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I recently came across the Native American Shaman concept of Soul Sickness. I found this idea very interesting and it seemed to coincide with other things that I write about. There is a phenomenon that occurs with many abuse victims, which is a kind of leaving one’s own body during the abuse.
The idea is that the victim’s brain cannot accept the level or type of abuse into their reality.
In order for the brain to protect itself from trauma, it takes itself into a derealization / depersonalization state. This is something that you may have experienced if you ever in an abusive situation, or even any life threatening situation.
Depersonalization is a state the brain goes into, in order to protect you.
The feeling of this state is likely somewhat different for different people, but there is similarity in the way people describe this state. The feeling is as if one can see their body and how it is involved in the event, but it is as if the body belongs to another person.
The order of the events is processed, but it is like someone else is doing the motions, and handling the things that are happening. If someone was hitting you, then you would see the body being struck, but not really relate to that body as being your own. You could block your face from being hit but it would feel like someone else was actually controlling those hands which no longer feel like you are attached to your hands.
Derealization is the feeling that the whole scene is like you were watching it in a movie. You may not even really know for sure if it were really happening. You might wonder if it is actually a dream or a nightmare that you are actually in. The scene does not feel like you are an active part of it. It is more like observing a dream or watching a movie.
Soul Sickness. as the Shamans see it, is when the soul has become ill, or parts of it have left the body all together. During a situation, such as sexual abuse, the soul was going to be damaged by experiencing it, so rather than be there for the trauma, it just left the body entirely.
This idea of part of you leaving the situation, because it could not endure it, is the same as the derealization and depersonalization experience. The person is there, but not all of them is there to be traumatized.
But trauma is sustained nonetheless, because the very situation of being forced to go into a derealization state is traumatizing. If the soul, or part of the soul was forced to exit from the body, then you were left with something missing.
Either way, there is a damage sustained by the soul, or the spirit part of you, in a addition to your brain and body.
It is often discussed these days that mental abuse is the worst part of physical or sexual abuse. It is clear that the emotional / mental trauma is even worse than the physical experience, or the bruises which are left.
Even the women who have had acid thrown in their faces, now live with extreme mental pain, and humiliation to have to be forced to exist every day with those scars….reminders of the cruelty and heartlessness of the men who inflicted them.
The Shaman theory is that the soul has left the body and now the person lives as an incomplete person, because that important part of them has fled. The soul need to be retrieved.
They believe in doing rituals called Soul Retrieval, in order for that person to get the missing part back. Before the soul retrieval, the person will live with depression. anxiety and all manner of mental, and physical illness. The soul retrieval process is to help the person to become whole again.
Many abuse survivors experience a feeling that something is wrong with them, even years after the abuser has left.
There is sense that they are different than other people, in a way that makes them carry toxic shame. This is very difficult to explain to anyone who has not been through abuse.
During verbal and emotional abuse, people are called names, degraded, gaslighted, demeaned, and treated as non-humans. Their humanity is stripped from them, as is the humanity stripped from people who are sexually and physically abused.
The experience of sexual abuse is too much for a person to bear that their own body was involved in the acts, so they detach from their bodies in a way to not be a part of the sexual abuse. Later on, this can lead to eating disorder, cutting and other kinds of self harm. There is a disharmony between the body and the mind. The mind no longer accepts the body as its own.
The missing link between the mind and the body could be spiritual in nature. I think that it makes sense to try to include a spiritual element to healing from abuse. When someone experiences rape, or the on-going abuse of a narcissist, they are broken in some way. There is a lack of wholeness that stays with you.
While medications for the depression, and anxiety disorders, which usually follow abuse, can be helpful, it is not the entire picture. We are spiritual beings, and having your soul raped by a personality disordered person, is traumatizing on every level.
I believe that healing needs to be all encompassing of the entire person.
A holistic approach to healing is more likely to generate healing, than by simply dealing with it from one angle. If you are healing from abuse, I would recommend trying a variety of healing modalities.
Traditional therapy and medications need to be complemented by healing methods which speak to other aspects of the entire person. We are emotional beings and mental and physical beings. But we are also spiritual beings, and the spirit is sensitive to being traumatized by abuse, just as much, or more than the other aspects of ourselves.
Most people that have been abused feel that there is a darkness about it.
There is a malicious, dark element to abuse that is carried by the survivor. It is hard to explain to people who have not experienced it.
It is like a feeling of darkness that is carried with you.
I think that this darkness has something to do with the spiritual aspect of abuse.
When someone who has a darkness about them, invades your personal freedom, and boundaries, there is something that you pick up from them. The darkness feels like it follows you into your nightmares, and lingers around you.
I do not think this darkness can be ignored, if we are to heal from abuse. Many people do not speak of it, because it is so hard to define and explain. It is beyond the physical world.
So, let us treat ourselves as whole humans, including all the aspects of our humanity.
You have innate self worth, and that reality was stripped from you be a person that has elements of darkness about them.
It does not make you dark like they are, but you may be carrying that feeling that the abuser’s darkness somehow was stuck to you and you are doomed to carry this darkness in your mind .
There is nothing wrong with you that makes you less worthy than other people.
You would not feel that way, if it were not for the abuse you endured and suffered through. Psychopaths and narcissists have a way of leaving a part of themselves to haunt you, but it is time to get rid of that.
It is unfair for you to have to carry toxic shame, feelings of darkness and low self esteem, just because someone decided to use you as an object for their own dark designs. They wanted to strip you of your power to blossom and to be free. We do not have to let them have their way, years after the abuse is over.
I wish you all healing and peace of mind, as you continue on your journey of healing, love and empowerment. You have a greater purpose in the world than you are even aware of. You are a light that can bring light to others.
Annie – Holistic Methods for Healing from Abuse …join the emailing list at the link below