Let’s Talk

Denial

Q. Could you please share some thoughts on denial?

A. Let’s Talk! Denial comes in many subtle but destructive forms when something in our lives is too painful or messy to deal with that we choose instead to go to a place of minimizing, ignoring, fantasy thinking, or rebellion.

Denial is one of numerous defense mechanisms that attempt to help block out or lessen one’s present difficulty. Layers of denial then begin to build, and the person in difficulty becomes out of touch with where his or her car left the track. It’s a slippery slope of one failed attempt after another to deal with one’s present reality.

You’ve heard of a house of cards, and this is what a system of denial looks like: one lie on top of another, one misdeed on top of another, etc. Maybe the beginning was minimizing, saying to oneself, This isn’t so bad. Maybe it was ignoring poor choices and failing to assume personal responsibility for wrongs done. When one’s house of cards is falling, fantasy thinking reigns.

The way out of this house of cards is the opposite of a lattice of lies: it’s truth. Facing the truth. If you are a friend or a family member of someone in denial, the kindest and most loving gift is to help give truth—void of anger and condemnation. On some level, the truth will bring great relief. It takes enormous energy to keep up a house of cards. But on another level, it is also painful for denial to be exposed, even though it is the right thing to face the truth. Until denial is exposed, a person can’t fully move forward.

Resisting instruction in life, which is a type of rebellion, is also a form of denial we’ll talk about next week. Denial has its consequences also, one of which is poor self-esteem. I leave you with the below verse to think on until we chat again.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 15: 22 “He who resists instruction despises his own soul.”

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

Fear in the Waiting Room

Q. Why does fear show up when we are waiting for something or someone?

A. Let’s Talk! Fear is an unwelcome guest in the waiting room of life as we face unknowns, for sure! Fear is never invited and stays longer than we’d like. There are ways to lessen its grip on us, though. Fear feels really big, but it is really a “lack of.” Let’s do talk.

Fear shows up when there is a lack of trust, a lack of information, a lack of faith at the moment, or a lack of remembering what’s true. We do have a choice when fear creeps in. We can let fear consume and control us, or we can choose to think on all the things we do know that are true about the situation. We can change that channel!

I had a fear test days ago myself. My little dog, Millie, underwent extensive oral surgery and the waiting-on-the-vet-call was excruciating. At one point in the LONG wait I realized I had let fear control my thoughts. I had let my guard down. But then I reached for my sword of truth (my Bible) and the darkness faded immediately. The grip released. I remembered these truths: Millie was in competent human hands, God was there and could handle any outcomes, and I did not want fear to rule me. When I changed the channel to what I could bank on as true, fear lost.

We can defeat fears that bully their way into our thoughts and emotions. Let’s talk more next week about ways to counter fear as we wait.

For Deeper Reflection

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . . .”

Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

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

Seeking Clarity in Pain

Q. How can I better deal with emotional pain during chronic physical pain?

A. Let’s Talk! We can experience emotional pain without physical pain, but physical pain nearly always brings a level of emotional pain. Of course, emotional pain varies, depending on the length of physical pain and its intensity. It’s totally within the normal range to have these emotions . . . but not healthy to hold
onto them.

So, while emotional angst is normal, what is a next step for helping our emotions while we are still suffering physically? Seeking clarity is always a great place to start. Untangling the dark tangles is a reasonable goal – to list and even separate out our struggles if possible. When the emotional tangle is still in one big wad, there is no clarity.

One of my favorite exercises is to be still before God and ask Him to illuminate and name all of the issues in my dark wad. Then I write down what gets identified. There’s encouraging victory in calling emotional issues by name! Examples are grief, depression, anger, or self-pity.

If this practice is new for you, keep persevering to listen to Him and to your own heart. God longs to unlock unhealthy strongholds in our lives. Really.

Next comes the opportunity to reframe and recalculate. You’re probably quite familiar with Siri or other GPS guides that correct your wrong turns with, “recalculating.” We want to do the same thing when we have gained some light on a dark emotion. After reframing, recalibrating, and recalculating, we can move forward better. We are wiser about what’s going on, and have warded off a heap of discouragement just knowing the issue(s) of our heart. Bite-size pieces are easier to chew on.

I always want to encourage you to not go at this journey alone. God longs to clarify, but has a lot of folks on this earth able to help us too. Do be careful, though, because sometimes well-meaning friends can make it worse. One example is for a friend to say, “Don’t feel that way!” Remember that when we finally can name what we are feeling, much truth is underneath—almost like panning for gold. Let’s seek the courage to dig.

