Let’s Talk

Double Bind

Q. You explained why changes are so difficult. So why make changes at all?

A. Let’s Talk! Thankfully there are areas of our life that don’t require change. But, for the areas that need change – and we don’t make those needed changes – it is called insanity. Seriously, the much-acclaimed definition of insanity is repeating the same old behaviors but expecting different results.

In other words, if you do “same old, same old,” you will get “same old, same old.” For there to be a different outcome, one of the variables must change. Ouch! Not fun! An example of a double bind is: it feels difficult to make a change, but it feels bad not to change. This is also called stuck.

Your needed changes may come in the areas of buying a different home or home repair or the relationships inside your home. It may be changing jobs or changes in your routine. Maybe your changes are even more personal. If you are a list-maker, this would be a good time to write down those pros and cons concerning your needed changes and begin to sort out the problem. Next, you may want to process your changes with a trusted friend or counselor.

You will want to listen to your heart as well. What do you have the most peace about as you change various things in your life? Peace is a great directional indicator!

For Deeper Reflection

1 Corinthians 14:33 “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace…”

 Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken…”

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ”

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

Afraid + Brave = Courage

Gulp. Being double-dog dared by your two older brothers ups the ante when it comes to courage. I remember in my elementary school days mustering bravery to squelch my inner terror. My brothers and their friends seemed to have no fear. But me? I’d sit on the edge of the barn loft, peering down into the pile of loose, billowy hay below. “Jump, scared cat, jump! Come on, chicken. Jump!” Gulp. It didn’t matter if the boys were kicking loose and sailing into the thick blanket of prairie hay. My buns clung to the edge of that wooden beam as I envisioning sure injury and possible death.

iPhoto Library“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do,” American World War I fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker once declared. “There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” We actually need fear for courage to exist? I certainly understand the hesitancies in life to try new things and press beyond what we consider our capabilities and limits. You know, the speaking in front of an audience, giving birth, getting a colonoscopy, going back to school, eating boiled okra, changing careers, moving to another state. We’ve all got scenarios that make us squeamish or hold us back from taking risks.

Merriam-Webster defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” That sums up my childhood days of double-dog dares and talking myself through the risk of free falling into that cushy hay pile. If I recall, I finally summoned enough “mental and moral strength” on my third visit to the edge of the hayloft. I needed to watch the boys jump and come up laughing, not crying. I needed to jump for myself and not them.

“Jump, scared cat, jump!” I braved the hayloft plunge and my fresh courage took me back to the ledge to jump and squeal in delight another time or two that day. Once I overcame that particular fear, my bravery, mixed with common sense, emboldened my courage for other life adventures. Like starting this website and writing this blog to hundreds of you. 🙂

Afraid + Brave = Courage. You ready to double-dog dare your bravery on today?

 

Brave and Resilient Tip #95: Take a risk. Let fear plus bravery be your guide to courage.

 

 

Let’s Talk

Comparing Yourself to Others 

Q. Why do I keep comparing myself to others?

A. Let’s Talk! We are always editing, don’t you think?! Comparisons whirl in our thinking about “how we measure up” starting as early as infants and toddlers. Watch them grab toys from one another!!!! “MINE” is a huge word for young . . . and old . . . alike.

Most of us have a natural and automatic sensitivity to what we perceive we lack. That’s why Thanksgiving is so important for our hearts and minds. Giving thanks is the key to being content with whatever lack we feel we might have. As we give thanks, we see in our mind’s eye the many others who have even MORE maladies than we do, if we have eyes to see. The perspective spills out like the straw horn of plenty on the table as we give thanks. Counting our blessings soothes us and even corrects our vision like few things do. That’s when we “get it” and experience a true “ah-ha” moment.

A second remedy for the ailment of comparisons is to pray earnestly for those suffering around us. It takes our minds off “us” – that pesky joy-stealer called self. What are you thinking about right now? Others who need your prayers and your blessings, or, your own needs? Isn’t it glorious that we can choose to change our thoughts? I am thankful we can!

