Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self Through Shamanic Practice

Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self Through Shamanic Practice


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A shamanic way of psychological healing using "soul retrieval" as an adjunct to orthodox therapy.

Author Biography: Sandra Ingerman is the leading practitioner of soul retrieval and conducts workshops around the world. She has a master's degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies and is a member of the International Faculty of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, directed by Michael Horner.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062504067
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/28/1991
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.18(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.62(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Soul Loss

When I hear a lie, a red flag pops up in my solar plexus. When I'm listening to someone or reading, I can know if I'm hearing an essential truth by noticing whether or not the red flag comes up. If I'm trying to make a decision and my mind won't stop interfering in my process with its chatter, I say to myself what I'm getting ready to do and then I watch for the red flag. If it doesn't come up, I move forward, even if my mind is kicking and screaming all the way.

Other people report with this exercise that with a truth a warm sensation floods the body, or goose bumps or tingling sensations are felt throughout the body; a general peace may overcome them, or their heart may feel good. With a lie, a tightness occurs in the chest or solar plexus, or a particular color may come to mind, or there may be some feeling of distress in the body.

In this book I will be speaking to a space very deep inside you. I will be sparking your essence to wake up and come alive. The conscious mind might not always understand what I'm trying to say. And sometimes I will even try to bypass the mind so that your own inner knowing can participate in your healing process.

Throughout your reading, watch for the kinesthetic signs or body sensations that will give you a way for your deeper sense to say yes and continue. Whether or not you ever actually receive a soul retrieval, this book will provide you with a healing. It will teach you how we lose our vitality and essence, how we remain fragmented, and how we can make a conscious decision to move toward a more fulfilling life.

We all spend a tremendous amount of psychicenergy looking for lost parts of ourselves. We do this unconsciously, and we do this in many different ways-generating dreams and daydreams, experimenting with numerous spiritual paths, creating relationships that mirror back to us our missing parts.

Many of us today don't feel totally whole, don't feel as if we are all here. Few of us live as fully as we could. When we become aware of this, we want to recover the intensity of life, and the intimacy, that we once enjoyed or of which we hold an image. We want to come home more fully to ourselves and to the people we love.

A technique exists for dealing with this common human predicament, but this technique has been almost entirely forgotten in modern society. For tens of thousands of years a practice known as shamanism has brought healing to people in many cultures around the world. According to the shamanic perspective, one of the major causes of illness is soul loss.

The word soul has taken on many meanings. Here I use it simply to mean our vital essence, or as the Oxford English Dictionary (second edition) says, "the principle of life, commonly regarded as an entity distinct from the body; the spiritual parts in contrast to the purely physical." According to this authority, our language also regards the soul as the seat of the emotions, feelings, or sentiments.

Keeping this image of soul in mind, we can ask what causes the loss of this vital essence. In ancient times, loss of this kind was attributed to the soul being frightened away, or straying, or being stolen. Today we often find soul loss is a result of such traumas as incest, abuse, loss of a loved one, surgery, accident, illness, miscarriage, abortion, the stress of combat, or addiction.

The basic premise is 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. What constitutes trauma varies from one individual to another. Soul loss can be caused by whatever a person experiences as traumatic, even if another person would not experience it as such.

In modern times, psychology has provided our primary model for addressing the painful sense of incompleteness and disconnection that many of us experience. We may spend years in therapy or self-help groups trying to uncover traumas and to become whole. I hold a master's degree in counseling psychology and have employed many of its methods, but experience has shown me that psychotherapy works only on the parts of us that are "home."

If a part of our vital essence has fled how can we bring it back? Seeking an answer to this question, I turned to the ancient spiritual path of shamanism. There I found powerful techniques for bringing back parts of the life-energy that might otherwise remain out of reach for years.

In Soul Retrieval, we will explore the shamanic belief that part of our essential fife-energy can split off and become lost in "nonordinary reality." We will travel with the shamanic practitioner as, in an altered state of consciousness, he or she enters nonordinary reality in pursuit of lost soul parts.


Although the term soul loss may be unfamiliar to you, examples of it are well known under other names. A beloved spouse, child, or friend dies, and the survivor also "deadens" for a while. We feel as if the light has gone from our existence, as if we are sleepwalking. Or we return from having major surgery and do not feel as if we have come fully out of the anesthesia. A client who had been involved in a serious automobile accident reported feelings of being "spaced out."

A person involved in an abusive intimate relationship may be aware of being locked into destructive patterns but feel too weak and powerless to move away. Or in leaving the relationship, he or she might feel as though something was left behind with the partner. After a workshop, a student of mine said that since break

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