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

How Exercise, Story, and EMDR Heal Trauma

Story Lives in the Body

Story Lives in the Body

You have a story to tell (and it lives in your body.)

As you know, I recommend writing as a way of healing. When we write story, we turn pain into beauty, even if we’re spinning complete fiction. Writing forces us to transform bits of disconnected ideas, pictures, sensations, and memories into episodic memory.

When a scene becomes worded completely, fleshed out with vivid details and thoughts, it becomes whole. We use both sides of our brains to create story: the emotions and colors live mostly on the right, while the words and logic live mostly on the left. We constantly move back and forth within the nervous system to pull pieces together like a patchwork quilt. This is information processing, the primary component of EMDR therapy.

Story and Information Processing with EMDR

Trauma memory tends to be stored in these separate, left and right, containers, which is why bits of it get activated without our realizing it. We become panicked all of a sudden when we drive through a particular part of town. We lose focus during a meeting and go numb in response to someone’s voice. We smell a particular perfume and get a guilt-attack…as if out of nowhere.

EMDR brings right and left together. Memory bits become clusters which become whole stories, complete with the necessary logic to neutralize their poison.

“I was four years old. Of course I wet my pants in the car! That’s what four-year-olds do!”

Through bilateral stimulation (BLS), EMDR triggers the integration of the panic, guilt, shame, pictures, sensations, temperatures, muscle tensions, and beliefs with newer knowledge about ourselves and the world. “I’m defective…” becomes “I’m normal…I did the best I could.”

When our story becomes whole, we can tell it thoroughly and artfully. We can even rewrite it to tell a bigger story or turn it into the story we wish we’d experienced in real life. We can turn trouble into art. This is why I wrote Wife Material, my semi-autobiographical novel of growing up in religious abuse.

Information Processing with Exercise

Last week, I wrote about how exercise transforms our mental state. I think this happens through bilateral stimulation. In EMDR, we use side-to-side eye-movements, pulses, auditory tones, or taps for this. But running, walking, punching, crawling, and climbing can do something similar. This is probably why a good power-walk blows out tension and cobwebs and shines light on all kinds of things you haven’t seen in a while. It moves you beyond your day’s troubles and stuck thoughts and pushes you into an altered brain – a brain that sees and interprets differently…a brain alive with story.

Kettle Bells at The BodySmith

Kettle Bells at The BodySmith

This spring, I’m opening a therapy office at The BodySmith, where I’ll join a team of skilled and caring fitness professionals. We’ll collaborate to find more ways to help you keep things moving: to transport old trauma out of its disconnected storage bins and into creative, working memory.

For now, try this exercise and let me know how it works for you.

  1. Make a list of issues you’re worried about. Place a star beside the one bothering you most.
  2. Notice any emotion or body sensation you get with that issue.
  3. While you’re still aware of the issue, take a long walk, 30 minutes or more. Allow your mind to wander while you walk.
  4. Afterwards, get your notebook and write about the issue again. Notice any changes in perspective or feeling.

Call me if you’d like to talk about how to tell your story and use EMDR and exercise to heal.

Contact Deborah