 For Deeper Reflection

 Philippians 4:4–7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

1 Timothy 2: 1 “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men . . . . ”

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.

Our Not-Quite-Yet Season

IMG_2494Some of us bristle a bit at the words, “Oh, it’s just a season you’re in.” Hmmm . . . those words are meant to be an encouragement, but what if your season feels more like an eternity? I get that. I’m kind of in a longer-than-anticipated “season” myself with some health issues, and trust me, some days the weariness of waiting for a fresh season of vitality presses me to the brink of wanting
to fold.

So what keeps us going when a particularly trying season just never seems to end? For me, I have to turn my focus off my woes and onto words of encouragement that won’t disappoint. When it comes to a promising perspective on seasons, I particularly like King Solomon’s wise words in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (NLT).

These words give me hope. Eventually whatever season we’re in will end. The troublesome job, finances, health, relationship—you name it—will at some point shift. We will either adjust or bust as we wait. The good news is that adjusting can mean just a miniscule change in our thinking. Perhaps it’s just a slight nudge in realizing that we are stronger than we think. A little course correction in asking for help. A minor fiddling to replace our fears with facts. A simple modification of opening our eyes to the “not yet” instead of languishing in the “not ever.”

We have rainy seasons, baseball seasons, and the holiday season. I sometimes wish we’d celebrate a Not Yet season. It’s already on our calendars as long as we’re still breathing. Not quite yet. I like the sound of that season we’re in. How about you?

Brave & Resilient Tip #46: Seasons do come and go. 

Let’s Talk

Changing Seasons of Our Lives

Q. What about the changes of new seasons of our lives – how do I navigate that?

A. Let’s Talk! Change is in the air, literally! With the arrival of fall, we are reminded of the four seasonal changes AND the seasons of our own lives. Are you in the spring of your life or somewhere between fall and winter? One of our readers left a comment about trying to help an elderly friend cope with her season of life. There is a lot to process “to be okay” in the season of life you in which you find yourself. Every season has its challenges. Those raising young children find their challenges exhausting and overwhelming in our culture. Senior citizens face failing health, financial uncertainty, and losses including the death of their spouse, friends, and even their own death. Those in a season in between these two have mammoth challenges for finding meaning in their work world and relationships, their mark, their place, their identity.

A small percent of the population even experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. But, a bottom line is: Are you going to choose to let the season of your year or the season of your years dictate your mood? Your mental health? Your joy?

I wanted someone in the spring season of life to share a bit – and thought of my daughter, Blythe Daniel (http://www.facebook.com/momstogether). She is a mom of three small children and she is in her early 40’s. Overwhelming. When I talked to her today she was in between caring for her children and herself with some things that could slow her down with her own body and needs. I thought it was time for her to share!  Blythe, tell us a little about your “season”:

“Thanks, Mom. I think the word I feel about the season is perseverance. Persevering when I don’t see the results I’d like to see some days. Trusting that God holds us close even when we feel like he’s far away and we have more “to do” than we have hours in the day. There are days when I feel like all I do is pick up toys, face piles of laundry, dishes, meals, and more. But I know that this “season” I’m in is very short-lived. Soon the kids will be preparing their own meals, doing their own laundry, and out with their friends and I will be wishing these moments back in my life. Why can’t we be content in the season we’re in?

We seem to always want to peek around the corner to see if it looks better over there, and step our toes into it and catch a breath of fresh air. But what if God is reminding us that he hasn’t put us there yet? If we skip ahead, we will miss what is in this season. The smiles, the giggles, the hugs. If you look up persevere in the dictionary, you find: “continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” That’s it! We are supposed to stay on the course even if we think it’s not going to lead to success or reward or anything that would signify glorious. Have patience and know that God will be with you in all seasons and he will use your current season in your life in ways you never thought possible. Like a child, don’t we usually run to have our needs met when we’re in pain, uncomfortable, or don’t know how to do something? Oh, that we would be this type of person who is patient and pursues others so that they would find someone who truly wants to be “in season” with them. This is my favorite song right now that I listen to several times a day. From Matt Maher’s song “Lord I Need You,” comes this: “Where grace is found is where you are, Where you are, Lord, I am free, Holiness is Christ in me.”

