Among the indigenous peoples of the world, it is generally understood that traumatic life experiences, when they are serious enough, can result in the fragmentation of our inner, vital essence or soul.
Often, these traumatized soul aspects dissociate, resulting in a phenomenon generally known as 'Soul Loss'.
In tribal societies, it is understood that this loss is only meant to be temporary, assisting the sufferer in dealing with the psychological aftermath of a truly shocking experience.
Problems arise, however, when the soul loss becomes ongoing, even permanent, and this is regarded as a primary cause of serious illness and possibly even premature death.
Soul loss may occur in response to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; a molestation experience during childhood or being ruthlessly teased and bullied; a bitter divorce, a shocking betrayal, a sexual assault, a serious surgery, or a terrible car accident, to name just a few.
The post-traumatic stress syndrome experienced by military veterans is a classic example of soul loss.
Or, when a child is born into this world and the first thing they perceive is that they are not wanted, or that everyone was expecting a boy and they came in as a girl, this can create a form of perinatal soul loss that can affect that person throughout their life.
Soul loss can also be the result of an experience that is so personal at the perceptual level that no one else would know that a trauma had occurred.
This is often the case with early childhood soul loss in which there has not been an overt trauma, and so nobody picks up that the child has been severely traumatized.
In such a case, it can affect the patterns of the person's life from that time forward-creating inner distortions in which the person feels fragmented in their emotional and psychological realities.
Soul loss is first and foremost an adaptive mechanism that usually serves by allowing us to cope, and in some situations survive a terrible experience, in which the dissociated soul parts depart, carrying the pain, the shock, the extreme emotion, or the memory of the trauma which may be simply unbearable to the sufferer at the time it occurs.
Symptoms of profound and ongoing soul loss frequently manifest as feelings of being fragmented
of not being all there
blocked memory or not being able to remember parts of one's life
a sudden onset of apathy or listlessness
or a lack of joy in life; the inability to make decisions
the inability to feel love for others or receive love from another
often resulting in the sense of being emotionally flat-lined.
The loss of these parts of the self is often expressed as despair, as suicidal tendencies, as addictions, or most often-as depression.
Among the traditional peoples, those transpersonal healers who specialize in soul retrieval work are sometimes called 'soul catchers' and they are regarded as being in a league of their own as healers.
They are aided and assisted by their spiritual allies, their helping spirits, and working as a team.
They track the lost soul parts, find them, and return them to the person who has lost them, restoring the individual's soul to its original, undistorted state.
In the process, the person's vital essence returns to its original owner, an experience that they frequently experience as life-changing.
This is ultimately accomplished with the willing participation of the client in creating a sincere call for this work, as well as the integrating of their soul parts back into their overall vital essence.