Let’s Talk

Feel Inadequate?

Q. You last wrote about rebellion leading to poor self-esteem. What about feelings of inadequacy?

A. Let’s Talk! Many people have had a sense of inadequacy – feeling that they are not enough or that they don’t have what it takes. Living in our culture plays into that, but we can recover from that with God’s help. HE becomes our adequacy.

Poor self-esteem is more about reaping the effects of poor choices like toxic, irrational, and untrue thinking and resisting authorities and instruction.What these effects have in common are identity issues. Poor self-esteem is the result of failing in some areas and struggling to “be OK.” The sense of inadequacy is a more vague cloud over us when we are not sure we are OK.

Both poor self-esteem and a sense of inadequacy demonstrate our failure to comprehend God’s love and plan for our lives. Failures and inadequacies on this earth are common. But God doesn’t want us to base our worth or value on things from this earth.

I heard someone say the other day, “I entrust myself to Your loving reception, for everything I am and everything I am not. . . .” What a healthy balance! What acceptance of some things we are and the things we are lacking.

For Deeper Reflection
Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

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

The In Between

IMG_5743Springtime in the Rockies is, well, winter shaking out its coat of snow and ice. I snapped this photo recently of my backyard apple tree stuck in the seasonal in between. Brrrrr and beauty all rolled into one. You know what? You and I find ourselves in these seasonal in betweens too.
Our children are graduating to the next level of school or birthing a career and we are in a bit of a holding pattern. We applaud their life milestones while placing a bit of a check on our emotions. We want them to launch . . . we want them to stay. The in between.

The present job is just draining us or the company is taking another direction and we are left behind. We want a better work fit . . . we want the familiarity of our coworkers and paycheck. The in between.

The medication and treatment are winding down, but we still are not back to our normal energy and activities. We want to be well   . . . we want our “other” body back. The in between.

Like snow-covered apple blossoms, we are to hold steady through the in between seasons. On-ice circumstances do eventually thaw. Resolve and patience will usher in the new, the good. What about the awkwardness of wanting to be done and through and beyond our in between? I’m finding these words from Psalm 37:7 of help: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him . . . .”

Stillness. Waiting. Shhhh . . . can you hear the plop-plunk, plop-plunk of your in between melting into the new and the good?

What’s your in between right now? What helps you be still and wait?

Brave and Resilient Tip #137: In between times do usher in the new and the good.

Let’s Talk

Rebellion and Poor Self-Esteem

Q. What are some pitfalls of rebellious adults?

A. Let’s Talk! There is a stunning truth in Scripture, “He who resists instruction despises his own soul” (Proverbs 15:32). We are seeing this combination in our culture of rebellion and poor self-esteem. Let’s talk more . . . .

When we resist instruction, we invite poor decisions and then shame. Self-esteem improves when good choices are made.

Even small children know that when we make poor decisions, we feel bad about who we are; and conversely, when we make good decisions, we feel better!

The truth is, we are to feel good about who are simply because we are created by God. But, our culture has other messages out there about what matters. Performance and achievement are just two. Certainly it is a good thing to do well, but that doesn’t mean we are to measure our worth or value by that measure alone. Counseling offices are full of clients with fear of failure issues, sense of inadequacy issues, and a sense of no value.

But it is God’s wisdom and instruction that can help us navigate the system. That is, if we don’t resist instruction and choose rebellion. We choose rebellion to feel free, to feel better, but this choice only brings the opposite. I bet we each have personal stories of prodigals who went on a search for pleasure and found that resisting instruction brought pain.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 8:33 “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.”

Proverbs 15:5A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible.”

Proverbs 15:31–32He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.”

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

The Untold Truth of Chernobyl

Radioactivity sign on a shelter door closeupYury flopped open a mini date log, pointing to the black marks he scrawled to count his helicopter trips over the still-smoldering Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Early morning April 26, 1986, the facility’s reactor number 4 exploded, heaving tons of uranium, cesium, plutonium and other radioactive poisons three miles into the atmosphere.

In the weeks following the disaster, the Soviet powers ordered Yury, a Russian video journalist, to film aerial scenes of the crippled Ukrainian facility. Yury and his copter pilots hovered eerily over the molten mess again and again. Odin, dva, tri, chetire, pyat’ . . . the numbers in Yury’s flight manifesto seemed inconceivable.

