightenment only as a result of working through intense suffering. Of course there will be some who don’t choose to change for the better. It has been said that war brings out people’s true nature. Some people do horrible things and others show a heroic side. It appears some are showing at this time a self-serving nature while others show compassion; we will see the truth about ourself and others.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
1. Be an accountability buddy. Even if you’re not meeting up for it, you can make an agreement to check in with each other at scheduled times about health practices such as eating well, exercise, and getting some vitamin N: nature time. These practices have known mental health benefits. I phone my mom weekly and check in about what we’re working on.
2. Give people a break. Even big banks that screwed over taxpayers a decade ago are doing this because they know it’s necessary to keep the economy from tanking; some are offering forbearance on mortgages or no-penalty payment delays. I think Daniel Schmachtenberger is right when he says we have to move into a non-rivalrous mode. Competition, which we are usually told is necessary to keep the economy going, is not what will serve us at this moment.
3. I’ve been talking to my teen daughter about disasters in the past and how societies recovered eventually. This can normalize the situation in a way. There’s an emergency preparedness game at fractioNation.US that we’ve played a few times to give her a sense that there are ways we can creatively face even the worst times.
4. Avaaz has a campaign to donate to help the Maasai people who have been hard hit by the pandemic. They are guardians of a large wildlife preserve. People who used to be poachers now can sustain their families by protecting the animals instead. There’s no ecotourism right now, so they’re really at risk. I discussed it with my daughter and we decided together how much to donate. It feels really empowering to help others; it gives you a feeling that others will also be there for you in a crisis.
5. Anxiety, which is on the same continuum with fear, is contagious, so tending to your own mental hygiene is helpful.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
The Good Life Project podcast had a March 23 episode with Emiliya Zhivotovskaya about simple research-based ways of self-soothing by stroking your hands and arms, along with other suggestions based on cognitive therapy. Amy Cuddy is a good resource for similar physical techniques.
Here are two tips sent out in an RSS feed by Alice Boyes, PhD, author of The Anxiety Toolkit and The Healthy Mind Toolkit about coping with uncertainty:
• Answer your “what if” questions. When people have “what if…” worries, they tend not to fully play out those scenarios. Identify a specific “what if” worry, such as getting coronavirus and ending up in hospital, a specific loved one getting it, being in lockdown down for months, losing your job or your business going under. Then, articulate what you’d do in the scenario. Allow yourself to vividly imagine what you would actually do. What would you do practically? What would you do emotionally? What social support would you use? Doing this thought exercise can help you recognise that even in the most difficult situations, you would still have ideas about how you could cope. If you have many “what if” worries, consider tackling one per day using this exercise.
• Consider worry scheduling. Worry scheduling is when you designate a set time per day for worrying [probably right before bed isn’t the best time]. When worries pop into your mind outside this time, try putting them aside until your designated worry time. Some people note any worries they have on a piece of paper, and then go through what’s on that piece of paper during their scheduled worry time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
What comes to mind relevant to the topic of this interview is a quote by Germaine Greer: “I do think that women could make politics irrelevant; by a kind of spontaneous cooperative action the like of which we have never seen; which is so far from people’s ideas of state structure or viable social structure that it seems to them like total anarchy — when what it really is, is very subtle forms of interrelation that do not follow some heirarchal pattern…yet I think it’s women who are going to have to break this spiral of power and find the trick of cooperation.” This quote preceeded a popular song by Sinead O’Connor, so I became familiar with it as a teenager. It helped me think early in life about what my contribution could be.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I love this question. I have oodles of answers, but I’ll just say one that’s relevant for this discussion. I already mentioned Schmachtenberger and his promoting an attitude of non-rivalry. Basically, this is the same main idea Jesus was promoting: love your enemies. Basically, if you love them, or at least consider them with the respect you would want to be given you, then they aren’t your enemies anymore. Then you have no enemies. If you have to lock someone in prison because they are a danger to themselves or others, you can do that in the most humane way possible, and actually work toward some level of rehabilitation instead of thinking, “Throw away the key. You can’t fix stupid. You can’t fix a bad seed.” In Humanity’s Phase Shift (15:50) Schmachtenberger makes a brilliant case for how our competitive tendencies that got us to this point in our evolution are going to lead us to self-terminate if we don’t make an intentional evolutionary leap. He talks also about collective sense-making. Look at how many of us read up on the pandemic, saw the exponential curve, and self-isolated before any mandate came out for our area. The majority of us are capable of self-governance and cooperation once we get some convincing facts. Some people think they know the best form of governance and are itching for revolution, because it’s exciting and feels like a move toward a fair society. I don’t want to be part of that. Too many innocents suffer and die in revolutions, and then as in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, a similar power structure asserts itself. Even with the American revolution that so many continue to celebrate, I’m not sure that was absolutely necessary. India, Australia, and Canada managed to assert their independence from England without a war. Is the U.S. so much better off than those nations? Look at the OECD statistics for an answer. Better than revolution, is evolution, and it starts with individuals first becoming at peace with themselves.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
One of my websites has a lot of information on what the public health field calls “dimensions of wellness,” in recognition that every aspect of your life affects your health. The site is also about self-employment, but has relevant information for people working temporarily from home: RegenerativeBusinessConsulting.ORG. For my other sites, my name is unique, so I’m searchable if your audience is curious about my writing. One that could be relevant right now is a blog post titled “What is the secret to feeling okay.”
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!