Pregnant & Postpartum Parents - Meet Local Providers October 1, 2019!

pregnant couple holding shoes.jpeg

Decatur Postpartum Community Alliance Meet Up
Tuesday, October 1, 10:30am-12:00pm
To the Beat / 627 E. College Ave / Suite E / Decatur, GA 30030

Welcoming all Pregnant/Postpartum Parents + Decatur-area providers who offer support services to pregnant/postpartum women and men ~ Come mix, mingle and learn about some of the supportive services in the Decatur area at our October meetup!

Questions? Contact me here, I’m happy to answer.

*Facebook event page:

*Facebook group page:

** Decatur area providers and business owners: if you provide a supportive service to pregnant and postpartum women in our community and would like to part of this (or a future) meet-up, please contact us at

How Dissociation Shows up in Disordered Eating/Exercise

woman staring.jpeg

Happy Friday ~ Check out this article where I wrote about how one might self-soothe and "check out" (aka dissociate) through using food and exercise to numb, restrict and control.

I'm always an advocate of getting curious to see how disordered eating/exercise actually allow you to shine light on your deeper truths and hungers. There is indeed a way to climb out of that darkness and come home to your body and self in an engaged, awakened, liberated way of living. 💫💫💫


When Boundaries are Really Procrastination and Walls

boundaries brene brown quote.jpg

Among the plethora of messages on social media regarding boundaries and vulnerability, I tend to think of TED Talks, memes and YouTube interviews starring Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton. Sharp, wise and fierce they are, my head nods and nods agreeing with their messages of self care and staying true to oneself despite terror or fear of how others might react or even how the truth might set you free. Some examples:

“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.” - Brené Brown

“You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other effects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.” - Brené Brown

“People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help.” - Glennon Doyle Melton

“I have met my self and I am going to care for her fiercely.” - Glennon Doyle Melton

And my favorite:

“No woman on earth doesn’t give a fuck—no woman is that cool—she’s just hidden her fire. Likely, it’s burning her up.” - Glennon Doyle Melton

So if we are living in a world that’s starting to champion vulnerability and boundaries as the antidotes to depression, anxiety and inauthenticity, why does it seem some people wear boundaries inside-out, upside-down, right-side-out?

It’s like their boundaries don’t fit their beautifully imperfect yet stunning shapes — something sticks out in a misshapen way, or there’s a whiff of something superficial or defensive in the air? They might appear or sound one way then quickly change their tune passively or in a puzzling way. Feeling confused or bewildered at their cryptic boundary-setting, you might feel like you’ve been gaslit.

Whether you’ve been in group therapy to learn boundaries (which can be excruciatingly raw feeling yet invaluable in the rich lessons you take home) , and/or whether you’ve been taking the independent self-care route of reading inspirational boundaries memes, you might be practicing getting to know what you will allow and what you won’t and how to communicate to others your limits and allowances. Kudos. It’s initially a learning curve of over- or under-correcting until you fine-tune your boundary-making in a more graceful and forgiving way for yourself and others. And, it’s a complicated-but-worth-it dance that continues as you change (and as others do too), so if you can find a way to be playful and grounded about it instead of grasping too tightly, you’ll probably discover more ease in the process.

What happens when boundaries are masked as the defensive mechanisms of procrastination and walls?

1) For example, you know when you’re smugly proud of yourself for setting a boundary like no work phone calls or emails after 8:00pm. It feels good to be able to turn off your brain and feel like you’re feeding yourself with pleasurable you-time, and all those office problems can be resolved tomorrow (or another day). Healthy? Absolutely. But then quarterly taxes are suddenly due, and taxes feel like a four-letter word like WORK, yet you tell yourself over and over that nope, I don’t work after 8:00pm even it means I might miss the deadline! Healthy? That’s questionable.

2) Or, you might be familiar with the Joy of Group Projects (please scroll to photo below for a good laugh) where three out of the five people in the group (might or might not) finally volunteer to show up to “finish” the project the night before it’s due. They claim they work better under pressure. Meanwhile, you and the other more responsible party roll your eyes because you finished the final draft last week.

(Both examples #1 and #2 are Procrastination)

Procrastination is not self-care or an ideal way to roll repeatedly. Ultimately, your nervous system pays to squeeze out results under a tight deadline that produces unfavorable stress hormones. And others will likely create distance in working with you again. (Now, we all do a little of these to an extent, but if you tend to be a repeat offender and cause others to suffer too, it’s probably time to get curious about your need to wait and rely on pressure to show up.)

3) Or for example, when the Boundaries Movement has influenced you like the Kale Trend — where anytime you feel distress around someone, you shut them down like whenever you have to decide on something green to eat, it’s kale. Because Kale is Magic. And Boundaries are Magic, and there cannot be enough, ever. (pssst….I’m kidding.) Seriously though, instead of using discernment to compromise, perhaps have a mature conversation, take space for today, or get curious about where you participate in the unhealthy relationship dynamics too, sometimes it might feel easier to simply build a thicker than necessary boundary between you and them. You might stop answering calls or emails, or be unable to look them in the eye, or seem to always have some dramatic emergency that needs your everlasting attention today, right now. You basically avoid without explanation or really very clear reason on your end.

4) Or the classic Stonewalling on a regular basis. Stonewalling can be quickly illustrated as being in an argument or confrontation with a loved one or friend, you have a disagreement, you become triggered or inflamed and instead of talking through it with a level of being grounded and speaking from the heart and logical brain, you shut down and ignore them. You walk away and, quite literally, check out to the point the situation might feel foggy or distant. *Note: Sometimes this is our body’s way of keeping us safe, and especially for children or for those who are historically and regularly oppressed, it’s a lifesaver in abusive relationships, but as we get older and in healthier places, learning emotional regulation and nonviolent communication during confrontation is necessary for problem-solving and ultimately living and working peacefully and productively with other people.

(Both examples #3 and #4 are Walls)

If you have good boundary setting skills and/or are working on strengthening them, which is not always perfect but that’s okay, you practice getting to know and clearly communicating your needs or wants or wishes instead of cutting off people. But, it depends on if the other person can accept and hear them. If they can, that person or party is probably a relationship keeper because they’re healthy enough to respect you and the relationship. However, sometimes walls are necessary in relationships, especially when the other party becomes abusive, or they cannot respect your “NO” message, or they can dish it out but can’t take it. However, typically unhealthy walls that are really defense mechanisms or methods of avoidance are pretty passive and show up as the examples above.

If you’re wondering how to get to better know your limits, your wants, your needs, this is an exciting and possible time! Despite the ongoing tragic news headlines and seemingly sharp increasing rate of socially acceptable addictions culture to superficially soothe our pain and dis-ease, I also believe there’s just as much support and healthy culture of living more consciously, fully and truthfully. Support, hope, and possibility do exist, and it’s possible to transform and live in a more grounded, clear, authentic way.

“If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations — if you can trust them to give you accurate information — you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.” - Bessel van der Kolk

From a therapeutic standpoint, I personally and professionally am fascinated with attuning to our body’s signals, messages, patterns, urges, sensations to guide us. When we practice connecting with the body — many times with the support of a trained professional like a therapist — we can can invite our deep wisdom and sweet richness that has been waiting all along to be set free for healthier living.

