Originally published on Heal My PTSD, 8 July 2011.
by S. Kelley Harrell
Although it is an approach not a widely known, the ancient shamanic technique more commonly referred to as Soul Retrieval is a very effective way to heal PTSD. Soul loss, also called soul separation or soul hiding, results after trauma, the definition and measure of which vary with individuals. For some it may be triggered by a car crash, the death of a loved one, assault, or divorce, though it can result from any overwhelming state. For instance, some people are traumatized by life transitions like graduation, puberty, marriage, or relocating. We don’t generally think of benevolent life transitions as inducing PTSD, though they often do. When any event leaves lingering effects that inhibit vitality of being, examining the effects at a soul level can be transformational.
Souls are comprised of many facets, perhaps infinite in number, and it is natural for these facets to come and go through the veil of the earthly consciousness. Those facets travel, most often without our awareness, to heal in the spiritual plane, returning to gift us with an empowered sense of self. Problems arise when facets that we need to function well leave, and cannot or will not return. A soul aspect may remain separated for diverse reasons. Some include:
- the need to shield the earthly consciousness from debilitating traumatic memories/feelings (which it takes away with it)
- the facet has become wounded and can’t return on its own
- the facet leaves to give higher guidance from “above”
- in its absence coping skills have developed (such as obsessive thinking, overeating,reckless behaviour) that keep it from being able to reintegrate
When soul separation occurs, the earthly consciousness ceases to develop, much the way that emotional and mental development are impaired by trauma in a traditional psychological model. This loss of spiritual power can manifest many ways, such as:
- ensuing chronic illness or depression
- feeling a loss of will or sense of powerlessness
- feeling stuck in life
- succumbing to addiction, or other harmful patterns
- recurrently entering abusive relationships
- feeling incomplete
- lacking compassion
- feeling paralyzed by fear
To give scale to the severity of soul loss and how it manifests, mild dissociative behaviour is a moderate example of soul loss, while coma is an extreme example. Most of us fall somewhere between.
Sometimes aspects return on their own, when there is a radical improvement in a life dynamic, or when the earthly consciousness has matured to the point of being able to process memories and/or feelings that the soul aspect carries. Soul parts cannot be forced to return; however, they can be invited to. Sometimes just the opening in thought to allow them to return is enough to functionally bring them back. Often they don’t return on their own, or need help to facilitate reintegration. At this point, work with a shaman is instrumental.
A shaman’s unique ability to travel into the spirit realm at will gives insight into why a soul part left (this information may not be known if it left at a young age), what the soul part needs to return, and how its return brings meaningful value to the present. Through the process of Soul Retrieval, in which the shaman journeys into the spirit world to locate the soul part, heals the soul part and returns it, then proceeds with any necessary integration, personal power and a lightness of being are restored. Integration is critical, in that the soul facet may have needs to be tended, or harmful coping skills and defense mechanisms that developed in the absence of the soul part must be released for it to stay. Integration can occur fairly quickly, or it can manifest more incrementally over time. Remaining under the shaman’s care engaged in open rapport throughout integration of the soul part ensures its lasting bond. With the soul facet peacefully returned, the benefits are life-affirming.
Soul Retrieval isn’t a magick pill to stop pain or forget trauma; however, it can bring much needed and long-sought relief on many levels. We don’t have to suffer from PTSD, and Soul Retrieval offers another way to find release and reconnection, not just with ourselves, but with All That Is.