In our society, there is a mysterious phenomenon occurring known as “Soul Loss” arising in all people of all ages, genders, races, and backgrounds.
Indigenous people have known about the occurrence of Soul Loss for millennia, and understand it as the result of an inner fragmentation caused by a traumatic experience or an intense shock to the mind and body.
While for many of us Soul Loss sounds uncomfortably familiar, this experience is usually temporary, and with the proper inner work, these lost elements of ourselves can be reintegrated into our lives.
(Note: If you need further guidance after reading this article and learning about Soul Loss, I highly recommend checking out our healing and illuminating Soul Retrieval Bundle.)
Table of contents
What is Soul Loss?
When we experience Soul Loss, a part of our Soul – or living essence – ‘hides’ or shuts away, hindering us from expressing and experiencing our true potential and wholeness as human beings. Often times entire aspects of our psyches are completely blocked out or repressed.
During my exploration of shamanism and its methods of soul retrieval, Soul Loss was defined as the experience of the Soul traveling to other realms, or alternate realities, and often being possessed by spirits. In the shamanic perspective, when these parts of our Souls are not recovered, we can’t seem to find inner completion or Wholeness.
Before psychology, this explanation was the only way primal cultures could explain (what we refer to in modern times as) trauma in order to find ways to treat it – and it was immensely effective at the time. However, Soul Loss can now be approached from many different angles. We’ll explore these varying perspectives next.
How Does Soul Loss Happen?
Sadly, in our modern world, Soul Loss is the rule rather than the exception.
As individuals, we lose connection with our souls (or True Nature) every time we identify with our egos and seek to feel whole again through addictions, stimulation seeking, dogmatic beliefs, conditional relationships, and workaholism.
But there’s a reason why we identify with the ego and disconnect with the soul in the first place: it’s a survival mechanism. We must develop a sense of self, a separate sense of “me” in the world in order to function. But simultaneously, developing an ego (which is basically one big defense mechanism to ensure that we’re loved, accepted, taken care of, avoid pain, etc.) means that we lose touch with the authentic essence of who we truly are: the Soul.
As a result of Soul Loss, we begin experiencing symptoms of weakness, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and emptiness. We just know that something is missing from our lives – but many of us struggle to discover what exactly is missing. To understand Soul Loss as a loss, or disconnection, from the most vital parts of who we are, is known in psychology as dissociation: the root of many mental illnesses.
The Psychology Behind Soul Loss
So how does the actual process of losing touch with our Soul happen, from a psychological standpoint?
When we become disconnected from the root of who we are, an imbalance is created within the psyche. This disconnection grows through time and can be intensified by traumatic circumstances that have a tendency to fragment the psyche.
What happens when our psyches fragment? The answer is that individual parts of our personality (e.g., the shadow self, anima, animus, etc.) are made independent and thus escape the control of the conscious mind. Lingering in the unconscious mind, these parts of us long to be integrated and to be made conscious, and can resort to extreme measures to get our attention (such as suicidal depressions, self-destructive behavior, sudden rages).
What happens when one of our psychological ‘complexes’ emancipates itself and becomes a tyrannical usurper of consciousness? The result is an increasing feeling of being alienated from ourselves, life, and the Divine. We may live with fear, guilt, and shame as a constant backdrop to our lives. And usually, we feel numb, empty inside, and a sense of hopelessness that we try to smother with work, family life, friendships, gossip, and various addictions.
Soul Loss is Also Known as Dissociation
Soul Loss, in a sense, is another way of saying dissociation.
If you’re familiar with basic psychology, you’ll know that dissociating means disconnecting from something, in this case, ourselves. This disconnection happens as a result of a traumatic situation or environment that we’re subjected to. It’s a defense mechanism that prevents us from totally shutting down and being incapable of functioning.
Here’s a (tragically very common) scenario of how dissociation works:
Imagine that a young child is molested or abused. In order to cope with the horrendous experience, the child escapes by dissociating, or detaching themselves, from the situation. In the process of protecting themselves, the child creates various alter egos, or entirely different personalities within themselves, as a defense mechanism. In psychology, this is treated as “multiple personality disorder” (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder).
It’s easy to understand how tribal cultures would have perceived this as a loss of the Soul. But essentially, psychological dissociation is nature’s way of protecting ourselves against intense trauma and loss by blocking these wounding situations out.
But Soul Loss, or dissociation, is not limited to these extreme cases and can be found in different degrees in most people. Addictions, eating disorders, identity disorders, post-traumatic stress, depression, codependency, narcissism, low self-esteem, and adjustment disorders are all common causes for (and symptoms of) Soul Loss in our superficial, fast-paced, materialistic modern societies that are mostly devoid of all sense of sacredness.