I recently wrote a blog entitled Beef Up Your Body-Based Boundaries — that might give you some insight into befriending your body as a guide. In my therapy practice, I also use somatic techniques including movement for individuals, couples and families as a way to help negotiate boundaries while staying present in one’s own body. As a writer, I respect the power of the written and spoken word, but sometimes our bodies communicate to us in nonverbal ways, and boundary-knowing and boundary-setting needs to be practiced somatically, through the body, staying fully awake in the relational dances with self and others.

Interested? I’m happy to have a 15-minute phone chat. Feel free to contact me here.

the hangover.jpg


Exercise & Move with Regulation & Pleasure


🤪🤣 😞 Okay, this shouldn’t take long, am I right?

How about getting IN your body in a regulated state before you take OUT your fight/flight energy ON your body (and/or someone else)?

Often we wait to move our bodies until we hear news that makes our head spin, or someone says something that sends us into a tizzy. (What an asshole! Can you believe that? Let me go run a 10k to prove something!)

But our bodies really are our friends and lovely gateways into our deepest wisdom, pleasure and sustainability. Dr. Judith Kestenberg was a psychoanalyst who studied mother/infant nonverbal communication which paved the way for her create a movement profile studying the nuanced human rhythms and patterns we use throughout our lives. The key is *how* these movements are embodied. Are they used in a regulated (socially engaged) state? Or are they used in a dysregulated (fight/flight/shutdown) state?

With nervous system awareness and healthy embodiment practices, we can channel our energy in sustainable ways. (*Yes, even the heart wrenching headlines can be channeled healthily keeping in mind we consciously work through our own trauma responses with support and awareness).

What are healthy embodiment practices?

(Psssst, yoga is good but certainly is not the only way.) In a nutshell, any activity which engages your body-mind presence. You can sit mindfully in a chair and be healthily embodied. You can also press into a handstand and be embodied or dissociated/checked out. Ideally engaging your breath and/or voice, visual connection, sight, sound, spacial awareness, smell, taste and cognitive awareness can all be ways to connect with your whole self. Get creative, think outside the box, what lights you up? Do that. Push away the shoulds and return to that sweet place of connection you know to be you.

*If you find yourself reverting to dysregulated reactions to news headlines or to your body, food or exercise patterns in general, it could be worth it to exploring your body’s messages, urges, patterns and movements with a more compassionate, curious container. I help individuals, couples and families do this in therapy by using a somatic and cognitive approach called M-Bodied to help move through trauma and repattern relational dances. If you’re interested in a 15-minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit, contact me here.


The Slippery Slope of Exercise Addiction

rock climbing.jpeg

What Does It Mean to be Addicted to Exercise, and What are the Symptoms? 

When someone is addicted to exercise, the planning or thinking about exercise takes up major mental space. The mental planning and actual exercise might interfere with relationships, social or professional interests or needs; it could cause stress fractures or other injuries; and it likely interferes with sleep and other bodily processes and needs like sufficient nutrition and eating. Also, when one is addicted to exercise, there’s a lack of communication from the physical and emotional body and its deeper needs – despite how the addiction or craving for exercise might be perceived (more, more, more!).

What Causes Exercise Addiction? 

While we are creatures of comfort, habit and connection, sometimes comfort and connection mean creating habits that numb us to feeling discomfort. In other words, instead of running toward and moving through big, uncomfortable feelings or facing confrontation, we might quite literally run away from distress. And, to many people, avoiding distress initially feels better than facing and feeling it! Because exercise produces the feel-good chemicals of endorphins, the pleasurable effects of exercise feed the compulsive exercise cycle.

Is Exercise Addiction Over- or Under-Diagnosed? Why? 

As someone who has taught exercise and movement as well as helped people to come home to their bodies with more mindfulness and sustainability through psychotherapy, I firmly believe exercise addiction is under-diagnosed. Whether addictive exercise is induced by fitness/athletic or body image pursuits, our culture praises an external presentation of fitness and health to a degree that only supports a one-dimensional image of how a body looks (or “should” look). While people might start exercising for different reasons (athletic, weight loss, medical), the slippery slope of addiction develops when the exercise high offers repetitive relief from underlying stressors or trauma. Too much exercise easily becomes an unhealthy coping mechanism as one’s nervous system responses bounce back-and-forth from fight/flight and shutdown — This turns into addiction instead of a healthy and moderately-practiced form of grounded, energy-giving self-care.

On Getting Support for Exercise Addiction 

It’s important to get support and become aware of one’s own unique history of traumas, compulsive behaviors or tendencies, perfectionistic personality or exercise-related injury, in an effort to seek support from trained professionals who offer a sustainable, trauma-informed approach to physical and psychological care. A support network could include medical professionals, mental health clinicians, physical therapists, experienced personal trainers and yoga teachers, to name a few. Quick or radical fixes — even from the medical to the spiritual communities — should be a red flag because any approach that promises a guaranteed, fast result or rigid regime is yet another slippery slope to addictive practices. From a trauma-informed, somatic psychology perspective, the body holds the wisdom for its deeper hungers and even a roadmap to healing, but it takes gaining the courage to seek qualified support and slow down enough to begin listening and make room for what the body has to say.

If you’re curious about your relationship to exercise, your body image and/or food, and if you want to see if we might good fit to help you find freedom from overdoing these things, I’d be happy to talk. Contact me here for a 15-minute phone consultation.


M-Bodied for Eating Disorders: A Body-Based Treatment


Interested in a body-based way to make peace with food and your body? 💫

I offer "M-Bodied for Eating Disorders" in Atlanta, GA as a somatic therapeutic approach for individuals, couples and families focusing on the intersection of:

  • stages-of-change

  • attachment and object relations theories

  • trauma-informed somatic/cognitive techniques including developmental movement patterns and psychological stages from infancy thru adulthood

Coming home to the body in relationship with self and others through nonverbal attunement and movement exploration can help repair ruptures or imbalances that need attention, reconnection and nourishment. M-Bodied techniques include:

  • experiential shapes, patterns & movement

  • womb-to-walking developmental dances

  • interoceptive/proprioceptive exercises for body-mind integration

If you're interested in more, please contact me at, or visit me at here to schedule a 15-minute phone consultation.

Caroline Gebhardt, APC, RYT is a mental health counselor and yoga teacher based in Atlanta, GA specializing in the rich, spiraling journeys of disordered eating and maternal mental health using both cognitive and somatic psychotherapeutic techniques.


Use Your Words: Shape-Shifting for Meaning-Making

man dancing 3.jpeg

Do you ever have trouble "finding your words" related to an experience or feeling? This experience is one of my favorite things to explore personally for myself and professionally with clients or groups because it sets the stage for some powerful messages, feelings, wisdom or guidance to be birthed.

