What is Soul Loss and How Can it Help with Understanding Emotional Wounds?
What is Soul Loss and How Can it Help with Understanding Emotional Wounds?
If you visit an indigenous culture that has a Shaman (medicine person), they’ll tell you they believe that emotional, mental, and physical illness could very well be due to a gradual loss of the soul.
A gradual decline in life force.
Come. Journey with me.
When I was a baby, I was pure, lovely consciousness. And, so cute!
I had no ego. No attitude. No negative thoughts swirling in my mind.
My soul (spirit) shined ever so brightly in my Earth suit – as are all babies!
But over time, as I grew, I started to form a personality. An ego. This part of me that was created as a survival mechanism. This part of me that was separate from my “real” self. I grew further away from my spirit self. I lost touch with it, covering it up with layers of ego.
I also started giving parts of my “self” away. Soul parts.
The ancients call this “soul loss”.
You chip off parts of your authentic nature bit by bit over time. You split off into fragments, or tuck them deep into the shadow side out of sight.
Out of awareness.
Why? Essentially, we do it in an attempt to secure acceptance and love from others, as well as escape pain.
This usually happens during tumultuous or traumatic times, but also when we give our power or identity away to others too (like a codependent relationship).
What Is Soul Loss?
This idea of soul loss comes more from the Native American ways. Visit a shaman and they’ll no doubt start “tracking” your spiritual landscape looking for the parts of you that you’ve lost along life’s journey. The parts of you that you’ve tucked away deep in your psyche.
The life force that’s…missing.
Have you ever known someone who lost their will to live? Suffering with tremendous pain? They had nothing in them that felt like being here one more day. They suffered tremendous emotional or physical pain, felt purposeless, and hopeless.
Tired, empty, depressed. They felt a void in their life. Something missing.
Such a person lost the majority of their “soul”.
Essentially, soul loss occurs when you encounter something traumatic or painful, and don’t know how to emotionally cope with the situation. Think of a child trying to understand and cope with abuse in a healthy way. They haven’t learned how or they’re terrified to speak about it.
So, they essentially dissociate (a psychology term). They separate or disconnect from part of their soul (self). They bundle up the painful/confused/hurt/abused fragments and get rid of them as fast as they can.
Because all that crap…well, it hurts.
I think of myself growing up in a home where my dad drank. A lot. My mom was codependent, anxious, and clinically depressed. Loved them DEARLY, but surely, I felt unseen and unheard at times. Most likely confused. Hurt.
So, I bundled up those “pain fragments” and pushed them as far away as I could.
But the thing is, I didn’t stay on the idea that I was a pure, conscious spirit.
Rather, I began identifying myself as the fragments I created, bundled up, and stuffed.
I began thinking that I WAS those parts…the pain, the confusion, the shame, etc. And the soul loss process began, leaving me feeling less-than-whole.
Scattered parts of me here and there, and all the while picking up codependent behaviors.
As a mental health professional, we tend to diagnose soul loss as disassociation. The disconnect from the true self wreaks havoc on the psyche. Think of the psyche all fragmented. It’s freaking out, so it creates a personality or shadow side.
It goes underground, getting under the radar of the conscious mind. It camps out there, hiding. Yet, it really wants attention. It wants to be found, tended to, and integrated (put back into the life energy tank). Bet and believe it will get your attention one way or another (sabotage, depression, anger, etc.) This can lead to feeling utterly alone from others and God. It can create an underlying feeling of sadness, numbness, etc.
Essentially, it’s called dissociation, or separating from your true self. It’s a defense mechanism that helps us survive.
Why The Hell Am I So Exhausted On All Levels?
Ever thought that?
Here in the Western world, we live much differently than indigenous cultures. Much of the time, people here go through traumatic circumstances, losing parts of themselves and then showing up in therapy in mid-life or later. Heck, even growing up without trauma can be rough. Childbirth alone can be considered trauma to a newborn.
The ancients go about life much differently than we do here in the West. In indigenous villages, the Shaman tends to the soul right after something traumatic. No waiting around years and years. No letting the community repress and stuff those parts of themselves.
They start practicing soul retrieval work early.
By soul, I mean “life force”. Vitality.
They understand that soul loss may be necessary to survive pain, but they also understand that we don’t have to stay split from those fragmented parts. The energy (life force) can be called back once that situation/circumstance is over.
Symptoms Of Soul Loss
Wondering if you’re contending with some soul loss? If you’ve disconnected and are identifying more with the split off fragments more than your spirit-self?
Here are some soul loss symptoms:
- You feel scattered, fragmented
- You have a tough time feeling your feelings. You’re disconnected from them.
- You cannot remember certain periods of your life, like childhood or a traumatic time.
- You’re apathetic, depressed. You feel lifeless.
- You feel like something is missing. You’re lost.
- You’re addicted to something: alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, love, work, etc.
