CNM 036: “Non-Traditional” Approaches to Healing – with Debbie Sherrick

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In this episode, I interview holistic, codependency life coach Debbie Sherrick about some “non-traditional” approaches to healing.

As you’ll see, Debbie likes to approach codependency not just as an addiction or psychological problem, but as a ‘mind-body-spirit’ issue.

I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s my interview with Debbie…

Interview on Non-Traditional Approaches to Healing, with Debbie Sherrick

Brian: Debbie, welcome to the show. It’s so great that you’re here.

Debbie: Thank you. Thank you for having me Brian. I’m excited about this.

Brian: Me too. My pleasure.

Well let’s get right into it.

Question: I understand you grew up in an alcoholic home. How do you think that affected you, and what impact did it have on the line of work that you’ve chosen to go into?

Debbie: Oh gosh, well that was just my roots. My family of origin is really how I became such a ‘good’ codependent, learning in the environment of addiction. We just don’t wake up one day and  have co-dependent behaviors.

Growing up in an alcoholic, domestic violent home (as the oldest of four children), I learned at four and a half years old how to rescue my mother and my siblings, and try to control the alcohol and manipulate things around the home to feel safe. When you grow up in an environment like that you really learn how to survive. It sets your belief system for your future relationships.

Question: Do you think that self-love takes more than just emotional care, or is self-love a whole-body issue? And if so can you explain what you mean?

Debbie: This is actually one of my favorite topics. I am a holistic life coach. I do alternative medicine. Holistic means the whole of us; mind, body and spirit. It’s not just about them working through their relationship issues.

We are a three-part being. We’re a body, we have a soul, and we have a spirit. I feel that all three need to be worked on to be healthy. For instance, most of the clients coming to my studio have been in very painful, dysfunctional, toxic relationships for a while. They almost always have physical issues, and a lot of times it’s digestive issues because they have swallowed their truth. They stuff their feelings. I believe that the subconscious mind and the body are one.

I like to work with clients learning self-love. It’s important that we don’t just take care of our emotions and learn how to love ourselves in that way, but we need to learn how to love ourselves physically. One of the things codependents do is put their stuff on the back burner; everybody comes first before them. So, a lot of us neglect our needs, neglect or self, neglect or health. We neglect so many things about ourselves that we’re not loving ourselves. And so yes, in answer to that, I do believe that self-love has to do with not just learning emotionally and mentally how to love ourselves, but it also entails the physical and spiritual part of us.

Question: I want to get into that more as we talk. Before we get there, I want to know, with respect to self-love, what are the “non-traditional” aspects of healing that have worked for you and your clients?

Debbie: I work with clients on inner child work, having them talk about that belief system that they created as a child, mostly by the age of seven, concerning the first things that they felt. Not everyone may remember experiences or events that happened as a child, but everyone remembers the feelings that they had growing up. So, when I work with them we figure out some of the first feelings they remember feeling in their home; anger, fear, shame (not good enough), sadness. Most everyone will come up right away and say, “Oh, shame” or “fear” or “anger”. Then we talk about that and discover how that shows up in their life today, because we will continue to seek that out because it’s familiar. (How do you always create anger or sadness or shame in your life?)

I think that part of self-love can mean re-creating our belief systems that we got as children in the environment that we grew up in, and what we took in energetically from our environment by what we saw and how we felt (safe or not).

I have them (my clients) do so many great things to improve self-love. I love mirror work. I love to teach clients how to date themselves and treat themselves how they would like to be treated in a relationship. Sometimes it’s like re-parenting ourselves. What did you not get? What was missing when you were growing up that you wish you would have had? What harmed you or hurt you, or caused you not to love yourself?

For example, I grew up in a very critical home. My father, being an alcoholic, was very verbally critical. So, I grew up having shame and feeling ‘not good enough’ a lot of times about my physical appearance because he had very high expectations about how a girl should look weight wise and everything. When you’re constantly criticized by one of the important people (your mother or father), you tend to feel ‘not good enough’.

When we are learning self-love it means giving ourselves the things that we did not get growing up.

