Colorado Life Coach: Jesus In The Janitor’s Closet

I pictured the closet.

It was dark inside, so from the outside, I couldn’t see anything.

As I moved closer, I could make out the shape of a baby. You know how babies pull their legs up under their bottoms? The baby only had on a diaper, and was the cutest thing!

As I moved closer to the closet, I could tell someone was holding the baby.

I looked around the closet: dirty water in a pail, mops, rags, trash.

I wasn’t literally standing near the closet. You see, I almost died the day I was born and my parents called their priest. He baptized me in the janitor’s closet at the hospital. For most of my life, I’ve felt like a bucket of need. I didn’t understand where it came from until I studied attachment theory.

A healthy attachment is crucial for relational and emotional security. My attachment was disrupted because I had to spend my first 8 days of life at Children’s hospital without my parents. There’s more to it than that, but I believe this caused anxiety in my life.

In my early 40’s I attended a healing ministry for several weeks. Part of this experience included each participant asking Jesus to show us where he was when difficult events happened in our lives. My mind went to the janitor’s closet. I related to the trash, the dirty water, the bucket (of need, in my case).

I asked Jesus where he was and I saw the closet. Then I saw the baby–it was me.

Someone was holding me. It was him!

He held me against his chest and stroked his hand from the top of my head, down my back, and around my bottom. Then I realized he was speaking to me. It’s OK. You’re OK. I’m right here. You’re going to be OK.

Suddenly I realized why that scene impacted me so much.

Whenever I felt anxious, I wanted to curl up and have Bob run his hand from the top of my head and down my back. I wanted him to tell me everything was going to be OK.

I wanted him to be Jesus for me.

I finally understood that Jesus had been with me from the start. He never left me alone. He knew I’d feel afraid and he was there assuring me I’d be OK.

Now when I feel anxious and Bob holds me like that, I feel Jesus reassuring me and I calm down.

Jesus met me in the janitor’s closet, he’s been with me every moment of my life, and he’ll never leave me.

If you’d like help dealing with difficult issues from your past that still impact you today, click here.

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.



Colorado Life Coach: Good in, Bad out

My boundaries used to suck!

They were so bad, that my psychiatrist (who I was seeing due to sleep, anxiety and depression issues) told me I needed to teach a class on boundaries, so I’d learn them.

So I did—4 times!

It worked! I’m now teaching others how to have good boundaries.

What is a boundary? It defines what is us, and what is not us. What am I responsible for and what am I not responsible for?

We are responsible to others and for ourselves. We each have things we are responsible for: our health, our sleep, our weight, our job, our finances, our relationships, our emotions, our spirituality, our property, the direction of our lives. No one can carry our responsibilities for us.

Sometimes a crisis or tragedy enters our lives. This is when we need the help of others. We cannot and should not carry these by ourselves.

Boundaries help us keep out the bad, and let in the good.

Problems come when we do 1 of 4 things:

1. Can’t say “no”

Feel guilty and controlled by others.

Can’t set boundaries.


This comes from fear of:

Hurting feelings


Someone’s anger


Being shamed

Being seen as bad or selfish

Being unspiritual

One’s own overstrict, critical conscience (that harsh parental voice we hear)


Journal questions for growth:

~When have you noticed your spiritual or emotional “radar” not functioning?

~What bad things have you said, “Yes” to?

~Do you condemn yourself for things that God doesn’t?

~When have you obeyed your harsh conscience to avoid guilt from confrontation?

~When have you said, “Yes,” but felt resentful?

~What might you do next time?


2. Can’t say “yes”

Sets boundaries against responsibility to love.

See needs in others as weak.


This comes from either a critical spirit towards others’ needs.

You hate being needy, so you ignore the needs of others.


Being absorbed with your own desires and needs to the exclusion of others.


Journal questions for growth:

~When have you failed to act responsibly toward another?

~Do you have a critical spirit or are you absorbed with your own needs?

~How good are you at taking care of yourself?

~How does this affect your willingness to help other people?


3. Can’t hear “no”

Aggressively or manipulatively violate boundaries of others.


This comes from not wanting to take responsibility for your life.

Projecting that responsibility on other people.

