After a successful first season under Shondaland, Iyanla Vanzant’s The R Spot is back for a second season. Each week, the New York Times bestselling author and beloved spiritual life coach invites callers to share their personal relationship issues during live sessions to help inspire, grow, and guide them and other listeners to “do the work” toward healing. While challenging, these conversations examine, explore, dissect and investigate relationship issues, before and after a crisis. The intention is to learn how to be better as individuals so that listeners can behave and feel better in every area of their lives, and in a way that will impact and improve every relationship.
Vanzant is best known as the host of OWN’s powerful yet controversial Iyanla, Fix My Life, which ran for eight seasons before her transition from entertainment to “inner-tainment.” Blavity spoke with Vanzant about what listeners will hear in season 2 of her show, mental health awareness and more.
Congrats on Season 2 of The R Spot. In a world where there’s an overwhelming amount of podcasts, what separates yours from the rest?
IV: We focus on something common to every living human being, which is relationships, and not just loving relationships, but providing people with information, tools and skill-building tools that support the improvement of all relationships. Whether it’s family relationships, social or professional. And the thing that I do that I think that is often missing is I don’t just talk about the issues, but I offer solutions. And this season, we’re looking at those issues that are common to a large body of people so that we can be better.
What were you excited to delve into in season 2, or at least expand upon, that you weren’t able to fully do in season 1?
IV: I think in Season 1, we talk mostly about problems and challenges and issues. And this season we’re doing a kind of mix where I’m talking about hot topic issues, things that come up, such as, ‘Who asks for the date these days? Does he still pay for things? Does he pick you up in his car?’ We’re talking more about sex this season. This season I’m also having guests — celebrity guests, everyday guests — looking at issues that are common and current and that people are talking about. We didn’t do that so much in Season 1. We talk more about long-standing problems, long-standing issues.
One of the things that I love so much about your work is that you’re always concerned about doing the inner work. And there’s so much conversation right now going on in relation to that. There’s also, on the opposite side of that, people [who] believe there’s an overuse of therapy phrases or buzzwords, such as ‘trauma’ or ‘gaslighting’ or ‘narcissistic.’ So first and foremost, what is your take on the state of the world in its openness to discussing mental health and therapy right now?
IV: I think that’s a good thing because one of the reasons we’ve suffered so much in our relationships and why we’ve created so many dysfunctional or unfulfilling relationships is because we’ve been taught, programmed, conditioned in the matrix not to tell your business out loud. We have been told not to talk about certain things. There’s this idea of ‘What goes on in the house stays in the house. What goes on in the bed stays in the bed.’ And people have been kind of suffering in silence. So the mere fact that people are willing to talk about it is both good, and it’s also dangerous because you can talk about it forever. But if you don’t know how to integrate what you’re hearing, integrate what’s being offered into your life, then all you have is a bunch of information. And information without action is the booby prize. You don’t get anywhere. So hopefully on The R Spot, one of the things in the moment we can talk about [are] issues, and I give people the steps, the tools and the information about how to integrate it into your lives. When you talk about a narcissist, we ask, ‘What part of you is narcissistic? And why are you attracting a narcissist?’ And if it’s family things that we’re talking about, we’re looking at patterns and belief systems. So we’re going a little deeper. We’re taking that kind of general conversation and taking it deeper.
I’m happy that you mentioned the whole idea of people having a wide spread of information but not knowing how to implement it into their own lives. I think that one of the things that happens when a person starts attending therapy is that it does create a bit more complexity in their relationships. How do you see that manifesting itself, whether that be through people not respecting boundaries, people not understanding, you know, your therapy journey, etc., etc.?
IV: Let’s take, for example, the big thing now is trauma and narcissism. So when you begin to dismantle these things or when you begin to identify them, it creates a shift in your ecology. It creates a shift because now you have information that everyone else doesn’t have. So how do you implement that information that you have, that healing work that you’re doing? How do you implement it with compassion so that you don’t blow up your ecology, so that you don’t blow up all your relationships? And I think that particularly when it comes to self-help or self-help information, even if you’re getting it from a licensed therapist or a counselor or a coach and making that distinction between therapy and coaching, that it’s important for us to understand how to implement it, how to create a container for it so that we’re not blowing everybody out of the water and then creating more problems in our life as we heal and grow. So we need ongoing tips and tools and information about how to do that, how to implement what we’re learning in our lives in a way that is self-supportive but also compassionate for those that we are in a relationship with.
