Feeling stuck? Or maybe you feel like some part of you is missing? Or that you have not felt fully yourself ever since that tragic experience occurred, that you wish never happened?
Try as we might, all of us, at some point in our lives will be hurt by people, circumstances, and other forces that are out of our control. Whether these are self-inflicted or not, the natural response is often to want to forget that the trauma happened in the first place, and to move on as quickly as possible. However, this approach often leaves people with the lingering sensation of loss, that some part of them is missing, in spite of having returned to normalcy in their lives.
It may feel like lower energy or vitality. Or it may feel like an aching pain, lodged in your body, often in the area of the heart, especially if the trauma was due to a romantic breakup. It may feel like living a zombie-like existence, in spite of all outward vital signs being normal and healthy.
In shamanism, this experience is called soul loss. Soul loss occurs when a traumatic event (be it physical or emotional) causes the energy to fragment, whereby parts of the soul flee for safety and end up trapped in the locale of the trauma or lost, and adrift in the world.
Soul retrieval is an ancient practice that shamans use in order to bring an individual who is suffering from soul loss back to wholeness. In order to understand how it works – and whether you need it – it’s necessary to first understand what triggers soul loss, what the symptoms are, and how to heal this energetic fragmentation of the Self.
What Causes Soul Loss?
Everyone experiences soul loss in their lifetime, because human existence can be stressful and nobody escapes suffering. There are so many reasons why soul loss occurs. Some of these are the following:
- Abuse of any form that may be emotional, physical, sexual or mental in nature.
- Experiencing prolonged pain, grief, or fear that could have made you feel helpless.
- Addictions such as drug dependency.
- Out-of-body or near-death experience.
- Seeing someone die unexpectedly.
- Being rejected or abandoned.
- Forced to act against one’s will or morals.
- Being caught in an accident.
- Being in an unhealthy relationship which made one lose personal power.
10 Signs You Are Experiencing Soul Loss
Not sure if you might be experiencing soul loss? Here are some of the common symptoms:
- You can’t remember certain parts of your life.
- You are plagued by constant feelings of fear or anxiety.
- You feel like there’s a missing part of yourself.
- You have strong periods of depression.
- You are not sure about your purpose in life.
- You experience long periods of insomnia.
- You feel mental or physical fatigue that does not have any medical explanation.
- You feel lost.
- You have difficulty overcoming certain issues in your life.
- You feel like you’re not in control of yourself.
Why Does the Soul Fragment?
In psychology, soul loss bears similarities to dissociation , where a person experiences splitting of the psyche as a result of trauma or difficult situations. Dissociation is “any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.”
Is dissociation bad? Not necessarily. It’s considered to an essential psychological mechanism that helps people survive trauma and get through episodes of extreme stress. Dissociation is common reaction to severe stress and tends to pass on its own when the stressful or traumatic event goes away. Dissociative symptoms are defined broadly and range widely from daydreaming, being lost in your thoughts, to extreme focus in work – which can activate Flow states – to confusion, inability to cope with day-to-day responsibilities, and disruptive anti-social behavior. For this reason, “it’s important not to oversimplify dissociation as always being a bad thing. Dissociation becomes a problem when it is severe, persistent, distressing, or disabling. It is a common aspect of many mental illnesses such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Major Depression.”
From a shamanic point of view, soul loss is not necessarily a bad thing either. Your soul “knows” if you are capable of handling a traumatic experience or stressful situation. The wounded part of your soul leaves your body so that you won’t feel the ego-annihilating fullness of the pain. Soul fragmentation protects the person undergoing some trauma or loss, shielding them from the bulk of the pain, and helping the individual get through the traumatic event. It’s a survival mechanism that protects your soul from being annihilated, and shields the individual from the pain of physical or emotional traumas.
While soul loss may have been unavoidable or necessary at the time of the trauma, neglecting the hurt fragmented parts of the soul and going on with life with a fragmented soul leads to other problems, such as depression, susceptibility to disease, behavioral patterns from the unhealed trauma that lead to self-sabotage, and mental illness. Besides, it’s no fun going through life feeling like a zombie.
Just like with any other wound, that wounded part of the soul should at some point undergo some healing. That’s where shamanic soul retrieval comes in.
What is Soul Retrieval?
Soul retrieval is the process of recovering the lost soul fragments, and is typically performed by shamans. Soul retrieval practices exist in many cultures.
