Soul Loss and Depression

“The greatest malady of the 20th century, implicated in all of our troubles and affecting us individually and socially is ‘loss of soul’ . . . When the soul is neglected, it just doesn’t go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence and loss of meaning . . . Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it.”   Thomas Moore

From a shamanic point of view, anyone who has experienced trauma or shock has the potential for soul loss, soul being defined as the spiritual essence of one’s life.  Shamans in cultures all over the world believe that illness is a result of soul loss and have developed rituals for bringing these lost pieces of the soul back, thus allowing the victim of trauma to be healed.

When healing does not occur following trauma or shock, a person may suffer flashbacks or dissociation where they mentally check out.  They learned to psychically remove themselves from the traumatic incident when it occurred and any trigger will create a similar reaction.  This is referred to in modern psychiatry as Dissociative Identity Disorder.  We often hear people say they “lost a piece of themselves” or “part of me died when. . .”  Symptoms of soul loss also include depression and chronic fatigue, emotional numbness, a feeling of incompleteness, an inability to move forward in life, lost memories, feeling out of control and anxiety.

Prior to the invasion of western culture, indigenous peoples had active shamans who made sure that victims of trauma would not be without the lost parts of their soul for very long.  Now individuals usually take their childhood traumas into adulthood where they repeat themselves in relationship and parenting style.  The symptoms are often treated only with medication and even with counseling, little if any emphasis on the idea of soul loss.  The depression and anxiety an individual is feeling is more often attributed to chemical imbalances in the brain along with genetic predisposition.

Unfortunately, the facts don’t back up the current view.  It was recently acknowledged that research showing the effectiveness of antidepressants had been doctored by pharmaceutical companies who paid doctors for the use of their names in medical journal articles.  Newer studies have shown antidepressants to be no more effective than placebos yet this is the most prescribed drug in the United States right now as rates of depression continue to soar.  I have seen antidepressants helpful, especially for people too traumatized to face the underlying issues, but the tendency to rely on them rather than making changes can be detrimental to healing.  No medication can change your history or teach you skills for fuller living.

At the same time, genetic factors in passing on depression have been found to be relatively mild.  Certainly we are given the trauma of our parents and the intergenerational trauma of our ancestors, even if we have not been told the secrets they held.  All of this has molded us and we have the power to remold ourselves into what we want by finding the lost pieces of our soul and returning them where they need to be, inside ourselves.  Intergeneration trauma increases until one brave individual takes a deeper look at self and seeks to overcome the negative patterns that have been passed down.  This heals future generations and allows them to continue to clear negativity.

Even if you have not experienced severe soul loss in this lifetime, as a citizen of the world you are affected by the impact of soul loss on a global level.  Many try to change this with organized religion or other organizations that purport to have the truth.  But the soul is inside the self and that is where one must go to retrieve it.  Fellowship with others of like mind is helpful for many things but the courage to face the demons and angels inside is the key to leading an extraordinary life.

Social and technological changes are occurring at a much more rapid rate than our biological evolution can allow us to adapt.  Social demands and economic survival dominate most American’s life, both of which can easily take us away from opportunities for silence and self observation.

I believe that we all have a responsibility to work toward the healing of our souls while acknowledging that there are many ways to do this.