“Movement by its nature is preverbal. Speaking about it requires translation from movement to verbal. This is a far greater leap than any translation between verbal languages. Yet, when the words arise directly out of experience, there is a recognition of their authenticity. Embodied language brings the unspoken into the conscious word. That word carries us into the future.” - Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen

Sometimes, we might need to carefully and mindfully move through some trauma to unpack feelings, sensations, urges or movement patterns. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning to practice letting your body guide you instead of intellectualizing all your daily moves. When we can find safety and support in allowing the body to move how it needs to move (perhaps in a titrated way, aka small doses), we can discover AND embody a richness, depth and connection we might never have imagined. It's meaning-making of the shape-shifting. 

If you are interested in somatic psychotherapy or using movement and inviting the body into therapy while incorporating cognitive techniques too, I’d love to see if we are a good fit. Feel free call me for a 15-minute phone consultation. Contact me here.


Intermittent Fasting: The New Weight Loss Quick Fix

clock and food.jpeg

You might have heard of the Intermittent Fasting (aka: IF) as a new thing in food or weight loss conversations, or even in wellness or medical circles. It’s often disguised as a health benefit (to which I still scratch my head), but if you do a quick Google (click here), it’s about weight loss. Not a shocker.

The opening lines displayed on an “intermittent fasting” Google search from

Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is a timed approach to eating. Unlike a dietary plan that restricts where calories come from, intermittent fasting does not specify what foods a person should eat or avoid. Intermittent fasting may have some health benefits, including weight loss, but is not suitable for everyone. Apr 3, 2019

The opening line says intermittent fasting “is not a diet,” but if you continue to read, it’s all about losing weight! I genuinely never cease to be stunned by these claims, and neither should you.

(If you’re wondering “what is wrong with losing weight?”, I will quickly answer: Our culture is obsessed with “losing weight”, which for the majority of people equates to a tail-chasing puzzle where weight/shape obsession buries a more authentic and intuitive approach to healthy embodiment — and that tends to mean a healthier, happier body image and mindful, fulfilling existence in one’s flesh, blood, mind, heart and spirit.)

As a therapist specializing in disordered eating, when I hear someone considering intermittent fasting for any reason, it’s a red light for me to dig deeper and get curious not only about restrictive food behaviors and history but also about what other deeper issues might be easier to avoid, omit or flee rather than to face and feel.

A request or push to look beyond the food or behaviors can sometimes be a tall, intimidating order for someone who assumes intermittent fasting comes from the wellness industry with health-based intentions. But, when we restrict our food intake and manipulate our body to the point that we ignore or shut down our own interoceptive (internal biological) signals, we also risk falling into a slippery slope of disordered eating and fail to recognize and work through the bigger emotional picture at play.

Even as “mindfulness” is as a popular a trend as “intermittent fasting,” it would be my wish for our culture to apply mindfulness, curiosity and compassion to ourselves when tempted to take an easy way out or a quick fix through dieting trends.

What’s Really Scary about Intermittent Fasting

What’s really scary about intermittent fasting is for those who have a history of restricting, binge/purge cycles, obsessive/compulsive behaviors, perfectionism, etc: Those who fall for the intermittent fasting trend are setting themselves up for a risky cycle of not only dangerous dieting behaviors but are also gambling with aggravating their nervous system responses. Once the brain senses a lack of safety, the body retreats either into shutdown or fight/flight, and without proper support, it can induce one’s mental health into further decline.

Diet Trends and Weight Loss Quick Fixes Boil Down to Coping Mechanisms, So Get Curious About It, and Have Compassion For Yourself

Diet trends boil down to coping mechanisms. Read that again - Diet trends, or dieting or an intense focus on weight/shape, boils down to being a coping mechanism. As Anita Johnston wrote in Eating in the Light of the Moon, food issues are red herrings to deeper issues that need your sweet attention and loads of support.

At first diet trends and quick fixes might seem sexy, appealing and productive to deal with an external (body/weight/shape) issue, but because we have to eat, and because we have to ultimately figure out a way to nourish ourselves literally and figuratively, the internal challenges that need support and compassion tend to get bypassed for an external hamster wheel race focused on food and exercise. Might as well pass around the grapefruits of the 80s again and call it what it is: a quick fix trend.

If you might be ready to find freedom from food, dieting, exercise or body image issues, I’d love to see if we are a good fit. Feel free call me for a 15-minute phone consultation. Contact me here.


Matrescence = On Becoming a New Mom

Distress and discomfort do not equal disease or disorder. Sure, there’s a time and place and necessity to apply a diagnosis around perinatal mood disorders when applicable. However, the presumptive nature of automatically pathologizing motherhood undermines actually empowering new mothers as they birth themselves and the new lives they’ve just been handed. Whether your experience qualifies as a diagnosable disorder or not, the bottom line is you’ve entered a new world and deserve more support than our culture tends to offer.

While often new mothers feel isolated (that can be an understatement!) wondering what’s normal and what needs more support, as a psychotherapist specializing in maternal mental health, I’d say ALL new mothers need various types of support. Whether you qualify for a clinical diagnosis of postpartum depression, anxiety or psychosis, or feel overwhelmed in 473 different ways, you need to know you are not alone, and options are available.

Wherever you are in your journey, check out this excellent TED Talk by reproductive psychiatrist Dr. Alexandra Sacks on how we birth ourselves as mothers when becoming a mother (in all the ways).

“When a baby is born, so is a mother -- but the natural (and sometimes unsteady) process of transition to motherhood is often silenced by shame or misdiagnosed as postpartum depression. In this quick, informative talk, reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks breaks down the emotional tug-of-war of becoming a new mother -- and shares a term that could help describe it: matrescence.”

Are you a new or seasoned mother interested in exploring a holistic, creative, mindful way of mothering while maintaining your own sense of self? Contact me for a 15-minute phone consultation to see if therapy might be a good fit for you.

#maternalmentalhealth #maternalmhmatters #atlantamoms #postpartumsupport #postpartum #postpartuminternational #newbaby #newmom

Free Yoga Event in Decatur - July 24


Nourish Yourself thru Yoga at this *free* community event I'm offering with Walden Behavioral Care -- Wednesday, July 24, 4:00-6:00pm at Gathered & Grounded in Decatur. 🦋

Practice yoga thru the lens of developmental movement and nervous system science to help merge cognitive and somatic skills for coming home to your body and food with deeper sense of nourishment, empowerment and peace. Questions? Contact me, I'm happy to answer questions. 💫

About Caroline Gebhardt, APC, NCC, RYT: Caroline is an Atlanta-based mental health counselor and yoga teacher specializing in the rich, spiraling journeys of disordered eating and maternal mental health using both cognitive and somatic psychotherapeutic techniques. To learn more, visit her here:

To learn more about Walden:…/georgia-lo…/decatur/


Q&A: From Fitness Fanatic to Intuitive Fitness Practitioner

asian woman dancing.jpeg

Recently I wrote about letting go of disordered eating patterns in a blog post. That post and the referenced NYTimes article Smash the Wellness Industry sparked some interest and questions from those interested in letting go of “diet culture” or exhausting food/exercise habits. Following is a common question and one I hope is asked more and more as our culture becomes increasingly interested in practices that ask “WHO AM I? WHAT DO I WANT?” versus “WHAT SHOULD I LOOK LIKE? WHO or HOW SHOULD I BE?”