A young woman who dreams of being an artist but has to live up to her parent’s expectations of being a doctor will lose a little bit of her Soul, ignoring an essential part of her being. Or suppose the young woman does go ahead and follows her dream of being an artist, but deep down she still depends on her parent’s approval. She then either blames them to avoid taking responsibility for pursuing her passion, or she develops depression because she is not accepted by them. This story might sound familiar to you.
Fortunately, there are many ways of finding wholeness again. Most of the material Luna and I write for lonerwolf is a form of Soul Retrieval, where we help you to become aware of aspects within yourself that may be buried or lost. We do this by encouraging the development of authenticity, self-exploration, self-love, and self-transformation. I’ll explore some common Soul Retrieval practices a little later.
But first, are you experiencing Soul Loss?
21 Signs You Might Be Experiencing Soul Loss
There are a variety of physical, psychological, and spiritual symptoms of Soul Loss.
When we experience Soul Loss – that is, parts of our Soul ‘hiding away’ or dissociating from us – the result is a loss in Soulful energy or the very vitality of our lives. This loss of energy prevents us from living a healthy, fulfilling, and creative existence. Sometimes Soul Loss can last for a whole lifetime, resulting in the development of a self-destructive person who we often refer to as a “Lost Soul” in our language.
To recover these lost parts of ourselves, and to become balanced, whole, and centered once again, we must first identify the symptoms of Soul Loss within us. Below you will find some of the most common symptoms:
- Memories and parts of your life have been blocked out.
- You experience strong periods of depression.
- Parts within yourself feel missing or broken.
- You experience a general emotional numbness to life.
- Constant feelings of fear or anxiety plague you.
- You go through long periods of insomnia.
- You feel lost or incomplete.
- You feel like a ‘different person’ after a shocking or traumatic life event.
- You feel stuck or incapable of overcoming a certain issue in your life.
- You feel disappointed with life.
- You feel as though there are multiple “selves” within you.
- You try to escape by turning to alcohol, drugs, sex, television, or excessive busyness.
- You feel unworthy of being loved.
- You are experiencing a dark night of the soul and/or spiritual emergency.
- You want to find your purpose and meaning in life.
- You feel like your daily life is meaningless and task-driven.
- You avoid feeling vulnerable and keep others at a distance.
- You long for wholeness and a sense of belonging.
- You sometimes feel that you’re not in control of yourself.
- You constantly feel mentally or physically fatigued for no medical reason.
- You thirst for authenticity and complete acceptance of yourself.
How many can you relate to? You’re welcome to share in the comments below.
Soul Loss & the Spiritual Awakening Journey
What happens after we experience Soul Loss? The answer is that usually, we go through an internal crisis (or Dark Night of the Soul) that leads to a deep spiritual awakening. In fact, Soul Loss is typically what triggers an initiation into the mysteries of the inner world in the first place. We get to a point where we just can’t continue living with a sense of existential emptiness and desolation any longer. A thirst is born deep inside to find our true destiny, place in the world, and meaningful connection with the Divine. Such is the beginning of our spiritual journey – the call to return Home.
Read: How to Start Your Spiritual Journey (7 Illuminating Steps) »
How to Reconnect With Your Soul
For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?– Jesus of Nazareth
Inner work or Soul Retrieval (ensoulment) practices are the best way to reconnect with your soul. This is because they take you on an internal adventure and channel your energy toward your deepest buried feelings, thoughts, and dreams: all of which carry vital parts of you.
There are a multitude of inner work practices out there. Some of those particularly suited to Soul Retrieval may include:
- Inner child work
- Shadow work
- Art therapy
- Dream work
- Mirror work
- Archetype work (also includes Internal Family Systems Therapy)
- Plant medicine journeying (undertake this with an experienced guide)
- Meditation and mindfulness exercises
- Keeping a journal
- Singing and chanting
- Nature immersion and ecotherapy
- Movement therapy (yoga, dancing, etc.)
Choose a few areas you’re interested in and stick with them for a period of a year or more. (However, ultimately use your own judgment – and if you feel overwhelmed by any, stop immediately.) This work takes dedication and sincerity. So go at a slow and steady pace. One day you will look back on the moment you read this article and realize how far you’ve come!
More In-Depth Help
Want to learn more about soul loss? In our book The Spiritual Awakening Process, we give more in-depth guidance:
Soul Loss Q&A
Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions:
Q: Is Soul Loss about losing your soul – can I lose my soul?
A: Soul Loss is about losing touch with your Soul. You cannot totally lose your Soul, it is always there in the background of your life, albeit, often times inaccessible due to the trauma you may have experienced. Many people misunderstand the term Soul Loss as literally meaning losing your Soul. But instead, it’s about losing access to the vital core of you.
Q: How do you know if your soul is gone?
A: Again, the Soul never ‘goes’ away, it just becomes hard to reach, hard to reconnect with. Common signs that you’ve experienced Soul Loss include anxiety, depression, emotional numbness, loneliness, emptiness, chronic fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, boredom, and profound dissatisfaction with life.