“After those flights, my hair started to fall out,” Yury explained in solid English. “At first I thought it was from a lack of eating vegetables.” As the driver of my U.S. humanitarian team to Chernobyl’s 18-mile radius Exclusion Zone, Yury seemed anxious to dialogue on that brisk day in January 1991. Our Jeep lurched and pounded on the outlying ruts, kicking up choking dust billows. Compared to the sickening cloud of radionuclides from the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe, the grimy travel debris seemed trivial.

A quarter-century after I became one of the first Western journalists into the Zone, it is time that I disclose the truth. Not about humongous-eyed aliens, but the truth behind a hush-hush secret that grieves me to think that I schlepped along in silence myself for decades. People tend to confess things to me. Addictions. Affairs. Crimes. Like them, Yury’s private mystery long wadded into the core of his nightmares needed space to thud to the surface. After showing us his Chernobyl flight record, Yury stared at the Jeep’s steering wheel before continuing his memories.

That April Saturday in 1986, Yury captured video of his family throwing an outdoor party not far from the doomed power plant. The media cameraman filmed the springtime flowers and squealing laughter of the kids. He recorded the fresh gaiety of the afternoon, oblivious that all around invisible chemicals wafted in the breeze and swirled into streams. Deadly atoms gripped trees, grass and shoes. Ionizing particles floated inside nostrils and lungs.

While Yury kept the camera rolling on fun, firefighters and first responders at the Chernobyl facility raced to dampen the roaring reactor. No one could stop the radioactive fury. And no one told the public of the out-of-control monster fanning a lethal plume northward across Belarus and countries beyond.

Soviet Union leader Gorbachev and other members of the Politburo learned of the tragedy around 3 a.m. Saturday—about 1 ½ hours after the steam blast rocked a 1,000-ton lid from above the reactor’s fuel elements. Seeds of a global cover-up rooted overnight. What Soviet commanders knew and when is still debated. Some 36 hours after the explosion, residents of Pripyat, the power plant’s surrounding “atom town” received first official details of the meltdown: “Attention comrades, an unsatisfactory radioactive situation has occurred at the Chernobyl power station. As a temporary precaution, it has been decided to evacuate citizens of Pripyat.” Three hours later, with the aid of 1,200 buses from Kiev, the community of roughly 45,000 turned eerily empty.

Somewhere in the panic and precaution, Soviet authorities learned of Yury’s idyllic spring day video. Moscow aired clips of his film on state television. The communist powers distorted Yury’s truth of the clear landscape and jovial people into a half-truth for the world to see. Da, April 26 was a bright, sunny day. See the local children giggling and romping, the adults toasting and feasting. Yury’s video footage proved all was well for USSR citizens. Or, was it?

In control of our Jeep ride to the Zone almost five years later, this seen-too-much news professional could no longer control his dam of secrecy. Yury stammered with the sobering reality. “The government used my video to say that “Nyet, nyet, nyet, the Chernobyl plant is fine. Everything is fine. That video, it . . . it. . . how you say? It is a black spot on my heart. A black spot on my whole life.”

The civil authorities turned an innocent party into international propaganda. If Sweden hadn’t sounded the alarm, three days after the initial devastation, how long would have the Soviets remained tight-lipped? Authorities held back on the full effects of the radiation contamination for years. Children splashed in streams. Women gathered mushrooms in the forests. Men tilled their farmland.

The Republic’s calculated downplay of the Chernobyl melee cracked open in October 1990 when Byelorussia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pyotr Kravchanka addressed the United Nations General Assembly. “I want to be completely frank with the Assembly,” Mr. Kravchanka said in issuing an appeal for international aid. “The bitter truth is that it is only now, four and a half years later, that we are finally and with tremendous difficulty making a breach in the wall of indifference, silence and lack of sympathy, and for this we ourselves are largely to blame.”

A few weeks later I was invited as a reporter to join a New York-based group delivering three ton of medicine and relief supplies to Belarus hospitals and orphanages. Our host, the Byelorussian Children’s Fund, escorted us throughout this troubled country where more than half of the unseen Chernobyl toxins showered unsuspecting citizens with a blanket of potential disease and death. I grasped the hand of a dying teen and cradled babies no body wanted. Seeing dozens of bald, chemo-sick boys and girls is still tough to form into words.

I sensed the country’s suffocating uneasiness as Yury drove us to the Zone’s checkpoint and armed communist guards herded us into an outdated bus to tour a number of desolate evacuated villages. At one point we ventured within four miles of the mangled energy plant and our cell phone-sized dosimeter soared to indicate dangerous radiation levels—10 times higher than what is considered safe.

