PTSD Shaman: Involuntary Call and Covering Your “Spiritual Back”

PIC: David Revjoy (cc)

PIC: David Revjoy (cc)

Dr. John Zemler, PhD., writes at PTSD Spirituality:

When the Master Shaman sends the apprentice shaman into the wilderness to be tested by the spirits, the Master Shaman covers the apprentice’s “Spiritual Back.”  The phrase, “I’ve got your back” applies both to our spiritual development as well as to our physical protection.  For the modern American, however, the traumatic encounter in the wilderness with the spirit world is  an involuntarily experience.  We do not usually volunteer for clergy abuse, rape, or military trauma.  Yet, the outcomes of these involuntary traumas can be similar to the voluntary suffering observed in traditional shamanism.

The formation of a shaman is a three part process.  The first stage deals with the Call from the Spirits.  The formation process can kill the person who is called to this vocation.  In the case of PTSD it is not a voluntary call.

Authentic Meaning Comes from Body and Soul Experience

As mentioned in previous posts, our PTSD inducing ecstatic experiences occur on the mundane and the supernatural levels.  We experience reality at two levels, our bodies and our souls.  Depending upon our personal levels of awareness, we know that our experiences of intense joy or sorrow occur on these two levels.  Indeed, we derive meaning when our body and our soul are decisively engaged together in any particular reality, whether that reality is one of terror or one of delight.

One of the results of ecstatic experience is increased awareness.  It is one of the reasons we try to recapture the feeling of aliveness  we experienced in the traumatic moment.  It is also one of the reasons PTSD sufferers endeavor to deaden their senses so as not to be so aware of the realness of reality.  At times, discerning meaning can feel like too much to bear.  Regardless, if we choose to embrace meaning or deny meaning, it is the product of our supernatural and natural sides.

Who Has Your “Spiritual Back” Covered?

While the apprentice shaman engages the spirits in the wilderness only after adequate training and guidance from a mature shaman, we do not usually enter our trauma experiences with that intense teaching background and support.

For example, Jesus does not go straight into the wilderness.  He first receives instruction and baptism, that is, doctrinal teaching combined with ritual.  He was prepared Body and Soul for his testing and confrontation with Satan in the Wilderness.  Who prepared Jesus for his sojourn in the wilderness? Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, and his cousin, John the Baptist prepared him.

His preparation enabled him to withstand the testing he encountered in the wilderness.  And, I suspect, that while he was in the wilderness, Jesus had continued prayer support from those who cared about him.  Your prayers for those who are in trauma and recovering from trauma help their souls to heal. When you pray for the well-being of others, you are helping to cover their “spiritual back.”

In traditional shamanic societies the apprentice shaman is prepared in terms of teaching and ritual before going into the wilderness to engage, and be engaged by, the spirits.  The senior shaman, the teacher, does not sit back and have a cold one while the apprentice is away.  The senior shaman continues ritual and prayer in support of the apprentice shaman.

Modern PTSD sufferers typically receive little or none of this support.  Their call comes in isolation.  No one has their “spiritual back.”

Read more here.

21 Comments on "PTSD Shaman: Involuntary Call and Covering Your “Spiritual Back”"

  1. BuzzCoastin | May 19, 2014 at 5:52 pm |

    We experience reality at two levels, our bodies and our souls.

    as far as I can tell
    there is no soul
    as far as I can tell
    the body does all the experiencing
    as far as I can tell
    there is no perception that can be called REALITY
    as far as I can tell
    suffering is a part of the experience of living
    without which
    wee would not know joy
    as far as I can tell
    there is no I

    • Your sentiments appeal to me greatly…

      • I dont dont believe in a soul in a Judeo-christian type sense but I do believe in ones inner-self that is seperate from your mind and thoughts. If you read “the power of now” by Eckhart Tolle it talks about this stuff and how most people tend to identify their self as their mind and thoughts. It teaches you how to look at your thoughts and listen to them and when you do this you actual realize inside you there is a “innerself” and a seperate “your thoughts” because you can actually listen to your thoughts like they are another person talking to you in your head its really interesting stuff. Deep meditation where you reach a state of “no thought” and your mind and thoughts are silent you can actually become more in touch with your . Innerself but this takes years of practice and meditation must be done regularly to have the full effect.

        • BuzzCoastin | May 19, 2014 at 9:07 pm |

          you are assuming that thoughts are self generated
          but wee have no idea where thoughts come from
          it is easy to construct a narrative based on your experience
          e.g. I think therefore I am

          there does seem to be a “higher” reflective self
          but that’s merely conjecture
          and could easily be yet another function of consciousness
          which is another thing wee misunderstand

          • Oh I agree no one really truly knows.

            Like with the aspect of coming up with a original idea for something new. Where did that thought come from for that idea? No one truly knows but maybe all possible knowledge and ideas already exist in some dimension of time/space and human beings are like little antennas and you just happen to catch one of those ideas and it manifests itself into this new idea then a thought in your brain. The fact that no one truly knows what the meaning of life is and that human knowledge is so limited when compaired to the vast complexity of the universe it always leads to some interesting philosophical theories.

        • Eckhart Tolle and outer thought meditations… really? Is that what you think I need to know and is actually happening to you? That’s classic, and fascinatingly naive.

          • Never said that’s what you need to know or that is some sort of meaning of life i literally said “its interesting stuff” I read the book years back and dont practice the stuff I just think a lot of philosophical theories are interesting because NO ONE TRULY KNOWS.

          • I do know… and no its not interesting.

          • I literally couldnt care less if its interesting to you I dont base my interests off hubris fucks like yourself or anyone for that matter.

            And no I said I believe in a inner self seperate from your normal thoughts which I also said I dont think is a spirit and to be clear i definitly dont think it has to do with afterlife. Just because I mentioned some stuff from a book doesnt mean I follow it or live by it. Wow do you assume a lot.