Happens through either

Aggressive control:

Run over people’s boundaries.

Unaware of other’s boundaries.

Try to get others to change.

No room for someone to say, “No.”

Refuse to accept people as they are.


Manipulative control:

Less honest.

Try to talk others into a “Yes.”

Indirectly manipulate circumstances to get your way.

Use guilt.


Journal questions for growth:

~When have you been perceived as a controller?

~When have you neglected your responsibility to accept others as they are?

~Have you denied your desires to control others, brushed aside your self-centeredness, admitted no wrong?

~Have you done something for someone hoping to receive something in return?


4. Can’t hear “yes”

Sets boundaries against receiving care of others.


This comes from:

Inability to ask for help.

Inability to recognize one’s own needs.

Won’t let others in.

Won’t accept support.

Experience problems and legitimate needs as bad, destructive, or shameful.


Journal questions for growth:

~Do you avoid opportunities for others to love and support you?

~Are your boundaries more like walls than fences?

~Do you experience your problems, legitimate needs and wants as bad, destructive, shameful?

~Do you have reversed boundaries? (Let in the bad, but keep out the good).


Final thoughts:

It takes courage to look at yourself.

Most people choose to stay the same.

It’s hard work to change.

It takes a lot of energy, huge doses of humility, and effort to change.

It’s totally worth it!


For more information, please read: Boundaries, By Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

This post written by: Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

Colorado Life Coach: 4 steps to Thankfulness

I’m just so thankful!

Not really for anything in particular today.

Bad things are still happening in the world. People I know are still hurting. People are still dying. Life is still really hard sometimes.

But I am different.

Life was sooo hard for such a long time. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. So many things were going poorly: multiple relationships, health, my emotions, sleep, anxiety, depression, family stuff. I was totally overwhelmed!

Have you ever felt that way?

Do you feel that way now?

So what changed?

I did.

It didn’t happen overnight. I’m not even sure I realized I was changing. I worked really hard because I knew something had to change or I wasn’t going to make it. In my quest for changing my circumstances, I learned a few things.

1. Boundaries. My boundaries stunk! They were so bad that the shrink I saw to medicate my sleep, anxiety and depression told me to teach a class on boundaries so I’d learn how to have them. So I did. I learned how to take care of myself physically and emotionally. I learned to only say “yes” to things I could do with a cheerful heart. I learned to allow others the freedom to say “no” to my requests without taking it personally or holding it against them. And I’m thankful.

2. Take responsibility. I took responsibility for my life. I heard about doing this my whole life, but somehow, it didn’t make it into my brain. I didn’t get it. I blamed. I defended. I criticized. I accused. I got defensive. It took a hard-nosed (I have a different word in my head, but don’t want to offend) recovering alcoholic to get in my face and make me realize that my life was my doing. It was not pretty-at all. If I had known how hard that journey would turn out to be, I don’t think I would have had the courage to do it. It broke me…and I’m thankful.

3. Get healthy. I stopped making excuses for my weight and my health. I worked through my emotional stuff with counselors until the issues from my past didn’t effect my present (at least not every time). I worked with doctors to get off my meds. I worked with a chiropractor to get my body in shape. And I’m thankful.

4. Choose healthy relationships. I deliberately chose friends who wanted to be healthy. I had to let go of some long-standing friendships because they were toxic. It’s really hard to get healthy when the people in your inner circle are not, and can’t see it. Wouldn’t it be great if, at the very moment you decided to grow, everyone you love jumped on the band wagon and joined you? It doesn’t typically happen that way. I had to walk away from people I really loved, but couldn’t be around. It was painful and lonely. And I’m so thankful.

It opened up space for me to make new, healthier friends. I thought about what I really wanted in a friend and came up with 4 things:

  • I wanted them to be able to handle my struggles without running away. I needed to know that if things got tough, they would stay.
  • I wanted them to share their struggles with me as well. I didn’t need another counselor. I needed a friend.
  • I didn’t want them to quote scripture at me in every conversation. I had been preached at enough. I certainly wanted people in my life who knew God and had a close relationship with Jesus. But I wanted a friend, not a pastor.
  • I needed them to be able to speak gently into my life. When they saw me sabotaging myself or falling into old patterns, I needed them to speak up!

