Healing Trauma: A Shamanic Approach

by Aug 9, 2018Article, Healing Methods

Trauma can leave imprints in our energy body that influence our current life. These imprints cause us to attract people and experiences that recreate and repeat the traumatic stories. Both psychology and shamanism support this idea. Indeed, science is now able to show that trauma reshapes the body and the brain by recording the trauma in the very cells of our body and embedding it in our neuropathways.1 Shamanism is uniquely suited to heal these imprints because of the shaman’s direct access to nonordinary reality and to the energy body where these imprints are held.


Andrea (not her real name) struggled for much of her life with a belief that there was “something inherently wrong” with her, that she was somehow “bad.” Subsequent to that belief was a fear that she would be punished, even deserved to be punished, if she didn’t do what people wanted or expected her to do. This caused Andrea to behave in ways she didn’t want to in order to avoid the fear of punishment. She was afraid to speak up and share her opinions. She was constantly on guard, fearing that if she shared her personal experiences and perceptions—her “truth” as she put it—she would be ridiculed and punished, rejected and abandoned. As a result, Andrea’s life had been wrought with anxiety, lengthy periods of depression and withdrawal from life, and times of dissociation. Plagued by feelings of shame and guilt, she avoided situations that might result in judgment or criticism.

Andrea’s symptoms are common of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suggest that she had experienced trauma. Years of psychotherapy had indeed helped Andrea identify and work through a long history of childhood abuse. Yet her fears of being judged as bad and deserving of punishment and rejection persisted, continuing to cause her significant distress. She sought me out for shamanic healing and energy work, hoping it might help her get to the source of and heal this long-standing pattern, as well as her tendency to dissociate. After consulting with her psychoanalyst, we agreed to move forward with shamanic healing.


According to the philosophy and healing practices of the Q’ero medicine men and women of the Andes, we are surrounded by a Luminous Energy Field (LEF). This energy field “contains an archive of all our personal and ancestral memories, of all early-life trauma, and even of painful wounds from former lifetimes. These records or imprints are stored in full color and intensity of emotion.”2 When these imprints get activated, they predispose us to follow certain pathways in life, orchestrating the incidents, experiences and people we attract, propelling us to re-create our painful stories.3 I practice this tradition as taught by medical anthropologist, psychologist, and shaman Alberto Villoldo and the Four Winds Society.

The Four Winds teaches that the LEF is a luminous bubble shaped like a donut that surrounds the body with a narrow tunnel in the center. This energy field, which extends a few feet beyond the body, contains what the Q’ero call “rivers of light”—lines that flow within the luminous body corresponding to the acupuncture meridians that run along the surface of the skin. The Luminous Energy Field also encompasses the chakras, spinning energy centers that receive and transmit subtle energies believed necessary for physical and emotional health. While the Hindu tradition describes seven chakras residing within the body, the Q’ero speak of nine chakras, two of which exist outside the human body above the head. The chakras transmit information contained in the Luminous Energy Field into the nervous system informing our neurophysiology, affecting our moods, and influencing our emotional and physical well-being.4

So, we can understand Andrea’s belief that she was bad and needed to be punished if she didn’t do what people wanted or expected of her as an imprint in her Luminous Energy Field. This imprint organized her LEF like a magnet organizes metal filings creating a pattern that manifested as the story of her life. Clearing the negative content of this imprint is the first step in her healing.


The core process for clearing the contents of an imprint from the Luminous Energy Field in the Four Winds’ shamanic energy healing session is called the Illumination. The Illumination removes the sludge and deposits that adhere to the walls of a chakra and thus restores its health and balance, enhancing physical and emotional health. The Illumination also removes the dark, negative, and toxic energy from the imprints—no matter how old—and scours them clean. When these imprints are erased, it is possible to change negative emotions and behaviors, transform dark and heavy energies into light, and turn emotional wounds into sources of power and knowledge.

The Illumination process begins with a diagnostic evaluation. As a clinical social worker I might diagnose Andrea with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder based on her presenting symptoms. However, as a shamanic practitioner I view illness—physical and mental—as the result of imbalances in the energy body. After conducting a diagnostic evaluation and identifying the chakra that is affected by the imprint, I clear the negative and toxic energies by holding my hand a few inches above the chakra and rotating it counterclockwise several times to assist the chakra in releasing the toxic energies.

