Question: Dear Kelley, My question is more general.  Is there really such thing as spirit possession?  Does it really happen the way I read about and see on tv?  I’m very curious since it’s become a “trendy”ailment.
Curious, Linda.

Thanks for your question, Linda.  Initially, we all take on other energies around us all the time.  How they affect us is what is significant.  We’ve all experienced being in a great mood then walking into a space that is subdued and typically we notice that our demeanor changes to reflect that heaviness.  This is a base example of taking on an energy that is not our own. From a more personal standpoint, perhaps there is one person in particular that always brings out mischief side, or inversely has a calming effect.  Again, these are examples of being influenced at an energetic level by surroundings.  We can be influenced in an enriching way, or in a manner that makes us feel fearful or sad.  It’s those draining energetic experiences that leave us feeling off kilter, requiring more attention either from ourselves or from someone who can help us feel centered again.  A contemporary term for someone who tends to bring the mood down consistently is “pranic vampire.” In other words, this person is considered a life force stealer.  While this type of intrusion is annoying it rarely affects the overall ability to function well in life.  It’s when energetic interferences do affect the ability to function well that it’s fitting to consider removing those attachments.

The shamanic perspective on such attachments, as they are commonly called, is the condition that arises when an imbalance of energy has occurred.  The attachment may be perceived as a spirit, an object, or an impressionistic block in the life force.  When energy in one place ceases to be effective it is considered a parasite to the whole and it needs to be encouraged to move on to a place where it and its host can again be functional.  The process of removing an attachment is called extraction.  There are many techniques of extraction, the basis of which is facilitating the unneeded life force away from the host so that balance for both can be restored.  Situations that leave one vulnerable to attachments are traumas (physical, emotional, spiritual or mental), surgery, the death of a loved one, illness, substance abuse…  Basically any event creating an energetic vulnerability can create an opening into which attachments occur.  Symptoms of having an attachment may be recurring illness and fatigue, injuries that don’t heal, relationships or facets of life that don’t improve with attention.  Again, attachments can disturb one’s quality of life, but they are viewed as hitchhikers to the host.  They do not seek to overcome the host.  In fact, an attachment may not have a sentient recognition that it is in someone else’s life force.  Given these two descriptions of displaced energy, naturally most people have experienced or are experiencing some level of attachment to a degree.

When an energetic intrusion actually takes over the function of the host body, altering the personality and causing harm to the host and others, this is considered spirit possession.  Most often when spirit possession has occurred external indications of the presence of an unsettled spirit occur, such as seeing and hearing spirits, objects moving.  These sorts of phenomena are typically observed by others, not just the host.  In this light, true spirit possession is rare.  The reasons for it are diverse.  It may occur because a soul has not moved on and doesn’t want to; thus, it is stuck in this realm.  Sometimes a harmful relationship in life carries over into a harmful relationship in death.  As well, it can be that the beings that enter the life force of others were never in form and seek to be by aggressive proxy.  Symptoms of spirit possession may include feeling “haunted”, radical mood swings, addictive behaviour, abrupt personality changes, acute insomnia, hearing voices…  In indigenous and modern cultures spirit possession is often linked to conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolarism.  There are many approaches to removing such spirits, ranging from the Catholic Rituale Romanum to the Jewish Ba’al Shem Tov, and the extraction technique.  While they all tend to bring balance to the host’s life, they don’t all necessarily address the removed energy with the same compassion.

An interesting note about possession is that it rarely occurs by entities outside one’s own world view.  That is, generally speaking, Buddhists don’t become possessed by an angered Yoruba spirit.  People who experience spirit possession display the worst facets of their own belief system.  Contemporary depictions of possession lead us to believe that one can be energetically overtaken by any errant spirit just walking down any random street.  Maybe.  That’s not what is typically observed by practitioners of spirit releasement work.  The phenomenon is very culturally specific in how it manifests. In this light the concept of possession widens, viewing it as a state in which the host is locked into an ecstatic trance (a charged spiritual space) and cannot shift out of it voluntarily. We are certainly seeing more mental healthcare givers opening their practices to the observation that such spiritual afflictions occur, which may be why the concept of possession and the relief of it are more widely known.

Any life force can become imbalanced to the degree that attention is needed–be that in an animal, a plant, an object, or a person.  In some part the importance of learning about the death process and including that information in one’s personal life view can help souls, us, when we die, so that we do not get stuck and suffer.  Likewise, in the comfort of knowing how to die, we would likely live more happily.

Be well, Linda!