Let’s Talk

Breakthroughs in Your Thought Life

Here’s where we left off last week: May I leave you with a homework assignment? How about noticing when there is heaviness in your thinking? Would you journal what’s going on? Then would you ask God to come and change your darkness into light? We’ll talk more next week about further breakthroughs in our thought life.

So Let’s Talk! How did it go? Could you pick up on the times of heaviness? Heaviness can be a feeling of “less than.” Maybe you feel like the adult version of a child feeling alone on a crowded playground. Are you around a lot of criticism of “friends” who are always editing you and others and it feels toxic? Do you feel beat up on the “success” ladder? In summary, heaviness in your thinking can feel like a pervasive sense of inadequacy.

 Guess what? This is a mark of our culture. Yes, these are real and true thoughts and feelings you are having, but I invite you to consider the source: our culture does breed comparisons and invites painful relationships.

Let’s scoot to a good beginning of a cure for heaviness: gratitude. Or the giving of thanks for whatever you can muster up. Strange, huh? When you feel least thankful, gratitude is the escape button from gloom. The practice of thankfulness results in true success, not the preconceived version of success on human levels. The activity of gratitude takes us inward where the hurt is, where the feeling of inadequacy is.

With this change in mood, victory follows. I think Oprah Winfrey recommends that we give thanks for three things each and every day! Ann Voscamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, recommends writing out as many signs of gratitude as you can see before you. This ignites a posture of strength.

I look forward to your feedback and we’ll talk more next week on the breakthrough of our thoughts. Keep those journals open to record the thoughts and feelings of your heart.

For Deeper Reflection

 1 Samuel 16:7 “. . . for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

 Isaiah 61: 3To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting (or heaviness—emphasis mine), so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

 We can ask God for His perspective on the wounds we are carrying from life on the planet. He will deliver specific insight into the root of our pain and will release you into freedom from your trappings. It’s a breakthrough! Who knew praise was so vital?

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

On Life’s Stage

If you watched the Academy Awards show the other night, you saw dozens of Hollywood’s most celebrated stars all lavishly coiffed in their hot, er, haute couture. While it’s fun to “ooh, aww” and “huh?” over the latest fashions, I decided to dig beneath the sparkling externals to see what non-scripted advice the good-looking and glamorous can share with us.

Action. Fade in.

Grunge retro cinema poster. Vector illustration.“Eventually stardom is going to go away from me. It goes away from everybody and all you have in the end is to be able to look back and like the choices you made.” – Matt Damon

“Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.” – Clint Eastwood

“Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.” – Uta Hagen

“A lot of people give up just before they’re about to make it. You know you never know when that next obstacle is going to be the last one.” – Chuck Norris

 “You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it. I’d be more frightened by not using whatever abilities I’d been given. I’d be more frightened by procrastination and laziness.” – Denzel Washington

“There are no regrets in life. Just lessons.” – Jennifer Aniston

Like the choices you make.

• Respect your efforts. Respect yourself.

• Press beyond regular to become extraordinary.

• Don’t give up.

• Deal with the mud.

• Fully use your abilities.

• Bravely fight procrastination and laziness.

• See regrets as life lessons.

Freeze frame. It’s a wrap.

Brave and Resilient Tip #60: On life’s stage, your best performance is to be the best you. 


Let’s Talk

Grace or Bitterness?—Part 2

Q. How can I avoid walking in bitterness?

A. Let’s Talk! We left off talking about two ways to walk through tough situations – asking for a covering of grace, or spitting nails while becoming more bitter by the hour. It’s two different directions, isn’t it?! Let’s look at “under bitterness” and see what’s there. 

Under bitterness is usually anger or a deep disappointment. Disappointment is a nice word for anger. Something didn’t go like it should have gone. Somebody hurt you. You feel let down . . . and you are not breaking camp. You are going to stay there.

