© 2017 Diana Quinn ND
The concept of soul loss is recognized in many traditional shamanic cultures around the world, as a means of describing what happens to the spirit when we experience shock or trauma. The definition of trauma is simply an experience that overwhelms one’s capacity to cope, and while we tend to think of these experiences as being major traumas, such as surviving a war or an assault, any experience that exceeds the emotional resources for effectively coping qualify as being traumatic. In the shamanic worldview, these experiences cause an aspect of the soul to sliver off and leave the body, to remain frozen in time in the experience that was unresolved or unprocessed. In psychology parlance this phenomenon would be described as dissociation, but we’re specifically referring to the spiritual implications beyond the mental/emotional when we speak of ‘soul loss.’ Shamanic healing traditions offer methods for restoring these lost and forgotten soul parts through healing referred to as ‘soul retrieval.’ Soul retrieval can occur spontaneously, when the soul part recognizes that it is now safe to return and the person has demonstrated being ready to receive the lost soul part and be restored to wholeness. This can also occur through therapeutic techniques including shamanic healing, hypnotherapy, forms of trauma psychotherapy such as EMDR, and somatic therapy.
Of great importance when one has an experience of soul retrieval is to acknowledge and embrace the return of the soul, to listen to what that part of the self has to say, to honor and validate this experience wholeheartedly, and to make space to support and love this formerly exiled self. If at all possible, carve out a little time and space for extra self-care during this time, be gentle with yourself, and only surround yourself with people who are supportive and validating. It’s a good opportunity to talk to this younger version of yourself the way a loving parent would a child or young person. If there are difficult feelings or memories that arise during this time that require extra support, take care of yourself by accessing help through a professional that has experience with trauma recovery and/or shamanic soul retrieval. One form of psychotherapy that can be tremendously helpful with supporting soul retrieval is Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), which acknowledges the inner ‘parts’ as being distinct aspects of the personality with valid needs and functions, that can be worked with as though they were parts of a mobile, maintaining balance and harmony while operating from the centralized core essence of Self.
Don’t be surprised after experiencing a soul retrieval to have a resurgence of joy and creativity as you reconnect with these lost aspects of self that had passions and talents that you have been cut off from. Take time to do what those younger parts of the self like to do, whether it’s making music or art, spending time in nature, or engaging in other expressions of creativity. Eat the foods that your former self enjoyed, listen to music or go to places that remind you of that time in your life. Embrace this self like an old friend, and watch the gifts that unfold from restoring this connection.