Soul Loss

Snow-BuddhaI’m sitting at my desk in the study, watching the sun descend over the mountains and lake. The light is soft and rich, a glow that persists off to the west. I’ve just come from teaching my college class; today I feel emotionally satisfied enough to put off dinner for few minutes in order to write this brief piece.

After class, a graduate student and I spoke for a while about soul retrieval and substance abuse. I explained that I often wonder exactly what is being retrieved. I imagine that we are calling back a part of self that left the body because of fright or other insult. But what part, and how are we to think about it?

Perhaps you have had the experience of feeling diminished after an altercation or other disturbing event. One of my friends once came by after work a while back and asked for aid because she felt energetically assaulted by a male massage client who had sexualized their interaction. She spoke about feeling “slimed”, and as a result, diminished.

It occurs to me that many abusive interactions are about power over, about the theft or exile of self. Sometimes folks seem to gather energy from others, to act as energy thieves, their words and actions designed to enliven themselves at the expense of others. Other times the focus seems more on simply belittling or fragmenting the other. Either way, the outcome is painful for the person who is targeted.

All to often folks who have suffered soul loss find themselves ensnared in relationships with addictive substances and activities in an effort to ease the pain inherent in the loss of self. Those addictions usually prevent them from establishing the conditions that allow a return to wholeness. No wonder many people discover they must address addiction before deep healing can occur.

Fortunately, often we are able to spontaneously regain the energy lost to passing traumas or to ill-treatment. Usually it is only when the loss is long-term and intractable that we become truly concerned. Then, perhaps in the throes of apathy or depression, or out of desperation, we may seek aid.

I imagine our individual understandings of soul loss and its remedies are largely culturally determined. As a result, a healer must find metaphors that speak to herself and to the person seeking help, images that are both culturally and personally relevant. She must discover stories that sound true to the listener and offer the possibility of relief.

As you may have surmised, I suspect there is no one correct definition of, or way to address, the diminishing of self we call soul loss. Rather, I believe what is needed is a narrative that speaks to both healer and sufferer, and an understanding of loss that makes room for healing. Surely it is better to be ethical, creative, and effective than to be “right”.

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15 thoughts on “Soul Loss

  1. Very good and interesting post Michael 😉
    As I experienced my soul loss after years abuse, it demanded peace and time to think to heal the soul and I used years to find myself again.

  2. “All to often folks who have suffered soul loss find themselves ensnared in relationships with addictive substances and activities in an effort to ease the pain inherent in the loss of self. Those addictions usually prevent them from establishing the conditions that allow a return to wholeness. No wonder many people discover they must address addiction before deep healing can occur.”

    Indeed. I see this regularly. The attempt to fill a spiritual hole with physical / emotional substitutes. Food, chemicals, “love”. It’s interesting to note how quickly these things fall away once the root of the issue is dealt with.

  3. Thanks, Michael.

    It’s sad to see the number of people who end up bitter and disappointed because they view the Universe as some kind of wish machine. I hear these prayers all the time in lodges – the level of desperation. As we both know, the healing is in the work, and comes from acknowledging that true power comes from the Creator. All we can do is show up and receive it as it comes. It’s only by learning the true meaning of the former that the latter can happen, and NEVER according to our own timeline…

    • Ben, thank you for these thoughtful words. I love the imagine of the wish machine! How often, indeed, we are encouraged to wish for things, rather than engage in the work of nurturing that which we hold dear, and the fragile world and her beings. Yet,the work is challenging and often heartbreaking, and not for the feint of heart. Sometimes the Creator seems very far away, and the work overwhelming. Then we need communities of care and support to encourage us along the way, lodges filled with good people and medicine.

      • Well-said, Michael. Often times just being in the presence of others who can provide a container – a strong crucible – and compassionately witness for us as we struggle is ample medicine in and of itself. This is something I’ve been coming to learn in a drum healing circle I’ve been a part of for the last 2 years. It’s amazing how much healing happens when you allow it to sneak up on you in the presence of a dedicated and loving group.

      • Hi Ben! I love the idea of healing sneaking up on us, which, of course, it often does, especially when we are supported and deeply held. I find myself distracting folks so they don’t see it coming…..

  4. Well said. The closing line is really important. I agree that the process is unique in each case. It seems to correspond a lot to beliefs that people have about power or lack thereof in their lives. There seems to be an impetus to recognize the needs of the returned piece of soul and to actively restore what has been lost in life as a result of it’s absence. Other wise it will take a hike again.

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