I then journey to the identified chakra to track the story or stories that the chakra is holding. This is where the unique approach of shamanism can help us find the source of traumas that cause persistent symptoms, like Andrea’s. In the case of Andrea two female beings appeared. I recognized them as Andrea from two previous lifetimes, women that I had met in previous work with Andrea that had focused on her unshakable belief that there was something wrong with her, that she was “bad.” In both those lifetimes, Andrea had been part of a group of curanderas, women who use plants, herbs, and various “potions” to heal people.  In one of the lifetimes this group was chased through a woods and Andrea was caught, judged to be a witch, and burned at the stake. In the other lifetime she was hanged in the public square to “stamp out witchcraft.” The fact that these two women appeared at this stage in the healing work suggested to me that they held a key to Andrea’s healing.

Another element of a shamanic healing session is to journey to a power animal or spirit guide to get additional information regarding the diagnosis and the healing that is needed. Since the two beings showed up at this time in response to the focus of our work, I asked for guidance from Huascar, Gatekeeper to the Lower World. He told me that both spirit beings were here for healing. Because of their traumatic deaths they had not been able to cross over into the light and had remained earthbound. The one on the right, he told me, needed a soul retrieval, and he would do that. Huascar told me that the other woman needed my help. I tracked that she was still attached to Andrea and was the source of much of her feelings of fearing and deserving punishment. This energy was carrying the judgment of the community in which she had lived that she was “evil” and therefore “bad” because of the healing work that she did. It also carried the belief that she “deserved to be punished,” a belief that had become imprinted at her hanging.

Andrea’s current situation demonstrates how such imprints in the LEF show up again and again. Not only do the negative feelings persist, so does the call to healing work. Andrea is a psychotherapist and has natural abilities to see energy. Her integration of energy psychology into her work with clients has led to conflicts and criticism by colleagues and supervisors causing Andrea to be afraid to present her cases to them for fear of ridicule, judgment, and attack.


In my work as a shamanic practitioner, I have found that the energy body (LEF) contains cords that connect many of my clients to their various past lives. As in the case of Andrea, information from those lives often mix with clients’ current lives and influence their perceptions of what is occurring in this life. Psychotherapist and shamanic practitioner Ann Drake states in her book Healing of the Soul: Psyche and Shamanism that she sometimes has found clients’ “delusional” accounts are actually past-life experiences that match the traumatic experience that they had in those past lives.5 And that this material bleeds through into current life. According to Drake, “on a soul or energy essence level these past life experiences are as important to heal and bring back as current experiences of soul loss.”6 The memories of past lives live as energy imprints in the Luminous Energy Field and connect us to those soul parts of previous lives. When these soul parts have not successfully crossed over, as in the case of Andrea, the shaman can journey to them and perform the needed healing work so they can continue on their journeys, thereby freeing clients from the influence of the past life.

If I put on my Clinical Social Worker’s hat and view this from a psychoanalytic point of view I might interpret these “spirit beings” or “soul parts” from previous lifetimes as complexes from the personal unconscious—portions of the psyche that had become split off or dissociated due to an event too painful to endure and therefore had disappeared into the unconscious. Through the process of psychotherapy the complex returns, so to speak, becoming conscious again. Many neuroses are cured in this way in psychotherapy. From this point of view the “persons” in our dreams, the “voices” in our heads, the “images” that appear in our visions, the “secondary personalities” of our neurosis, the daimons, ghosts, and spirits that appear to our clients and that show up in our shamanic journeys are considered autonomous complexes, projections of contents of the unconscious, imaginatively elaborated as internal and subjective experiences that can serve as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious parts of the psyche.

For the shaman, however, these “split off parts” are not internal, subjectively imagined experiences of the psyche—contents from the personal or collective unconscious projected onto some image—but soul loss. For the shaman, whenever we experience a trauma or an event that threatens the existence of the self, real or imagined, a part of our soul or vital essence separates from us in order to survive the experience by escaping the full impact of the pain and becomes lost in nonordinary reality.