We have talked about wounds multiplying like rabbits if they are not dealt with in a healthy way. Here’s another word picture: Imagine a cauldron of anger, some unforgiveness, some self-pity, some resentments, all being stirred together by bitterness. Round and round goes that spoon, and now you created a bitter root stew.

So, doesn’t it make sense that part of your healing will be to turn down the fire and to change the ingredients? Maybe eliminate the toxic elements altogether. In real recipes, we are encouraged to avoid the ingredients or allergens that our bodies may not receive well. Will you let go of the ingredients hurting you?

Next, long to be allergic to bitterness and develop a sensitivity to any of its forms. We do get to choose what goes and what stays, and what direction we travel in. When bitterness is internalized, we might feel powerless to change – but that is a lie. We can cry out at that very moment and ask God to take away the bitterness and show us the ingredients that need repair. God’s grace can cover you and renew your heart. Roll back to last week’s discussion on grace if you missed it. Grace is delicious!

For Deeper Reflection

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.


Too Little. Too Much.

A few years ago I first heard the words “don’t curse the moisture.” This wise admonition from some farmers has helped me curb my grumbling when we get a blast of ice, snow, or rain. And, it’s helped me refrain from complaining when we don’t get moisture. Too much. Too little. Are we ever really satisfied when we can’t get life to be “just right” for us?

IMG_1983 - Version 2Growing up in the rural Midwest, it was long after I moved out of state that I noticed how farmers can sometimes view their crops. If you say, “Well, we got some rains and the crops are looking great,” some farmers will grumble in reply, “Well, there’s too many bugs.” If you say, “What a great harvest! The yields are the best in years,” some farmers will mumble, “Good yields, but the prices are too low.”

Plentiful rain . . . pitiful bugs. Plentiful harvest . . . pitiful prices. Some people just always have a way of tearing a hole in the silver lining or minimizing a blessing so it feels like a mundane mishap.

How about you these days? Are you choosing to see the good in the snowy and rainy times AND when you feel parched and stuck in a desert? One way to stay brave and resilient is to work at being content and satisfied regardless of life not always being “just right.”

I’ve long appreciated the perspective of tentmaker Paul of Tarsus, Turkey, “. . . I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). That includes freezing temperatures, blistering heat, heavy rains, bug infestations, droughts, bumper crops, and price fluctuations.

So let’s skip cursing the moisture and start complimenting each day as it unfolds, come rain or shine. Plentiful or pitiful? May we all find contentment somewhere between too little and too much.

Brave and Resilient Tip #55: Focus on contentment come rain or shine.   


Let’s Talk

Workplace Hurts and Anger


Q. Would you share some ways for me to guard my heart in my workplace? My supervisor has been so disrespectful and hurts my feelings daily. I feel victimized and angry.

 A. Let’s Talk! I have heard several people sharing that same difficulty this week. Sadly, it is way too common. Let’s first look at some possible responses and solutions for you. Since you are the only person you can change – we won’t focus on your boss for now.

First, let’s make sure your job hurts are on a clean slate. Often, if wounds are not dealt with in our past, they will multiply. Then when a new hurt shows up, all of them show up! Wounds need to be cleansed and bandaged. If you know you have some wounds that are un-cared for, please ask for help. You want to be strong in the workplace – it is not easy to work among others – and so the more repaired you are, the better. If you surveyed companies, the number one problem is relationships among workers. The discord is both rampant and personal.

You now have a choice for your own heart. You can “simmer” in your hurt and anger and stay a victim. Or, you can say something. Simmering and stuffing your words isn’t healthy for either you or your boss (or co-worker) because the damage continues if ignored or enabled. You are the one victimized if you are paralyzed to speak up on your own behalf. But, it’s also extremely important to speak to your workplace bully very carefully. Your words need to be respectful but powerful. You need to be blameless and without malice in your own posture and delivery.

A great sentence is, “We are having a problem. What do you think we need to do to make things better?” You have acknowledged there’s a problem and you are starting dialogue for a solution. I realize your own situation is unique, but you can tweak this to adapt to your situation. Many have chosen to write out this dialogue if there are privacy concerns or a need for documentation.