Question: For years and years I worked out really hard and could get the results I yearned for…. But as I get busier, have more responsibilities with less time for extravagant fitness regimes, and have more interest in sustainable and more enjoyable fitness options, I feel confused and overwhelmed with where to begin. Plus, I think I tend to live in my head more than my body, so I can’t really even tell what my body wants! What do you mean by “intuitive fitness?” Where do I begin to know what I might enjoy as well as what my body craves and needs?

Answer: In short, there is no perfect blueprint or roadmap. There is certainly no plan consisting of reps, xx many days of cardio or HIIT, or food elimination practices. If you can start with the idea that becoming healthily embodied — or intuitive fitness — is a process of daily discernment that evolves into a richer journey of discovery of your mind, body and spirit, you can be well on your way to living from a place of wholeness and not just thinking, dieting, or clawing your way through it!

That said, I can offer a start of where to begin, which I recently wrote about in similar fashion in my last post regarding body-based boundaries. As Bessel van der Kolk, author of the Body Keeps the Score said,“If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations — if you can trust them to give you accurate information — you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.”

  1. Pay attention to your body — Right now. Notice your heartbeat. Notice if both feet are on the floor or if you just must cross your legs in retreat. Notice any stiffness or opening. Notice if you’re leaning away from someone. Notice your belly tightening. Notice if your hips jut forward way ahead from your heart. Notice if your hands are clammy. Notice if your voice gets caught just behind your tongue. Get curious about all the sensations that might feel like too much, the ones that make you question your ability, the ones that make you doubt yourself. Get in your body, get curious like a friendly, loving investigator.

  2. Sensations over Content — After some practice, if the signals your body is giving you make you recognize a pattern of sensations or urges despite what you think you should be doing, these could be your guiding light. Many times our bodies know before our mind knows. If you have a desire to walk but you’re used to running (or even vice versa), give it a shot, and try that movement urge for a few moments. What happens? If you sense a need for a staccato type movement practice, but it’s Sunday and typically your “rest day,” be a rebel, break some rules and get outside and move. Garden. Take a walk with a neighbor. Play with your dog. Run in the sprinkler with your kids. Get grass all over your feet. Or if those things are typically your speed, take a rest. Sit on your front porch. Stay with your breath in more stillness. See what happens. Practice deciphering the sensations from the content, or the old narratives and shoulds, to know what might be your next step.

  3. Stay with Your Mind, Heart & Body as You Take Action — Once you’re on the journey to knowing your body more, it might be time to take action not just physically but in an intentional way cognitively, emotionally and spiritually as well. This could mean signing up for a class you’ve always dreamed of taking. This could mean taking risks like dating again, or looking for a new job. This could mean deepening a relationship and going to therapy because things feel too surface-level. Invite your brain to get handy and creative while staying with your body as you explore body and non-body-based patterns, movements or gestures that need to happen to healthily change or create a new dynamic in your life.

While these three things are far from complete instructions to becoming an intuitive fitness practitioner, they are a start to coming home to your body for wisdom and guidance. The possibilities and ways to explore are vast and unique to you. And, whether you believe me or not, your body does tend to be a lot more intuitive and wise than its often given credit, so offer your body your blessings and hope to trust its signals and guidance.

If you’d like to explore how we can deepen this practice in psychotherapy, please feel free call me for a 15-minute phone consultation. Contact me here.

what fuels your spirit.png


Beef Up Your Body-Based Boundaries


I don’t really buy it when people huff they “don’t care what others think.” It can be true and empowering here and there, especially if they’ve played roles that hit the expiration date last summer. But overall, the “I don’t care what you think” bomb tends to be a defensive swing to one side after tip-toeing around certain people or situations on the extreme other. When we really don’t care in a healthy way, we don’t carry deadly ammunition through our words, actions or energy.

Here’s the deal: We are creatures of connection.

Even if we are of the introverted persuasion and less social and groupy, our nervous systems are primed for safe, engaged connection with others from the day we are born. Stephen Porges, the scientist who discovered the third type of the nervous system response called the Social Engagement System, paved the way for us to understand how the vagus nerve influences this connection. The vagus nerve affects the body above the diaphragm including facial muscles (eye contact), tone of voice (prosody = safe sounding vocal tone), and hearing (essentially, the middle ear’s ability to tune in to caregiver’s voice). (Experiment with yourself in the mirror to see what kinds of facial expressions and voices feel appealing, calming, repulsive, triggering. When you find the appealing/calming communication combos, try them with others and feel the energy shift to a sense of being grounded and okay versus contentious and threatening.)

How does all of this relate to beefing up your boundaries?

Instead of becoming the Dreaded Defensive Donna tearing through the world with iron fists, how about pausing with the practice of compassion. Start with compassion for yourself first. Have compassion for how you’ve hidden, shrunk, cowered, messed up, or dissociated in an attempt to just get through the hell you need to get through.

This practice of compassion might actually bring up tears, sadness, long-lost grief for what you’ve craved. This practice of compassion might also elicit stabs of anger that feel like urges to fight or to flee ever confronting what you need to do about a situation. The tears: Good. Tears are your bodies way of releasing stored trauma, stored emotion that is time to shed. The fighting and fleeing: Let’s find healthy body-based ways to move through those urges to fight and flee.

Body-Based Boundaries: What do they look like?

I recently came upon this conversation between Brené Brown and Russell Brand. The interview questioned “Are People Doing the Best They Can?”, but the gist of Brown’s research showed that the most compassionate people — the ones whose hearts seemed like saints — embody the strongest boundaries. In other words, those people who can practice having compassion for themselves and others don’t take shit from others. They can offer their hearts, their resources, their minds, but they do so with boundaries, with forethought, with mindfulness. And here’s a snapshot, a daily practice, of how to set boundaries in a body-based way:

  1. Know thyself, thybody — Know Thyself, standing alone, could be an awfully humongous philosophical pill to swallow (thanks, Socrates), so for today let’s aim to practice: Know Thyself, Thybody. Pay attention to your body. Notice your heartbeat. Notice if both feet are on the floor or if you just must cross your legs in retreat. Notice if you’re leaning away from someone. Notice your belly tightening. Notice if your hips jut forward way ahead from your heart. Notice if your hands are clammy. Notice if your voice gets caught just behind your tongue. Get curious about all the sensations that might feel like too much, the ones that make you question your ability, the ones that make you doubt yourself. Get in your body, get curious like a friendly, loving investigator.

  2. Sensations over Content — After some practice, if the signals your body is giving you make you recognize a pattern of sensations despite the content of the situation, this could be your guiding light. Many times our bodies know before our mind knows. Many times we think we are too sensitive, we think we are the ones who need to bend just a little more. This article on Gaslighting can help explain how to recognize patterns, when “It’s not Me, It’s You” actually applies toward manipulators. Many times we have to use deep discernment to know what is mine, what is theirs, what is a red light, what is growth. Practice, practice, practice getting to know these sensations. Practice deciphering the sensations from the content to know what might be your next step.