Brian: On one hand, we have traditional methods; cognitive behavior therapy, Inner Child healing, journaling. When I say these, I’m thinking of things we tend to hear about a lot. And what I thought was interesting about talking to you was that you’re also involved with things like energy healing, chakras and some of these other “non-traditional” things. I really want to talk more about those because this is something we haven’t brought up much on this podcast before.

Question: Let’s take “chakras”. What does it mean when someone uses that word? And why do they (chakras) matter to your emotional well-being?

Debbie: Well I do use a lot of energy work with my clients and in developing self-love and healing. In fact, I have a course in healing codependency through the chakras. When we think about chakras, a lot of people don’t understand what that really means. It’s like a wheel and refers to energy centers that generate light, and we have seven major chakra centers starting from the base of our spine to the top of our head. Sometimes people will call them magnetic fields that process negative and positive energy from our universe and our environment growing up, and redistribute it throughout our system; things from the past up to the present now.

Each chakra is related to a particular type of energy, and that energy center records and stores information about all of our experiences, our beliefs, our values and relationships. It’s like a filing cabinet storing this information, receiving energy and sending energy out. It’s intended to be a healthy ‘in-and-out’ cycle when balanced, kind of like spinning vortexes that keep us healthy in our cells. However, life experiences that we’ve gone through, emotional upsets, crises, pain and traumas of any kind can shock and impair our energy systems. And so if these experiences are not processed, released and worked through over time, a lack of energy flow in some parts of our body can manifest into illness and other emotional problems.

We have memories from painful events that I believe are forgotten by the conscious mind, but the body never forgets because it stores these memories. I have an old book that I love and recommend to clients called Feelings Buried Alive Never Die. It’s scientifically proven that the subconscious mind and the body are one. So when we think about these chakra energy centers in our bodies starting at the root chakra, most codependents live in the lower energies of the chakra because those are our relationships centers.

I work with them teaching them how to balance those energy centers to heal and clear them out, so things flow to your body physically and emotionally, and live in higher consciousness to our upper chakra centers – to our intuition, our crown chakra being connected to spirit, our heart chakra learning how to process through forgiveness, resentment and anger, and be open to receiving and giving love.

It’s really a beautiful thing when you learn how to do this because then you can recognize when you’re going back into that codependent behavior and into those lower energy centers of the past, and how to get out of there and embrace the higher consciousness which is where we all want to live. Our higher self always knows what’s best for us and loves us.

Brian: I want to make sure I can summarize what you’ve said so far. We have these seven energy centers in the body. Sometimes when we undergo a trauma in life we can get blockages from the energy flow in our body, and that can manifest itself in biological problems. It can affect the way energy flows through the body. Does that sound accurate so far?

Debbie: Yes. If I’m working with someone that has a real fear of loving again and opening their heart up to love because they’ve been hurt so much, I can almost guarantee their heart chakra is blocked and unconsciously shut down. So, I use things like chakra balancing and essential oils. I love essential oils because of their high vibration, emotionally and spiritually.

I like visualization and meditation to manifest – picturing that energy center or that heart opening up to love. I love using crystals and stones because of their energy. Everything has energy. I also love using herbs, especially some of the Chinese formulations because they have an emotional and spiritual component that helps us physically, moving anger and resentment out of the liver area and fear out of the kidney area, for example. I put healing programs together for clients so they can heal emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Question: Would it be fair to say that the chakras become blocked because of things that have happened to us in our lives, and some of the “traditional” things people do can help to clear the chakras, but you’re also bringing to the table some “non-traditional” things that can clear the chakras as well, like herbs, crystals and essential oils? Is that right?

Debbie: Yes, at a very cellular level.

Most of my clients have done some traditional therapy work, and I feel like I’m just an extension of that, and I can also help people that are open to it (these methods). Our second chakra (“sacral” chakra) is our relationship center. Many times people will have cords of attachment to past relationships, or maybe they were sexually abused (each energy center has certain organs or parts of the body that are attached to that energy center). So, a lot of times people have not worked through things like abortion or molestation or incest, and they have core emotional cords of attachment that need to be cut because they are still connected to a past energy that is harming and hurting them.