What if we share these words and nothing changes? Sometimes there is change and sometimes not, but this is a first step to TRY to make a change as you advocate for yourself. If you are unable to effect change, you may want to look for another workplace, or ask God to give you the grace to stay. You do have some choices in your place of work too.

We can choose to accept (or not accept) the grace that God has for us in any difficult situation (see Hebrews 12:14-15 below). What does that look like, you ask? I have a fresh example. This past week I had a most difficult situation. I did what I could in the situation, but then just prayed for His grace to envelope me and the situation. The circumstances didn’t change, but I was changed. No longer did I have that awful tug of the heart and the heaviness that was washing over me. There was no other explanation but His grace. Had I not chosen to ask for grace for the situation, I am sure bitterness could have entered. For, if we don’t choose grace, in creeps bitterness and all the damage it brings to many. More on this next week. Please send any questions or comments.

For Deeper Reflection

Hebrews 12:14 -15 “Pursue peace with all men . . . See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”

Matthew 18:15 [If someone offends you, go to him in private.]

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.


Let’s Talk

How’s It Going?

Q. Always in early January I ask myself, “What needs repair?” Friends are talking about physical wellness programs, but what if my repair needs to be in my relationships and in my response to difficult circumstances?

A. Let’s do talk about the number one issue for most of us: being OK no matter what and guarding our hearts from issues that spill into our lives. Sometimes we spill our challenges and difficulties unto others and sometimes others spill on us. We’ve been talking about boundaries the last few posts, and responding well and guarding our hearts from these spills is one whopper boundary assignment!

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep/guard your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” So, guarding your heart and protecting your heart will mean asking yourself a number of self-evaluation questions. Whether you’ve faced a confrontation in a relationship or need to work through a difficulty personally, consider:

–      What didn’t go well?

–       What’s the biggest concern?

–       What needs help?

–       Is there a theme?

–       What will bring a new level of maturity?

–       Do I need to do an inventory of the load I carry?

One of my all-time favorite word pictures that brings profound truth is about the camel. “It’s not the straw that broke the camel’s back — but the LOAD under the straw . . . .”


So, how’s your load? Want to work on it? Know someone who could help you sort things out? If not now, when . . . ?


For Deeper Reflection

 Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

We have a pretty clear picture of what not to let into our lives; but sadly, we don’t often invite into our day the One who could repair us and give us grace for it all.


Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.



Comic Relief

Be Quick to Laugh and Slow to Being an Eeyore

Growing up, two of my most favorite women in the world were Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. I adored their shows, I Love Lucy and The Carol Burnett Show. I have some Lucy and Carol comedy clips in my video and DVD collection and my friend Angie and I do our own rendition of Carol’s Eunice and Mama characters. The “Whoa, whoa, whoaaaaaaaaaaa FEELings” crooning by Eunice cracks me up just thinking about it. And my friend Jules does a mean “Here pidgey, pidgey” imitation (we’re pictured in this circa 90s photo). My friend Jane transforms into “Laugh In” comedienne Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine, complete with snorts and pouty lips. One Ringy Dingy . . . . And yes, I have created my own alter ego, named Zelda, who shrills with an annoying voice and sports sagging pantyhose. Even my dog Logan breaks into a chuckle when I dress up as zany Zelda. (I’ll post a Zelda photo before too long.)

IMG_0251I could credit Lucy, Carol (and Vicki Lawrence) for my goofy sense of humor and my love of laughter, but also my parents. (Sure, blame it on the parents.) Mom and Dad modeled their own lighthearted, kidding-around selves—Mom was the outgoing “did you hear the one about?” gal and Dad shared a drier, quiet wit. My parents’ resiliency through their cancer journeys stems in a large part from their ability to keep lighthearted through the pain and limitations.

Author and humorist Mark Twain once declared, “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” Noted American journalist Hugh Sidey adds to this: “A sense of humor . . . is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.”

