From Trauma to Joy: An Interview with Dr. Shannon South
When I met Dr. Shannon South the first thing I noticed was that she just radiates joy. We became fast friends and were the loudest people in the corner of a quiet little restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina. She has the best belly laugh and doesn’t hide it which is so refreshing. She joins us on Mental Health News Radio to talk about her work as a counselor, her books, her play workshops, and how to radiate Joy!
How did you become interested in holistic healing?
As you know from my personal healing story, I used to have a debilitating anxiety disorder and depression. Traditional therapy and medications took me so far down the healing path, yet I was determined to get off medications and learn a natural way to feel joy, love and peace. I took up a simple meditation practice given to me by a local counselor and I really didn’t think it would help me. I, however, was desperate and did exactly what she told me religiously. Stare at a candle and breath, 20 minutes a day. If your focus starts to shift, bring your attention back to the candle.
One day during meditation, I had stopped taking my medications and was having some painful, panic symptoms coming back. After all this hard work, how could this be happening? I screamed out into the air, “if there is anyone out there to help me, please do! I don’t want to feel this way anymore!” To my surprise, a wave of joy, love and peace washed over me and filled me up like I had never experienced before. The symptoms went away and I never had a panic attack or disabling anxiety or depression again. After this healing experience, I was driven to understand it 1) for myself and 2) so I could share this kind of healing with others. After completing my masters in counseling, I went on to get my doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology and Energy Medicine with Dr’s Norman Shealy and Carolyn Myss. I found out there is a name for this healing experience called a “peak experience” in Transpersonal psychology.
What is Transpersonal Psychology (TP)?
Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that integrates the spiritual and psychological aspects of a person. Some people know of it as “spiritual psychology”. Some of the transpersonal pioneers you might be familiar with are Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Mary Calkins.
What is trauma?
Trauma is a deeply distressing experience that usually overwhelms a persons coping mechanisms, leaving them to feel powerless. I believe that trauma can also occur in long standing patterns of abuse, neglect and/or other life taking stressful patterns.
How does TP help move people from trauma into wholeness and healing?
Transpersonal psychology deals with the “conflict of opposites” and integrates them for personal self-actualization and wholeness. For example, a person who is codependent and has learned to “over control” their outer world by trying to get their deeper needs met through the outside, instead of the inside, would be in a “conflict of opposites”. The codependent, not unlike the addict, keeps “going to the hardware store for milk” when they can’t really get what they need there. To begin moving towards healing, they would need to develop a stronger sense of themselves and learn to cope with stressors in ways that are effective as opposed to ways that create more of a feeling of “insanity” and powerlessness inside. This is just one example of a conflict of opposites and how integrating it brings about the healing. Trauma often births ineffective coping mechanisms to “survive the pain” and the system won’t let them go until it has other options. Transpersonal psychology uses the three levels of consciousness, the subconscious, conscious and what they call the “super conscious” (higher, wiser, spiritual self) of a person to change these patterns permanently.
What are some of the effective, powerful TP methods you write about, train others in and use with clients?
My favorite TP methods are MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), other meditations, The Inner Counselor Process TM, Dream work, and using symbols as an intuitive language. Transpersonal means “beyond the mind” and what these processes have in common is they help the person get beyond their personal story and subconscious wounds and into more of their super-conscious- joy, love, intuition and peace.
Tell us about your upcoming book. What is it about, etc?
This is my 3rd complete book. I am published in a best selling book called “Breakthrough: Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life” with NY Times Best Selling authors and my ebook Time for Me: From Stressed Out Mom to Joy Magnet in 3 Simple Steps went to #1 on hot new releases for happiness. I also published a book about my personal healing journey called Love Wisdom: A Soul’s Journey to Wellness. However, my upcoming book, which will have the forward by NY Times Best Selling Author, Marci Shimoff (author of Chicken Soup for the Women’s soul series, Happy for No Reason), is currently looking for a publishing home. Its’ working title is Raising Your Joy IQ: A 3 Step Process to Permanently Overcome Anxiety, Depression and Stress-and Become a Magnet for Joy. If you would like to know what your current Joy IQ is I have a short quiz that measures this for you at www.whatsyourjoyiq.com.
This book has the map for overcoming these major health issues (depression, anxiety and stress) and contains the tools that I have used with my clients over the last 20 years in my private practice. These tools I believe were the reason I got voted one of the Best Therapists of Western NC several years in a row. The exercises and inspirational stories in this book work! The book also has an interactive, online webinar (www.raisingyourjoyiq.com) to use with it if readers want more support. This book (and webinar) will save people that really want to “heal their stuff” and “raise their joy iq” hundreds to thousands of dollars in the therapists office.
