In this episode of The Dr. Hedberg Show, I interviewed Dr. Shannon South to discuss healing trauma and finding joy in our lives. Dr. Shannon D. South, aka the “Joy Doctor”, is an award-winning therapist, an Amazon best-selling author, and a professional speaker. As an expert in the field of spirituality and healing trauma for over 20 years, she knows how to assist people in finding wholeness and joy naturally. In 1994, during graduate school, Shannon had a spiritual experience during meditation that healed her debilitating anxiety and depression permanently. Since this transformative experience, she has helped thousands of clients connect to their most loving and joy-filled selves. Shannon also leads workshops and retreats for counselors, chaplains and coaches on how to integrate Spirit and Soul into their practice. Her most upcoming book, Ignite! Turn off the Chaos and Turn on the Joy is a roadmap to this unique, healing process. Shannon loves dancing, being in nature, teaching spiritual psychology and enjoying the beautiful mountains of NC where she resides with her family and friends. She can be found at www.whatsyourjoyiq.com or www.drshannonsouth.com
We answered the following questions in the transcript below:
1) Why did you start working with trauma and studying integrative approaches to counseling? (i can share a blip of my personal story in healing from anxiety, depression, and PTSD)
2) What are some of the best approaches you see/use in healing trauma?
3)Why is it important to heal unresolved trauma for health? (mind-body healing, connection to how we relate to something vs. what the something is, etc.)
4) How do clients learn to get out of stress reactivity and into the relaxation response?
5) How does unresolved trauma impact health?
6) Tell us more about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and the research on it for healing.
7) You also use spiritual psychology in your work with clients. How is this different than traditional therapy?
8) Does healing old trauma patterns create more creativity, joy, and peace?
9 Does unresolved trauma hurt relationships? If so, how?
10) Thoughts on anxiety, depression, compulsive behavior and PTSD and healing from these…. Ex. what is the mind really meant to be used for? (instead of obsession and over thinking)
11) What are some attitudes that are important in healing from trauma from a mindfulness perspective?
Dr. Hedberg: Well, welcome everyone to the Dr. Hedberg Show. This is Dr. Hedberg. And I’m excited today to have Dr. Shannon South on the show. We’ve known each other for quite a while now here in Nashville. And Dr. South, she’s also known as the Joy Doctor and has a tremendous amount of information and expertise on trauma, healing trauma, and really overcoming things like anxiety and depression, and things like that. So, I want to really dig in today, and you should learn a lot from her. And we’ll talk about things that if you’re a patient of mine, you know, we talk a lot about. But, of course, these are things that are outside of my area of expertise and that’s why I want to have around today so that we could really dig into that. So, Dr. South, welcome to the show.
Dr. South: Thank you. I’m honored to be here. I’ve been following your work for some time and watching your amazing healing and supporting of other people, so I’m thrilled to be a part of that.
Dr. Hedberg: Great. Before we jump in, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re focusing on these days?
Dr. South: Absolutely. I am a licensed professional counselor and an author, and I do trainings for therapists on bringing more soul and spirit into their practice. But I also have been working with trauma and spiritual psychology for over 20 years. And I, of course as you know, we get into the field sometimes because of our own personal journeys. And when I was in my 20s, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder which is a big word, but it happens. And so, I got into some healing practices. I think actually my therapist told me, “Go meditate. Learn some meditation.” And I was like, “Well, that sounds better than medication.”
So, I thought I would give it a try because I had tried medication, you know, and it worked to a point. But I really didn’t like the side effects, so I was pretty determined to get off the medication. And so, I got into meditation and had an amazing healing experience around my anxiety disorder, and I never had a panic attack again. So, that kind of informed my whole journey really, and I went back and got my doctorate in what they call transpersonal psychology which is a field of study that’s more holistic and really integrates the mind, body, and the spirit for helping people heal through trauma and into more joy. So, that’s a bit about me.
Dr. Hedberg: So, do you think that was the reason why you started working with trauma or were there other reasons as well?
Dr. South: Well, sure. I mean I definitely had a childhood with some trauma in it. And I believe that that, you know, kind of fed my heart. I thought, “Gosh, I really wanna help these people and I really wanna understand what’s happening to my family members that are going through addiction, or depression, or anxiety. And then also, understand my own issues of healing through my own trauma. And so, I think between those two things, that really fuel the fire for me to have a deep, deep desire to share what really works with people. And really getting to the crux of healing because, you know, there are so many avenues and so many ways to look at healing. But I really landed on an integrative approach that is very effective and I’m very happy about that.
