I’m sitting at my desk in the study, watching the sun descend over the mountains and lake. The light is soft and rich, a glow that persists off to the west. I’ve just come from teaching my college class; today I feel emotionally satisfied enough to put off dinner for few minutes in order to write this brief piece.
After class, a graduate student and I spoke for a while about soul retrieval and substance abuse. I explained that I often wonder exactly what is being retrieved. I imagine that we are calling back a part of self that left the body because of fright or other insult. But what part, and how are we to think about it?
Perhaps you have had the experience of feeling diminished after an altercation or other disturbing event. One of my friends once came by after work a while back and asked for aid because she felt energetically assaulted by a male massage client who had sexualized their interaction. She spoke about feeling “slimed”, and as a result, diminished.
It occurs to me that many abusive interactions are about power over, about the theft or exile of self. Sometimes folks seem to gather energy from others, to act as energy thieves, their words and actions designed to enliven themselves at the expense of others. Other times the focus seems more on simply belittling or fragmenting the other. Either way, the outcome is painful for the person who is targeted.
All to often folks who have suffered soul loss find themselves ensnared in relationships with addictive substances and activities in an effort to ease the pain inherent in the loss of self. Those addictions usually prevent them from establishing the conditions that allow a return to wholeness. No wonder many people discover they must address addiction before deep healing can occur.
Fortunately, often we are able to spontaneously regain the energy lost to passing traumas or to ill-treatment. Usually it is only when the loss is long-term and intractable that we become truly concerned. Then, perhaps in the throes of apathy or depression, or out of desperation, we may seek aid.
I imagine our individual understandings of soul loss and its remedies are largely culturally determined. As a result, a healer must find metaphors that speak to herself and to the person seeking help, images that are both culturally and personally relevant. She must discover stories that sound true to the listener and offer the possibility of relief.
As you may have surmised, I suspect there is no one correct definition of, or way to address, the diminishing of self we call soul loss. Rather, I believe what is needed is a narrative that speaks to both healer and sufferer, and an understanding of loss that makes room for healing. Surely it is better to be ethical, creative, and effective than to be “right”.