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Healing from trauma: a shamanic approach

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

In my healing practice, I am increasingly seeing people who are in a state of permanent trauma: they are constantly fearful and often struggle to pinpoint the source of their anxiety.

While trauma is often the result of a single, catastrophic and life-changing event or damage caused by toxins in the environment, our food, and over-medication, trauma can also be due to the cumulative effect of smaller experiences that happen over a prolonged period, such as emotional neglect, gaslighting or repeated exposure to people or situations that make us anxious, which can be just as damaging to the nervous system as a single traumatic event. We may not even think of these experiences as traumatic, but they are – in effect – “micro-traumas”, the effects of which accumulate over time and, if they remain unprocessed, can lead to a chronic state of hypervigilance and anxiety.

The exploitation of trauma

It is important to acknowledge here that trauma can be exploited and I have long held the belief that modern society and the Western economy is built largely on capitalising on people’s fears and keeping them in a heightened trauma state. Here’s why:

People who are in a perpetual state of trauma may be more susceptible to manipulation and control, as their heightened emotional state can make them more reactive and less able to think critically. For example, authoritarian regimes may use tactics such as fear-mongering and propaganda to create a sense of constant threat in their population which can help maintain their power and control. Similarly, corporations use marketing tactics that exploit individuals' insecurities and fears, such as promoting products that promise to alleviate stress or anxiety. And the more people who experience trauma, the greater the potential for exploitation, as it becomes the norm.

The media also contributes to the perpetuation of trauma by sensationalising news stories and promoting a constant sense of fear and uncertainty. The 24-hour news cycle and proliferation of social media commentary creates fear and division within society, and can make it difficult for people to unplug and disconnect from the constant stream of traumatic events, leading to a chronic state of stress and anxiety. Even apparently innocuous programming such as sitcoms can reinforce fear and other trauma-based responses as a result of harrowing storylines presented as everyday reality.

By recognising these manipulations and actively resisting them, we can begin to reclaim our agency and personal power. This involves disconnecting from media sources that promote fear and anxiety, seeking out healing practices that support the restoration of balance and harmony to the mind, body, and spirit, and engaging in activism and advocacy work to address systemic issues that contribute to trauma.

The effects of trauma on the nervous system

The impact of trauma on the nervous system is well documented. Trauma can have a profound and long-lasting impact on an individual's mental and physical health. Trauma is not just a psychological experience, it also has a direct effect on the nervous system, creating long-term changes in the way the brain processes information.

When an individual experiences trauma, their nervous system goes into a state of heightened arousal. This is the fight-or-flight response that is triggered when an individual perceives a threat. During this response, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. These physiological changes are essential for survival in the short term, but if the individual remains in this heightened state of arousal for an extended period, this chronic exposure to stress hormones can damage neurons in the brain and affect the functioning of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing. This can lead to difficulties in regulating emotions and can cause individuals to experience intense emotional reactions to situations that would not normally elicit such a response.

Unprocessed trauma can manifest in different ways in different people, depending on the severity and duration of the trauma, as well as the individual's coping mechanisms and support systems. Some individuals may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can include flashbacks, nightmares, and intense emotional reactions to reminders of the trauma. Some may experience memory problems or insomnia, while others may develop anxiety or depression, or may engage in self-destructive behaviours such as substance abuse or self-harm. Trauma can delay emotional maturing as well, leading to a condition known as age regression, where people are unable to develop emotionally beyond the age they were when they experienced the trauma.

Some people may also develop dissociative symptoms, where they feel disconnected from their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This can include feeling like they are watching themselves from outside their own body or feeling like their thoughts and feelings are not their own, and ultimately affect their sense of self and identity.

Healing from trauma: a shamanic approach

But healing from trauma is possible. It’s not a quick fix nor an easy process in many cases, but with the right support, individuals affected by trauma can find ways to process and integrate their experiences.

Shamanic healing focuses on restoring balance and harmony to the person’s mind, body, and spirit. It can be particularly effective in addressing the effects of trauma, as it acknowledges the interconnectedness of all aspects of the Self and recognises the importance of healing on a deep, spiritual level.

Shamanic healing involves identifying and releasing emotional blockages and negative thought patterns that may be contributing to trauma symptoms. Techniques such as energy healing, sound healing, and shamanic journeying can help people to access deeper levels of healing and insight, address the root causes of their trauma and work through the emotions and beliefs that may be keeping them stuck in patterns of distress. In this way, people can learn to release the energetic imprints of trauma from their system and restore a sense of wholeness and vitality to their life.

Soul retrieval can be particularly helpful for people who have experienced trauma. Trauma can cause a fragmentation of the soul, with aspects of the individual's essence becoming lost or dissociated in order to cope with the overwhelming experience. This can lead to a sense of disconnection, emptiness, and a feeling that something essential is missing from one's life. Soul retrieval involves the shamanic practitioner journeying into the spiritual realm and working with spirit allies or guides to locate to retrieve the lost aspects of the person’s soul, bringing them back to the individual and integrating them back into their being.

The process of soul retrieval can be a powerful catalyst for healing, as it helps to restore a sense of wholeness and completeness to the individual's being. It can also help to release energetic blocks and patterns that may have been holding the individual back, allowing them to move forward with greater clarity and purpose. It is important to note that soul retrieval is not a quick fix, but rather a process of ongoing healing and integration. After an initial soul retrieval session, clients typically need to continue the process of soul integration and healing with the support of a therapist or shamanic practitioner.

If this article resonates with you and you’d like to explore shamanic healing as a way to help process and heal trauma in your life, please do get in touch at

You can read more about my background on this page and read what others have said about my work here.

Joss Anderson is a qualified and experienced Shamanic Practitioner, Shamanic Reiki Master Practitioner and ICF-accredited coach, based in Cambridgeshire, UK and online.

© Joss Anderson 2023; © The Wild Edges, 2023

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