In some cultures, the elders will say a prayer to their younger ones whenever they hurt themselves, in order to call their souls back. In the Bon shamanic tradition of Tibet, the soul is comprised of vital energies that derive from the 5 elements – space, wind, fire, water, earth – so soul retrieval involves invoking the 5 elemental deities and displaying an altar that offers a ransom to the spirits of the lower realms who may be holding soul fragments hostage.
In Northern Thailand, soul retrieval rituals involve Buddhist prayers and also an altar filled with offerings, including moonshine and bon bons, to entice the soul that got frighted away by a traumatic event to come back to its owner. Mmmm, rice wine and candy…
Shamanic cultures understand that whenever you’re hurt either physically or emotionally, it’s a spiritual illness that affects the soul, which can later on, turn into physical disease.
This is because you lose vital life force energy when your soul fragments, and if this illness is not healed, it can manifest as a physical, emotional, or mental disease.
On a collective level, soul loss is so widespread that some believe that it is the root cause of many of the problems plaguing society today. Disease, abusive relationships, crime, workaholism, chronic illnesses, addiction, corruption, terrorism and war – these are all indications of soul loss.
In order to help a person with fragmented soul feel whole once again, soul retrieval is an essential part of the healing process. Once the other pieces of the soul are retrieved, the next step is reintegrating them back together, which will bring back the power and potential energy of the person. Soul retrieval and reintegration provide the following benefits:
- You’ll feel grounded
- You’ll be energized, awake, and feel more alive
- You’ll notice that you seem to have greater influence in the world
- You’ll become more aware of decisions, choices and behaviors
- You’ll have an unexplainable surge of joy or feeling of lightness
- You’ll notice better physical well being and experience lesser sickness
- You’ll sleep better
- You’ll be more equipped to battle addictive tendencies
- You’ll feel a sense of belongingness or wholeness
- You’ll notice better mental clarity
Why Psychotherapy May Not Heal Soul Loss
Psychotherapy is often used of help treat dissociation. While this can work in some people, it may not result in a “return to wholeness” in others. This is because psychotherapy only addresses the dissociative symptoms in the individual as it pertains to the patient’s emotional or mental state. Psychotherapy rarely address the spiritual component, let alone recognize the existence of a soul, or energy body. Therefore, it rarely addresses solutions that may lie in the realms of the collective unconscious. From the shamanic point of view, psychotherapy does not address the person from a holistic level – that of spiritual being who is having a human experience.
In comparison, shamanism considers soul loss as a spiritual illness, that causes emotional sickness and physical disease. As a result of a trauma or stress, fragments of the soul – crucial parts of ourselves that provide us with life and vitality – can leave the energy body and go wander in different realms. The said realms are more often than not, inaccessible because these are guarded by heavy defenses. People may not or have difficulty accessing these on their own. This is where shamans can help.
Shamanic Healing Through Soul Retrieval – How It Does It Work?
Shamans have always been the healers and psychologists of their communities. As Sandra Ingerman, writes in her book Soul Retrieval, Mending the Fragmented Self, “Around the world and across many cultures a person who deals with the spiritual aspect of illness is a shaman. A shaman diagnoses and treats illnesses, divines information, communicates and interacts with the spirit world…and helps souls cross over to the other world.”
Because of their ability to navigate the spirit world, shamans can guide you through these realms to help retrieve the lost fragments of your soul.
A shaman will enter trance states together with the affected person. Together, they will journey through the spirit worlds, accompanied by spirit helpers, setting the intention to retrieve the lost parts of the soul. The journey is narrated to the client or could also be visualized through active imagination.
These journeys may involve encounters with dark energies that may show themselves as dangerous beasts like monsters, reptiles or dragons. The beasts in question are the guardians of the soul, or known as defense mechanisms in psychotherapy. Successfully retrieving the fragmented parts of the soul means having to overcome these dark energies.
Once the shaman and the client are able to retrieve the missing parts of the soul, the shaman will reintegrate these back together with the client. Reintegration can be done several ways such as by blowing the energy back into the body, through a ceremony, or could also be done with the use of cognitive tools like inner child work or Gestalt therapy.
You don’t have to go through life feeling lost or wondering why it feels like there is a missing part of you. With the help of soul retrieval, you can reintegrate your soul and get to experience what it feels like to be thriving and whole once again.