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but gradually I noticed I wasn’t as anxious or mad or frustrated or irritated or unhappy.

I know life will still cause pain. People I love will die. Hard things will happen again.

But now I know how to grieve. I have good friends and a great family who won’t leave me in the tough times. I have a God who loves me more than I will ever understand. I’ve dealt with most of my junk, so when new things happen, I only have to deal with the issue at hand.

I’m so thankful!

If you’d like help moving toward a place of thankfulness, try coaching or my Relationship Groups: click here!

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole


Colorado Life Coach: Awesome Desperation

Can it be good to be desperate?

“My whole world is caving in

But I feel you now more than I did then

How can I come to the end of me

And somehow still have all I need?

God I want to know You more

Maybe this is how it starts

I find you when I fall apart.” from “I find you when I fall apart,” by Josh Wilson.

I know so many hurting people! Life is hard: finances, relationships, physical health, emotional health, loss, tragedy, violence. It can be overwhelming. Some people have been stuck in a rut for a very long time and need a breakthrough desperately.

Is there anything we can do to get us out of the rut, change our circumstances, fix our lives?

Yes…and no.


You may or may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can certainly change how you live in the midst of them. Are your circumstances due to bad habits, dysfunctional patterns, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, poor spending, lack of character, addictions, poor boundaries, failure to take responsibility, blaming others, or seeing yourself as a victim? If so, there’s great hope! You can change these things, and therefore change your circumstances! Isn’t that awesome?

It may not feel awesome. It might feel much better to keep the circumstances the way they are, so you don’t have to deal with the fact that part of you needs to grow up. I had a really hard time “putting on my big girl panties” in many areas of life. I’m still working on it! Recognizing that my actions, thoughts or patterns caused some of the hurt in my life was hard to swallow. The cool thing is, once I realized I played a part in it, I realized I could change it!


Desperation can be awesome! When it makes us realize that we messed up, hurt ourselves, hurt others, and can’t keep going this way, it can bring us to our knees.

Help me God! I can’t do this anymore! I don’t know what I’m doing! I’ve screwed it up! I’m a mess! I’ve hurt myself and I’ve hurt other people! Help me!

This is awesome desperation! The bible calls it godly sorrow. It’s when we truly understand how our lack of growth has impacted us and those we love. We feel it in our gut. It makes us sick!

It brings us to God.

It makes us really want to grow and change.

It’s awesome!


Here’s an oxymoron: To change your life, you have to give up trying harder. Surrender it to God. Stop doing it the way you’ve always done it. Trust Him. Let Him fix it.

But don’t just sit on the couch eating ice cream!

Look at yourself. Really. Be honest–not cruel, not filled with self-pity, not with loathing, just honest. Take responsibility. See where your character still resembles an 8 year old. Go beneath your anger and look at the hurts from your life. Have you grieved them? If not, they are still impacting you (and everyone around you) today. Are you out of control in any area?

Ask for help!

Call a really healthy friend, hire a coach, get a trainer, go to Celebrate Recovery.

And keep giving it to God. Don’t go back to the old way of doing things-it didn’t work.

Have you ever had an experience of awesome desperation? Tell me about it in the comments!

This post written by: Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole


Colorado Life Coach: How to keep your head from exploding in anger!


Red face




We’ve all felt it. Sometimes it sneaks up on us. Sometimes it festers for a looong time: days, weeks, years, or even decades!

Do you find yourself irritated at little things? Does someone looking at you wrong cause you to want to punch something? Do you find yourself really annoyed at people on the road? They either drive too fast or too slow, or maybe you’re just mad that they exist.

Sometimes we get angry at things no one else seems to mind. What’s up with that?

Sometimes we are angry at things that would make ANYONE angry. It’s justifiable.

Anger management. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to manage my anger. I want to deal with it, heal, and discover that I’m no longer angry.

Anger isn’t good or bad, it’s just an indicator of something that needs to be dealt with. The problem comes when we don’t deal with the original issue. Then we find ourselves angry with, and at people who don’t necessarily deserve it (like the grandpa driving down the highway, minding his own business).