  3. Stay with Your Mind, Heart & Body as You Take Action — Once you’re on the journey to knowing your body more, it might be time to take action. This could mean meeting someone in the middle if you’ve discovered some rigidity or fear in yourself. This could mean Small Doses or Negotiations with certain people, places or things. This could mean Recycling of a Relationship (aka: let it go to invite the new…aka: farewell, adieu, adios, take a hike!). Taking action can result in a plethora of options, but the main idea is to stay with your body when you take action because you’ll need to use your cognitive, thinking, logical, creative and heartfelt skills too. Invite your brain to get handy and creative while staying with your body as you complete a pattern, movement or gesture that needs to happen to healthily change or create a new dynamic.

“If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations — if you can trust them to give you accurate information — you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.” - Bessel van der Kolk

In case you’re wondering or suspecting, this body-based boundary work is rich, complicated, fascinating and usually needs some support as it tends to open up buried stories and traumas of many kinds as well as a vast window of possibilities for empowerment and a dose or two of peace. If you’re interested in knowing more and want to have a 15-minute phone conversation, feel free to contact me here.


Shape-Shifting Movement: M-Body What You Want

man dancing 2.jpeg

We do a lot of interpretive dance in my household. Typically a really good 80s love song on Spotify influences some family member to whip out a move or two. We laugh, and I swear it’s the best way to turn frowns upside down or just shake off some silly second-grade homework “stress.” Yet, it’s also really important to me to remember being in my body is not only about play but also about experiencing a full range of emotions in my body and not just in my head. (Go ahead and turn up “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship - If that doesn’t move you, we need to talk!)

As someone who was a creative dancer as a child and a journalism major as a young adult, my thin skin is my greatest intuitive sensory tool, yet my love for words and stories can play games with my mind. I bet if you’re reading you somewhat resonate with that experience too. That’s why I love pulling together somatic and cognitive therapies to help connect the dots and find meaning, awareness and likely some freedom in the mix of life. Brené Brown says:

The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity. ~ Brené Brown

So here’s an exercise for you. Take 5-10 minutes and clear some space around you. If you choose to do this movement with music, try matching the music to the mood based on the instructions for #1 and #2:

  1. Imagine a problem, issue or challenge you’re currently facing. Maybe it’s an icky feeling that’s hard to articulate. Maybe it’s a relationship situation. Maybe it’s a conversation you had two hours ago. Feel it in your blood, in your breath, in your bones. Does it make you feel like curling inward, opening your chest, beating on something, reaching, stretching wide, creeping low to the ground, swaying around the room? Explore how the problem shows up in your body and move with it.

  2. Now, imagine how you want that problem, issue or challenge resolved. Maybe it’s closure. Maybe it’s an opportunity you’re not sure you deserve or are ready to live. Maybe it’s moving in a different direction. Imagine this resolution to the problem giving you new life, new playfulness, new breath, new hope. Suspend any disbelief or old, confining stories you live with, and imagine the positive possibilities. Now move with that hope, expansion, light, rhythm. How do you want to move? Is it possible to play with it in your private space? How does your heart feel? Your breath? Do you notice your knees, your hips, your feet? Do you reach up/down, side-to-side? Is it interesting to take a new perspective and get low to the ground, maybe roll?

Take a few minutes to reflect on what you just did. Be with the sensations for a few minutes, then journal if you wish. See if you can do this almost anywhere. Notice how your stories influence your breath, then your sensations, then your movement, etc. What if you opened to trusting the process and experience what happens to your breath? Or your gestures, or little movement habits. I bet you’ll gain a new sense of body awareness as well as an appreciation and curiosity for the stories (and possibilities!) that bubble up in your mind.

Interested in doing this work one-on-one? Contact me for a 15-minute phone chat about the possibilities.


Shedding the Skin of Disordered Eating Behaviors/Distortions

snake coiled.jpeg

You might be contemplating whether to hold on to a disordered eating cycle of behaviors and thoughts — or — perhaps to find a new way of living, moving, nourishing, relating, dreaming, solving and creating. In other words, you might have some ambivalence or even embarrassment or shame about holding on to some old patterns, habits, rigidity and rituals surrounding food and/or exercise.

I want to tell you a secret: A LOT OF PEOPLE struggle with food, exercise and body image, and A LOT OF PEOPLE do really good jobs of masking, hiding and even touting their pain as health or wellness endeavors. Like alcohol, as this TIME article describes, the dieting crusade is one of the oldest socially acceptable drugs sold to you on a daily basis and/or talked about in peer groups and on the Today Show.

Or maybe you aren’t even sure what you’re dealing with is disordered eating or compulsive exercise. Perhaps you’ve been immersed in culture of wellness and cleaning eating as described in this popular NYTimes article, but it’s beginning to feel stifling, or you’ve sniffed out some BS fads and feel conflicted surrounding some ways of eating or viewing food and your body for a while now. Let’s face it, the latest contradictory and extreme advice about timed eating should be enough to make everyone pause and put on their critical thinking cap (and perhaps make one wonder how to tune into the belly for real hunger cues.)

“The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too.”

(And, PS, that quote above goes for men being subject to disordered eating and body image pressures too, so let’s make sure everyone is considered and treated with compassion surrounding how we nourish ourselves and heal from these antiquated, capitalistic beauty standards.)

I’m going to tell you another secret: When you are ready to want to know your truths and become empowered with your innate creativity, dreams and strengths just an ounce more than you give a flip about calories and weight loss, you will begin transformational, liberating work. And, this is where it will feel like shedding skin — not shedding weight so much, but shedding metaphorical skin. You will slowly release old behaviors and thoughts and step into a new way of living. You will face the more challenging but wayyyyyy more possible journeying of defending yourself as a deserving human being (not only to yourself but also to others) and promoting yourself as a worthy change-maker for yourself and possibly others.

This realization and work to discover that you already hold your light is where the power lies in your journey. (Wizard of Oz, anyone?) It’s not in the latest timing of food, or superfood, or exercise combo. It’s about taking off the cloak of deception and lies you’ve been conditioned to wear for various and complex reasons, leading you down a path of lies of what sort of exterior consumption will take you to a happier place. Taking one arm out of the armor, then another arm out of the armor, then letting the rest of the armor slide off your back will offer you that more possible, intuitive, authentic and empowered way of way of living, moving, nourishing, relating, dreaming, solving and creating.

Interested in knowing how this might work for you? Contact me for a 15-minute phone chat about outpatient psychotherapy. We might be a good fit, and/or I can make referrals for other levels of care, dietitians, etc. I’m happy to talk confidentially.

bud quote - anais nin.png


How Seeking Eating Disorder Support Can Reveal Your Deeper Hungers and Empower Your Life

spiral hallway.jpeg

A misconception about the spectrum of disordered eating — from clinically diagnosed disorders to chronic dieting and emotional eating — is the focus on body weight or shape. Sure, that weight/shape focus can play a part and can definitely exacerbate behaviors, symptoms and drives to control the body or use food or exercise against one’s own body. But, the underbelly of using food and/or exercise to control and cope is a complex field of emotions and struggles begging to be seen, heard, held and possibly managed.