For Deeper Reflection

2 Timothy 4: 2 “. . . be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Please share your season of life with us in the Comments section and we’ll post!

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

What Drives You?

Q. How I can be free from allowing my performance to dictate my value as a person?

A. Let’s Talk! Sadly, our culture’s view of performance dictates our self-esteem and feelings of success; and is a false measure of what matters. It’s a trap with glitter on it, and it’s a challenge to get free from these messages of our culture and our past . . . but let’s do it! 

When (not IF) you fail at something – what are the messages that you play internally? Do you berate yourself? Do you repeat hurtful messages passed down to you from family or friends? That’s a pretty big sign that performance matters . . . too much. When we fail at something and we begin to beat up on ourselves, our performance not only mattered too much but also dictates our worth.

Sample messages that have to die include “You are such a zero.” “You can’t do anything right.” Can you replace those messages with the truth? For example, “I failed at that task, but I am not a failure. I can try again. My performance has nothing to do with my value as a person.”

If we don’t settle this issue in our own lives, we will pass along that trap to others. Family or friends will feel you measuring their lives and their results. They will sense your approval or disapproval of them based on their performance. It is an unloving intruder in relationships. In reality it is a spillover from your own trap; so you need to repair the well. Here’s an exercise: describe yourself. Did you use performance words? Oops.

How do we really matter? Is it by the things we do (performance) – or something else? My something else is that the God of the universe gave me life. I matter to Him. Psalm 139 describes my birth and yours, as well as how much we matter. I’d like to think I look to Him for my value, although it took decades. You might say I am a recovering performance junkie. Think about guarding your heart for those performance messages dictated in TV commercials and for the drivenness worshipped in our culture. Are you willing to consider that success is being in the center of God’s will?

What’s more important to you, the outside (performance) or the inside (your heart, your spirit)? Which one are you feeding? The one you feed will be the stronger one. You do get to choose.

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 139: 13,16 [though the whole chapter is amazing], “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb . . . Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them . . . .”

Jeremiah 1: 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you . . . .”

Ephesians 1: 3 – 6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him, in love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved . . . .”

 

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

Talking About Difficult Subjects
With Loved Ones

Q.  What are some ways to discuss difficult subjects with my family and friends?

A. Let’s Talk! We always want to share truth with others, but that is often challenging to do, to hear and receive at times. But, there is a mental outline I’d love to share with you as you make that brave choice.

Like many things, we learn best from mistakes. I had a doozie of a mistake years ago, but the outcome was The Sandwich outline the Lord gave me that I shall gladly pass along to you. The doozie was a parent-teacher conference that went south. Caving to time pressure, I shared with a mother the concerns I had for her child at a high rate of speed. Her response was, “Doesn’t he do anything right?” I was halted in my tracks, deeply grieved for my speedy delivery void of empathy. I knew better and apologized profusely to this mother. That night I cried out for God to show me a way to better share difficult material. The mental download was The Sandwich.

Picture a big burger. Let’s say the meat itself is the challenging message we want to give, but we first start the conversation with the top bun—sprinkled with as many sesame seeds (or honest kudos) as possible. Top bun language yields sincere sentences in soft words that will preface the difficult message. In the example of the parent-teacher conference, I should have said: “Your son has brought much joy to the classroom and is strong in these ways . . . and I also need to share a behavior of concern.”

Then, you slide down to the bottom bun and say something soft like, “but I know we can work together to make things better.” Then I should have asked if I could share the concern with her. Yes, that was the purpose for the meeting, but it is more respectful to ask. I have never had anyone refuse my sharing a “concern” when I asked if I could share it. That’s when you share the concern, or the meat of the sandwich, after which you can reiterate the bottom bun message.

