Discovering Participatory Soul Retrieval by Dr. Marianne Rolland

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Reclaiming lost parts of our soul has traditionally been performed by indigenous shamans and, more recently, by shamanic practitioners. The process used to accomplish this amazing feat is similar among tribes across the globe. The Shaman (or practitioner) lies on the floor next to the patient while deepening into an altered state through drumming, rattling, and/or trance-inducing herbs. The Shaman then enters non-ordinary reality (the unseen spirit dimension) after setting his/her intent to retrieve the lost soul parts of the patient. The patient is instructed not to journey with the Shaman but to stay present in ordinary reality.

We have all experienced some form of trauma in our lives. The effect such events have on the core of our beings (on our very souls) cannot be minimized, measured or compared with others. We do not know if harsh words spoken repeatedly to a child are any more or less traumatic to the soul than an experience of sexual molestation. We do not know if emotional abandonment by parents is any less devastating than harsh physical abuse. Anytime the soul experiences trauma—in our mother’s womb or as a baby, small child, adolescent, teenager, young adult, middle-aged adult, elder, or even in a past lifetime—pieces of our soul essence become fragmented. These soul parts, fleeing to escape the emotional pain caused by traumatic events, become scattered across space and time. When our perpetrators are also people we love, confusion occurs and so does an unconscious exchange of soul parts. All traumatic experiences that are unattended, unprocessed and untreated result in some form of soul loss.

While serving as an itinerate mental health worker for one of Alaska’s rural communities, I had a client who I intuitively felt was suffering from soul loss. Amy* appeared fatigued to the point of exhaustion. Her eyes were sunken with deep dark circles; her breathing was shallow; her body stance was slouched; and her voice tone was indicative of someone who had giving up on life. As Amy’s story unfolded so did an emerging theme of self-criticism, self-doubt, self-sacrifice and self-hatred. My sense of her soul loss intensified, as Amy appeared to be hanging onto life by a thread. Through gentle query, I discovered that she also attributed her condition to soul loss. That is, Amy was conscious of the fact that she was struggling for survival as a result of separation from parts of her own soul. She shared about a time in her life when she consciously gave up part of herself and expressed that she did not know how or if she could get it back. Because she had no appetite, her body was quickly fading as well. Amy knew she desperately needed help.

Recognizing that traditional Western methods for treatment were inadequate to serve my client, I was challenged to explore the phenomena of soul retrieval. Because I was not aware of anyone practicing this within Alaska, I made arrangements for Amy to travel out of state. When she returned to Alaska and shared her experience with me, I was struck by the fact that the soul retrieval process was something that was done for her—as opposed to her being an active participant. Intuitively, I instructed Amy to do a ceremony each day to welcome her soul parts back home.

I was extremely grateful for Amy’s healing, yet something about not participating directly in her own healing process bothered me. Perhaps it was my social work training, which places emphasis on teaching techniques so that clients can empower themselves, that pushed me to explore further this fascinating phenomenon of soul recovery. I wondered what could be more empowering than retrieving lost parts of our own soul.

With no disrespect intended for this ancient method of healing, I felt challenged to discover an alternative method for recovering soul parts. I wanted a process that would fully engage the client in his/her own healing. I began to work with my clients on deeper levels by tapping into early childhood traumas and helping them process and move stored emotional energy. I began to consciously delve into my own healing journey and to discover places within myself that were fragmented and needed recovery. I awoke to the reality that I could not help others beyond places that I had not helped my self. I recognized that when we are hurt in relationships and lose trust for others, the only way we can heal is to risk trusting at least one other human being. I began to see that emotional damage equates to soul loss.

The effect soul loss has on our life experience is profound. Each person we come into contact with reflects our own fragmented soul pieces. Thus, those that trigger deep emotional responses within are giving us a profound opportunity to heal. As we release the energy of unresolved feelings, we clear the way for our soul parts to return home.

When James was five years old, he and his seven-year-old brother were molested by a teenage babysitter and several of her friends. James was so traumatized by the experience that he froze his “little boy self” in a state of terror. As a teenager, James repeatedly found himself taken advantage of sexually. As an adult, James experienced many failed relationships as (on a subconscious level) he felt like a hostage to any woman he got involved with. Eventually, the unexpressed anger he had for his original perpetrators would surface and the relationship would end. At age 52, James began using the participatory soul retrieval process to bring back many of his lost soul parts. He is now no longer controlled by his early childhood trauma. James is at peace within and feels a fullness he never experienced before.

No matter how much we excel in certain areas of our lives, we may continuously wonder: Why do I feel empty inside? Why is there always a longing for something more? Why do I react to certain people and situations as if controlled by some unseen force? Why do I sometimes feel like I am out of my body? Each one of us can look within and examine the quality and nature of those empty places. Scanning the flow of energy within our own body provides us with a map that allows us to journey to the damaged and fragmented parts of our soul. In order to heal, however, we must fill ourselves up from the inside. This translates into bringing home all of our soul parts scattered across the universe, throughout space and time.

As far back as she could remember, Lisa recalled disturbing dreams of loud trains going by her house. The sound of the train was so real that it would wake her, causing her to scream for her mother in the middle of the night. As an adolescent these dreams intensified into vivid episodes of the train reaching the summit of a hill and then exploding down the other side, heading straight for Lisa’s bedroom. In her young adult life, Lisa repeatedly wondered why she found herself living near railroad tracks and train stations. In her mid-thirties, Lisa began using the participatory soul retrieval process. Once, while deeply in the process, she experienced a past life in which she was a man who had committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train. In allowing her self to remember and fully process this past life experience, Lisa was able to retrieve a lost part of her soul.

Participatory Soul Retrieval is a powerful process for reclaiming lost parts of our own souls. It is a process that requires us to trust another to witness our most painful and traumatic life experiences. Participatory Soul Retrieval is about reclaiming the essence of who we truly are by tapping into our authentic source of power. Soul retrieval is a magnificent heart-opening experience that might be compared to giving birth to one’s “self”. It is about coming home, discovering true fulfillment, and—at long last—showing up for, embracing, and loving our “self”. ~ ~ ~

Marianne Rolland, MSW, Ph.D., has lived and worked in rural Alaska for 24 years and served as fulltime faculty of the UAA School of Social Work for the past 5 years. She is the founder of the White Raven Center, now in Anchorage. For further information on the participatory soul retrieval process Dr. Rolland can be reached at: or 333-4478.

*All client names have been changed.

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