Sometimes one is aware of the distress; Sometimes one is unconscious of the underlying turmoil. (Usually and especially in early healing, it’s the latter. Regardless, if you’re struggling with food, exercise or your body, and you’re reading this, you probably have a feeling there’s something deeper to chew on in a metaphorically, healing way.) But, the body holds the stories, and most definitely, the variety of coping mechanisms that show up as disordered eating are actually passageways to know one’s deeper truths.

How does someone begin to become aware of his/her underlying needs, truths and hungers? Whether a person seeks help via outpatient, inpatient or residential treatment (in a nutshell that means with an individual therapist or in a treatment center), feeling safe, heard and connected with a therapist or collaborative team sets the foundation to stabilize symptoms, then focus on trauma-informed cognitive and somatic therapies. (If you are reading this and want suggestions for treatment teams that offer medical and holistic approaches, which is an ideal combo, feel free to contact me for suggestions).

In order to shed the skin of behaviors/distortions that hold you back from a more liberated and authentic life, a variety of therapeutic approaches are important to explore along your unique journey. To name a few, these therapies might include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, Expressive Arts Therapies and Somatic Psychotherapy. (You can click on each of those for a quick summary of their approaches.) While they all have different and valuable approaches, the two things they all have in common are:

  1. They help to unpack and uncover why you use unhealthy food/exercise behaviors as coping mechanisms as well as explore what you specifically need to heal along your unique path.

  2. They provide you with tools of empowerment by offering new windows of possibilities, new ways to view problems and think, new communications skills, new ways to tolerate distress and emotions, new body and intra/interpersonal awareness and self-care, etc.

Many people are surprised and definitely disappointed that seeking treatment is not a one-and-done deal. It takes time, patience, courage and practice. It’s two steps forward, one step back. It’s a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Often it feels like shedding a skin, feeling perhaps even more sensitive than before, which might have led you to use unhealthy behaviors to cope in the first place! But, I’m writing to tell you healing from disordered eating is not only possible, the journey is invaluable and transformational as you apply what you’ve learned and embody the light you already hold. Think of it like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, like a show that surpasses your imagination and brings you possibility, creativity and freedom.

From an outpatient standpoint, I offer an integrative psychotherapeutic approach for eating disorders in Atlanta, meaning we can work through cognitive and somatic therapies based on what your body, heart and mind need. I believe in this work and am always happy to have a 15-minute phone chat to discuss your options or make recommendations. Contact me here if you’re interested.


Thank You, Body, for Checking Out (& the Intelligence of our Nervous System)

woman closing eyes.jpeg

It might sound surprising or confusing to read “thank your body for checking out, for dissociating, for numbing out the moment, for forgetting, for blocking, and even for pleasing.” But, in life threatening situations — which is qualified by a person’s unique response to a unique life-threatening-feeling situation — this is our body’s way, our nervous system’s way, of making not only our sense-of-self check out but also to downsize our defenses to appear less tempting to a predator.

Let me back up and stress that what feels like trauma to me (my unique response to what I interpret as a life threatening situation) might be “no biggie” to you. And vice versa. What matters is how a person internalizes a situation and how her body and nervous system responds. Unfortunately, our culture has historically victim shamed and blamed, ultimately dismissing people who deserve compassion, support and many times, legal help.

I started writing this post after finding myself repeatedly finding it helps for people to understand their coping mechanisms of checking out as a part of their healing journey from various traumas. Checking out or dissociating isn’t caused by a defect of character or “laziness” or “apathy.” Checking out or shutting down doesn’t mean people deserve whatever happens. It’s actually a way to shield oneself from a life threatening situation. Instead of blaming themselves, by exploring the psycho-education of nervous system science, and how the body’s reptilian defense system sends the body into immobilization as a way to protect itself from further harm, explains how the body serves us in an instinctual way. This is the “freeze” or “shutdown” you might have heard about before. So that’s why I say, “thank your body.”

Thanking your body doesn’t soothe or resolve the situation, and that’s not the point; However, it is a way to practice building a compassionate dialogue with your body as well as shedding some of the shame often associated with not being able to fight back.

Survivors are shamed and blamed because they didn’t mobilise, fight and make an effort. That’s a misunderstanding. It’s a poorly informed explanation because the body goes into that state and they can’t move. The theory had traction because it gave survivors feelings of validation. Survival was really an expression of the heroic nature of our body in trying to save us. Sometimes it goes into a state in which we can’t move, but the objective is to raise our pain thresholds and to make us appear to be less viable to the predator. Within the legal system, there’s been a lot of issues when a person hasn’t fought off a predator. And I think this is being poorly informed about how bodies respond. ~ Stephen Porges,

If the subject matter of this blog brings up specific memories, thoughts, unexplainable feelings or sensations for you, it’s important to not only a) get support surrounding any trauma you or loved ones might have experienced but also b) begin to get curious about the intelligence that resides in your body through some nervous system science. Contact me if you’d like to talk about therapeutic support, and/or check out the resources below.

Book Resources:

One of my favorite easy-to-digest books is Stephen Porges The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory.

Also, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk.

Online Resources:

Polyvagal Theory Applied – Moving from Fight or Flight to Social Engagement for Sustainable Living - podcast

Polyvagal Theory in Practice - PVT explained in practice


Know Your Hungers (+ How to Reach and Receive Them)

woman eating cake.jpeg

Back in February, I wrote about the Satisfaction Cycle and how to use this developmental movement practice as a way to practice setting boundaries (literally saying NO) not only from a place of cognitive awareness but also from a place of healthy embodiment. What about using the Satisfaction Cycle as a way to heal from an eating disorder (or disordered eating), to get to know what your body wants to eat, to get up and reach for what your body wants to eat, to pick exactly what your body wants, and finally, to receive and appreciate what your body wants? (And, please keep in mind that while I’m talking food and listening to your body, I’m also talking about your deeper hungers. The two go hand-in-hand.)

As a refresher, the Satisfaction Cycle is a developmental movement therapeutic practice that invites one to process and practice infant movement patterns that offer psychological and physical growth parallels. Sometimes as we age and go through all life has to offer good and bad, we can feel stuck or disembodied, or perhaps something in our life feels “off,” so revisiting the Cycle can offer a re-patterning of foundational concepts.

So, what if you crave a tub of buttercream frosting or an entire bag of Lay’s potato chips? Isn’t that what the non-diet culture says is okay? What if your cousin keeps pushing the new fasting trend, but your belly begs to differ and wants a normal dinner at 6pm? What if you’re diabetic and have to be more mindful of your sugar intake than your margarita-drinking friends, but you also don’t want to deprive yourself?

The steps in the Satisfaction Cycle can help you unpack and use discernment in exploring what, how much, and when to have what you are hungry for. This might be a good time for journaling because while we will use food as a metaphor in the following steps of the Cycle, go wild and have fun brainstorming all the delicious things you want in life: relationships, family life, creative pursuits, your living environment, living in your body, adventures, a deeper sense of spiritual connection, etc.