Were you allowed to be angry as a kid? Did your parents say, “Wow, I can see you’re really angry. Want to talk about it?” If so, you probably don’t have anger issues. If not, well…join the club!

Several years ago, I found myself angry all the time. Everyone irritated me! Why were they so annoying? Why did every little thing set me off? What was wrong with me?

I realized I needed to do something so I could stop hurting my family and scaring my kids. I didn’t want to be an angry person. I went for some counseling and found out that anger wasn’t really my issue. I was really hurt and sad, but I didn’t know how to express that, so it came out as anger.

Here is an exercise I used to deal with anger:

It’s based on the account of Jesus cleansing the temple from John 2:13-16. “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!'”

The bible tells us our bodies are the Temple of God. Jesus didn’t mess up the temple, other people did. Sometimes things happen in our lives that are not our fault. We didn’t mess up our lives, other people did. (Maybe we did after that as well, but much of what we’re dealing with here is stuff that happened to us).

Even so, Jesus took responsibility to clean up the temple. He didn’t demand that those who messed it up clean it. He didn’t refuse to clean it up because it wasn’t his fault. He cleaned it up. The same is true with us. We can demand that those who messed us up do the work to fix it, or we can refuse to clean it up because it wasn’t our fault. Or, like Jesus, we can take responsibility and clean it up.

Look at how Jesus did it:
1. He prepared.
He made a whip. Think about that. How long would it take to find leather strips and weave them together into a whip. How do you think he felt? Was he angry? I picture him fuming as he braided the whip. Maybe thinking about how it wasn’t his fault. How dare they do this to him!

How about you?
Prepare. Write lists of people or events that hurt you, and how it affected you. Write letters to those who hurt you. Think about things you needed to process as a child and couldn’t. Think of all the areas of your life these events or people impacted. Think of how the bitterness and resentment have robbed you of joy and healthy relationships.

2. He dealt with his anger and cleaned up the mess.
He acted! He used his physical strength and his words. I don’t think he spoke quietly to the money changers. I think he screamed at them.

How about you?
Deal with it and clean up the mess. Find a time when you can be home alone for an hour or two. If you can’t do that, at least make sure you will not be disturbed. Get out a tennis racket or find a punching bag or a pillow. As you read your lists or letters, put your body and your vocal chords into it! Scream at the people and beat the racket on your bed or punch a pillow or punching bag. If you’re not home alone, scream into the pillow! Get it out. Keep at it until you have no strength left. Go for it. You may feel weird, but push through it! This is your chance to get rid of some of this!

I did this a couple of times as I worked through anger at a few different people. Each time, I did it in the evening and kept going until I was exhausted. I just climbed into bed and slept. It was amazing how much better I felt in the morning. I was then able to let go of the anger and forgive.

This type of exercise can help clean up anger from your past. Then, as you move on, deal with anger in the moment, so it doesn’t build up.

If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!

Try it and let me know what you think!

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole



Colorado Life Coach: A Lesson from Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning died this week.

Lots of people died this week.

I loved Brennan Manning. He was at the same time a mess, a fabulous writer, an alcoholic, and sober. Many other things as well.

About a decade ago, I was in bad shape. I was on medication for depression and anxiety and then I stopped sleeping…literally! At one point, I didn’t sleep for 5 months straight. I thought I was going to die.

People volunteered to clean my house, make meals, pick up my kids from school. I hardly functioned. So, I went to see a psychiatrist. I had so many questions about why this was happening to me, and how to make it stop.

My doctor read this story from Brennan Manning’s, Abba’s Child:

“Thornton Wilder’s one-act play ‘The Angel That Troubled the Waters,’ based on John 5:1-4, dramatizes the power of the pool of Bethesda to heal whenever an angel stirred its waters. A physician comes periodically to the pool hoping to be the first in line and longing to be healed of his melancholy. The angel finally appears but blocks the physician just as he is ready to step into the water. The angel tells the physician to draw back, for this moment is not for him. The physician pleads for help in a broken voice, but the angel insists that healing is not intended for him.

The dialogue continues–and then comes the prophetic word from the angel: ‘Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. Physician, draw back.’

Later, the man who enters the pool first and is healed rejoices in his good fortune and turning to the physician says: ‘Please come with me. It is only an hour to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I do not understand him and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour…There is also my daughter: since her child died, she sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.'”

