A Breathwork Class—and Framework—for Therapeutic Codependent Pondering

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In my six month program, The Feminist Wellness Guide to Overcoming Code Dependency, we learn how to really feel our emotions in our bodies and see and then change our habitual, survival-based thinking so we can begin to thrive. I do this through two parallel frameworks that I’ve put together: a somatic framework and a cognitive behavioral framework.

Somatic awareness: I firmly believe that the first step in healing is awareness, and it starts with learning how to feel your feelings deeply and physically. For many of us, our culture, our societies, and our families of origin have so often taught us to push away fearful or dangerous feelings. When our thinking and feeling habits are decades old, it is difficult to understand the feelings within us that drive our dysfunctional behavior. And it’s important to get in touch with them this way: you can’t heal what you can’t see.

In my practice, breathwork is the portal to understand our emotions as a felt experience and not just as a cognitive one. When I’m sad, this cognitive experience could be something like: I’m sad because there’s a pandemic and my friend’s father has died. While the felt experience of sadness for me is that I feel a blue tightness in my chest. It feels heavy, like it’s draining my energy.

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Cognitive behavioral work: I combine the somatic aspects we’ve discussed with paying attention to our thoughts and the feelings they create for us, knowing that each thought triggers the release of what Candace Pert calls the “molecules of emotions.” It starts with a cognitive behavioral modality that I have called the mind work protocol that helps us see how our chronic thinking creates feelings in our bodies.

The thought that you are terrible, unpopular, unfixable, stuck, and broken creates a groove in your mind that your body believes to be true. To help our bodies reduce self-doubt and self-denial, let’s look at what is happening within us that triggers this body-wide chemical reaction. That is, we need to be honest with ourselves about our habitual, ingrained thoughts – and we often cannot see these thoughts clearly until we stop and write them down. Only when we know what is really going on within us can we begin to change this story.

And this is why the feeling in your body is so important: you can try to cognitively change your point of view throughout the day, but if you are not in touch with what you are feeling and don’t pay attention to that feeling, your efforts will usually not be sustainable. Your brain will go back to the old story. All of the chemicals that control your emotions in your body are still racing around. We have to heal that first.

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