Shamanism and Psychotherapy: Reclaiming Self After Trauma
- When I read this I felt confident that you'd find it interesting too, for
shamanism is the essence of our earliest ancestors' explorations of
Infinity and how such conjugates with Nature in our everyday lives. Such
practices are innate to our longing for limitlessness, something resonating
at the core your being. You can find this article, and more
*Mysticism is a never-ending endeavour to conjugate the intersection of the
finite with the Infinite.*
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Shamanism and Psychotherapy: Reclaiming Self After Trauma<http://bit.ly/XtnSup>
Shamanism involves practices explored by earliest humans that, through
trial and error, and acknowledging and utilizing subtler realms of our
being along with characteristics evident in Nature, have evolved and
attained lasting presence well into modern times. Of such shamanic
practices, Tantra is the oldest extant and *most developed shamanic
This article derives from the ideas discussed in Sandra Ingerman�s book *Soul
Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self*. Ingerman discusses the techniques
shamans use to retrieve parts of a person which seem to have left them in
consequence to a traumatic situation. These situations can range from
anything which some would consider insignificant like the loss of a toy as
a child to sexual and physical abuse.
�For shamans the world over, illness has always been seen as a
spiritual predicament.� They say that because of some crisis, the essence
or vital part of our life-source separates from our consciousness in order
to survive the experience and the full impact of the pain. We see this
clearly happening in cases of abuse. This does not differ from some of the
views therapists take about a particular situation. John Bradshaw in
particular says that �in incest parts of the vital self will split off to
lessen the impact because the pain and humiliation are unbearable.
Shamans and psychotherapists both deal with the reintegration of these
split-off parts. What makes the shaman different from the therapist is
that the shaman does not put the loss in the realm of the unconscious or
blocked out memories. The shaman sees the other parts living or existing
in another separate reality. He is a messenger, a communicator, and
retriever between those parts and the main body of consciousness. When a
part of the soul is lost, a vital essence of one�s being is gone. One may
feel depressed, lonely, bored or anxiety-ridden and not know why. This
lost part is what some people tend to look for in relationships,
addictions, or even religious organizations. There is false idea that
these things are going to make them feel more alive.
Ingerman says �anybody whose spirit is completely at home in their body
will find a deep feeling of peace and comfort in themselves and all other
relationships will come from that security. Joseph Campbell said: �People
say that what we are seeking is the meaning for life� I think that what
we�re seeking is the experience of being alive.�
While most therapists are there for their clients to help catalyze the
inner process, a shaman actually takes the journey for the client. Both
ways appear to be valid but a shaman may be called for by those people who
cannot access their memories or by some who feel that they couldn�t deal
with them if they did.
Another difference between a therapist and a shaman is that a shaman
enters a non-ordinary reality in order to connect with the lost parts of
the client. In this state normal logic is suspended and a shaman must
depend on his or her inner visions and feelings. A shaman does this with
the beat of the drum. It is said that the shaman rides the beat of the
drum to the underworld. In more practical terms, it has been documented
that a steady beat can shift a person�s brain waves into alpha state.
The shaman, on his journey, somehow accesses the unconsciousness of the
client and tunes into particular situations that have occurred in their
life that have caused a split. When a particular part of the client can be
seen or visualized, the shaman talks to that part and coaxes it back to
ordinary reality and then blows this part back into the client. Most
people feel a greater sense of well-being after this process.
�It is not technology that will save the world, it is intuition.� 6
The explanation, at least in my understanding, of why this works is that
human beings have the power of imagination. This imagination according to
Jungian analysis is not necessarily a private affair isolated to a
particular individual. It is rather like a bucket that is dipped into the
over-flowing river of thought potentialities. By tuning into this flow we
can connect with the collective unconscious of mankind that manifests in
individuals as particular thought- forms. These thought-forms are real
Essentially soul loss is that part of the psyche that remains fixed in
time within ourselves. Some trauma or crisis has not allowed continuous
integration of self in the flux of ongoing emotional perceptions. Some
piece has therefore remained outside of time stuck in a moment of personal
history. Who can say if these parts do actually then take form and exist
in some independent world that only a shaman or individual on an inner
journey can reach and help integrate?