Dr. Hedberg: Mm-hmm. And you have a personal story in how you overcame anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Did you wanna share some of that?
Dr. South: Well, yeah. I shared a little bit about the meditation practice I began but I was actually sitting in my apartment. I’ll never forget this day of sitting in my apartment, in front of my window meditating. And I was, you know, I was a reluctant meditator. I was really not, I was like, “This is so stupid, but I’ll do it anyway.” And I really was sitting one day, and I started to feel my panic symptoms reoccur. They were coming up, my chest was heavy, I was getting this heat flash, and I was feeling scared again. And all of a sudden, you know, I just cried out like, you know, something, “Help me, please. I’m doing all I know to do. You know, please help me.”
And this kind of wave of joy, and peace, and love just overcame my being. It kinda filled up the cells of my body it felt like, and at that moment, I think shifted. You know, in the transpersonal psychology world we talk about consciousness. And I believe something shifted in my consciousness. Whatever I was attached to, the trauma, the story, the energy, the emotion, the whole experience of the trauma I’ve had before, something just removed and left for good. And so, when I got to study in transpersonal psychology, they call that a peak experience, and it’s available to all of us, you know? We all have the potential for these peak experiences and our healing lining up in a way that we can have permanent release from suffering in certain patterns that we’ve had a long time even. So, it’s a pretty neat thing to know that that’s possible.
Dr. Hedberg: Great. And that’s one of the real bedrocks of a lot of the patients I see. Trauma is really usually underlying a lot of their health issues. And I think a lot of people think of trauma as a single event, but it could also be just ongoing stress. So, some of the common things I’ll see are, if I’ll see women and they had a father who was just completely emotionally detached in their entire childhood, or a mother who was overly critical, you know, nothing was ever good enough. And there’s, you know, many examples. But I think we could consider that trauma even though it’s not a single event. So, let’s get into that a little bit as far as what you think are some of the best approaches for healing trauma? What do you like to use?
Dr. South: Well, I think you’re absolutely right. Carl Young called those repetitive patterns. He said they turn into complexes, you know, the psychiatrist, Carl Young. And we get complexes, trauma complexes because of certain repetitive patterns that happen to us. And so, we want to overcome and heal those. Because we grow and change, and we want our stories, and our emotions, and our attitudes, and our stress reactivity, we want that to heal and change depending on what’s going on with us now. We don’t want the past running the future. And it will unless we begin to be more conscious and really look at that. So, that’s where I became passionate about mindfulness-based stress reduction, that’s one of the approaches I use for trauma.
Because we define trauma as too much, too soon, too fast. It’s like it either happened all too, you know like a whole buffet tray got thrown on your head at once and it takes time to unwind all of that or stuff like this chronic long-term thing as you mentioned, and it’s just becomes too much of the same thing over and over. So, as we unwind trauma, mindfulness-based stress reduction is one of the approaches that I find to be extremely helpful. And then I use also several spiritual psychology techniques. And I’ll also use an approach called EMDR which many people may have heard of which is known for trauma release in the system by bilateral stimulation. So, there are lots of ways but those are three very effective ways to approach trauma from a healing perspective.
Dr. Hedberg: Right, right. And that’s something that, you know, to any of my patients who are listening, you know, we talk a lot about this and the connections to their current health issues. And this is usually the area that is the most overlooked. I think a lot of people focus on food which is, of course, really important, certain supplementation, and things like that. Getting the right amount of exercise and sleep. But it’s, I mean all that’s important, but I really don’t think that if people do not really face these unresolved traumas, I don’t think they’re really going to get to where they wanna go. So, why do you think it’s so important to heal unresolved trauma for overall health?
Dr. South: Oh, gosh, that’s a whole workshop in itself. But my first thoughts on that is, you know, Candace Pert, she was a scientist, she wrote a book called “Molecules of Emotion.” And she talked about the emotions live in the cells of your body. And, you know, they’re even finding out now that certain emotional patterns can turn on and off DNA responses that are generational patterns that people and have had in their families for years. And so, we have more control than we think and less control, you know, in a sense of like mindfulness. The approach of mindfulness focuses a lot on allowing and letting go so that we can heal these patterns because we become conscious of them.