My doctor asked if I had ever prayed for God to use me. “Yes!” Then this is a gift.

He explained that in the story, the physician suffered from melancholy (depression) just as I did. The angel did not allow him healing at that point. The physician could help people others couldn’t, specifically because he understood their pain.

Years later, I understand that if I had not gone through what I did, I could not help others going through similar struggles. In graduate school, I learned that counselors can only take people as far as they’ve been willing to go themselves.

One day soon after this, I was on my way to teach a bible study. I prayed as I heard other people, “God take me completely out of this today.” I thought he would appreciate my humble prayer. Instead I heard,

“No!” I don’t want a robot to teach this class. I chose you! You have been through a lot and people feel safe talking to you. You are funny. You have a way of drawing people out. I won’t take you completely out of this today, because I put you there.”


Brennan Manning introduced me to the concept of a wounded healer. Now I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade the pain of my earlier years for anything.

How about you? Have you experienced the struggle of denied healing? Does this story help you see it in a new light?

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

Colorado Life Coach: Ingredients for Growth


Are you tired of it?

Do you want it to change?

Is there something you have lived with for a long time, and you’re sick of it?


Bad Character Traits

Emotional Pain


Patterns you can’t seem to change

Are you stuck with it the rest of your life, or can you actually change?

Here’s the good news: You can change! Anyone can change! Other people have done it, and you can too!

3 things are needed for change:

1. Recognition that it’s bad. Time needs to go by without change. “I wish this part of me would change.” I tried to change, but there is no change. I realize it’s bad.

2. Respond. There are two responses to a lack of growth:

  • Cut it down! The legalistic response to a bad situation is judgment, condemnation, and negativity. If we don’t learn and grow, we get very judgmental! We don’t only judge ourselves, but others as well. We cut ourselves down. We cut others down. Negativity takes over. Judgement is the end of anything good happening. In effect, it’s the “sentencing.”
  • Sorrow. “I’m sad about what my lack of growth is costing me.” I have to get out of my shame to see the loss that not growing has cost.

3. Bring in an advocate! Create a safe zone with no condemnation. Stop the judgment. Don’t condemn.


Groups must be a “no-fly” zone for guilt, shame, and condemnation. When we allow others to experience us, they can step into our voices of shame and break the cycle. A group can save me from my own “cut it down” response.

Groups administer grace!

When we’re alone, we live in a closed system. It’s just us and our thoughts. Groups open the system with new energy to reverse the downward spiral. They provide a path.

Groups allow people to open their hearts, heads, and souls to other people. This is God’s design. This is not Plan B. This is the way it was always meant to be. We were designed to be dependent on each other.

A great group needs to be a place where I am encouraged, and feel free to share things I feel most badly about. People don’t like their brokenness and neediness. It’s hard to say “I’m weak,” or “I need you.”

3 Ingredients for growth:

In Luke 13, Jesus told a parable about a fig tree. The tree hadn’t produced fruit for 3 years and the owner wanted to cut it down. He told the keeper of the vineyard that it was just taking up space. The keeper told him to do 3 things to see if it would bear fruit. Dig around, fertilize, and give it another year.

  1. Dig around. We need truth in our lives. What is really going on? Am I willing to look at my life and take responsibility for my situation and what I need to do to change it? I need a reality check. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-4)
  2. Fertilize. We need grace and we can’t get it from inside ourselves. Groups can provide what we can’t. Groups can be life support for people trying to grow.
  3. Time. Give it time. Time does not heal all wounds. Time plus growth, support, and a safe place heals.

Like the fig tree, our growth needs to be free of toxins:


People in denial give infections to others through their advice. You can’t help others if you don’t see your own need for growth.

You can only take people as far as you’ve been willing to go yourself.

Looking for a group to allow you this kind of change? Join us in Breckenridge, CO, May 5-7 for our Broken & Brilliant Relationship Group Intensive.

This material taken from a talk on small groups by Dr. Henry Cloud.

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.




