In our society, there is a mysterious phenomenon occurring known as “Soul Loss” arising in all people of all ages, genders, races, and backgrounds. Indigenous people have known about the occurrence of Soul Loss for millennia, and understand it as the result of an inner fragmentation caused by a traumatic experience or an intense shock to the mind and body.
While for many of us Soul Loss sounds uncomfortably familiar, this experience is usually temporary, and with the proper inner work, these lost elements of ourselves can be reintegrated into our lives.
What Is Soul Loss?
When we experience Soul Loss, a part of our Soul – or living essence – ‘hides’ or shuts away, hindering us from expressing and experiencing our true potential and wholeness as human beings. Often times entire aspects of our psyches are completely blocked out or repressed.
During my exploration of shamanism and its methods of soul retrieval, Soul Loss was defined as the experience of the Soul traveling to other realms, or alternate realities, and often being possessed by spirits. In the shamanic perspective, when these parts of our Souls are not recovered, we can’t seem to find inner completion or Wholeness.
Before psychology, this explanation was the only way primal cultures could explain (what we refer to in modern times as) trauma in order to find ways to treat it – and it was immensely effective at the time. However, Soul Loss can now be approached from many different angles. We’ll explore these varying perspectives next.
How Does Soul Loss Happen?
Sadly, in our modern world, Soul Loss is the rule rather than the exception.
As individuals, we lose connection with our souls (or True Nature) every time we identify with our egos and seek to feel whole again through addictions, stimulation seeking, dogmatic beliefs, conditional relationships, and workaholism.
But there’s a reason why we identify with the ego and disconnect with the soul in the first place: it’s a survival mechanism. We must develop a sense of self, a separate sense of “me” in the world in order to function. But simultaneously, developing an ego (which is basically one big defense mechanism to ensure that we’re loved, accepted, taken care of, avoid pain, etc.) means that we lose touch with the authentic essence of who we truly are: the Soul.
As a result of Soul Loss, we begin experiencing symptoms of weakness, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and emptiness. We just know that something is missing from our lives – but many of us struggle to discover what exactly is missing. To understand Soul Loss as a loss, or disconnection, from the most vital parts of who we are, is known in psychology as dissociation: the root of many mental illnesses.
The Psychology Behind Soul Loss
So how does the actual process of losing touch with our Soul happen, from a psychological standpoint?
When we become disconnected from the root of who we are, an imbalance is created within the psyche. This disconnection grows through time and can be intensified by traumatic circumstances that have a tendency to fragment the psyche.
What happens when our psyches fragment? The answer is that individual parts of our personality (e.g., the shadow self, anima, animus, etc.) are made independent and thus escape the control of the conscious mind. Lingering in the unconscious mind, these parts of us long to be integrated and to be made conscious, and can resort to extreme measures to get our attention (such as suicidal depressions, self-destructive behavior, sudden rages).
What happens when one of our psychological ‘complexes’ emancipates itself and becomes a tyrannical usurper of consciousness? The result is an increasing feeling of being alienated from ourselves, life, and the Divine. We may live with fear, guilt, and shame as a constant backdrop to our lives. And usually, we feel numb, empty inside, and a sense of hopelessness that we try to smother with work, family life, friendships, gossip, and various addictions.