What is Soul Loss?
Maybe you are struggling to get over a relationship breakup, or know someone who is struggling with this? Or maybe the problem is bereavement? Or the loss of a home or a job? Or maybe you (or they) are still feeling the wounds and effects of a difficult childhood? Or perhaps it is another traumatic experience, such as bullying at school or at work? Or maybe there is a feeling of never really having been the same after a serious illness or accident. Or maybe there are feelings that do not obviously stem from a particular event; apathy maybe; a lack of focus and enthusiasm; depression; addictive behaviours; low self-esteem. If so, then in shamanic terms, the most likely cause is what is known as “soul loss”.
The concept of soul loss is central to shamanism. Shamanism is our oldest spiritual practice. It dates back at least 40,000 years, and is probably much older still. It has been practised by all human cultures. What is amazing is that, although shamanic cultures are scattered across the four corners of the earth and are widely diverse, when it comes to shamanism there is a remarkable consistency of belief and practices between them. This was first noticed by the anthropologist Michael Harner, who coined the term “core shamanism” for this universal body of knowledge. Central to this is understanding soul loss, and the associated shamanic practice of soul-retrieval.
Shamans understand that parts of our soul can leave our bodies. If, however, those parts do not return, the result is a sense of emptiness and a feeling that something is missing. In that case, a skilled shamanic practitioner can journey to find the missing parts and persuade them to come back, a process known as soul-retrieval.
The symptoms of soul loss are many
They can include:
- a sense of somehow being incomplete; that something is ‘missing’
- feelings of numbness or flatness; of just going through the motions
- feelings of hopelessness, apathy and indifference; like a spark is missing
- a sense of being disconnected from life or what is around you; as if you are living in a dream
- depression, ranging from mild, to moderate, through to severe
- feeling lost, indecisive and aimless
- procrastination; time-wasting; or finding it hard to sustain focus or effort
- a lack of confidence and self-belief
- having a strong inner critic who puts you down and is always on your back
- phobias and anxieties; fearfulness
- missing memories (where have the memories gone, and why did they go?)
- addictions or other compulsive behaviours and/or thought patterns
- a sense of never having really recovered from a past event
- repeatedly returning to a person, location or behaviour that is unhealthy for you
- inability to move on from an issue or event, despite efforts to do so
- finding it hard to (re)invest in the future with enthusiasm and optimism
- feelings of grief, fear, anger or rage that you cannot seem to shake off
- the feeling that soul retrieval may help
That last one may seem strange, but in fact it is surprisingly common. This is because, prior to the birth of so-called “civilisation” from around 4,000BC to the present day, all humans practised shamanism. In fact, they did not just practice it (in the way that in the modern world we may, or may not, “practice” a religion or spiritual path, as if it is an optional “extra”).
Instead, your hunter-gatherer ancestors lived and breathed shamanism; it was central to them. The vast majority of your ancestors, going back literally thousands upon thousands of generations, would have recognised and understood the symptoms of soul loss. Because of this, when it is explained to them, these days soul loss still makes sense to people at a deep level, something they felt deep down but could not quite put their finger on.
Physically, the symptoms of soul loss can be pretty much anything, and soul loss can a factor behind pretty much any illness. Given soul loss results in a weakened state mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, it is not surprising if things start to go wrong physically too.