Going into Season 2, what are the common themes or issues within these relationships you’re examining?
IV: I think in intimate relationships, women are over it. They’re just done with men and their foolishness. And unfortunately, what that’s created is a kind of aggressive, dismissive behavior that takes us out of our nature as who we are as women. Women, our power is in our hearts. Our power is in our emotions. But we’re so over men telling us that we’re in our feelings and dismissing our kind of intuitive sense that we’ve got to come back into balance. So one of the things that I want to do in Season 2 is I want to do a lot more work with men — a lot more work with men.
I think in the family arena, people are recognizing and acknowledging generational and ancestral patterns that don’t work for them, but they don’t have the tools, the skills and the information about how to live beyond those things, how to create boundaries, how to lessen the impact of what they’ve seen and experienced.
And then, of course, there’s the trauma. And trauma comes in all sorts of forms. So just in general, we’re all kind of in shock and then trauma, and we’re being amortized every day by what’s going on in the world. But how do you diminish, how do you lessen the impact of trauma? So those are the three areas that I see [where] men need emotional well-being. They need more support because things have changed and women have changed. But the kind of aggressiveness that we are demonstrating in living our change is not very helpful for men. And the men are, like, kind of scratching their heads and wondering and becoming very critical of women’s behavior, which is also not going to be supportive.
How do you think that social media plays a role in all of this?
IV: It’s bad. Everybody has an opinion. And a lot of what I see on social media is the regurgitation of the problem with no resolution. So women are ‘aggressive,’ and men are ‘irresponsible’ and men are ‘negative,’ and people carry their experiences and make some generalized statements about experiences and then apply those statements to everybody. I remember very clearly I put up a post one time about calling women, calling men ‘dogs,’ and talked about why is it that all the dogs are coming to your porch? And instead of people being reflective and looking at themselves? Some did, but most of them turned to the blame and projection. And not really taking the information and applying it to themselves. And that’s because everybody can have an opinion on social media. You put it out there, and then we get into the argument of ‘I agree with you, I don’t agree with you.’ And nobody is taking the information internally. And everything that we experience in our lives reflects relationships and is a reflection of who we are. Social media encourages us to look out, not in. And we get into blame and projection. And it’s just — it’s so widespread, and it’s not loving and it’s not helpful.
You’ll always be synonymous with what you did on Fix My Life. And even though the show is not on anymore, I always hear a lot of people saying, ‘We definitely still need the show.’ And while you’re on to greater things, and I’m sure you were tired of dealing with certain people that you were dealing with on the show, there’s a lot of lives that can be fixed right now. So from what you see publicly, who do you think could use a good hug into the bosom?
IV: I don’t look out and say, ‘Who needs fixing.’ I don’t know what people need until they come and ask. So, I see a lot of things in the world, but I know that what I’m looking at in the big picture is merely a reflection of the micro. What we see in the world — whether it’s a celebrity, a government, or a country — is simply a function of what’s going on inside of us as individuals. So I don’t make that determination. I know everybody made a big deal about Jada and Will, but when I spoke to Jada, I didn’t. It wasn’t my place to challenge her story. That’s her experience. We’ve talked about her healing. That’s my work. ‘What did you get from those experiences? What did you learn from your growing up? What did you learn from your trauma, and how are you dismantling that?’ So for me to look out in the world and say, ‘Who needs me when I don’t need me?’ They need themselves. And my work is about helping you find yourself so that you can be better everywhere.
Speaking of Jada, I love what you just said … that you were focused on how she, and how people in general, get to healing. And I think that’s so unfair and so interesting at the same time, that people are so uncomfortable with people healing out loud. And Jada Pinkett Smith isn’t the first person who’s done that and has gotten so much backlash for her decision to do so. Why do you think that there’s such [discomfort] there?
Because we don’t like to look at ourselves. The only reason we get upset with anybody, and I’m saying this across the human spectrum, is because it’s something that we have done or something that we have experienced — something that we’ve done in the world. And when we see it played out, rather than be reflective and looking at ourselves, we get caught up in the drama of somebody else doing it because we’re not taught from kindergarten, from the womb, that we are taught not to look in. We’re taught to point out what others did that made us unhappy. On The R Spot, we get people to be more reflective to begin with, and to see even. Why does Jada’s story upset you? Why is that even your business?