While these complexes are often of a personal nature, coming from the personal unconscious and having to do with our personal history, complexes may also arise from the collective unconscious. In this case, the client or the shaman may experience images from mythology, religion, legends, or fairy tales. For the psychotherapist, the intrusion of such content, whether from the personal or collective unconscious, is often interpreted as an hallucination—an image that is perceived as real but is created by the mind. For the shaman, these images are not creations of our imagination, but actual entities, spirit beings or energy fields living in nonordinary reality that hold the stories behind the symptoms that can bring healing to the client and information and instruction to the shaman.


I understood Andrea’s “fear of and need to be punished” as imprints continuing to vibrate in the Luminous Energy Field related to past trauma that had shown up in this session in the story of two past lives. While Huascar had done the work for one of these beings, I was instructed to cleanse the chakras of the other woman and to perform the “Death Spiral” so that she could cross to the other side, severing her connection to Andrea. This rite assists in loosening the chakras and setting the luminous body free, thus setting Andrea free from the influences of that lifetime.

Although a person’s various lifetimes all share the same soul, it is also paradoxically true that each personality is also distinctive from the others and on its own journey.7 In Andrea’s case, during the Death Spiral, the spirit guides came and I saw this energy go up and through a portal. I looked over and saw that Huascar had finished the healing work with the other being. She was no longer there. Both were gone. There was a sense of peace and completion.

Once I detected that the work on these two soul parts was complete and that Andrea had reached a state of natural resolution, I completed the Illumination. Reaching above my head with my right hand, I gathered the energy of my eighth chakra and brought it down into Andrea’s open chakra showering the chakra with golden light.  The Illumination heals the energy pattern that holds the story by overwriting the imprint with pure light. In this process I clear out and heal the affinity that the client has for a particular pattern so there is no resonance for its return.

In this work I learned that Andrea’s pattern of fearing or deserving punishment was related to two previous lifetimes, one which was still attached to Andrea and was the source of her feelings of being judged as bad and deserving punishment. This previous lifetime experience still vibrating in Andrea’s luminous energy field was bleeding through into this lifetime, influencing her current beliefs and feelings about herself. In the weeks following this work, Andrea reported that she felt deeply loved in a way that she hadn’t before.


As a shamanic practitioner, I see psychology’s complexes as energy fields vibrating with information. This information may show up in the form of a power animal, a spirit guide in human form or, as in the case of Andrea, a soul part from a previous lifetime. The information vibrating in these energy fields continues to affect the client. Shamanism is particularly well-suited to heal this type of injury. It provides a way to interact with energy fields directly by journeying to them and tracking their stories.  Through the techniques of shamanic healing we can clear negative imprints from the Luminous Energy Field, retrieve energy in a soul retrieval and return it to the client’s self-system, extract intrusive energy that doesn’t belong to the client and, as in the case of Andrea, heal and release soul parts from previous lifetimes, setting the client free from their influences. Once free of past traumas, the Luminous Energy Field reorganizes, creating a new map for life, allowing us to live free from the trauma’s effects.


1Rosenthal, M. (2015). The Science Behind PTSD Symptoms: How Trauma Changes the Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-science-behind-ptsd-symptoms-how-trauma-changes-the-brain/

2Villoldo, Alberto. Shaman, Healer, Sage, New York, NY: Harmony Books; 2000, 46.


4Ibid., 48-53.

5Drake, Ann, PsyD. Healing of the Soul: Psyche and Shamanism, Ithica, NY: Busca, Inc.; 2003, 103.


7Mancini, Jr., Joe, The Present Power of Past Lives, Two Suns Press; 2017, Kindle Edition, 306.

About the Author

Sheldon Shalley, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker trained in the traditional skills of clinical social work. He completed certification training in shamanism and energy medicine with Alberto Villoldo’s School of Four Winds. He can be reached at www.ip-atc.com or 317-726-7417.


  1. Simon White

    Thank you for writing this article. I found it to be very interesting and useful.
    Heart felt blessings to you.

  2. Eileen Mullard

    Thanks too Sheldon. Well explained . I too am a graduate of Four Winds and have found over and over, how this works so beautifully with PTSD. Light blessings Eileen 🙏🌈

  3. Zenuyu


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