You talk about “healing the split” associate with trauma, what does this mean?
Similar to what we talked about earlier in integrating the “conflict of opposites” for healing and wholeness, “healing the split” is about finding the “real needs” of the person that got for lack of a better word, “split off” because they didn’t get met or were overtaxed during the trauma pattern or event. We get to the root of the trauma even in as quick as one session and identify the space/place the need got “split off”. We thank the “survival reaction” that took the place of the “real need” (example, instead of safety or connection, the person got fear and overload so they became anxious in certain situations). After thanking and honoring the old, survival pattern (fear and overload) the person can then identify what they really needed (safety and connection) and become this response. When this happens, the persons’ energy comes back more fully to the present moment instead of being “split off” reacting from the past. The new needs such as safety and connection become paramount. Their super-conscious, spiritual self can actually shine through instead of the old pattern or reaction. It is powerful.
How do “power issues” play a role in healing from trauma and/or creating authentic power?
Trauma is all about the loss of authentic power. To heal from trauma, the persons’ authentic power must be accessible to them. They often have played a role of powerless or dominating as a way to survive. Finding their authentic power, which is more balanced, flexible, strong, loving and creative, is key to staying healthy and moving into the world from a place of freedom and trust in themselves and the world. The universe as Einstein so famously said becomes “friendly” again because they are empowered and less afraid. A lot of this work is about empowerment which is an essential part of wholeness and trauma recovery.
Tell us about the “power of play” in healing trauma.
The benefits of play are enormous. If you take my free quiz at www.whatsyourjoyiq.com, you will receive a series of free joy tips and one of those is a video interviewing play researcher, Jen Maurer on the Powerful Benefits of Play (and what happens when you don’t). You will also be given your joy iq.
How much joy can you tolerate or stand?
Studies show that play increases empathy (for self and others), reduces rigid thinking and ruminating, enhances the immune system and increases a sense of connection in the world and much, much more. Play is vital to our health, reduces anxiety, stress and depression and makes us more resilient under stress. When they studied murderers in prison, for example, the lack of ability to play and explore the world at crucial ages (0-5) was the common theme in all of these men, leading researchers to conclude that the lack of empathy in their brain (due to not enough play) influenced their brain towards violence. Unfortunately, many adults have forgotten how to play or put this need on the back burner. That’s why we are offering an adult play camp in July called Radiate Joy Sol Camp! This play camp is a half day mini-vacation for adults on Sunday afternoon, June 12th, 2016. It is facilitated by play researcher and fun coach, Jen Maurer, Fun Conspiracy founder, Ginny Hunneke, yoga teacher and clown, Donna Hollinshead and myself. Please join us: www.thefunconspiracy.com/solcamp.
You use meditation a lot in your work. (guided meditation, etc.) How do you see this healing trauma in your clients and why is it so effective?
Meditation is one of the most powerful links for bridging the spiritual and psychological. Training your system to focus on the present moment, with whatever arises, from a place inside of non-judgment and curiosity IS training the person to connect to their super-conscious. While focusing on a mantra, or the breath, a guided imagery, or a candle, the person observes their brain patterns, emotional patterns and sensations in their body come and go. As they do this without “acting on them”, the patterns, sensations, etc. change. Being with these patterns in a new way, changes their relationship to these patterns and the person becomes able to “let go” of old brain behaviors and reactions much easier. The super-conscious, response system is in charge more and more and the high self has more room to “run the show” which leads to an enormous shift. This shift is vital in trauma recovery because the wounds often “run the show” of a person “under the influence” of a trauma or wound. Meditation is a direct line to achieving the freedom, self-regulation and positive control needed to feel empowered in the world and “take back” their lives after trauma. I prescribe it to all my clients who are curious and willing.
You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life? -Rumi
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, Shannon has helped thousands of clients connect to their most loving and joy-filled selves. Her most recent book, Raising Your Joy IQ: A 3 Step Process to Permanently Overcome Anxiety, Depression and Stress-And Become a Magnet for Joy is to be published in 2016. Shannon loves dancing, being in nature, and enjoying her family and friends in the beautiful mountains of NC where she currently resides. www.whatsyourjoyiq.com or www.drshannonsouth.com.
Tags: Abraham Maslow, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, Donna Hollinshead, Dr. Shannon South, Dream work, Fun Conspiracy, Ginny Hunneke, healing the split, Jen Maurer, Kristin Walker, Meditation, Mental Health Is Real, mental health news radio, MHNR, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Not Changing the Name Kristin Sunanta Walker, TP, Transpersonal Psychology, trauma, What is Mental Health? Mentalhealthified