Colorado Life Coach: Easter 2009

Easter Morning 2009

            In the spring of 2009, I paced my kitchen floor crying out in utter hopelessness and distress.  This couldn’t really be happening, could it?  We had flown to Vietnam to pick up our 3½ year old son from an orphanage 8 years earlier.  The stress of raising a child with severe Reactive Attachment Disorder had taken a huge toll on our family of 5.  My husband and I felt we were losing our other children because of the chaos in our home.

We worked with all varieties of specialists and asked for prayer from the elders at our church.  I prayed for God to heal our son and help him fit into our family.  God answered part of my prayer.

He sent a family from our church to adopt our son, so we could all heal.  That wasn’t my plan.  How could this happen?  Our son had been with his new family for about 6 weeks at that point.  After not sleeping, my bare feet traced the hardwood paths I’d walked so many times as I cried to God.  The questions continued: Why? Why couldn’t you heal him in our family?  Why did you put us through this only to take him away?  This wasn’t what I wanted!  This wasn’t what we signed up for!

“Are you really asking me to give up my son?”

The moment I spoke, I remembered what day it was, Easter Sunday.  If I could have eaten the words as they flew from my mouth, I would have.  Suddenly I felt ashamed and braced myself for a lightning bolt, a 2X4, a frying pan, or any of the other objects I’d heard God might use “to get my attention” if I didn’t do what he wanted.  The exact opposite happened.  He related to me.  I heard a still small voice deep inside my soul say ever so gently,

“It really hurts, doesn’t it?”

My kitchen floor turned into hallowed ground that Easter morning.  The God of the Universe felt my pain and understood how my heart ached.  He wanted me to know He had been through it too.  The tenderness of the experience caught me by surprise.

I knew Jesus died for my sins.  I knew He raised Himself from the dead.  I knew He took away the barrier between God and me, and I could approach Him personally.  I didn’t realize He would invite me into His hurt or share His heart with me.  I now understand through experience that He will walk me through my darkest times with tremendous care and tenderness.

God is alive and powerful!

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead matters.

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole

Colorado Life Coach: How to Fight

Do you ever disagree with someone you love?

How do you go about resolving the issue?

Some people ignore it and hope it will go away. It won’t.

Some people scream, intimidate, and demand their own way. Others might back down out of fear, but this is not resolution.

How did the family you grew up in fight? Chances are, you do the same thing. Isn’t that always how it is? Even though we don’t like the way things were, if we don’t consciously do something different, we end up doing it the same way.

Like many things in my life, I never gave much thought to how I fought, until life fell apart and I had to deliberately learn new ways of relating. Through my own counseling, and then in grad school, I learned some communication techniques that helped me:

*Make intentional choices in difficult situations

*Stay in control

*Think through what I was really trying to say

*Really listen

*Take turns

C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t wait until you love people to act on their behalf. Act on their behalf, and you will come to love them.”

Make intentional choices in difficult situations

Stop. Slow down. Think. Engage your brain. Breathe. Pray. Stay calm. Go for a walk. These are not easy things when you feel irritated or angry, but they can help you act instead of react. Make a choice to think before you speak. Make a choice to remember you love the other person and they are not your enemy. Make a choice to only speak calmly. Make a choice to listen without getting defensive. I’m not a victim. You’re not a victim. Make a choice to take responsibility for your thoughts, words, actions. If you blow it, apologize.

Stay in control

You don’t have to engage when you’re out of control. Tell the other person you don’t feel you can stay in control, so you need to leave for a short time. Call a friend, take a run, pray and ask God to help you calm down, write about it, find a way. Only engage in disagreements when you can stay calm. Arguing when one or both people are out of control is dangerous and can have lasting effects physically and emotionally. Don’t do it! If you can’t figure out how to do this on your own, ask a pastor, coach, or counselor to mediate so things don’t get out of hand.

Think through what I was really trying to say

Keep it about feelings. Most people blame, then the other person gets defensive. “You did this!” “Well, if you wouldn’t have…then I wouldn’t have…” On and on it goes-no where! What if you got beneath the anger and found your hurt? What if you expressed yourself in a vulnerable way? It’s scary. You’ll feel exposed. Sometimes this is the very thing needed to break through the disagreement.

“I felt like a little kid getting in trouble by the principal and I wanted to hide and cry.”