And like you said, I think we do repress all of this because it’s so…we don’t know what to do with it. So, it’s like, “What do I do with all these patterns? What do I do with all these emotions? What do I do with all these underground trauma? And why is that related to my body?” You know, we’re a whole being and so it is. I mean if that fight and flight response is activated underlying, you know, they show over time it breaks down the system with, you know, immune diseases, heart attack, chronic mental health issues. So, you have this chronic underlying trauma pattern. It’s activating the alarm system in your body and brain. Then your body and brain is on overload underlying your happy eating or whatever you’re doing, right? And it’s still activated. And we wanna deactivate that overload trauma response so that you can have another response instead of the reactive response. Does that make sense?
Dr. Hedberg: Exactly. Yeah. And I try to explain to patients a little bit about psychoneuroimmunology and the gut-brain access, and all those things tie into the trauma. And, again, I don’t think that you can really balance those without addressing the trauma. So, you brought up, you know, these traumas that are existing for a long time. And I’ve been reading a lot about ACES lately, the Adverse Childhood Experiences, and you listed a bunch of things that are connected with those like heart disease, and cancer, and mental illness, and things like that. So, people have this ongoing low-grade inflammation and, you know, no matter how well they eat, no matter what supplements they take and all those kinds of things, that that inflammation is still gonna be there unless they address these issues. So, why don’t we jump in and give a few specifics for people. So, how can people learn to really get out of this stress reactivity loop that they’re in into a more of a relaxation type response?
Dr. South: Absolutely. Well, when they put people into a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, and a lot of the people they refer to the mindfulness programs, they started in UMass Hospital, University of Massachusetts Medical School. And when they put them in this eight-week programs and now they’re all over the place. They’re in schools, they are in hospitals, they are in treatment centers. There’s all kind of mindfulness-based stress reduction programs and mindfulness programs for relapse prevention, mindfulness for depression. But when they put people in the eight-week, the traditional eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program, the people that get sent there are people that where traditional medicine has failed them.
And like you said, they could be doing all the right things, but they have this underlying thing that they haven’t been able to get to, you know? Underlying inflammation I think as you called it which is good. And so, they find after eight weeks that there is a reduction, massive reduction in anxiety and depression, and a massive reduction in their overall sense of, you know, this pain they have in their body. Like 50% reduction of pain over eight weeks, I mean that’s huge. And then they also find that people have a better sense of themselves like they have more self-esteem, more confidence, more trust in themselves, and more resiliency and appreciation in their daily lives.
So, these things are amazing, and they begin to learn how to turn off the stress response, so they can find peace, joy, and love, which is, you know, some cultures believe that’s our true nature. Peace, joy, and love. And so, the trauma response covers that over. It’s like I always say to my clients, “Let’s keep the windshield clean.” You know, like there’s enough stress in our day but what kind of practices do you have to keep the windshield clean from all the debris that flies upon you, you know, throughout your day. So, you know, we need practices to help our body stay in a calm, centered place. You know, the Catholics call it centering prayer, you know, and we have meditation practices.
The mindfulness people have formal and informal mindfulness practice which is basically meditation or a body scan where you’re doing the breathing through the body. Or you can do sitting meditation, walking meditation. Some people, you know, a lot of my clients were like, “I can’t sit still like my brain is crazy.” And I said, “That’s exactly right.” The brain is like a bunch of wild horses, you know? We have to train them to kinda get in line and focus and center the best that we can. You know, because they’re gonna be everywhere. That’s what the brain does, it thinks, thinks, thinks, thinks, thinks, you know? So, we don’t wanna send ourselves back into a fight and flight by the stories we’re telling ourselves.
So, you know, what I help my clients do is say, “What are the repetitive stories that you notice that you’re telling yourself? And then how can we move beyond those?” I love transpersonal psychology. Transpersonal actually means beyond the mind. And so, there’s a place to go beyond our stories that’s a healing space that we can access with these practices. So, we become able to navigate and choose where we’re putting our energy versus being dragged around by our own inner world. So, it’s a self-mastery of sorts but it’s possible with these practices. So, the meditation practices and, you know, my clients who don’t wanna meditate I’ll say, “Well, do some kind of, they call it informal practices. So, just slow down, you know?”