In my experience, most all codependents who have not experienced healing really do live down into those lower chakras – our root chakras, our family of origin where we learn our traditions about relationships and everything. Sometimes we’re really connected to those traditions and beliefs, yet they may be harmful or false beliefs that weren’t healthy. It’s very subconscious; that part of the brain just doesn’t want to let go of some of those beliefs. We’re not able to move past it, learn self-love and attract healthier relationships.

Question: Since codependency happens to be the overarching topic of this entire show let’s take that as an example. Speaking of helping people rid themselves of things like co-dependency through clearing the chakras (you specifically mentioned that second chakra), can you talk about an example of what a codependent can do to help clear out the chakra? What types of energy healing do you find most helpful, and what would you typically use as your ‘go to’ for this specific kind of case?

Debbie: Well, the first thing is for them to have awareness. We can’t heal what we don’t know and what we’re not aware of. We have to get people out of denial and have them really look at situations where they may have closed down that energy center. Someone might think, ‘Yeah, that happened to me. But that was a long time ago, and I’ve forgotten about it.’ They show no emotion about it. But we need to get them to see how this is still harming them since they haven’t worked through, for example, the forgiveness.

I mentioned mirror work a little earlier. I will do inner child mirror work. I have clients look in their eyes in the mirror while picking an age of a childhood and going back to a memory. When we look into our own eyes, that’s the soul of our little girl or little boy still there, and we’re going back to that time.

We can write anger letters and read them to get it (the anger) out of their cells. Or, we might do something physically to release that anger. If they’re having trouble removing that anger, I will have them do things with a lot of motion, like running or punching bags in my office to get that anger out. Sometimes codependents have a very hard time getting anger out. They are stuck in sadness and they need to get angry. Every person is different depending on what we must do to move them into health.

I love doing visualization with essential oils, and I use a massage table with chakra balancing. I also love working with angels to help with healing. Each individual, depending on what they’ve gone through and where they’re stuck, can need different things to heal. I let spirit lead me on what they need, and pray to have wisdom to know what’s going to work well with them. It’s actually a beautiful journey for them because they’re discovering themselves at a deeper level.

The solar plexus is often very affected because that’s our fire center; that’s where we stuff our self-esteem and self-worth. When codependents question themselves, and don’t trust themselves, they’ll get that little check down in the solar plexus area where we feel fear and anxiety. They’ll have a gut feeling that they’ll ignore and stuff down because they don’t trust that what they’re hearing is true.

So, part of my job is teaching them how to listen to their intuition, how to listen to that gut, what their intuition and higher self is trying to tell them. They must learn to pay attention to how they’re feeling, like when something doesn’t feel right and they’re feeling anxiety in that solar plexus. Is that what’s really happening now or is that something springing up from the past? My role involves a lot of helping them to have an awareness of their mind-body connection, where they’re feeling feelings, and what they feel like. In what part of your body are you feeling that? They come to a lot of awareness about mind-body connection by learning to listen to their bodies.

Question: Is it accurate to say that, depending on where you’re feeling that feeling in the body, that there’s a correlation with a certain emotion most of the time?

Debbie: It can be true. It really can be fear, especially right in that solar plexus for people who’ve grown up with fear (I grew up in a lot of fear in an abusive home waiting for the other shoe to drop). Before I could work through a lot of my recovery and healing, I would feel that feeling in my solar plexus if something was not going right in a relationship or I was being treated wrongly. I had to recognize where that feeling came from – it was from my childhood. We need to pay attention to our heart, our stomach, especially our lower digestive system, our bowels. There’s just so much that can go on feeling-wise.

Something else I do a lot is breath work, teaching codependents how to use breath work. Breath work has been centuries old with healing. Dr. Andrew Weil says one of his very favorite healing modalities is breath work because breath is our spirit. Breath means ‘spirit’ in many languages, so we need to pay attention to our breath and, for example, if we’re breathing shallow, how we hold our breath, if we’re not taking any breaths. We can actually lower our blood pressure and our anxiety levels by doing certain breathing exercises.

Question: Can somebody heal without really understanding what you’re talking about now, or is it vitally important, in your opinion, that they understand what you’re discussing right now and how that can help them heal?

Debbie: I believe that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Maybe it’s not for everyone. I believe that I work with whoever I’m supposed to be working with. It is a divine appointment. They come and they’re open and ready. I never force that work on anyone. Most people that come to me are by referral or word of mouth. They’ve heard that I do energy work and that I work a little more “non-traditionally” with recovery, so they come open for that. They’re ready to go deeper. They feel like they’re stuck and they want to experience some of this.

