Home > Spirituality, Uncategorized > Falling Apart, Coming Back Together

Falling Apart, Coming Back Together

Last weekend I had a very nice conversation with Lyssa, Bryce, and my fiancee about the shamanic path and the issue of trauma. Mainly this would refer to the propensity I’ve seen of some shamanists to be very loud and open about their traumatic pasts and experiences–as if that very thing is an automatic badge for being a shaman or taking on the shamanic path. Bryce hit the nail right on the head when he mentioned that, in order to function, one needs to be able to put oneself back together again. Or, be allowed to be put together again. This sort of thing has been evidenced time and time again across numerous traditions and mythologies.

Being put back together indicates being able to be a contributing member of society. If you cannot interact with people in your own society, how do you expect to interact socially with the peoples and beings of other realms? Also–if you cannot fix yourself or are broken and are unable or unwilling to fix yourself or be fixed, how do you expect to help or heal others on your shamanic path? This only reinforces my view that not everyone who takes on the shamanic path really should, or is able or capable of doing so. Not everyone who has suffered severe trauma in their lives are able to handle this sort of thing. They may even have the energy or power, but no knowledge on how to control or use it. Think a gun in the hands of a toddler. Now granted, some of them may grow up (aka, pull their heads out of their asses) to be skilled sharpshooters, but more often than not all they’ll end up doing is blowing someone else’s head off, or their own.

To some degree this can be blamed on the culture and society we live in–that we don’t have the elders or the people around to address the psychological as well as the spiritual needs of these people, to teach them how to handle the power they’ve been given. To follow a shamanic path is to be in the realm of the psychological as well as the spiritual. But, to another degree this can also largely be blamed on the ignorance of people who are unable or unwilling to take that much-needed step after experiencing the proverbial bitchslap. They do not wish to go beyond the finely-woven comfort zones they have built for themselves. It would be much easier to sit on your online journal and collect *hugs* and sympathy, for example.

Now, before people blast me for being an insensitive prick (which, I do admit, I’ve been guilty of before), allow me to say this. When I mention ‘being fixed’, that does not mean that there are no scars, no seams, no pain of the past lingering. I myself get fairly pissed off when people tell me I just need to “get over it”. Some things you never get over. Some things just stay with you, even fuck you up on occasion. And that’s okay. But what do you do with that pain? That’s the big question. When the shaman is dismembered by the spirits, he or she is usually given extra parts or modified parts in the process of being pieced back together. What are the special gifts you’ve been given as a result of these experiences? How do you adapt to the hand that was dealt you? What was given to you to help you compensate or cope? How about helping others?

I know I posted this before, but Jarandhel’s post Spiritually On-Call is another good rant to look at relating to this topic. I actually have much more to say in relation to this, but it may have to wait for further posts, as I need to run off soon and deal with a work-related crisis. Oof.

  1. Cloud
    March 20, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I’m no shaman, but I hope I fall into the category of ‘not sitting on a journal collecting hugs.’ I sometimes do vent, and I’m one of those ‘almost back together’ kind of people… the scars are always healing, always still a little raw. But… I hope that I’m not just convincing myself I’m taking the pain and forging it into strength and resolve. I hope it’s really what I’m doing, and that I’m not just wrapping it up around me and pretending it’s really armor instead of a burial shroud.

    I hope others see this in me, because I’m honest-to-God trying my damndest.

    Tory, our resident shamanistic type… in reading this post, all I keep thinking of is him. It’s interesting to see all his qualities and experiences laid out in text. It describes him almost exactly.

    I’m rambling now, sorry. Very interesting post, thank you.


  2. March 20, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you. This actually clarified a lot of the misgivings I have with some of the really extreme relationships I’ve seen, and why they most definitely aren’t something I would embrace.

    I forget exactly where I read it (I want to say Eliade, but I’m not 100% sure of that) but I remember reading that whatever sickness a shaman got (and nearly died from) was supposed to be the one that s/he was an expert in curing.

  3. Phil
    March 21, 2009 at 12:59 am

    This is an excellent point…

    Unfortunately, I think that versions of this viewpoint can also be misused.

    For example: I’ve been asthmatic since I was 5, and diabetic (insulin-dependent) since I was 8. These are hard-wired, physical things that cannot be “gotten over,” even by the best lifestyle choices possible, no matter what some people say. Nothing short of extreme surgical interventions will get rid of the diabetes (and even those aren’t guaranteed, or even suggested by most medical professionals), and “mind over matter” can only go so far with the asthma when one is in the midst of an attack.

    Now, I’m not going down the shamanic path myself, but it seemed like a likely option for a very long time. However, certain people of the (pseudo-)shamanic bent were saying things like “If you’re not healed from your diseases, then you’ll never be a shaman.” Likewise, certain “shapeshifter” books also say that if you’re not in perfect health and so forth, you can never do that sort of work.

    Sorry, I say bullshit to that.

    Psychological traumas are to be taken very seriously, but also to be dealt with and coped with in as good a manner as possible before one attempts to help others, I think, in order to be as fully responsible as possible. (This is a further matter I’ve seen with people who have recently come out as LGBT: they want to immediately start “helping others,” and while it’s nice to have such an altruistic impulse, it’s also pretty unrealistic that someone who has been out for three months will have the togetherness of someone who has been out for fifteen years, has brought partner[s] home to their parents on repeated occasions, attended high school reunions, etc.) But physical things are another story altogether, I think, and no less “powerful” for the effect they can continue to have on a person…

    This is where the idea of lycanthropy as a disease can be useful. If you let it control you, and it is the master, that’s the bad situation where you have amnesiac werewolves who go on killing sprees. If you can control it, and use it most productively, let the beast out when it needs to get out and so forth, then that’s a position of true power and mastery, and it doesn’t involve squelching it or conquering it, or getting rid of that disease either (which is something one rarely sees in films and such…). Anyway…Much more could be said about all of this, but thought-provoking stuff…

  4. Elizabeth
    March 21, 2009 at 1:03 am

    This is an awesome post. Thanks for writing it — will recommend it to some friends of mine.

  1. March 23, 2009 at 2:57 pm
  2. April 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm

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