“It has always been the role of the shaman to go into an altered state of consciousness and track down where the soul fled to in the alternate realities and return it to the body of the client.” ~Sandra Ingerman
Photo by Julie Soulen @flickr“Beside himself. Why do we describe a distraught person as being ‘beside himself’? Because the ancients believed that soul and body could part and that under great emotional stress the soul would actually leave the body. When this happened a person was ‘beside himself.’ This same thought is to be found in ‘out of his mind’; and in ‘ecstasy’ too. ‘Ecstasy’ is from the Greek and literally means ‘to stand out of.'” From “Dictionary of Word Origins” by Jordan Almond (Carol Publishing Group, Secaucus, N.J., 1998)

It is true that the concepts of soul loss and soul retrieval are not new. An aspect of the infinite soul fleeing under duress is a state everyone has at some point experienced, regardless of terminology or ideology applied. In the realm of shamanic work it has been considered the apex ritual in restoring the soul, life force, or what we call personal power. There are many ways to do a soul retrieval, but it breaks down into locating the missing soul part, returning it to the earthly consciousness, and integrating that returned awareness into daily life.

When I began working with others 13 years ago, the phrase “soul retrieval” wasn’t widely known. The concept of “shamanism,” itself, conjured images of a shrouded dark figure in the woods wearing bones and chanting unintelligibly. For me to reveal that I saw myself as a modern shaman who worked with others in that capacity was a curious thing. The majority of people had some understanding of what soul work meant, however accurate, but few knew about soul retrieval. In that climate, when someone came to me and said, “I think I need a soul retrieval,” I paid close attention. Nine times out of ten they were exactly correct. It was a very safe assumption that if someone could articulate such an obscure and refined insight, there was an equally compelling need.

I find now that with a greater acceptance and understanding of holistic and energy medicine, there is an awareness of the need for spiritual healing. Many people still have a very fixed if not archaic image of shamans, though they have a better understanding of what they do. By default more people know what soul retrieval is and often readily request it. I do still pay very close attention to what drives a person to specifically express the need for soul retrieval, though I hold it more lightly than I used to.

What I’ve seen happening with this influx of desire for spiritual healing is that people have come to assimilate “soul retrieval” as the big quick fix. They have heard that it’s the quintessential shamanic mojo of healing spiritual wounds, but what they don’t realize is the range of behavioral, psychological, emotional, and often physical shifting that must occur for that healed balance of life force to stay connected with the earthly consciousness and promote wellbeing. Most people still don’t understand that spiritual healing is not instead of other modalities of healing. Rather, spiritual healing requires and inspires healing on all levels. If the other layers of the self aren’t addressed, no spiritual healing approach can bring lasting results. In the absence of needed soul aspects we develop coping mechanisms, crutches to deal with feeling a lack of power. These coping devices are just like any other–they don’t magickally go away. We still have to address them along with soul retrieval and integration.