This is just one way to share a hard comment in a loving but firm way. Said another way: tell the absolute truth in loving-kindness. The message is hard enough, but a smooth delivery helps it go down better!

 

For Deeper Reflection

Ephesians 4:15  “. . . but, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow in all aspects of
Him into Him . . . .”

1 Corinthians 13:1 – 7  “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

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

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.

 

 

Let’s Talk

Harmony vs. Discord

Q. How can we get along better in our families and close friendships regardless of differences? I long for harmony, but discord is more prevalent because of our differences.

 

 A. Let’s Talk! Our hearts were built to love harmony, but we do live among others with great diversity of thought and life choices. Let’s explore how we can navigate that kind of music playing in our immediate surroundings!

Of course, we want people to think like we think. It’s undeniably more comfortable, but it is not realistic. What if differences among family members and friends help prepare us to love those outside our circle? If we can live well with those we know well—we can handle bigger differences at work, school, in our neighborhoods, etc.

So, how can we be okay with differences in our family or close circle? First, let’s go back a few columns. Remember we talked about how we can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. If we try to change others, it is called control. Ugh. It’s an awful feeling to be either the controller or the controlled one. You can only control your side of a difference of opinion. With that out of the way, you are then in a neutral place to ask for clarification, just so you know for sure the other person’s stand on issues. Then you can ask if you can share your views, not to change your loved one’s views, but just so your position is heard and understood.

Next you are in the classic place where you can ask if you can “agree to disagree.” It is even helpful to say, “I am sharing my beliefs so you will know where I stand, but my purpose is not to persuade you to share my position.” That eases the control tension. “Healthy” families should be able to disagree and be okay. If we can’t disagree openly, then we are stuffing and that is unhealthy. Many families even have family meetings deciding on language to use to respectfully disagree.

Unconditional love is choosing to love someone REGARDLESS of differences or blemishes others may have. Jesus is about the only example of this in its truest form, but He compels us to choose it as a way to live among imperfect humans. Isn’t it totally refreshing when we know that someone cares for us whether we mess up or not? It is a great gift one can give to one’s children, spouse, friends, or world.

I can hear you asking, “But what if I am ‘right?’” My answer is: So, you believe that being right is bigger or more important than the relationship? Is that the message you believe and are sending to your family or, is the relationship more important? Can we love them anyway, even if we believe they are “wrong?” Are you miserable because of these people in your life? A peaceful heart has everything to do with choosing harmony in spite of differences. Does it mean we have given up our principles? No, it means we are choosing to be gracious. Do you hear a new harmony possibly? I sure welcome your thoughts on this discord vs. harmony topic.

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

 

For Deeper Reflection

 Proverbs 15: 16-17 “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it.”

Proverbs 17:1 “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.”

Proverbs 25:24 “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”

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.

 

 

Let’s Talk

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 5

What If I Am the Family Bully?

 

Q. Could you please talk more about the dynamics of bullying? I am the bully in the family.

A. Let’s Talk!  Thank you so much for disclosing. Let’s see if we can uncover some truth to set you free. It is common in familiar circles like families for someone to be the corrector-in-chief. Communication is often disrespectful with eye-rolling or “the Look,” teasing, name calling, and many other hurtful messages including raging and disrespectful punishing (as opposed to discipline). It is such a trap because you may mean to be helpful, but the effect is damage to your important relationships. It is a misuse of authority to disrespect others when you are correcting or instructing. Let’s talk about other ways to accomplish being a leader without bullying.

First let’s talk about owning your bully behaviors. An idea is to have a family meeting and self-disclose (as you did with this column) that you see what you have been doing is “bullying.” Share your deep regret for harm done. “I have been wrong to ____. My behavior has been disrespectful and very hurtful, and I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” You then need to build in some ways to change your behaviors so that you don’t revert back to the bullying. Some adult bullies have asked their children to make a hand signal or another cue when the bullying shows up again. Hopefully the correctors of your bullying will be kind and respectful. It is a good thing for families to keep seeking better ways to communicate.