Like I think I heard you say that on one of your podcasts for eating, to help with eating issues, to chew a lot, right? It’s like super slow down and really pay attention to your present moment. You will learn a lot about yourself right away. And that’s really hard for trauma, you know, really hard for eating disorders, really hard for people who are going through these repetitive painful things. At the same time, it’s kind of like a firewall, you know, an inner firewall. You slow down, and you begin to develop the skills necessary to calm the pattern. And eventually, the mind freeze up. I love that saying, “The mind is not meant for like obsessing and worrying, it’s meant for creativity and solution-focused problem solving,” you know? Like how do we get there? And out of the worry and the compulsive, repetitive thinking that we get lost in.
Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. I mean it was Einstein who said, “Creativity is more important than knowledge.” And for someone who had a tremendous amount of knowledge for human need, he figured it out. And in this information age of the internet and social media, it’s just not a healthy environment for these kinds of things. So, was it Jon Kabat-Zinn you mentioned?
Dr. South: Yes.
Dr. Hedberg: I like his work at the University of Massachusetts.
Dr. South: That’s who it was that I trained with. And he really brought this stuff into the mainstream. He was one of the first ones. You know, he was on the Bill Moyers Show years ago, Your Mind, Body, Health Show. And he brought meditation and mindfulness into the mainstream in terms of making it a scientifically-based practice for getting out of the stress response and into the relaxation response.
Dr. Hedberg: Right. Right. So, I wanted to get your take and your advice on one particular thing. So, sometimes I’m working with a patient and their particular religion, and they don’t wanna meditate because they believe that it’s against their particular religious beliefs. And so, I try and explain to them that mindfulness meditation is a secular process. It can have nothing to do with that.
Dr. South: Absolutely.
Dr. Hedberg: So, can you talk a little bit about how you would approach that kind of resistance?
Dr. South: Yes. Because Jon Kabat-Zinn actually took this work and he worked with Catholic priests. He worked with the Chicago Bulls on teaching them mindfulness so that they are…because performance enhances when you are able to be more present moment focused. Because our stress is in the past and the future, right? So, the more fully we can be in our present moment which is really the definition of mindfulness without judgment because we judge ourselves relentlessly which creates a lot of depression and anxiety, and it creates a lot of suffering, you know? So, the more we can be in our present moment, the more able we are to have better performance in everything.
So, he worked with, you know, professional basketball teams, like I said, all religions. And inner cities kids who saw a huge increase in their ability to focus and relax themselves from their dysfunctional family homes, that some of them had to go back to. And the violence went down in the schools, all these things happen when they were able to learn to be more present. So, you know, I just share some science with folks like that and I say it has nothing to do with religion. It’s more about training your brain so that you can be present in your moment and, really, better in your relationships. You know, if they are a mom or they are a teacher, or they’re a spouse, I mean they wanna be able to be present instead of off somewhere else and not in their lives, you know?
We only have…our lives are just filled with beautiful moments and life is short, so it’s a disservice to ourselves as well when we are not able to really enjoy and be in our lives. And there’s a lot of research on joy. You know, we need more joy in our lives. When with meditating and mindfulness, the brain actually increases the joy center in the brain. Whereas, in the frontal cortex gets more active, where joy lives instead of that, you know, stress response. So, I think the more clients understand, they’re like, “I want some of that, I want some more joy, I want some more relaxation.” And this doesn’t have anything to do with religion. It’s, you know… And then even with all the Harvard studies, you know, I think there was one on heart disease talked about even one point higher in positive emotion, so they had it in a scale of one to five. And if you could raise your positive emotional level by one point. Let’s say your positive emotional level was at a two and you could raise it to a three or a four, even to just to a three that your heart disease risk went down 22%. I mean that’s major.
Dr. Hedberg: Mm-hmm. It’s interesting, yeah. It’s interesting that you bring that up because I was just reading the other day. I think there’s over, at least last time I checked, I think there are over 1,600 studies now on meditation. And I was actually reading that there actually is a true, you know, broken heart syndrome where, you know, if there’s enough trauma in someone’s life, there’s direct connections there with heart disease and dying of a heart attack. It’s just sad.
Dr. South: Yes. I’ve actually seen people have a massive breakup and actually end up with a heart attack and in the hospital within, you know, a month. It’s a true thing. It’s overload. Yeah, it’s stress overload. They just, their body can’t handle it, so much stress. Yeah.
Dr. Hedberg: So, you also use something called spiritual psychology when you’re working with patients. So, how would you compare and contrast that to traditional therapy?
