Listen to ReConceive: a Healing Podcast


ReConceive: a Podcast about All Kinds of Healing

Melissa Sundwall, Deborah Cox, and Shauna Smith-Yates, The Cast of ReConceive

My dear friend, Melissa Sundwall, a great therapist who also happens to be a lot younger than me, says: “Let’s do a podcast.” And I say, “What’s a podcast?” That literally happened. About a year ago. So we teamed up with Shauna Smith-Yates, owner of The Bodysmith, and hatched a bunch of deep conversations about healing. All kinds of feeling better and living better.

Now, we’re nine episodes into the creation of ReConceive – a conversation between  two trauma therapists and a fitness coach and all kinds of interesting healers. If you work in the helping/healing arts, you might be our next guest on ReConceive –  or you might just hear that next new idea you need to keep you moving forward on your path to joy.

Here’s how that path has been unfolding for me.

Getting Out of Ruts (Learning to Think Differently about Healing)

I used to be a therapy snob. I thought you needed a Ph.D. to be helpful. I thought only psychologists understood human behavior. Only psychologists should test our true inner states. The DSM held the truth about distress and non-distress. Behavior, thoughts, and emotions were the only focal elements to produce lasting change. I really believed that.


I’ve been making fun of – and letting go of -that paradigm a little bit every day for the past twenty years. Leaving snobbery and separateness. Exiting jail. Changing clothes.

I moved my psychology office into The Bodysmith – nearly two years ago. It felt like my happy place. My place of movement and laughter. I started wearing workout clothes to do therapy and nobody objected. It was like a conversion experience.

Then, I became a patient and started sampling therapies:




traditional nuts-and-bolts behavioral counseling

craniosacral therapy

cardio workouts . . . Core Barre . . . Pilates . . . yoga

energy therapy


neuromuscular therapy

nutrition coaching . . .

. . . Each kind of work produced a benefit I could feel: more energy, less worry, vanished pain . . . just like taking antidepressants, except better.  And as I placed myself into the capable hands of these practitioners, I realized: THESE PEOPLE KNOW STUFF. And, it’s all the same work. We’re multidimensional beings who need attention to all our dimensions. While at one moment, you need to talk about it – the next moment, you just need to sweat it out.

Working Across Disciplines to Feel Better

Me, Shauna, Melissa, and all our boxing coach massage yoga energy healer spiritual guide family counseling chiropractic friends are all doing the same thing. We each focus on our particular piece of the puzzle: one foot, one heart, one trauma story at a time. In each part lives a tiny whole person and a tiny whole world. In other words, Pilates teachers are psychologists. Yoga instructors are physicians. Neuromuscular workers are spiritual guides. It’s all one thing.

That’s what ReConceive is all about. Conversations about healing from every different angle: The art angle; The spiritual angle; The brain angle; The muscular angle…..

Do you teach or mentor? Do you help people meditate or pray? Do you tend a community garden? Do you run with six-year-olds? Do you get middle-aged people to dance for the first time? Please write and let me know if you’d like to be part of this conversation.

Contact Deborah

Snap out of Trance and De-Zombie-fy (I & Thou, part 2)

De-Trance and De-Zombie-fy

De-Trance and De-Zombie-fy

I’ve been watching people turn into zombies all week in couples therapy. One woman said, I shut myself down so I won’t have to strangle him! Trance-induction is complicated. It robs us of moments, but it helps us avoid feelings we don’t want to have. And sometimes it keeps us from committing homicide.

Why do we turn into zombies?

I take the issue back to my favorite consultant, Dr. Joe Hulgus, for some help with the words.

Me: It’s the zombie apocalypse. And I’m starting to suspect that all the zombies I’ve seen lately feel confused by their partners. Like they feel themselves being turned from a person to an IT. So they become less human. Does that make sense? How can I explain this?

Joe: It’s an emotional shift. Maybe we start feeling like a child as our partner talks down to us. Maybe we feel like we’re just the housekeeper or the employee or the paycheck or the person who raises the kids. Maybe we feel like a pair of boobs or a walking erection – like we have no other value. It’s like someone building an imaginary wall between them and us and we can’t reach them anymore.

Me: Or if I say, It’s all in your imagination…I’m not upset…or You know I love you…

Joe: Yes, at that moment, we’re no longer relating as two equal people. You’re trying to hide yourself from me. You’re treating me like an It. Like I’m not capable of perceiving reality on my own.

Me: I may be treating myself like an It too. Like, I don’t feel anything, so you shouldn’t either.

Joe: And I stand there confused, lonely, and desperate. I get two messages that don’t match, like I love you but don’t touch me. It makes me feel crazy.

Me: And you go into trance.

Joe: Yes, I become dissociated, without realizing I’ve slipped away. All of this happens unconsciously for all concerned. It’s under the surface of things, which is why it’s so powerful.

Me: If we can call it out, we stop ourselves from zombification?

Joe: I think so. But imagine the energy it takes to see what’s happening in your close relationship and then having the courage to say, Wait! Something doesn’t make sense. Something doesn’t feel right.

Me: It takes anger.

Joe: Maybe.

Me: No, really. The deep, inner anger at being gas-lighted.

Joe: Our parents or partners probably had no idea they were gas-lighting us.

Me: I know! It doesn’t matter. The effects are still there and I have to go WTF!!! I don’t understand because you’re not letting me!

Joe: Okay. Can you do that without being angry?

Me: I can’t. Without access to my anger, I’m a zombie.

Joe: I will try to remember that.

De-Trance and De-Zombie-fy

I-It or the It-It relationships allow all kinds of bad things to happen. This is where abuse happens. This is where relationships fall apart. This is where we get depressed. This is where we get distracted and have accidents and crave ice cream and pie and get locked in self-destructive cycles and feel all alone in the world. This is where we take it out on someone innocent. This is where we lose our humanity.

This is where wars and genocides begin.


But we can do something different. Let’s just start here. The antidote to zombification = the identification of our feelings. Especially anger. Emotion is the music of our attachment to each other.

Try this exercise and let me know how it works for you.

  1. Get a pen and notebook.Write a short scene where you turn into an emotional zombie, zoned-out, tranced-out, numb. You can make this up or write something completely factual.
  2. Describe everything going on around you. What do you notice?
  3. Add cartoon thought-bubbles and insert words (e.g., Does she think I’m a complete idiot?).
  4. In the scene, who would you most like to strangle? Why?
  5. Add dialogue (e.g., I would like to strangle you right now because…).
Contact Deborah