On this journey when a part of the soul is discovered existing in a
separate world, it must be honored as a piece of the person that did what
it could to survive. When this is acknowledged, this part must be assured
that it is safe to return and give up its hiding. Sometimes feelings that
have been repressed must be expressed, like hate, anger, grief, etc. in
order for integration to occur.
Some of the key factors in doing this journeying work is that the
shaman must have a �strong inner intention� that will lead them directly to
the experience they will need on behalf of their client. �Trust� is another
key. The mind creates doubt but the spirit overrides them because it is
connected to something greater than the mind. The shaman must trust that
the visions coming to him are true and he must go into them and act on
them. A shaman�s power comes from the willingness to intervene on a
client�s behalf. Ingerman says that �after the journey I pull these
pieces of the person to my heart; then kneel next to the client and blow
the soul parts into the body and shake a rattle around them and seal them
up.� According to Ingerman, remarkable changes take place in the
While reading this book I sensed in myself where parts of my soul have
been left behind. I did a little journeying on my own back to some moments
of my life and saw particular pieces that had remained behind because of
some unfinished business or emotions that I was afraid to express.
At the age of 18, I saw how after high school graduation I didn�t know
what to do or where to go. A part of myself wished I had never left high
school. I felt as if there was a part that was there on Long Island trying
to keep an old pattern going. By talking to this part and saying it is
okay to release the past and grow up, I felt that I had reintegrated
something; however, I found this brought up an earlier experience.
At age 8, I felt I was ripped away from everything I ever knew and
cared about. What happened was simply my family moved from the city to the
suburbs. The only world I had ever known was replaced by something totally
unfamiliar with people I didn�t know or care to know. I missed my old
friends. I, at that point, sent a part of my mind back to the old
neighborhood to keep on living there and to imagine what like would be like
if I had never moved. A part of me still wonders what things would have
been like had I stayed in the city. I know that full integration has not
occurred because of this wondering.
Soul integration is complete when one feels at peace with the past.
When there is no longer any pent up emotion about a particular situation
and when one can get on with being in the here and now.
The most remarkable journeying I did was to a time when I was ten
months old and my mother took me to the barber. I saw that this was
extremely young for a child�s first haircut, but I also saw how my mother
wanted a well-groomed clean looking child. This reminds me of Robert Bly�s
comment of how a child comes into the world with all the wildness and power
of the universe and all the parents can say is �be a nice boy.�
In my vision this child was strapped to the chair while a vital and
precious part was removed. I felt the anger and frustration of that being,
and I let him know that it was right to express such rage.
The next morning I woke up with an aching jaw and needed to express
more anger to finally get in touch with resentment I felt towards my mother
for neglecting the feelings of my child-self. I assured this child that I
will never again neglect or ignore his feelings. When this was
acknowledged a greater sense of peace came over me.
* * * * * *
How do we prevent soul loss especially when we are faced with
situations that are painful and sometimes mean growth and change? One way
that most cultures, excluding Western societies, know is through the use of
ritual and ceremony. This allows a period of time to exist as a bridge
from the old to the new. A time and space is created that allows us
contemplate where we have been and look forward to where we are going.
Respecting the process of the individual ensures that the ceremonies are
more effective. Helping someone let go when they are ready, instead of
insisting upon change is key to a healthier society.
Mourning is also a way to connect with loss of innocence. It is a way
to let all emotions of a particular trauma be felt and experienced. In
this act of mourning, we do not leave a piece of our self behind to remain
in �what-if� territory of the mind, but through an intensity of emotion,
become a more feeling, deeper, whole person who knows the value of himself.
Perhaps only a poet could have insight to express how to hold onto
oneself in moments of crises and turmoil and present the lost of our soul.
Rainer Maria Rilke says:
*�The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are
sad, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be in
our destiny . . .that which we call destiny goes forth from within people
not from without into them. Only because so many have not absorbed their
destinies and transmuted them within themselves while they were living in
them, have they not recognized what has gone forth out of them.� *
This article originally appeared at New
*Do the mysteries of and about shamanism, meditation, tantra, yoga,
mindfulness, intuition, and consciousness seem, at times, to be more
confusing than you can grasp?*
Instructor in tantra psychology, presenting rational articulation of
intuitional science with cogent practical exercises bringing greater
personal awareness and cultivation of subtler realms, imbuing new and
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