Coercion is a first cousin to bullying. And, under most forms of coercion is fear. You may want to self-evaluate and see if coercion and fear are issues for you. Many people use coercion with people close to them for fear that if things aren’t done a certain way that bad things will happen. We don’t want to ever let fear drive us or our behaviors. This is a huge issue for your own mental/emotional/spiritual health. Many times I end my column with “Ask God to show you” and that is the case here. Ask Him to reveal any fear(s) in your life. You don’t want that stronghold. Moreover, ask Him to show you all of the issues in your choice of bullying behaviors; and ask Him to replace those behaviors with loving correction and instruction.

I hope you are not hearing me just say, “Quit it!” because I am not. It is a journey to make life changes and not an overnight destination. In summary, your disclosure that you are a bully is a huge first step. Kudos to you!! A second step is sharing with family or a wider circle. Thirdly, this change involves replacing the bullying behaviors with other more desirable behaviors. Hey, you are moving forward.

You as the parent or adult really can set the standard for loving, firm, and respectful leadership—void of bullying behaviors. Our world has become so full of the fruit of bullying such as verbal abuse that it almost seems “normal.” It is not the norm. Here’s the real model for us: Jesus had all authority, but was not a doormat, nor was He a bully. Ask Him to grant you a renewed leadership style that blesses all those around you. THAT is the pattern we all long for in our relationships and everyday lives.

For Deeper Reflection

 Colossians 3:8 – “But now, you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

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

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.

 

 

Let’s Talk

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 4     

What About the Family?  

 

Q. Could you please talk more about staying brave when people are bullying you in your own family? My teen is our bully!

 A. Let’s Talk! This is a tender subject, but it is good to talk. Thanks for sharing about your child. I am going to throw out some thoughts and hope they connect with your situation. I will speak in generalities since I don’t know the specifics. Many times a child bully or teen bully in a home is actually “acting out” what is happening to him/her. Is it possible that your child is being bullied at school or in the neighborhood? Remember the principle of patterning [repeating what is being done to them]? Moreover, sometimes children find it a shameful incident to be bullied and so won’t tell – and sometimes they have been threatened not to tell.

We have talked in earlier Let’s Talk conversations that it is important to “look under” the behavior. Does your child have some anger or hurt that is stuffed or buried? What we know about every behavior is that there is a reason or backstory for it. Sometimes we just need a little help exposing the reason(s). There IS a reason your child is choosing bully behaviors.

Here’s another interesting sidebar piece of information. Bullying in families always feels personal, but most of the time it is not. The hurtful behavior is about them and not about you. Secondly, sometimes the victims are the scapegoats because they are “safe” emotionally to the venting member of the family. It’s sort of like hitting a backboard to practice your tennis swing. You are just a convenient target. This does not make bullying okay – I am just sharing various possible elements underneath the behavior.

Do we ignore the bullying? No. Ignoring the bullying enables unhealthy behaviors to continue. It’s like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the living room. But, how does one start taking out the huge elephant? Telling your teen bully to just stop bullying is not wise. You want the bullying to stop, but don’t we need to address what’s under the bullying even more? A defiant bully will sternly resist an authoritative statement by you to “just quit it.” The result will be something like a tug of war without a rope.

Talking about what is under his/her behavior might be a wiser place to start. Here is a sample: “I am very concerned about your choice to bully members of our family. Could we talk about what you feel that you need? We want to help you. Your heart matters to us. You can try to share with us as your family, or we can seek counseling together to help us navigate this disrespect and anger . . . .”

What if YOU are the bully? That’s for next week! If you have questions about bullying, I would love to hear from you. Let’s Talk!
You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.” (Actually, the whole chapter is inspiring.)

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.