The Transient Soul, and Soul Injury
It has been my own experience, as a practitioner of neoshamanism, that the soul (or souls, if you believe in more than one) is a transient rather than static collection of energy. Unlike other religions, which may suggest that the soul is a permanent fixture that cannot be harmed or damaged, many different forms of shamanism (whether in the form of traditional animisms, or neoshamanisms) believe and suggest that the soul can be wounded, injured, split, and fragmented in many ways.
There is very little in this world that is permanent, or not influenced by other forces of energy. Glaciers move, mountains erode, whole continents float on a supporting bed of molten rock. The soul is no different, it is affected and changed by the forces around it. When these forces are mostly supportive, the soul grows towards a greater connection to the souls around it; nature, other people, other land masses. A person lives in greater harmony with other people, and is better able to help other souls to grow. When the forces around a soul are mostly unsupportive, or worse; when a person experiences trauma that affects them on all levels, the chance for soul injury occurs. When one considers that the body can be injured, and the 'mind', it is not a small stop to also consider that the soul can be injured too.
We have doctors, alternative health practicioners, psychologists and psychiatrists, and many other professions that are suited to addressing the harm that the body and mind can experience. Some jobs are better suited to holistically addressing harm than others; some people are better suited to healing than others. But which profession specifically treats the injured soul? The answer is found in many ancient, and also contemporary practices of soul healing (also known as soul retrieval, extraction, cleansing, etc.) that are located in many Indigenous cultures worldwide, and also in contemporary neoshamanisms. It was, and is, the 'Shaman' who trained - among other things - to know how to spot symptoms of soul injury, and know how to help nurture that soul back to health.
I believe that the soul can be fragmented, or wounded. That - after certain types of trauma - the soul can split off into different 'pieces.' The majority of the soul stays with the person, so that they are able to function and live; though often not thrive. And the frightened, hurt, or damaged soul fragments tend to find their way into the Otherworlds (which is the location - I believe - for all souls, it is after all where many lands of the dead are found), where many different things can happen to them.
Events that can cause soul injury
The two most obvious ones that I see personally are:
- Abuse of ANY kind, at any age, including but not limited to; sexual, physical and emotional abuse, general bullying and domestic violence.
- Surgery (major or minor).
Other causes of soul injury are:
- Sudden, unexpected trauma like car accidents, being mugged or attacked, being exposed to catastrophic natural disaster (e.g. losing a home in a fire, or storm).
- Being in a war zone.
- Chronic pain. (Sometimes chronic pain can actually cause - rather than be a response to - soul injury.)
- Loss of a loved one (particularly a spouse, child, or parent). This can include the loss of pets.
- Being deliberately harmed by other, experienced (or inexperienced) people who work with energy or 'magic.' This was more of a reality for those Indigenous cultures who competed with each other for resources and may attack a 'Shaman' to undermine a community.
I'm sure I've probably missed things, but you get the idea. Anything that can be considered hard for any person to take, can potentially cause soul loss.
It's important to recognise that these things will not always, or even often, cause soul loss. And that a person is more likely to experience soul loss if they are in a spiritually, emotionally or physically unsupportive environment.
Symptoms of soul loss
I feel these symptoms don't necessarily always indicate soul loss. And they don't always suggest an absolute need to locate someone experienced in soul healing either; after all, many people do eventually learn how to heal and aid their own soul.
- Feeling a sense of differentness after a particular event. Phrases like 'I was never the same after that day,' or 'I lost a part of myself,' or 'I want to get that part of me back again,' or 'nothing has tasted the same, nothing has felt the same since then.'
- Pervasive feelings of numbness, or a feeling of detachment from the world, including other people and animals, plants etc. in nature. Chronic and persistent feelings of loss that may not be easily explained.
- Chronic illnesses that don't have a genetic component; unexplained or sudden onsets of eczema and other dermatological complaints, gastro-intestinal upset, chronic and unexplained joint and nerve pain, tension headaches and migraines, etc.
- The development of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Remember that depression and anxiety can have additional environmental and genetic components and while soul healing may help - it is not a 'cure' to be used in lieu of therapy or if necessary; medication.
- The presence of low self-esteem, or even self-hatred. Dissatisfaction with the self, the body, or the mind.
- An inability to 'let go' of something that has occurred. If it is the loss of a loved one, it may be a feeling of being tied to that person years after the loss has occurred; in a way that stops you from moving forward. A sense of 'hanging on,' even if you know you don't want to.
Luckily, the soul, mind and body tend to work as a unit; rather than three separate 'wholes.' So therapy for a mental illness can actually help with soul healing too. And physical therapy for a chronic pain complaint, can help the mind to gain greater equilibrium (as the body experiences less pain) and the soul to become more whole. Likewise, soul healing and soul retrieval can aid mental illness and chronic health problems.
Soul healing tends to come in different forms:
Soul Retrieval - This is when a shaman, or neoshamanist (the list of terms I could use here goes on a long way!) journeys into the otherworlds in order to locate soul 'fragments' and return them to the client or person in question.
Soul extraction / banishing / cleansing - The act of removing any metaphysical 'dirt' or wounds from a soul, usually by sucking them out of spirit and then removing them from the body. Soul extraction is usually necessary with someone who also needs soul retrieval, as if you have gaps or spaces in the spirit, other energies often volunteer to fill them in (whether you like it or not).
Working with other spirit guides - One practice I do, and have known others to do, is to actively interact with another person's spirit guides and support and work with them - sometimes intensively - to help the healing of the person in question. This can be a very benign or gentler form of healing, especially for folks who may not be willing to commit to more intensive soul therapies.
If you think you have experienced soul injury
There is a serious shortage of qualified shamanic and neoshamanic practitioners able to perform soul retrievals / extractions and provide adequate aftercare (something that I personally think is very important), particularly when compared to the amount of people who have experienced soul damage. Some neoshamanic practitioners won't work long-distance, others will. They can be found by searching 'soul retrieval' (though if you're being asked to pay a set fee that is extortionate, keep looking!), or asking around spiritual communities. You can even find people experienced in soul healing in many different religions and cultures.
I recommend that you don't work on your own soul if you suspect it is injured or harmed, especially if you have no otherworld / journeying experience (I can't stress that enough). The otherworlds can be dangerous, even for people with whole and healthy souls. It is especially dangerous if you are already fragmented and vulnerable; particularly because your senses may be dulled, or your sense of self-confidence shattered.
One way to start soul healing work, is to address any physical and mental issues you have through avenues like Western medicine, therapy, life-coaching or alternative health modalities. The other is to start looking for guides and teachers in your life who can provide a greater sense of literal and metaphysical support. These are things you can safely do, which are empowering and also help you to take charge of your healing. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people don't even take simple steps to take control of their healing journey. Sometimes doing something that seems like a 'little,' actually helps a lot.