I can still hear the haunting creak of dilapidated playground swings. Picture dirt-swept toys and dolls long abandoned in schoolrooms. Drawing close to Chernobyl’s Ground Zero, we met an elderly couple outside their farmhouse. “Why are you still here in this contamination?” I posed. The wife pointed to the sky and scolded me through our interpreter, “Neyt! Neyt! Neyt! We see nothing in the air!”

Denial can work for any of us, until reality snags our heels and hauls us down. An accurate tally of the ill and dead from Chernobyl may never be known—estimates still range from hundreds to hundreds of thousands. As celebrated author Mitch Albom notes, “One day can bend your life.” April 26, 1986, was that day for Yury and countless innocents like him.

Today the United Nations reports, “No established legitimate authority was able to immediately address the situation and provide answers for questions such as: Is it safe to leave the house? Is it safe to drink water? Is it safe to eat local produce?”
Thirty years ago in a Cold War culture, Yury did not know Moscow would manipulate his family-time video. Today we live in a world where employees (politicians, NFL players and more) refuse to submit evidence—delete the files, shred evidence or wipe the data—or become infamous whistle blowers. Was Yury an unknowing pawn on a convoluted global chessboard or merely a dedicated family man just doing his job? Yes. Both.

I imagine feeling radiation betray his own body and watching the same in others only added to Yury’s internal agony. Perhaps he wondered, Am I partially to blame for these hurting kids? Could I have spoken out against the mishandling of my video or alerted the outside world to the truth?

Brave and Resilient Tip #136: Always hold to the unarmed truth.

I cringe as I type. Sitting in that chilly Jeep in early 1991, was Yury attempting to alert the outside world through me?
In his UN plea, representative Kravchanka added this perspective. “The verdict of history has yet to be passed on those in our Republic who . . . hid the truth about the effects of the accident from our people,” the foreign affairs leaders said. “It is difficult to say why they did this, and to disentangle cause from effect: was the deception caused by secrecy, or was the secrecy the result of the deception? Either way, it was inhuman.”

Deception always hurts someone. In the case of the Chernobyl disaster, someone swelled to hundreds of thousands. Countless men, women and children lost homes. Lost hair. Lost lives.

I respect national security issues, but is there ever an appropriate time for governments to sequester the reality of a mistake, a manmade disaster, a tragic oops that injures and kills? Its no wonder distrust festers in the psyche of citizens on every continent.
I have no time for regrets. Neither does Yury, if he is still alive. I’m unclear how anyone can fly numerous times over a fuming nuclear reactor and live years later to tell about it. Of the first-on-the-scene photographers who snapped photos or recorded video on the ground and in the air that fateful Saturday, two are dead from radiation-related disease and one was constantly ill from the Chernobyl exposure for years before dying in a 2015 car accident.

Maybe my silence has propagated Yury’s guilt, widened that dark spot on his heart. I’m truly sorry, Yury. I was so wrapped up in telling the rest of the Chernobyl story that I forgot to tell yours. To your homeland and mine, I say stop the sludge-flinging and blaming and cramming fault under calculated layers of classified deception.

A man who believed that the truth will set you free, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, espoused, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
The Soviet government hid the truth from its unsuspecting citizens and the entire planet, while we sometimes hide the truth from even ourselves. I challenge us all to hold to the unarmed truth and inspire others to do that same.

This one is for you, Yury. May your mind and heart live free. Da. Da. Da.

On April 26, 2016, the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, national foxnews.com published a condensed version of this article by Beth.

Puppy Love

IMG_2225Five weeks ago, I brought home my new puppy girl after a whirlwind 30-hour adventure to Reno and back. My new collie companion is named Ayrabelle (Air-uh-bell), which in Scottish—the home country of collies—means “prayerful . . . beautiful . . . loving.” What a fitting name for this spunky yet gentle pup! Two hours after I met her in the Reno airport, Ayrabelle crossed her paws and fell asleep on my lap during the turbulent flight to Seattle. Doesn’t she look “prayerful”? (Shhh . . . don’t tell any airline folks that I took her out of her soft-sided carrier.) IMG_2109

So much prayer went into my finding Ayrabelle and I am beyond grateful for your prayers after my agonizing loss of Logan. I can hardly believe that he passed six months ago! I plan to train Ayrabelle for puppy therapy to visit hospitals, care facilities, schools, etc. More and more I am sensing the need to give back to others and my community. I know I will have more stories to tell in the months and years ahead.

