Shamanism is an ancient healing art, dating back at least 40,000 years. It was used by most indigenous cultures in the world. It is a healing method that emphasizes that all experiences affect your soul and that all healing comes through the soul. In shamanic cultures, the care of the soul is extremely important. In fact, it is the most important aspect of healing.1 The shamanic belief is that a human being is first and foremost a soul having a human experience, not the other way around. If the soul is cared for properly, or is healed through the process of soul retrieval, other healings can then manifest in the mental, emotional, and physical bodies of an individual person.
In our Western culture, we have doctors who specialize in everything imaginable except for the soul. To me, this care of the soul is the missing link in healing. The soul must be cared for first. Fortunately, this is beginning to be understood in our Western culture and more people are seeking out individuals such as shamans for their individual healing.
Shamanically speaking, all things are energy. The movement, or the transmutation, of energy is part of the healing of the soul, which is itself, energy. In a healing, the shaman moves out the energy that does not belong to a person and refills him/her with the divine energy that is the essence of that person's true soul. The theory behind soul retrieval is that there is soul loss when an individual experiences powerful or traumatic situations. Ingerman states that, "whenever we experience trauma, a part of our vital essence separates from us in order to survive the experience by escaping the full impact of the pain" (Soul Retrieval, Ingerman, p. 11).
Through individual experiences, usually some sort of trauma, a person loses part of himself. In shamanic terms, this process is called "soul loss." In psychology, it is called "disassociation." Basically, it is a survival mechanism to withstand the pain of the situation. What psychology does not ask is where the lost part goes and how one gets it back. In the practice of shamanism, when a piece of the soul or energy leaves, it actually goes into another reality and is lost from the person. A void then exists in that person's soul. Think of the soul as a giant jigsaw puzzle. When you experience a trauma, a piece of the puzzle is lost, leaving an empty space in the puzzle. When this soul loss occurs, a soul retrieval is necessary to restore wholeness. In a process called journeying, a shaman is trained to enter an altered state of consciousness and travel into different realities to find and retrieve the lost soul parts. The shaman then literally blows these parts back into the client via the heart and the top of the head, restoring wholeness to the client.
The voids created by soul loss can actually fill up with energy that is foreign to the soul. This can manifest into all kinds of diseases or physical, mental, or emotional problems. According to shamanic definition, the soul is perfect and divine, and life should reflect this. If a person is not experiencing happiness, or if there are physical, emotional, or mental problems apparent within a person, then evidence exists that there is not only soul loss but also an intruding negative energy. Extracting this negative energy and restoring the soul through the process of a soul retrieval thus promotes feelings of wholeness and happiness. One of the ways that indigenous people realized a soul retrieval was needed was when a person had stopped singing. With the restoration of the soul's wholeness, the person would sing again.