Soul Loss and Shamanism
When I was a young boy my Abuela (grandmother), would do something very strange. Every time I fell or hurt myself, she would quickly grab me by the head and whisper into my ear a prayer. This prayer was to call my Soul back.
I was always puzzled by her sudden prayers until she explained to me why she did them. In shamanic cultures, Soul Loss is understood to be a spiritual illness. In other words, when a part of our Soul fragments, all kinds of emotional, physical, and mental diseases occur from the diminishment of our life force energy. It is therefore seen as vital for parts of the Soul to return back to wholeness again.
The difference between the shamanic perspective of Soul Loss and the modern perspective of Soul Loss is that in the shamanic worldview, the Soul can be fragmented, even travel to other dimensions and get lost. However, in the modern perspective, the Soul (or Self) remains whole and intact, but it is our psyche (our mind) that fragments and needs to be healed in order to regain access to the Soul.
Whichever angle you prefer, the reality is that we all experience a level of Soul Loss in our lives. Many people don’t feel whole. Ask yourself this question, “When was the last time I felt absolutely whole and complete?” If you’re like most people, that time may have been back in childhood. Perhaps you can’t even remember a time when you ever felt whole.
Because of the mass phenomenon of Soul Loss, issues such as addiction, chronic sickness, diseases, abusive relationships, crime, shopaholism, and workaholism run rife in our society. All of these issues stem from Soul Loss.
9 Causes of Soul Loss
In shamanism, Soul Loss describes the fragmentation of the soul. And interestingly, Soul Loss shares similarities with what contemporary psychology calls “dissociation”: the splitting of the psyche in response to traumatic, shocking, or difficult experiences. This is often the cause of many Core Wounds that affect us later as adults.
So what causes Soul Loss? Here are some common examples:
- Any form of abuse, e.g., sexual, emotional, physical or mental
- An event of prolonged grief, pain, and fear that made you feel helpless or impotent
- Deep-seated addictions e.g., substance dependency, gambling, eating
- A near-death or out-of-body experience
- Being forced to act against your morals
- An experience of intense rejection or abandonment
- Witnessing the unexpected death of someone
- A sudden and shocking accident
- Entering a relationship without strong personal boundaries (resulting in an unhealthy relationship and losing your personal power)
Soul Loss, or dissociation, are devices that the brain uses to survive potentially destructive traumatic events.
In other words, Soul Loss happens to protect you initially, rather than to hurt you. This is a natural protective mechanism.
However, every wound must be healed, otherwise, it festers. When we neglect to heal these “blocked off” parts of ourselves and give them air, we are left with a chronic feeling of unwholeness. Eventually, we can suffer from chronic issues such as anxiety, depression, physical, and mental illnesses as a result.
A simple example of Soul Loss can be found in cultures that frown upon expressing emotions like “anger.” A child, for instance, will quickly learn that expressing anger results in punishment or withdrawal of love by their parents. As a result, this child will eventually learn to “split off” this “unacceptable” part of themselves until they no longer accept this emotion as belonging to them. What happens to this anger? It is suppressed. For this reason, Soul Loss plays a huge role in creating our Shadow Selves.
Soul Loss Treatment (Two Approaches)
Often psychotherapy is used to try and treat Soul Loss. But while the psychotherapeutic approach can sometimes work, often it reaches a stalemate. Why? Because psychotherapy perceives this “missing part” as being lost somewhere in the individual, rather than preserved in the realms of the collective unconscious. Unless the psychotherapist works with the collective unconscious (as Jungian and transpersonal therapists often do), they aren’t working with the whole person.
The shaman, on the other hand, assumes that Soul Loss is a spiritual illness and that the dissociated parts can leave the body and wander into other realms (non-ordinary reality), as a result of shock or trauma. These realms are often inaccessible and are guarded by heavy defenses that make it difficult (or impossible) for the affected person to go through on their own, without the guidance of a Shaman.
Over time, the Soul Loss resulting from not integrating these traumatic experiences (whether through psychotherapy or shamanic intervention) can become obstacles in our personal development. This Soul Loss can result in distressing, debilitating, and incapacitating defense mechanisms that manifest as anxieties, depression, addictions, and compulsions as well as chronic fatigue.