Q: Can soul retrieval only be done with a shaman?
A: Although ‘Soul Retrieval’ is a shamanic term, it doesn’t need to be performed exclusively by a shaman. Psychotherapists, bodyworkers, and highly experienced spiritual healers can also provide Soul Retrieval help. Try to find someone reputable when it comes to Soul Retrieval: trust your instincts. This is a sacred journey and requires guidance from a person who genuinely respects you and the process.
To be healthy, to feel whole, and to live a harmonious life, you must recover the vital lost parts of yourself by learning to live a life of balance, authenticity, and self-love.
Finding the fragments of yourself that are lost and restoring them is to return to your innate wholeness, to restore the essential vitality that is your Soul, is part of the journey of spiritual awakening. To learn to slowly reintegrate the lost elements of your Soul through the practice of inner work (or Soul Retrieval) is to fulfill your potential as a divine being having a human experience.
What has your experience been like with Soul Loss? I’d love to hear your story below.
It’s a dark place; a living hell. Being raised by an emotionally cold narcissistic mother, I’ve suffered from soul loss.
I can relate to this. I was very bright & creative, also very empathic, it felt like something recently broke in me & I can’t find it or fix it
I’m interested that I’m finding the need to awaken more spiritually. And very much feel that finding you is a part of my path right now It feels right to find both the need and awareness of the need to grow and to find guidance that I need at the same time.
I relate to every single one of them about soul loss
this article really spoke to me, especially the 21 signs, as I read the list there were alot I can relate to. The addiction, depression, insomnia, lost/incomplete, just to name a few.I am currently working the Shadow work workbook and I am learning alot about myself. When I start writing I will be on one topic and by the time I am done something completely different yet related to where I started has come out. Feelings of anger or disappointment. Being let down by the people who were supposed to love me and protect me. Some times it is very hard to admit these things, because I truly have the utmost respect for my Daddy, but he is no longer here and sometimes I feel I am dishonoring his memory. But these things are eating me alive, they affect my very existence. I no longer go out in public, I don’t visit my children or my mother. I truly never leave my house. I just feel there is nothing out there in the world for me, and my Daddy’s death just added to there’s nothing out there for me. I know this probably doesn’t make alot of sense how could… Read more »
Well, it opens with implying europeans aren’t indigenous people and thus have no wisdom, culture or lost knowledge themselves. But yea, we do.
I could use some help…Yet I would loce to sharw my story. Im 54 and for me it started at age 9 when I was beaten so badly by my mother that I lost myself. As you said D.I.D. disassociation Identy Disorder. This would have been 1976 the courts just gave my father custody of me with no counceling. I guess I seemed normal but was not. I litterly lost 9 years of my life with only movie clips at best of some parts. To this day I have trouble seeing my mothers face. I felt like a new born child and it was like learning to communicate all over again. I had violent moods as I knew I was different almost as though I were inside myself but looking at ths world like a movie. I had no fear as it was like I was present but not in control. Every fight and relationship seperated my good side from my bad. Like two different but seperate beings. I know understand why as I remember more of my life wigh my mother as she always seem to beat me or find ways to torture me as though she enjoyed it.… Read more »
I feel like I’ve been on this journey for a long time and never really understood what this journey was or why I was doing it. I’ve researched so many things and this speaks volumes to me. Thank you
So my journey began when I lost my dad at the age of 25. Being the youngest and carrying the weight of being my parent’s primary go to I was always overwhelmed trying to balance school, family and social life. Losing him put me on a journey of soul searching. I worked several jobs to keep busy, tried to build relationships with people I thought would be my friends forever but had me questioning my own existence at times. I never felt understood and would lost tons of sleep overthinking. Eventually I continued to hone in on the beauty of life and seeing the best in people. I was eventually reunited with someone from the past who I don’t think I ever got over spent months rebuilding what I felt to be the perfect relationship only to have it end suddenly and tragically. It was through this situation that I truly found myself questioning everyone and everything. My depression and anxiety for extremely out of control. I resorted to trying to keep busy to distract myself when I eventually realized it wasn’t helping. I finally had enough and decided to give myself the weekends back to focus on my healing… Read more »
I think my SO is experiencing soul loss. He told me today he doesn’t have a soul. He told me when he dies, that’s it. There’s nothing that goes beyond his physical body. I’ve seen him dance. He loves cats. In fact, one rescue cat we have just loves him. But, at times, he shows a remarkable lack of empathy and compassion. He yelled at his elderly father for crying when a close family member died. In fact, he was angry at both his parents for expressing feelings of sorrow. He also enjoys seeing other people feel and express negative emotions like anger and frustration. I think there is a soul in him somewhere, but he wants to be rid of it.