Dr. South: Absolutely. I had one more thought on the last question you asked me about the religion piece. You know, they are more Christian-based and Judeo-Christian. They may desire something like a centering prayer which is what is a meditation practice that is used in the Christian tradition. So, that might be another way to steer folks, because really, it’s all about centering the self. So, I wanted to just throw that in, in case there’s a client that might need that. Yeah, it’s called centering prayer and it has been used in the Catholic tradition for years. So, your question is about spiritual psychology which is transpersonal psychology and what makes it different? I think that’s what you asked, is that correct?
Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. How is that different from just your conventional therapy?
Dr. South: Yes. Well, I’ll give you a really creative answer then I’ll give you a more traditional answer. Spiritual psychology, if you think about traditional counseling, what they say is it thins the clouds. It helps, you know, the black clouds of our lives. It helps thin the clouds and that’s a great thing. But they talk about spiritual psychology in a way if it thins the clouds but it also brings in the sun. So, it addresses the old painful patterns but then it focuses on what’s right in the person. What is just innately right in a person which is kinda like an acorn theory that one of the spiritual psychologist that I read calls it the acorn theory. We all have everything we need within us to create our fullest potential.
And so, we want to, you know, thin the clouds, heal the trauma, and activate our fullest potential. You know, I think Maslow, Abraham Maslow who is a psychiatrist, I mean a psychologist called that self-actualization, you know? And so, transpersonal psychology works on how to help self-actualize someone to where they can reach their most creative, spontaneous, natural, fullest potential. What are their gifts? What are their strengths? Who are they? Their most authentic, loving, joyful, wise self. And really bring that into therapy in a conscious way. And that’s what I love about spiritual psychology versus traditional counseling. I know you can do affirmation until the cows come home and you don’t always integrate it into your being, you know, the positive affirmation.
You’re saying it but there’s another part of you disputing it so strongly that you can’t take it in. And so, it’s like we wanna help integrate the new pattern of… So, for an example, let’s say there’s someone who’s super stressed. Let’s say she’s a single mom and she’s got all these work on her. And she’s constantly saying, “I never have enough time, I never have enough energy.” And some pieces of that may be true because their life is very busy. At the same time, we wanna activate her truest potential, meaning there’s all the time in the world for what’s important for me. And I can find the time that I need and the support that I need to get the things done that are most important. And so, we wanna activate her joyful pattern versus the pattern that’s creating more fight and flight reactivity stress. Does that make sense?
Dr. Hedberg: Mm-hmm, exactly. Yeah. So, Steven Pinker, he’s a Harvard scientist that a lot of people are probably familiar with. He recently published a book called, “Enlightenment Now.” And it’s about how, actually when you look at the data, everything is getting better. So, around the world, across the board,
Dr. South: Great.
Dr. Hedberg: The economy, I mean just everything is getting better. But there’s one thing that stands out that you found and that is the amount of happiness in Americans. So, everywhere else in the world, people are getting happier except for in America. We’ve just leveled off, you know, for a long period of time. So, how does healing old trauma get us more creative and increase our joy and our peace? Because I think that could potentially be part of this picture that he found, as well as a number of other things. But how would you fit that in healing trauma and becoming more joyful?
Dr. South: That’s a great point. We are such a striving culture and we over strive. And, you know, one of the mindfulness attitudes I love is about non-striving. How do you train yourself to also non-strive? You just allow, you know, what’s happening to happen. That’s a big shift for our culture. It’s not something that’s celebrated, or rewarded or anything. But the rewards are the inner rewards, you know? I think that’s what, you know, where we go so upside down is the inner rewards have to be as important as the outer rewards. So, we have to call it inside out instead of outside in. They even talk about that with depression, you know, and depression is about having an external locus of control focusing on the outside, right?
And we’re always depressed if we look at it to the outside to find our joy. But if we look inside to an inner locus of control, this is just traditional counseling stuff, that we will find more joy. That quality of joy is in there and sometimes it just takes literally slowing down and resting for it to just bubble up naturally. And we’re so multi-tasking and so over-busy that we don’t do that well. Like you said, the gadgets, and the culture, and the internet, and everything that we’re doing, there’s a strength and a weakness to that. I think the number one thing that decreases joy especially in busy people is multi-tasking. I mean if you look at studies on multi-tasking and joy, multi-tasking tanks your joy, it’s just, boom. Right down.