Question: In your opinion, what would be the first thing that someone should do if they’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed or if they have a low level of self-esteem, if self-love and self-care is what they need to work on? What do you think is the very first thing someone should do if this is their issue?

Debbie: Well, if someone’s really feeling depressed or overwhelmed, they need to seek outside help. As codependents, one of the things we do is look outside ourselves to feel better on the inside. That’s why I named my business Inside-Out Wellness, because we always look on the outside for relationships, or looking good, or religion, or approval, etc. There’s so many different things that codependent people do to fix themselves on the inside. And until you do that inside work – really getting to know yourself and love yourself – does it start showing up on the outside, and everything on the outside starts looking better; relationships get healthier, jobs get healthier.

People need a good safety net. They need to be around people who are safe, who affirm them. Pick your tribe of really healthy people, people that are going to support you, people who have done work themselves; whether that be a group setting, whether you need a therapist, whether you need a codependency coach like myself. You need to really seek outside help if you’re feeling that way.

Question: What would you say is your biggest piece of advice for a codependent person?

Well, I would say my biggest piece of advice is to start working on yourself and your family of origin. My motto with codependency healing is ‘to thine own self be true’. I have a big sign in my office that says that – ‘To thine own self be true. Then you will be false to no man.’ Codependents are not true to themselves.

When we think about codependency, a lot of times we it’s about dysfunctional, toxic relationships, but really codependency means that we don’t have a healthy relationship with ourselves, and that’s what first has to be done. You have to learn to have a relationship with yourself. You have to learn self-respect. How can you expect someone else to give you the love you desire and respect you want if you’re not giving it to yourself?

When we talk about energy, our relationships are mirrors to our inner-being. So if we don’t have good self-love and self-respect, how are we going to attract someone who’s going to mirror that back to us. It always begins with us.

I don’t think there’s any way around learning how to truly love yourself and see yourself as a beautiful child of God, created in his image, and loving your flaws and your good points. We all have flaws, but we must embrace the totality of ourselves and learn how to respect ourselves, which falls under learning how to set boundaries and say “no”. And once we start feeling that empowerment and truly loving and respecting ourselves, we will attract relationships that are going to mirror that right back to us.

Question: Before I ask you the last question, I wonder, if somebody wants to know more about these energy centers (“chakras”) and how that relates to the way that energy flows in the body, is there a good resource you know of that you’d point them to?

Debbie: Carolyn Mein is really good with understanding chakra work. There are some really good self-help books about chakras and healing the inner child. I love Louise Hay, Dr. Wayne Dyer and some of those energy workers that work on energy and spirit, and believe in the mind-body-spirit. I think people just need to be open to that and want to learn about healing at a deeper level.

Question: Where could somebody find out more about you and your work if they were interested? My Web site is just my name, www.debbiesherrick.com, and it tells a lot about all the work that I do as a life coach. I also have a YouTube channel called The Empower Our Show with Debbie Sherrick, Holistic Codependency Coach. I have a lot of topics pertaining specifically to codependency on that YouTube channel.

Question: And finally, is there anything else that you want to add to this conversation before we wrap up, anything we haven’t addressed yet?

This has been a great interview, Brian. Thank you so much. I think that our story and how we grew up, or whatever we’ve been through – whether it be with someone in drug addiction or narcissistic relationships, or domestic violence, or just having a lot of toxic relationships in our life, whether it be friends or significant others – we can learn from all of those.

I always tell clients, “Don’t shoot your messengers.” Some of our most painful relationships are gifts to us, messengers who have come to this earth to agree to be our teachers to help heal our wounds. I’m so grateful today for some of my most painful relationships because they taught me that pain is a great motivator, and my wounds pushed me to get healthy.

Our story is beautiful. We all have a story we can share with others to help lift them up and encourage them. People need to hear our stories.

Brian: Thank you for sharing that. And Debbie, thank you for coming onto the show. This has been wonderful, and I’m sure the guests will get a lot out of it.

Debbie: I hope so. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed the interview.

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