“I was horribly embarrassed and it reminded me of the time…”

“I felt so misunderstood and didn’t know how to respond.”

“I just really miss you and I’m scared.”

“My feelings overwhelm me.”

Our loved ones will respond to our vulnerability much better than accusations, attacks, labeling or judging. Without taking the time to think through what is really going on, we’ll stay on the level of accusing. There’s usually something deeper going on, and we’re not totally honest if we don’t take the time to look a little deeper.

Really listen

True listening can only take place when the listener remains calm. You don’t have to take on the other person’s problem. Just listen. Hear them. What are they trying to say? Can you get under their anger to hear their hurt or fear?

This is our chance to provide a safe place for those we love to land. We can be the one who tries to understand where they are coming from. We can provide clarity in their confusion. We don’t need to agree, disagree, advise or defend. We can just listen and see if we can understand.

This is huge!

We don’t have to fix it all! Most of the time, the people we disagree with are very intelligent people! They can figure it out. They may just need someone to talk to. They may just need to be heard. They may just need to know we care.

Take turns

When each person knows they will get a chance to speak and each will do their best to listen for understanding, most issues can be resolved.

Red flags: If you fear for your safety, one or the other cannot calm down, or things escalate, please seek help. If you never learned how to fight fair, it just means you weren’t taught. This is a skill that any willing person can learn.

Change your families future now. Learn how to fight!

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole

Colorado Life Coach: Misunderstood

That’s not what I meant…

You don’t understand…


Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt totally misunderstood, misrepresented, unheard, slandered, or betrayed. I have. Many times. And then again last week.

It hurts. I hear myself protesting inside my head. The defensiveness starts. I want to explain. It’s not fair. It’s not even reality. And yet…there’s nothing I can do.

I reached out to someone I haven’t had a relationship with for several years. They needed help and I had a resource, so I offered it. They didn’t even notice that I tried to help.

The message screamed at me on facebook.

My character was assaulted. Wow! I have struggled with anxiety in the last decade and have made a lot of progress in this area over the last few years. The shakes in my stomach and chest returned with a vengeance. This felt so familiar! In fact, I was amazed at how quickly the feelings returned, as if I hadn’t made any progress in this area at all.

I wrestled with how to respond, if I should respond. What could I possibly say? I talked to my husband and my coach. I prayed. God answers prayer in the most interesting ways. Here’s what I saw posted on Facebook several times that day:

“When a gentleman is confronted by arguments that he considers foolish, he does not attempt to refute them with reason. Instead, he keeps silent knowing that logic is useless in the war against irrationality.” (From the book, As a Gentleman Would Say)

I pulled out one of my favorite books, Safe People, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (I know, I’m weird). Here are the personal traits they list for people who are unsafe:

1. Unsafe people think they “have it all together” instead of admitting their weaknesses.

2. Unsafe people are religious instead of spiritual.

3. Unsafe people are defensive instead of open to feedback.

4. Unsafe people are self-righteous instead of humble.

5. Unsafe people only apologize instead of changing their behavior.

6. Unsafe people avoid working on their problems instead of dealing with them.

7. Unsafe people demand trust instead of earning it.

8. Unsafe people believe they are perfect instead of admitting their faults.

9. Unsafe people blame others instead of taking responsibility.

10. Unsafe people lie instead of telling the truth.

11. Unsafe people are stagnant instead of growing.

I have been an unsafe person. I still can be when I feel defensive or want to prove I’m right. I have been in relationship with many unsafe people, and it’s not a good place to be.

And, I’m getting healthier. I can recognize unsafe people more quickly than before. The “red flags” are brighter and I have learned to trust my discernment in this area.

I still have to take the hurt to God. Last week, I told him how much it hurt, how unfair it was, how I know I can be proud, but in this case I wasn’t. In that way that he does, God comforted me. He loved me.

He understood.

And that’s the whole point. No matter how many people misunderstand me, misinterpret my intentions, hate me, blame me, betray me, slander me, or spit in my face, God understands.

He’s the one that matters.

Can you relate? Please share your thoughts below.

The post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole

Contact Carrie O’Toole to schedule a confidential telephone call or appointment for coaching.