For Deeper Reflection

Habakkuk 3:17-18Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be nofruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

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

Preparing Emotionally as We Age

Q. How do we prepare emotionally as our bodies age?

A. Let’s Talk! Preparing for advancing age is very much like preparing for a storm! There are some warning signs and then some provisions are made. Then you navigate as best you can, using the resources you have gathered.

I recently noticed in a coastal storm that the palm trees didn’t move as the powerful winds assaulted them. They remained stationary. The palm leaves looked like a blender with the fronds going in every direction, but the trunk was perfectly still. Emotionally, that’s what I want to do and be like as I move through aging myself: I long to be so rooted and grounded by His streams of water that I won’t bend, wither, or dither!

I’ve said a bunch of times to friends that I want to be okay, no matter what circumstances I am in, though I want to be transparent that I am in a challenge and even share my emotions at that time. So, let’s think HONEST and let’s think choosing the ok button. Let’s go over this.

Here’s the cool part concerning emotions: we can CHOOSE joy anyway. We can choose courage anyway. We can choose many other emotions to overrule our circumstances. Now, I am not suggesting stuffing or masking—we are just choosing to rest in healthy places emotionally.

Depression is so common, for example, as changes come to the body. But we can get medical help, counseling, and support as we recognize the signs, so we don’t stay in an emotionally unhealthy place longer than we should.

What are your warning signs? Are you depressed? What provisions have you made? What are your resources? Are you standing alone, or do you have a support system? We can choose to guard our hearts and age well in our emotions and our bodies.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Psalm 1:3 “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 23:1-3 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

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

More Questions on Depression

Q. How do you delineate between medical/biochemical depression and situational depression (loss of loved one, etc.)? 

A. Let’s Talk! Physiology symptoms (medical/biochemical) result from emotional exhaustion, another term used for depression. Something difficult first happens in your mental and emotional life—be it a loss, an event, a circumstance, or situation—and as this difficulty persists over time, there will be a negative effect on your body. This is why it is so important to hear your own self-talk and resolve your internal and emotional issues as soon as possible. We’ve talked before that we can only work on our own issues, not somebody else’s part in our story. We’ve also talked about those pesky hidden expectations that need to GO! Our focus is on learning what is stressing us out and getting help.

Q. When can we know when depression is serious and needs outside intervention?

A. The cumulative effect of unresolved issues is what leads to more serious levels of depression. A serious level would be when your issues have become life-altering by affecting your relationships, job, and general ability to manage your life. Minor depression and major depression charts are online demonstrating that when issues persist over time, more and more serious areas of your life and body will be affected. Hopefully you will know when your symptoms are outside the normal range. But, listen to loved ones who say they are concerned by changes they see. Sometimes friends and loved ones notice our mood changes before we do.

Q. How do we get help for our thoughts? Friends, Scripture, dreams, counselors?

A. All of the above can bring truth to set you free! God longs to bring comfort and help for your heart, if you ask for it. So, as you journal or make charts or are just quiet—you will get some truth poured into your mind and heart (and you know it wasn’t you thinking it up). Or, a friend can drop a needed word into your thinking. Or, you may pick up reading material or hear a song that serves as a key. If your depression has persisted longer than six weeks, I do encourage you to also think about seeking professional counseling in addition to your new skills of paying attention to your thoughts.

For Deeper Reflection

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

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 It Go

The passing comment slapped me unexpectedly. The words wildly twisted in my mind, then plunked with a thud. What did she mean by that? Is she miffed at me? What did I do to elicit her harsh attitude? I agonized over a comeback with my own shrill words, but chose to stifle my tongue. By the next day, I thought I had moved on from the verbal lashing, but I kept rehearsing the caustic conversation in my head.

photoI admit that I struggle with letting things go. Some days I’m like my friends’ German Shepherds locked in a tooth-grip battle over the same Frisbee. Only I wrestle in a tug of war with my mind and heart.

Last week on a visit with a close college friend, we talked about letting people’s disappointing actions or inactions slide off our lives. My long-time friend is wired more like Teflon®, and well, I’m more of sponge. She quickly deflects rude comments and behaviors and I tend to absorb and mull over them. (Okay, actually I’m known to stew and percolate over offenses.) But as my friend and I talked about learning to fend off bothersome situations and conversations, I realized how much these experiences can weigh us all down and trap us in an emotional wrangle.

I recently listened to young friend sing along to the popular “Let It Go” song from the movie Frozen. I resonate most with the lyrics: “It’s funny how some distance Makes everything seem small And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all . . . Let it go Let it go.”

So those icy comments and bitterly cold moods from others? A little distance and a fresh perspective are meant to teach us to let life’s stressors glance off us. In time, those mind-churning gridlock tugs will melt into things that seem small after all.

Brave and Resilient Tip #62: Learn to let go of things . . . one annoying moment at a time.