Joy and laughter are a sign of “a pretty good grasp of life.” I love this! Who are the people that just make YOU chuckle no matter how cruddy life gets? Who are your buddies that can create a Eunice and Mama Moment out of the day’s disappointments and struggles? Who are the family, friends, and co-workers that bring on a well-timed grin? Thank them this week.

Surround yourself with people who are quick to laughter and slow to being an Eeyore (by the way, I do a fantastic Eeyore impression that keeps my friends amused. But as Eeyore might bemoan, “ohhhhh, that’s a whole nudder storrrrrrrrry . . . ). Proverbs 17:22 reminds us that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Who needs increased osteo issues? I mean, really.

Laughter IS good medicine. Now go on and look for the people and situations that tickle your funny bone and give you a pretty good grasp of life. If you can’t think of someone, contact me and I’ll send Zelda over.

Brave and Resilient Tip #44: Laughter increases a good grasp on life. No, seriously.


Let’s Talk

More Masking — Part 3

Q. What causes me to wear a mask of pride and how do I get rid of it?

 A. Let’s talk! It sounds like you want to stop wearing that mask. Though our culture pushes us to be prideful, to actually see pride in many of its forms is unpleasant. It can separate friends and family and is a real barrier to relationships. We might enjoy sport team spirit or have team pride, or be a grandmother looking at her grandchildren “with pride;” but the middle letter in the word p-r-i-d-e is the clue for the mask of pride. The letter “i” and all of the “me” thoughts are included in a pride-filled life. When “I” gets stirred up in our lives – it is not a pretty sight! Pride, haughtiness, and selfishness are all first cousins.

We often put on a pride mask to appear on top of things, as though we have it together. There is agreement among psychologists that this is actually a response to a lack of security, fear of rejection, or fear of failure. Said another way: When there is a feeling of “lack,” people “put on.” They put on all the trappings of success as a cover for their feeling unsuccessful. In a way, this is so ironic and we are so backwards.

How does one get rid of pride?

Let’s look at the opposite of pride, which is humilityone of the keys to getting rid of false pride. Humility is a posture of realizing that we are but dust (Genesis 3:19 and Genesis 18:27), a mere breath (Psalm 39:5). More verses are below. Humility is holding a modest opinion of ourselves.

Another sure-fire way to remove pride is to purpose to be real. No covers. Realize, too, that we are not to think more highly of ourselves . . . or too little. Somewhere in the middle is where we are to camp. Remember our chats about performance and how that is not an accurate measure of our value as a person? The best view I know for an accurate reading on where our value lies is not a mask of false pride or performance. The best perspective is our value to God. He loves us JUST AS WE ARE. Unconditional love. Realizing this is pretty cool and no mask is needed.

For Deeper Reflection

 1 Peter 5:5 “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 11:2When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” (See also Proverbs 15: 33b and Proverbs 18:12b for more reflection on this.)

Proverbs 29: 23  “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”

Philippians 2: 3 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…”

Colossians 3Study what we are to “put on” (heart of compassion, love, etc.)

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.


Lean In, Listen Closely

Yesterday I got lost on an elevator. Well, lost between floors one and four. I was stopping by my doctor’s office and pressed the elevator’s 3 button. When I reached the third floor, no office looked familiar. I got back on the elevator and pressed 2. Nope, still not right. Back to 3. Come on! Finally, I pressed 1 and slipped in the ground level pharmacy to ask for directions. Fourth floor? I didn’t even see a button for 4. In my harried pace, I lost my orientation and a chunk of my patience in a 4×4 elevator box.

When I wrote in my book Two Days Longer, about staying resilient in life’s waits, I shared the following story about finding our way ahead. Erik Weihenmayer of Denver, Colo., became the first blind person to conquer the revered mountain.

A few day after Erik stood on the famous peak, the world-class athlete rested at the base of Everest and talked by telephone with CNN anchor Carol Lin. Having lost his sight at age thirteen, Erik redefined for the whole world what it means to be blind.