  1. Get to know what your body wants to eat — Yield. It takes the presence of YIELDING into a situation with awareness, resting into knowing what is a no, what is a yes. Being able to sense what sounds energizing, nourishing and satisfying. Being able to sense what is draining, stuffing or not enough after you consume it. To yield, notice where your body meets a supportive ground, and give yourself time to reflect on what has nourished you in the past and what type of food(s) might nourish you for this meal or snack. Yielding is about mindfulness (“hmm, how are my senses reacting?”), discernment (“this sounds good but would make me feel foggy”), and wakefulness (“I probably need a bigger/smaller portion to serve my energy needs”). Yielding is the the opposite of rebelling with food, using your body to make a political statement, dissociating with emotional eating, or collapsing into a “what-the-hell” attitude. Use the yielding practice for reflection for literal and figurative nourishment meal-by-meal, day-by-day.

  2. Get up and go for it — Push. Now for PUSHING. Pushing away from old habits, pushing away from behaviors that don’t serve you, and even pushing away from the decision-making time of yielding and experimenting with something new, maybe out of your comfort zone. It’s wonderful to reflect, maybe sometimes to plan food choices (if that truly fits your healing path), but sometimes it’s also time to take action and try something even if it’s scary or it might not be just the right thing, or portion, or combo of foods to eat. Pushing is about empowerment from your core, pushing away from the old and taking yourself (and your belly) toward something new. On another note, in terms of pushing away from old habits or behaviors, many times twisting, turning the eyes, turning the head or body can help you set sail away from the old and toward the new, the energizing, the healthier nourishment.

  3. Move toward what you want — Reach. The beauty of the push — of the pushing away and "NO" leaves space for what will satisfy your taste buds and energize your life. You have the wide open space and view of possibilities of what you can have, what you do want. That's when you REACH. Try it right now. Put your hand in the air and imagine having an array of deliciousness and variety just within your fingertips. Close your eyes and imagine a rainbow of food possibilities. This is a great exercise if you’ve been restricting or if you’ve been binging. Imagine IT’S ALL ALLOWED, there’s ENOUGH TO GO AROUND so you don’t have to reach and grab it all at once. Practice trusting that the act of opening your arms and reaching can happen again and again, with curiosity, with playfulness, with empowerment, with a sense of agency from your belly, your (taste) buds and your brain.

  4. Hold exactly what you want — Grasp. Once you know and see and sense and feel what you are hungry for, you GRASP. You hold it with not only your literal or figurative hand but more so with your heart, your awareness, as well as with a trusting that you can have what you crave and deserve, but you just don't always get what you want. Sometimes we grasp, and it’s just not ready. Maybe you have to leave the house, and it takes an hour to cook in the oven. Maybe those blueberries are not in season. So that’s when you go with the next best solution. Or maybe, back to the diabetic example, you really can’t have that much sugar due to health consequences. That’s where you practice acceptance or maybe apply the Serenity Prayer or a variation of it. See how this Cycle works well with food but is not only related to food? :)

  5. Allow yourself to receive, digest and appreciate — Pull. Here’s where you PULL. You pull that deliciousness closer to you. You practice allowing yourself to receive something tasty as well as energizing. You practice trusting your body to digest and use the food to help you expand and glow. You practice appreciating the process of yielding with awareness and discernment, pushing to create boundaries and a clearer path, reaching for what you might want, grasping with empowerment and ownership and trust, then pulling toward your core with appreciation and allowance.

Hopefully, this gives you somewhat of a reflective blueprint and somatic practice to help notice how your body responds to a more mindful eating and living approach. It’s my wish for you to literally practice the postures and movements described (yield, push, reach, grasp, pull) just like a baby would aim for a toy just out of her reach. If that shiny object is there, she will do everything in her power to make a change, to move her body as much as she can to aim for what she wants. So can you.

Questions, or interested in how this practice applies to not only mindful eating but also how it applies to deeper hungers and patterns in your life? Let’s talk. Contact me here.


Your Body Begs to Be Heard


Do you ever have these intuitions or knowings or feelings that are hard to describe, you just feel it in your body? Or maybe your body knows before you do? Maybe you get an overwhelming sensation to adjust your posture or move, or you have a underlying urge to move but you feel stuck? Maybe you feel something stuck in your throat, carry a heaviness in your heart, or hold tension in your shoulders? Or maybe you just know things that are hard to articulate, to know how to explain, and maybe your body cringes, shudders, tightens, closes, or twists away from a situation as a way to say “no, yuck, yikes!”

People who have experienced trauma — developmental trauma or complex trauma — often hold feelings, experiences, trauma and wisdom in their body. I’d even say:

  1. All of us have experienced a variety of traumas because we are human and we have this thing called life to navigate.

  2. Some of us feel a little more than others — especially if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person (read more about that here)

  3. Many of us “shutdown” developing tendencies to turn off the intuitive sense and/or body wisdom responses with coping mechanisms that leave us in more dissociated states. (examples: using disordered eating, or substances like alcohol or marijuana, or compulsive shopping, or compulsive social media, etc).

None of this is your fault, and neither can you do it alone! While we have a way to go, our culture isn’t always welcoming to social/emotional intelligence, so you often need support, an experienced human guide or two to help you explore the sensations and feelings that reside in your body.

The bright side is your body has richness to show you. Your body is begging to be heard. Your body has stories, guidance, intelligence and gifts to help guide you. And, yet, it’s okay to be scared of all that. It’s okay to feel so far detached from your body, like it’s sitting on the opposite side of the room despite your pounding heart, clammy hands and perhaps numbness from the neck down.

In somatic, body-based and other movement therapies, we explore your stories slowly, at your pace, in ways that organically arise through talking, art, movement and other mindfulness exercises, as a way to help not reactivate or re-trigger old traumas but as a way to help bit-by-bit move through them. This way it doesn’t feel like you’re in a rocky time machine needing to re-experience every bad thing that ever happened.

Your body has a wisdom and even a desire to serve you in a fruitful way if you are open to letting it guide you. Your body has a way of recycling the old in productive ways and birthing new life for your enjoyment, pleasure, growth and knowledge to pay forward.

Interested in learning how we might work together? Contact me to set up a 15-minute phone conversation.


How to See, Hear & Hold Yourself through an Embodiment Practice (Part 2)

woman holding bouquet.jpeg

While I meant to follow up with Part 2 weeks ago, the month of May (December’s ugly sister), held me hostage until all the school festivities settled. I could have pushed through in some way — stayed up too late, skipped a morning walk — but part of my own mothering myself is listening to my body for creativity cues. I’ve yet to embody Anne Lamott’s “butt in chair” advice if it’s past sundown or I’ve got the wiggles.

Like I mentioned in my last post, this embodiment work of seeing, hearing and holding yourself involves:
”somatic work as ‘womb-to-walking’ because it’s rich not only in physical developmental patterns but also our initial psychological development patterns. While the parent, therapist, bodyworker, teacher, or other loving/helping figure can offer a child the qualities of being seen, heard and held literally and figuratively, at some point, each of us — in one way or another — is bound to be challenged and even privileged to do this 'mothering' work for our own body and self." In a nutshell, we can be led, we can be guided and taught, the work can be modeled to us, but ultimately, it’s a process of attuning to oneself.