In the meantime, I want to share a few darn cute photos of Ayrabelle, also affectionately known as Piranha Puppy. Her baby teeth are razor sharp and I feel like my recent vocabulary has reduced to two words that I bark out repeatedly: “No chew.”

IMG_2170Here’s to believing that good things DO come to those who wait. In this process of waiting and searching for the right-fit dog for me, I’ve found greater respect for the lamenting and honesty in the Psalms. David and the other psalmists remind us that it’s okay to grieve and long for better times. Waiting is interwoven in resiliency. “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord, hear my voice . . . I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:1-2, 5).

If you are in an in-between time of waiting for answers to your prayers, take heart in knowing that Ayrabelle, my prayerful pup, is ready to cross her paws for you. Me too.

IMG_2269Brave and Resilient Tip #135: Good things DO come to those who wait!

Hmmm…look who has mud on her lips. Someone was digging in the backyard raised flowerbed where Logan loved to dig.

Let’s Talk

More Double-Bind Examples

Q. Would you give some more examples of a double bind?

A. Let’s Talk! Generally, a double bind is the “shot-myself-in-the-foot” moment when we sabotage ourselves. One example is someone who is drawn to a party lifestyle but suffers with social anxiety. Another example is someone who is lonely and desires friendships, but alienates acquaintances with a critical spirit.

In other words, your choices about what you are doing and what you want CLASH! It can happen when you are a small child or when you are a senior citizen. We can spot that there’s a problem, but sometimes it’s hard for us to see that we ourselves created the problem.

I have long loved Dr. William Glasser’s Reality Therapy questions for self-evaluation. Question #1: What is it that I want or need? Question #2: What is it I am doing (my chosen behavior)? Question #3: Is what I am doing (my chosen behavior) HELPING or HURTING me in getting what I want/need? [the sabotage] Question #4: What do I need to do to make things better? [the problem solving now begins!]

There’s not room in this column to discuss excuses, except to say they are counterproductive. Problem solving begins when we take responsibility for our choices, for they are our chosen behaviors.

There is great news. I am not suggesting you do the problem solving in your own strength. Never do I ever mean to point you in that direction. The deep changes I seek for us all involve this Easter weekend. It’s the new life that comes when we turn to the God of the universe. He takes our dark, broken, and sinful choices and gives us eternal life as we invite His Son into our lives. It’s a real beginning if you have never done that—and then many, many wonderful new changes follow as we ask Him to empower us.

For Deeper Reflection

John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”

Romans 6:4 “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Romans 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in 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

Jostling Our Perspective

There’s nothing like washing clothes in a laundromat to jostle your perspective on the things you take for granted.

Version 2Last week I whipped to the closest coin laundry to wash a couple of dog beds and an old comforter. I was zipping along cramming the bulky items into one of those advertised “big front load washers.” But the door would not latch shut after I swiped my credit card (it’s still called a coin laundry, but plastic payment was a faster choice). Rats!

That’s when I glanced over at a man with thick glasses at a side table drinking a Fanta® orange soda. With a Disney movie blaring from the mini screen above the dryers, I approached this stranger in my frustration.

“Do you work here?” I quickly inquired. “No,” he mumbled, continuing to stare at his magazine.

I rolled my eyes and partially huffed back to the broken washer, when this man’s voice pierced my irritated mood. “That’s why I always use the top loaders,” he offered. Now someone tells me! I bemoaned to myself. I found the coin laundry’s phone number online via my cell phone and talked to the real owner about my credit card charge for a machine I couldn’t use.

That’s when I really noticed the petite man. My eyes followed him as he shuffled past me to another washing machine, sliding and leaning on his wooden cane and a rolling laundry cart. Standing tall, he may have reached my middle ribs.

Instantly, a wave of humility surged over my annoyed attitude about finding another washing machine to use. The owner would refund me, but I didn’t care anymore. All I could think about was this disabled man quietly washing his clothes, sipping an orange soda. I wondered if he returned here week after week. Me? I’d only be back to wash another cumbersome dog bed.

Between my washer and dryer trips, I retreated to my vehicle, but watched the diminutive man through the front window return to his spot at the side table. Painstakingly, he folded his white tube socks and blue towels. His cane resting on his laundry cart.

There’s nothing like washing clothes at a laundromat to jostle your perspective on the things you take for granted.

What everyday people or life circumstances have nudged you to count your blessings lately?

Brave and Resilient Tip #134: Stay attuned to the everyday people who can jostle your perspective for the good.