And we have to do it sometimes, but it is not good for our joy quota. So, other cultures, you know, they have more, you know, and Ashville is pretty good at this, but they have more rituals and community dances, and get-togethers, and activities. That community-focused base where we can be together and celebrate but we also can have our own personal way of being focused on our inner world. And those, that combination of those two things and valuing those two things are I think really important for our joy. So that we can get out of this over productive, always having to throw some extra thing on the plate kind of mentality.
Dr. Hedberg: Right. Right. It’s always about the next big thing.
Dr. South: Yes.
Dr. Hedberg: So, let’s talk a little bit about relationships. So, one of the patterns I’ll see is, let’s say a woman who had an emotionally unavailable father ends up marrying a man who is emotionally unavailable as one example. So, how does unresolved trauma hurt relationships and how does it hurt relationships?
Dr. South: That’s a great point. You know, we talked about that earlier, the present moment awareness when we can’t be present. It’s much harder to be available in our relationships. And also, just the old trauma, we excuse our perception of what’s happening in the present moment. So, we are, again, reacting from a perception from the past. So, as we grow, our stories need to change. And so, if the story is, okay, there is…like, I do a projection exercise with couples. We are, okay, so the example you use. Let’s say, okay, they’ve attracted now another emotionally unavailable male into their life. So, what’s the truth of that, right? Well, there’s some truth to that, right?
So, one, we wanna get creative on how to bring out the connection more in that relationship. But two, we also wanna get that woman out of her projection because it’s so strong. There’s a piece of it that’s true but it’s like the drop of blood in the water, you know, it’s informing everything, you know? It’s just taking over. And so, we need to unplug her from her reactivity around that so that she can heal and bring her most present, loving self into the relationship, so then that man can come out and be more emotionally available. There’s a dance there happening, you know, between the couple. And he may not be willing and then that might tank the relationship.
But there’s a possibility to change that dance and that pattern. And I think if two people are willing, I see it happen. It’s really cool. You know, she probably doesn’t even want a whole ton, you know? And if she’s too needy then we have to work to heal that again, that old trauma, so that she can feel more whole in herself and then come and get those needs met in what he can offer, and feel more quality maybe instead of quantity in terms of availability, right? So, we can help this guy learn to be more quality, so that a little bit goes a long way even if it’s not his biggest strength, right?
Dr. Hedberg: Right.
Dr. South: But there’s a lot there to that pattern. But it’s important, it’s complex but it’s a good healing. Because we can heal in relationships. They can make things worst or better, really.
Dr. Hedberg: Mm-hmm. True. So, let me get your thoughts just on, you know, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, PTSD, and healing from those. So, an example of being. Now, what is the mind really meant to be used for instead of obsessing and overthinking?
Dr. South: Yes. I find if there’s a pattern of obsessing, they used to call it in counseling, repetition compulsion. You know, we repeat things over, and over, and over, and over, and over until we can get the underlying issue. I remember when I first got into mindfulness training, I used to obsess. This was when I was still single, about I would be dating somebody in the room. I had this whole thing planned out and I was getting married to them, and I would obsess about it. I would sit and be meditating, and I would be obsessing about this. And it was…it just overtook my thoughts over, and over, and over.
And the mind is trying to help you get something but usually when that’s the case, but the obsessing is a bit frenetic. You know, it’s like static. And so, we wanna get, be able to tune in to our center, our true nature, and get beyond the static of that repetition pattern and find out what the real need is. Like I help my clients, what’s the real need under that? Well, I wanna feel safe and loved. And so how do we get that real need met? And so, we can get underneath that, we can find that out and then they can get their need met. I used to have this hanging on my refrigerator. What is your real need? Because we’re so distracted on something else, right?
We don’t even know the real need of what’s really going on and we’re obsessing about something else. So, I believe there’s, you know, you were talking about Einstein. He said, “The subconscious mind is wiser than the conscious mind.” So, when we’re obsessing in our conscious mind, we need to get somewhere else because there’s something underneath that for us that’s really trying to help us, but we don’t need to be like a cat chasing our tail. The mind needs to be able to dive deeper and really get to the real need in a way. And, you know, spiritual psychology does that, that’s why I love it. It takes people right to the real need in the subconscious mind.
And dreams do that, you know? People pay attention to their dreams, there’s a lot in there. So, it’s really great to be able to get to the inner world and information in there instead of just staying in that looping of the brain. Even though that’s one symptom of the problem but it’s not really the creative solution to the problem. So, again, there’s that creativity there. Okay, coming back to that.