In the CNN interview Erik quickly gave credit to his twenty-plus Everest teammates and his generous sponsors, including the National Federation of the Blind. When Carol asked the adventure climber what he relied upon to get to the summit, Erik eagerly described what helped him “see” over steep terrain riddled with icefalls and massive crevasses.

iStock_000007747335Small“I follow somebody who climbs in front of you with a bell. And they jingle a bell from their ice ax or from their ski pole or from whatever there. They’ll just hold it. And I’ll listen to them, and they’ll call out directions,” Erik explained. “They’ll say, ‘big drop off’ or ‘steep climb’ . . . and sometimes you’re crossing these very narrow snow bridges. So they tell me exactly where to step.”

Sometimes, as we wait, our perceptions get distorted and we can’t see God. We can lose sight of our path and slip off into harrowing crevasses of anger, despair, and apathy. But somehow, just when we think we’re abandoned on the dark side of a desolate mountain, God jingles a little bell. Calmly he reassures us, “It’s OK. I’m over here. Keep stepping straight ahead. We’re going to make it together. It won’t be much longer.”

I love how the prophet Isaiah describes our all-seeing God guiding us up life’s impossible mountains. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

            Can you hear God jingling a bell tuned just for you? Lean in, listen closely. Keep placing one foot in front of the other. And, if you’re on an elevator, don’t be afraid to go back to ground level and ask for directions.

Brave and Resilient Tip #31: Let others help guide you along life’s unpredictable paths.


Excerpt from Two Days Longer, Beth J. Lueders, pp. 24-25 (Howard Publishing Co, 2006)

Let’s Talk

 Family Patterns

 – by Dr. Helen McIntosh 

Q. Can you talk more about family patterns?

A.  Let’s talk! This may feel like we’re climbing a colossal mountain, but we can do it. There is so very much to say about family patterns, but it is a wise subject to study as we decide to be mountain climbers, scaling unhealthy patterns in our lives. We do this to discover issues, put them away well, and then become free of those things that have bound us. You’ve seen the ads where people look victorious as they stand on the top of a mile-high rock formation. Let’s talk about how we can conquer our own relational challenges that can seem just as daunting at times.

One of the ways that family patterns show up is in messages—spoken and unspoken. Much of what we heard or saw in our childhood will most likely become a part of our script and be repeated. Whatever we focused on, thought about, or even hated shows up! Examples are: body language, facial and/or verbal expressions, rage, moods, abuse, addictions, habits, etc. It’s fun to watch patterning in ducks, but is painful when we see negative patterns being repeated in our own lives. We don’t have to repeat destructive patterns. We can ask God to break the patterns. Actually He has been waiting for you to ask Him.

Q. Is there more besides the messages I learned? 

A. Another way that family patterns show up is in boundaries. This is how we are connected to others and how we relate to others. Are we too distant? Are we too enmeshed? Are we distant because our own family smothered us or just modeled being distant? Are we “too” close because our family was too distant and we wanted to be closer? Do you see the dance? Sometimes it is a direct repeat and sometimes it is “because of.” There is always a reason for the way we choose to live our lives.

Scripture talks about our sins going to the third and fourth generations. How do we stop the unhealthy patterns? We first ask God to shine His light on the unhealthy patterns. Then we repent or choose to turn over the habits. Next we purpose to let God begin new and healthy patterns in their place. Again, we ask for His help. Replacing old family patterns with new is typically a process of recognizing each unhealthy thought and action and then choosing with God’s light to practice healthy thoughts and actions instead. The more we rewrite and practice new relational patterns, the easier it is to be resilient in our relationships and live free. Again, we ask for God, our steady Rock, to help change us.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Proverbs 4: 23 “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flows the issues of life.”

Exodus 34: 6-7; Deuteronomy 5: 9 “The iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

 Your questions and grappling with challenges in your own life are important to us. I’d love to address your specific questions, so just click the comment button.


Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.