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.”
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