          • You picked the wrong “Hubris Fuck” to pedal Woo at… that’s for sure. I accept your apology, and I forgive your trespass.

          • And also you saying “I do know” is no different than some bible thumper saying “they know” that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and he is the son of god blah blah. You may think you know and may even have convinced yourself in your own mind that you know but in all reality NO you dont know.

          • I never said I believed in a soul so not sure what posting a link like that will prove? Considering i said I dont know and I am agnostic it really doesnt prove anything because there isnt anything to disprove. I dont know and you dont know and no one else knows and the fact you think you know means you are dillusional and in some self righteous state of mind that your brain has put you in to try and help you have some sort of feeling of homeostasis in your mind.

  2. My best friends (in many ways, my brothers) have lent me the title of Shaman… for all the work I’ve done in building up the broken men around us. Though many have tried to carry me… I’m far too hermetic to allow anyone to get too close, to follow me into the woods or the urban jungle or to have my “Spiritual Back”. I know them too well and I let no more than words carry me, finding guidance in the works of the many authors I let carry me into the wild.

    I regularly come across veterans of both foreign combat and domestic psychic wars who are unable to cope with their experiences. Surely I’m not a Shaman in any classical sense of the word but as times change so do the arts and the old codes.

    “My home town it ain’t lookin’ quite the same, the beards have grown all ragged and turned to gray” Chris Doud

    • Jin The Ninja | May 21, 2014 at 11:45 am |

      ‘shaman’ is not a ‘title.’
      it’s a broad catagorisation of practice
      that involves mediation between earthly ghosts, spirits, and ‘gods’
      (nominally) and the physical world, usually for healing, but also for
      sorcery- involving some sort of ecstatic state. a ‘pipe-carrier’ is a
      title, a ‘mudang’ is a title, a ‘tongji spirit medium’ is a title, a
      ‘priest’ (daoist in this context) is a title, ‘taltos’ is a title. a
      ‘lama’ is a title (bon in this context), spiritualism/espiritismo
      incorporates all anthropological principles of a ‘shamanism.’- none of
      those, and indeed none outside of tungusgic speaking peoples are

      an atheist by definition does not believe in external
      or supernatural forces. i’d have to guess but you probably aren’t
      working with spirits within your culture of origin, or indeed spirits of
      any cultural origin. if you are, then you are defacto, by definition
      not an atheist. and if you are an ‘atheist’- then definitions are
      obviously not as fluid as you seem to think.

      it’s very nice and
      pop culture that your friends refer to you as a ‘shaman,’ but like i
      said it isn’t a title, it’s a cultural practice of mediumship and- one has to be born into a culture (or at the very least
      adopted into) in order to become a ‘shaman,’ but last i checked outside
      of a few upper middle white people paying 500$ a day for a michael
      harner workshop, and the institute for tengriisist studies (again, you’d
      have to be manchu, mongol or a related ethnic group for this to be
      relevant)- most people born into western culture are not ‘shaman.’ (of
      course i do not count diasporic groups such as the Hmong, whose
      ‘shamanic practices’ are well-studied, in this)- outside of the arctic,
      99% of indigenous people of north america do not use ‘shaman’- they use
      various terms in their own (completely separate language families) languages to describe unique practices- that
      may or may not be wholly ‘shamanic’ by definition, but incorporate
      methods of ‘earth medicine, spirit medicine’ and ecstatic trance states
      for healing, for religious, and cultural purposes.

      ‘a shaman’
      refers to someone who is a medium- defacto. and possibly also a doctor, a
      healer/herbalist, a sorcerer, a witch, or a civil religious leader- or any and
      all those subgroups. most cultures delineate unique names according to
      type / practice.

      in closing, i take absolutely no issue with
      being a healer, a chaos mage, an atheist or a nihilist, and in fact you
      have every right to call yourself whatever you want. but you should be
      aware of the very specific cultural context and not apply it like an
      epithet- or try to subvert its anthropological defintion to suit
      something it is not. what someone does can indeed be ‘shamanic’ in
      practice (using a viable anthropological definition) and they can even
      be referred to as a a ‘shaman.’ but outside of tungusic peoples, no one
      is a ‘shaman.’

      i am hoping you can maintain civility in this thread.

      • Ted Heistman | May 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm |

        If his friends want to call him an “electric turkey carver” its really up to them and not you.

        • Jin The Ninja | May 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm |

          and if i want to raise issues of problematised language and spirituality, that is my choice, not yours;)

      • Shaman is a title my close friends have given me… not through any hereditary title, but by natural ability. The term you’re actually looking for is “Plastic Shaman” and no I don’t falsely adhere myself to any indigenous cultures. Eclipsing the golden mirror of the Plastic Shaman is central to the work I do… Mr. Wizard.

        • Jin The Ninja | May 21, 2014 at 9:48 pm |

          i specifically refrained from using the term ‘plastic shaman’
          because i do not think you are one- end of. if you read our other thread i used the term correctly. it would not have been applicable or correct to apply it to you here.

          like i said a ‘shaman’ is defacto a spirit medium (whether through trance possession or altered consciousness)- and in that i’d question your statement of ‘natural ability.’ unless of course you are saying you do indeed work with spirits/gods/devas/ancestral entities and have power to exorcise ‘evil’ entities. because- defacto that is what ‘shamanism’ is.

  3. erte4wt4etrg | May 19, 2014 at 10:17 pm |

    In isolation, ain’t that the truth. Thank god for DBT

  4. And the cultural and intellectual appropriation of “Shamanism” marches on!

    Oh, and PTSD Spirituality? Terrible brand name, unless you’re running a 12 step program for people who need to tune up their materialist atheism.

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