- You feel suicidal
- You’re numb
- You’re stuck
- You’re exhausted beyond exhausted
- You have a tough time sleeping
- Anxiety wreaks havoc in your life
- You feel like you have multiple personalities
- Everything feels dark, like a dark night of the soul
- You feel powerless, a victim
- You struggle with unworthiness
- You’ve built up a huge wall around your heart
- Vulnerability scares the shit out of you
- You’re out of control
- You feel like you’re going crazy
- You’re struggling with codependency characteristics
Examples of when soul loss occurs:
- A child born among parents who did not want it.
- A child born into a family that neglects it.
- Someone who is emotionally, physically, or sexually abused.
- Experiencing an accident (car crash, injury, etc.)
- Going through a divorce
- Losing a loved one that one was very close to
- Being bullied, raped, etc.
- Being betrayed
- Essentially, anything that one feels is a traumatic experience
What occurs when the traumatic or negative circumstance occurs is that the person, not knowing what to do with the pain they are feeling, separate themselves from that pain. They separate themselves from part of who they are, and then as they move on, they feel fragmented. Soul loss is an adaptive, survival mechanism that allows us to get through something we feel is traumatic.
One reason psychotherapy is so helpful for contending with repressed, painful emotions, is so you can go back and re-connect with those emotions, re-experiencing the pain (calling that part of your soul back), and re-integrating that part of you (allowing it to re-join your soul) free from that pain.
Psychotherapy & Soul Loss: What’s The Difference?
What’s the major difference between a psychotherapist and a soul loss retriever? The soul loss healer, well known among indigenous cultures, receives help from the spirit world to “track” the parts of the soul that have been split off. Once they help find the lost parts, with the permission of the person, they call them back, restoring that part of the soul to the person, so the person becomes more whole.
A therapist essentially does the same thing, but may not focus on the spiritual realm. They may work with the client on identifying painful memories or circumstances that may have triggered negative emotions, faulty programming, unhealthy coping skills, and begin working on sorting them out. They may help the client see the parts of the them they’ve given away to others and help them call them back.
Sometimes exploring childhood can help someone learn why they are experiencing current pain or challenges. And, work on feeling, dealing, and healing.
A Very Unique Shamanic Breathwork Gathering
Once I went to a Shamanic Breathwork gathering. That was my first experience with this sort of therapeutic modality. It was pretty intense and quite interesting. At the end of the workshop, a woman came up to me. She was with me while I was in a deep meditation, tending to my soul. She told me that a part of my soul had come back to me.
At the time, I had no idea what she meant. A part of my soul? It was missing?
I was clueless.
However, I was glad to hear this news. Now, I can look back and see that a part of my soul had indeed come back to me that day. My voice. Since that day, I’ve been gathering lost parts of me. Parts that I split off eons ago. Parts that I rejected, repressed, and disowned.
The parts of you that you split from don’t normally come back on their own. The pain or trauma that you endured doesn’t usually disappear on its own. These survival mechanisms may help us on one level, but can hurt us on another level. The medicine person’s role is to connect with a higher level of consciousness (the spiritual realm) and “track” where or when you split off from that part. The original print, as they say. Then, with your permission, they call them back.
Please note that we’re not actually saying you lose your soul or spirit. Your spirit is pure consciousness, or LIGHT. We are LIGHT at our core, the kind of light that has been created by Divine Intelligence.
That is PART of Divinity!
It’s not that we lose our true essence. Rather, we lose some of our Life Force. Some of our “light” or vitality. When a Shaman calls back parts of you, or you integrate repressed or rejected parts of you, you’re returning LIGHT or vitality to your LIFE FORCE.
Think of a flower that’s been sitting in a pot without water for a while. The leaves start to droop. Then, you give it some water (life) and the leaves perk up. They regain strength and vitality.
It’s sort of like that.
The good news is that you don’t have to stay all fragmented. You can reclaim those lost parts, becoming more whole. Experience more vitality! More Life!
If you’re wondering if you need a shaman to do a soul retrieval, the answer is no. There are plenty of other alternative healers that can assist you with becoming more whole, such as energy practitioners, bodyworkers, and experienced psychotherapists.
This type of healing or therapy was in operation far before the psychology field began practicing therapy. Here at Moving Beyond Codependency, we share various types of “soul retrieval” practices you can help you heal and become more whole.
It all starts with doing the inner healing work. Embarking on an inner journey to dig deep to make that reconnection with your true self – your spirit. A journey that will prompt some shadow work, discovering those lost parts of you that you’ve rejected, repressed, or disowned.
You know, the negative feelings, belief patterns, lies you told yourself, etc.
We always encourage people to discover their own path and practices toward soul retrieval/inner healing. What works for one might not work for another, so do what works for you and don’t judge others.
Here are some common inner work techniques to choose from.
- Shadow WorkInto The Wild Shadow Work Journal
- Guided visualizations
- Dream Work
- Inner Child Work
- Psychedelics (only to be used with an experience therapeutic guide)
Do some self-exploration and commit to the healing journey. It takes time (sometimes a lifetime) to gather those fragmented parts of you. To heal the deep layers.
And sometimes it takes help.
Here is an exceptional video by Alberto Villaldo on Soul Retrieval.
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.