Author’s Note: This article is intended as a clear, concise, informative overview of the shamanic practice of soul retrieval and why/how it can be of tremendous value and use for deep and lasting healing at this time, given the current needs of our world in which millions of people are navigating deep trauma, relationship issues, and health concerns on levels that are not necessarily fully addressed or resolved by Western contemporary medical and psychological modalities.
In order to understand what “soul retrieval” is, we must first understand the energetic framework of “soul loss,” and how it can be viewed as playing a profound role in human experience.
If we think of the “soul” as a vessel—whole and complete—“soul loss” can be understood as the breaking of the vessel in which certain pieces become “lost” or even “trapped” in trauma, rendering the human unable to fully hold his or her own life force or to feel “complete” within themselves.
“Soul loss” can occur in our lives when we experience acute abuse or traumas and/or chronic, prolonged conditions of stress, neglect, or mistreatment. Aspects of our soul can become energetically “trapped” or “frozen” in such trauma in a way that “they” can continue to identify with the conditions of their fracturing and wounding long after the traumatic conditions have ceased to be actively present for that person. This leaves the person trapped in a cycle that no longer serves them.
Here are a few simple examples:
>> A person who is in a serious car accident at age seven, and part of her soul becomes “frozen” or “lost” in the moment of impact.
>> A person who is raised by a codependent mother who uses the child for her own unmet needs, and part of her soul “stays” with the mother out of “loyalty” well into adulthood.
>> A person who was sexually abused or raped, whose sexuality has been co-opted and trauma bonded with pain, thus resulting in soul loss or alter “selves.”
>> A person who has survived conditions of war, genocide, famine, and so on, who has soul loss as part of a collective or ancestral pattern of trauma.
When this happens, the individual will continue to unconsciously “search” for the missing piece of herself by recreating the same, or similar, circumstances as the original trauma in order to “find” the “lost” piece. Many, many times, the lost piece will be entangled in the dynamic of someone else’s energy (co-dependence), so it will appear that we “need” this other to fulfill us, or give us something of themselves, when actually it is that we are searching for ourselves in them.
“Symptoms” of soul loss include but are not limited to:
>> Loss of personal vitality and motivation.
>> Self-destructive behaviors, especially repetitive/cyclical ones.
>> Sense of being “at war” or in conflict with oneself.
>> Memory loss and/or “intrusive” thoughts.
>> Feeling disoriented or as though “out of body.”
>> Inordinate, unceasing longing and despair.
>> Tendency to attract unhealthy and codependent relationships.
>> Feeling of being “stuck” and/or inability to “move forward” in life.
Soul loss is in no way to be seen or understood as “pathological” in a derisive or negative/shaming way—it need not be viewed as a mental illness or an illness at all. It is simply trauma seeking resolution within us. In fact, it is actually a highly intelligent way for the soul to cope with trauma, getting “lost” in order to come back into wholeness at a later time when it again becomes safe. In this way, this can be understood as a very powerful survival mechanism. In gaining understanding of this framework, we are presented with a powerful opportunity to reclaim power and understand ourselves at new levels of wholeness and completion.
While not an “illness” or “pathology” by any means, I feel deeply that unresolved soul loss is often a prominent factor in, and can be an underlying energetic root cause of, any number of “conditions” typically diagnosed in Western modalities as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), anxiety disorders, love/sex addiction, and many others.
Because of the Western medical model’s tendency to “pathologize” rather than take into account whole-being context and deep energetic factors in play, all too often what happens is that someone deeply affected by trauma-based soul loss—often from childhood—experiences symptoms and seeks help from their doctor or healthcare provider in the form of pharmaceuticals, which have the tendency to even more deeply entrench the sense of “loss” of self and personal identity, albeit somewhat masking the symptoms on the surface.
This “band-aid” approach can create numbness and depersonalization that allows the underlying condition to worsen, not to mention a host of side effects and complications that can set the individual up for a lifetime of dependence on pharmaceuticals and other forms of addiction or destructive behaviors.
I believe there are other, more effective first-line approaches, and one of the most incredible of these is the shamanic practice of soul retrieval. It has been practiced for literally thousands of years by a great number of ancient peoples and traditions across the globe until being vilified and supplanted by Western medicine in only the last hundred years or so.
In this sacred ancient practice that is now being remembered and brought to bear once again, a gifted, highly ethical shaman “journeys into” the client’s energy field and is then led through the process of “visiting” the different aspects and scenarios of a person’s life and experience in which she has experienced any form of soul loss or entanglement, “freeing” the parts of the soul that have been fractured and “trapped” in trauma, and returning and reintegrating this life force into the person’s energy field, restoring wholeness.
If symptoms are recognized at this deep level and “treated” by addressing the root energetic cause of soul loss, shamanic soul retrieval—coupled with a commitment to real, sustainable, and beneficial changes on the part of the client—will, in a great many cases, resolve this endless cycle of unresolved trauma and alleviate the need to “medicate” through pharmaceutical means (or “self medicate” through repeated addictive behavior), breaking the cycle of trauma and restoring a sense of empowerment and completion to the client. Although somewhat mysterious from a scientific level, this modality—if carried out properly and ethically—can have enormously life-changing benefits.
As someone both Berkeley-trained in neuroscience and apprenticed in shamanism, I personally feel that every single human alive is likely affected to one degree or another by soul loss—particularly in this era characterized by isolation and trauma—and therefore could benefit from soul retrieval. We live in a society that actually encourages such fragmentation and soul loss, because the more “fractured” a person is, the more she will search outside herself for completion, not realizing that all along she is in fact searching for her own life force.
This mechanism makes for a population that is easier to exploit and “hook” on consumer goods, addictions, and distractions that keep in place a predatory society, which is now rapidly being called to account as we each reclaim the birthright of our own power and learn to be fully present with ourselves in love, thus allowing true and deep intimacy to occur.
As a survivor of severe trauma myself, soul retrieval has played an extremely life changing and even life saving role for me, as recently described in my memoir She is One. I have healed symptoms of severe PTSD and even Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) completely without the use of medication, foregoing the Western model of “treatment” altogether in favor of this shamanic model, with truly brilliant and permanent results. My husband, who was initiated into his very special shamanic gifts in the course of our life and work together, has also led many many clients through this process with stellar, lasting outcomes.
As humans seek to reclaim our power and know ourselves more deeply at this pivotal moment in time, I feel the ancient shamanic tool of soul retrieval has the potential to be used as an extremely potent and real resource to “reach in” at a much deeper level than conventional medical and psychological modalities can, to truly resolve the cycle of trauma and allow us to create a new, more beautiful world together—and I am living evidence of that.
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Author: Sara Sophia Eisenman
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Editor: Travis May
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