Let’s Talk

Reframing Fearful Thoughts

– by Dr. Helen McIntosh

Q. I made a list of my thoughts and feelings that are stuck—what do I do now? How do I reframe and become brave and resilient in my thinking?  I think fear is the main thing on my list.

A. Thank you for sharing this. As you have already discovered, fear is the total opposite of courage or bravery. Fear is also the opposite of resilient. There is little or no rebounding when there is fear. We have all heard a lot about “facing our fears” but that’s not enough. We’ve heard to “just get back on the horse,” but how?  The exercise of reframing actually accomplishes these two things and more. To look at a list of what we are thinking brings clarity almost immediately. It can reveal a pattern of the issues of our heart.  It’s more information. Some well-meaning friends may say, “oh, don’t feel that way,” but they don’t realize that making that list is part of the healing process.

The next step is an action step in which you take each thought that is on your list and ask a question. If you are a person of faith, you ask God to show you “what is this thought or feeling about?” He will download paragraphs to your heart! You will want to write down the insights that will follow. You will have such a new understanding about the root of your fear(s). If you are not a person of faith, then you can ask yourself, “What is the truth?” and camp there.*

One of my favorite examples of reframing took place at the public school where I served as counselor. On the first day of school one year, there were several young boys who were having anxiety or panic attacks because they didn’t think they would make it home on the bus. I did not tell them not to feel that way. We made a mental list on their left hand [they were not readers or writers yet] of all their concerns. Then on their right hand I listed 10 things like: there will be two men on the bus, they will have phones, I have a nametag, etc.  I told them that the key was to stay on the right hand side. Every time they got scared, they needed to camp on the truth side. I saw these boys hours later in the cafeteria, waving their right hands at me with victory smiles! Write me about yours. We have tons more to talk about . . . .

For Deeper Reflection

* You, too, could ask God to show you His Truth. That’s how so many people have come to explore an understanding of the Creator—by asking–and He shows up. He is waiting for a conversation with you, but won’t force His way into your life. He created you and wants the best for your life. Ask Him to make Himself known to you.

~ “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV).

~ “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Psalm 86:5, NIV).

~ “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18, NIV).

• Read John 8:31-32 in the Bible’s New Testament. How can the truth of God Himself set you free in life?


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.




  1. Pat Cornelison says

    Dr. McIntosh is a wise and faithful woman of God that I am blessed to call friend! Love hearing her words of encouragement!

    • Thank you sooooo much! You are a true definition of “Love” – always thinking the best! Love you!