  1. It’s process- and reflective-based work. In other words, to see, hear and hold yourself like you needed to thrive as an infant, and like you still need today as an adult is daily work that takes time, compassion and curiosity. While you can read about it in a textbook, it’s feelings- and sensory-based work that cannot be intellectualized. Like a caregiver feeding a baby, one can watch the clock for a three-hour feeding schedule, but better yet, pay attention to the baby’s sound cues, twists toward the bottle or breast, or other hunger patterns (before baby gets too pissed and dysregulated!). You can have a cognitive awareness of a somatic response or urge, you can have a visualization of what you need or want — which are both worthy of helping to integrate the mind-body connection — but processing the experience from an internal, sensations-based inquiry offers the foundation of turning inward to yourself from a deeper place of holding not only physically but also emotionally. This processing is a practice, one that requires compassion (a softening toward yourself) and deep curiosity (looking at all your parts — the good, bad and ugly — with wonder, not judgment).

  2. Start where you are. There are a million different places to start, so let’s start where you are, right now, in this moment. How’s your jaw? Is your tongue locked to the roof of your mouth? Are you clinching your belly? Where’s your breath going? Where are you holding? Where do you want to be open? What areas might be numb or checked out? How’s your pelvis doing? Is it tucked under? What about your shoulders? Could they use an exhale? Are you standing when you have an urge to sit? Are you sitting when you have an urge to flow like water? Is there some place that needs to adjust, just an inch to shift your view? Do you need to shake off something? If you could reach for something, what would you reach for? What if you allowed yourself to move how your body wants? If you can’t right now, can you be curious about why not and still be present with the urge or desire?

  3. Notice, notice, notice. Deep urges, lingering thoughts, big dreams, postural tendencies, numbness in the body, dissociative tendencies, areas of tension, flutters of wonder. Notice these things, and keep noticing. And when you forget to notice, or you override an urge, just notice. This noticing practice is like the internal mother who provides unconditional love. When the baby takes that step, hooray. When the baby falls, that’s okay, try again. When the baby sleeps for more than five hours, hooray. When the baby cries every two hours, we rock and feed, rock and feed. Underneath all the body awareness lies an ocean of richness about who we are, what we need, where we’ve been, where we’re going, and ultimately, an okayness of what is.

  4. When and if it feels safe enough: It’ll be nice to get out of the proverbial chair, take off your shoes and even get on the floor. In other words, when it feels safe enough to make a change, depending on what your body needs, when it feels safe enough to move beyond your pattern of conditioning or habitual patterns, it will be okay to take that step because you’ll have an internal capacity to see, hear and hold yourself. You’ll be able to stay in and see the process, to sense your body and hear your own presence, to notice how you need to be held along the journey. And, finally, having a sense of exploration and playfulness is not a bad thing either! :)

Want to practice this in person? Come to my June 1 workshop (one week away) in Decatur at the Decatur School of Ballet. Click here for more details.


How to See, Hear & Hold Yourself through an Embodiment Practice (Part 1)


When my children detest my assertiveness and push back (“Sorry, time to turn off the tv,” which results in tears or developmentally appropriate defiance and furrowed brows), I recognize my own frustration. Luckily, I have not raised them to be fearful of me, so they tend to push back with defiant words (“poopy face!” from a 4-yr-old, anyone?), clever negotiating or avoidant behavior, which I recognize as their need for connection and empathy, not my need for aggressiveness toward them. I usually even ask during a tantrum, “hey, do you need to be held?”, which always results in a tearful “yes.” A big pause and genuine co-regulating hug, and wa-lah, my work is done (for the moment)! It’s the Victor Frankl quote:

Between stimulus and response there is space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

While I certainly do not believe everyone needs to become a parent to learn the greatest lessons of life (we all have unique opportunities and challenges to push us to grow, stretch and learn; doesn’t necessarily include parenting), my journey of mothering has and continues to teach me about the importance of a warm container, a safe place to anchor and be held. While good boundary setting is a necessary part of this container-relationship too, the main idea is the mother or primary caregiver’s being able to see, hear, and hold the WHOLE child — all the child’s behaviors and tendencies and energy as important parts of what make them whole, but they as parts do not define their essence.

As a psychotherapist who works from a body-based approach, I find the quality of the therapeutic relationship sets the stage for the client’s movement forward. Before my counseling work, as a movement teacher and personal trainer for eating disorders and addictions, I worked from noticing and building movement or breath patterns for people to increase their body awareness (this includes interoception and proprioception; in a nutshell, what we notice inside and outside of us, respectively).

When I entered the counseling world, I noticed these patterns usually on a more subtle, nonverbal, unconscious level. However, adding in the need for safety for a client to effectively participate in therapy, I found the value of inviting the body into the treatment environment: to slowly invite attention to a tone of voice, or a tilt of the head, or nervous tapping of feet underneath an otherwise steady demeanor.

Because I work a lot with folks who struggle with disordered eating as well as mothers whose own bodies are always in physical demand (many times to everyone else but themselves), I became really curious about the innate and universal gestures, movements and patterns that are all asking to be seen, heard and held. Therefore, why not return to our earliest place of being seen, heard and held from the most physical level, hence, my love for introducing developmental movement into the therapeutic work.

I like to describe this somatic work as “womb-to-walking” because it’s rich not only in physical developmental patterns but also our initial psychological development patterns. While the parent, therapist, bodyworker, teacher, or other loving/helping figure can offer a child the qualities of being seen, heard and held literally and figuratively, at some point, each of us — in one way or another — is bound to be challenged and even privileged to do this “mothering” work for our own body and self.

I consider this an opportunity for healthy embodiment, as we are often conditioned through complex or developmental trauma to split our psyche from our soma. We are taught to ignore our urges, sensations, “gut feelings.” We are taught to blaze ahead with a narrowly defined scope of intelligence and thinking, often cutting ourself off from the wisdom of the patterns and rhythms of our body. We are taught to “shake it off,” “you’re okay,” “chin up,” too often when even if it looks like the scraped knee isn’t bloody, that little person inside might just need two minutes of big holding for lots of other things she can’t quite articulate yet.

So — How do you mother yourself through mindful movement? How do you see, hear and hold yourself in an healthily embodied way? A few hints are:

  • It’s process- and reflective-based work (aka: it’s daily work that takes time, compassion, curiosity)

  • Start where you are (yes, how’s your jaw? is your tongue locked to the roof of your mouth? are you clinching your belly? where’s your breath going?)

  • Notice, notice, notice. Deep urges, lingering thoughts, big dreams, numbness in the body, dissociative tendencies, areas of tension, flutters of wonder.

  • When and if it feels safe enough: It’ll be nice to get out of the chair, take off your shoes and even get on the floor. (Having a sense of exploration and playfulness is not a bad thing either! :) )

***Part 2 continues in my next postClick here to check it out!