Dr. Hedberg: Right. So, let’s close with just a little bit more information on the mindfulness perspective. So, what are some of the attitudes that the people need and that are important in healing from trauma?
Dr. South: Absolutely. We talked a little bit about, you know, the non-striving and the letting go. You know, this book I recommend to almost all our clients, “The Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie. It is like the true language of letting go. How do you learn that language because we don’t have it in our culture? We wanna overcontrol, and trauma makes you wanna overcontrol because you haven’t had positive control. You know, there’s a difference. I think there is a need for positive control which is that creative life force within us, right? We need some control. But it turns into something wonky when there’s trauma. We get co-dependent or it’s overcontrol or under control and we’re too passive or whatever.
You know, there’s something that gets out of alignment there. And so, it’s really good to, you know, figure that out and allow the letting go to happen so that… And it’s scary for people. They don’t wanna let go of their like survival skills. These things have helped them survive forever. But we wanna learn to let go more and into what’s really working. And then trust, you know, I love that quote by Rumi, “Every moment, if it’s really inside of you, brings you what you need.” I mean could you imagine if we trusted that strongly, that every moment brings us what we need? Wow, I mean that’s like a big thing. So, trust is another mindfulness attitude that we allow and we learn.
Patience, which is we want everything now and we wanted all yesterday, you know? So, it’s like patience is that wild horse that wanted it yesterday and 20 years ago. And then the non-judging which is so hard like you said. And so many people have such a large inner critic and so perfectionistic. And we really wanna allow our self a process for healing so it doesn’t have to be perfect. We can make progress, and celebrate our progress, and be in the process of healing versus it had to, you know, be perfect right away. It’s not gonna be, we’re never gonna be perfect. So, we just have to allow that non-perfection to be okay, an acceptance of that because it’s messy.
Life is a messy ball of messiness. You know, John Kabat-Zinn’s book was called “Full Catastrophe Living” for a reason. You know? And then another great attitude is beginner’s mind. You know, how do we have fresh eyes to our day, and trauma gets in the way of that. So, the more we can heal our trauma, the more we can have fresh eyes for our day and really see things accurately. You know, keep that windshield clean like I was saying earlier.
Dr. Hedberg: Right. And so, you talked about finding that inner moment and getting in touch with that, but some people are so traumatized that they’re just completely disconnected with their authentic self, and that’s very difficult, if not impossible, for some people. So, the work that you’re doing, you know, will help define that and then you also do EMDR, correct?
Dr. South: Mm-hmm, yes.
Dr. Hedberg: Okay.
Dr. South: EMDR is great for trauma. You know, some people it’s not good for, but I think the majority that I use it with, it’s really, really good. And it does really get in there and help heal that trauma and disconnect the person’s nervous system from that trauma response and repattern the new response. I mean that’s…it does it in a different way than the spiritual psychology, but it does it in a very scientific way.
Dr. Hedberg: Well, this has been really great. Why don’t you…how do you like people to find you online? And you also have an upcoming book, correct?
Dr. South: Yeah, so I’m finishing that up. I’m hoping it’s gonna release this year. It’s called “Ignite: Turn off the Chaos, Turn on the Joy.” It’s all that we’ve been talking about. So, it’s important to ignite that authentic self, I think as you called it, that true nature, joy, love, wisdom, peace. You know, peace can be the first sign that people are recovering from trauma, that they actually feel a sense of peace. And then joy and love, they begin to feel that more later. You know, I have a lot of clients that say, “I have a great life but I can’t feel it.”
Dr. Hedberg: Right, right.
Dr. South: And so how do we integrate that? So, if people wanna read more on that, I have a Joy IQ quiz on my website, drshannensouth.com. And one of my blogs is called “Five Proven Ways to Raise Your Joy IQ.” So, basically, you can take that for free and it gives you some ways to help see where your joy IQ is and how to raise that.
Dr. Hedberg: Fantastic.
Dr. South: And I’ve got some free meditations on there, things like that.
Dr. Hedberg: Okay. Great.
Dr. South: Yes.
Dr. Hedberg: Well, thanks for coming on the show, Dr. South. I really appreciate it. And for everyone listening, go to drhedberg.com and I will have links to Dr. South’s work and the books we talked about today. Any of the resources we talked about will be there so please check that out. Well, thanks for tuning in everyone. Take care and we’ll talk to you next time.