How Shamanism Is Helping Me Heal From Sexual Trauma
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How Shamanism Is Helping Me Heal From Sexual Trauma
With the help of my trusted spirits, drumming and trance states, I’ve been able to reclaim my power after an abusive childhood.
I often used to feel guilty about needing to heal from traumatic experiences in my childhood because some of my basic human needs, like food and shelter, were stable. Years of therapy taught me how to extract myself from family members with toxic behaviors and create enough space to look at what happened to me like an archaeologist at a dig site. Ah yes, this PTSD relic is from a time when my father sexually abused me. This one here is from when I started writing daily letters to my mother to confirm whether she loved me. Indeed, I have discovered many types of this artifact, indicating prolonged emotional abuse from my mother. Therapy helps me curate my artifacts in an internal museum and piece together a story of my childhood with mentally unwell parents that my adult brain can understand. It applies a logical and psychologically informed framework to my deepest wounded material at the bargain rate of $200/hour and keeps me alive.
After a decade of meticulous curation, the grand opening of my internal museum was held in 2019 when my niece was born and air finally met my vocal cords in the ears of a social services intake person, and eventually a detective, with my sincerest hope of keeping my niece safe from my father. I sat alone at a conference table at work one afternoon in July when a detective told me over the phone that I could pursue my case in court, but that without external evidence or anyone to corroborate my experiences, it would be a lot of wasted energy, time and money. In his words, I could hear the training he received about what to say to people like me. As our short conversation wore on, his heart and tone broke for me in between his sturdy template of sentences, and I am forever grateful that a human was on the other side of that phone call.
Learning and Healing Through My Shamanism Circle
So there I was, living in the depths of what it means when the truth sets you free, with my tidy museum and logical framework carrying me forward. A trusted friend recommended an introductory workshop on shamanism to me as a means for spiritual healing and understanding human relationships to the natural and spirit worlds. Shamanism is a spiritual practice that can be found cross-culturally as far back as human records of time. This workshop led to me entering a three-year shamanic practitioner training, which utilizes a heal-the-healer method wherein we learn how to facilitate healing for others by practicing shamanic healing methods with the other learners in the program and on ourselves. This circle provides the stability and wellness needed to visit the parts of my life where stability and safety were absent and work toward healing them. I am a fierce protector of my spirit, and this program offers the safety I need to learn and heal in two key ways: learning how to achieve a trance state with drumming and rattling (rather than psychedelic drugs), and having a core foundation of personal sovereignty.
As one example, in my circle of 60 learning shamanic practitioners, there are as many faiths and cosmologies as there are practitioners, and we coexist and honor one another’s experience of spirit because they are all vastly different and true at the same time. While we learn how to facilitate shamanic healing techniques with the help of our trusted spirits (also referred to as helping spirits), the cosmological explanations of the universe and why/how it functions are purposefully left up to each individual practitioner, in living practice of our sovereignties.
This program provides a curriculum of healing techniques that has served as a map through my internal museum for me to use to explore all of the ways in which my spirit has been wounded and work with trusted spirits and shamanic practitioners to compassionately acknowledge what has happened to me and heal. The following are a few examples of my experiences with shamanic healing specifically related to my experiences of childhood sexual abuse. This narrative speaks to my personal experience and only represents a small fraction of shamanic healing techniques and possibilities.
Shamanism Helps Me Connect to Myself and My Memories in a Way That Feels Safe
With the guidance of a highly skilled and fully trained shamanic practitioner and a few of my helping spirits, I recently entered into a trance state as the sovereign adult that I am now and visited one of my most traumatic memory artifacts with my father. The adult me was vibrant and full of my own self-knowledge and personal power. In the shamanic journey to this memory, I took my child self’s hand and she understood that she is safe with me now and we left the memory together. Visiting this memory as my highest self allowed a transformation of the memory to occur wherein the focus became my connection to my child self and her connection and focus on adult me, rather than the trauma that was occurring. It is a vastly different experience when compared to thinking about this memory in a non-shamanic state or talking about this memory in therapy. And when I think of this memory now, my association is with bringing my child self to safety and her trust in me, whereas before, I could never see or feel anything beyond what my father had done to me.
The shamanic healing technique mentioned here is called transmutation, wherein a memory of an experience is transformed from one state (highly traumatic) to another state (filled with spiritual light). This is something that I would not have thought possible without experiencing it myself at my own pace. This is the kind of memory artifact in my museum that was so traumatic that visiting this while using a psychedelic drug to achieve the same healing end could have been too much for me to handle. Utilizing drumming to achieve a shamanic trance state allows me to leave a journey at any time and return to it later, thus enabling me to be sovereign in relation to my own healing pace. I have also learned the value of working with a team of spirits who are always with me, as well as with another shamanic practitioner when working on complex inquiries.
I recently asked a trusted spirit how I can open my heart to be able to receive more love. A member of the team of helping spirits that I work with explained that my child self learned to direct all of my emotions, especially anger, towards myself because I had no other options or resources as a child to cope with the tremendous trauma happening to me. This spirit showed me how directing anger towards myself keeps me from having a deeper connection to my body, receiving love fully and being able to care for my whole self. Now that I have a better understanding of these underlying dynamics, I am working with my helping spirits and my therapist to develop new practices and patterns of routing anger outside of my body and away from myself. This is making space for a new relationship with love, care and my body, including my relationship to exercise and food. In this case, the spiritual healing I received was being able to name what has been happening to me so that I can understand it and grow more supportive and loving ways of being in relationship to myself. Going forward, I can undertake additional journeys when I get stuck in old patterns or dynamics, or visit other artifacts and memories, in order to keep building my capacity to absorb the love my partner offers to me, eat nourishing food or move my body.
I’m Becoming a Shamanic Healer to Help Others on Their Paths to Healing
It is difficult to explain the resounding impact that these journeys have had on healing my spirit. With every journey and healing, I have a greater sense of the magnitude and potential of the fullness of my life and myself, a deeper connection to my body and presence to the world around me. I have learned that journeying is a tool for my own healing and a process wherein I take an active role in that healing with the help of an incredible group of compassionate spirits with unwavering constancy. I have been witness to my own transformative process of transmuting my painful experiences into storied artifacts that have new meanings and no longer hold me back. My museum is filled with the same artifacts that feel completely different to me. And by training to be a shamanic practitioner, I am now able to help clients on their sovereign, evolutionary healing paths with their own artifacts to heal. The path of the shamanic healer is a new mantle that I feel so fortunate to hold.
As a final note, it is important to mention that shamanic healing may not have been as effective for me if I had not pursued therapy first and in conjunction with shamanic healing. I often work with my therapist to become current and in congruence mentally and emotionally with the spiritual healing that occurs during a shamanic healing session. Shamanic healing is not a substitute for therapy. I have found that healing from trauma and maintaining wellness results from working regularly with a team, including a psychotherapist for mental and emotional health, shamanic healers and my helping spirits for spiritual health, an acupuncturist for energetic health, a primary care physician for physical health and others as needed for different aspects of my well-being. In doing so, I have experienced deep, interconnected layers of healing that I never would have thought possible and discovered that I am worthy of being healed.