Looking Too Far Ahead?

IMG_1183Sometimes I find myself pressing to know how the future unfolds. I want assurances that everything will work out according to my wouldn’t-it-be-grand hopes. Maybe you can relate. I know hobbits Sam and Frodo can.

Near the end of the movie The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, buddies Sam and Frodo are weak-kneed after battling everything from grotesque little Gollum (how can we ever forget “Preh-shhhhussss”?) to that massive, deadly spider. Battered and famished, the two companions reach the top of a ridge overlooking a valley swarming with enemy troops.

Across the horizon loom the flaming fires of Mount Doom—their long-anticipated destination. Sensing that Frodo is on the edge of giving up, Sam encourages his friend: “Come on, let’s just make it down the hill for starters.”

That’s what our steady God says to us when we’re drained and dismayed. “Let’s not look too far ahead; let’s just make it down this hill for starters.”

If you’re catching your breath at the top of the hill, linger a bit longer. Cast your eyes from the swarming obstacles ahead straight into the eyes of Jesus. The Bible’s Hebrews 12:2 encourages us: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. . . .” A race that was won one hill and valley at a time.

Brave and Resilient Tip #133: Eyes of faith resist looking too far ahead.

Let’s Talk

After the One Exercise for the New Year . . .

Q. Do we focus on the one thing until it’s completed and then choose another one thing? What are your thoughts about when to move on to other goals?

A. Let’s Talk! Changes are stubborn, so I trust you tied your first goal to a good hitching post! Until you see success for several weeks, I would hesitate to focus on your next New Year’s change. But! It could be helpful to start a list and begin to prioritize your “wish list” of goals if that thought doesn’t overwhelm you.

I have found that most of us resist change with every fiber of our being. We say we want to make changes and conquer many goals, but changes can die hard.

So, if your goal was an exercise program, is it really, really at a time and place you won’t resist? Is your goal tied to something else that you do regularly so you’ll have better chance of success? If your goal was more study time, is the time in a slot that doesn’t get slammed with other activities? You get the gist of how we sabotage our own desires.!

Another barrier could even be taking on another goal too soon. For example, if you chose exercise as your “one thing,” but then you throw in a new diet change, notice the result. If the second goal enhanced the first goal and didn’t discourage you (as in too much too soon)—hooray. Your second goal wasn’t too soon.

So, to answer your question: Watch your heart and watch for success. If your heart gets discouraged and you are not experiencing success, you’ve added a new goal too soon. If not, you are right on track making helpful changes to your life.

For Deeper Reflection

Is our gaze on the goal or on God? Our success comes from Him!

The enemy of our souls would wish to discourage us with even the pursuit of GOOD goals.

Joshua 1:8-9  “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

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


You Do the Math

I admit that yesterday was not my best day for dealing with a discount airfare company. After several attempts to book a flight online, I called the company’s customer service number, and well, I lost my patience. I tried to remain calm and even-paced in working through the overseas language issues and essentially being told a lie, but I could feel my words intensifying with a sharp tone. “This is not working for me. This is not good business. I’ve already wasted 45 minutes . . .” I barked before harshly hanging up.

I felt a check in my spirit as I was winding up to tell the ticket agent how incompetent his company was, but I ignored the pestering nudge. Instead of bridling my tongue, I let it gallop across a pasture of justifications. How dare this reputable company brush me off? I have a right to fill out all my address and credit card info, press “agree and book,” and have everything work smoothly. Blah. Blah. Maybe you’ve swirled in a similar expectation game where your words morphed with sharp edges.

Recently a close friend shared her principle of using words and a kind demeanor to ADD to someone’s life vs. SUBTRACT from this person. Yesterday, I did not ADD to the customer service person’s life with my impatience and tough-girl tongue. I regret that I SUBTRACTed from his day and perhaps his favor with the boss. Sigh. Today is a new day to be more intentional about the beneficial rule of ADD and SUBTRACT. Math was not my favorite subject in school, but this type of buildup or teardown equation counts for peaceful relationships and a joyful countenance no matter what circumstances jostle into our days (even malfunctioning websites).

“May the words from my mouth and the thoughts from my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my defender” Psalm 19:14 (God’s Word).

Wouldn’t it be wild if we had to use a calculator at day’s end to ADD up the positive, helpful words we thought and spoke to others? One thousand one, one thousand two . . . .

Brave and Resilient Tip #132: Make your words count each day for ADDing to others’ lives.