This is one of those posts I bring back once a year or so to remind people that it’s definitely a thing that needs to be discussed!
My friend duskenpath got an ask on tumblr about links for dealing with spirit-induced trauma and I remember kicking myself as I read it because I actually have a fair amount of experience with this and I haven’t posted on it. Which I feel guilty for.
First, let’s talk about spirit induced traumas and injuries. You can absolutely be abused, harassed, raped, assaulted, and tortured by spirits. You can absolutely bare physical injuries caused by spirits. This can absolutely happen and anyone who says otherwise… well, they haven’t talked to enough people then.
I have a finger that was broken by spirits. My finger grew crooked afterwards, the nail growth stunted, and now fifteen years later it causes me pain enough to wear a finger brace and have to pop it back in place daily. I have a knee that was damaged in a fight with a monstrously sized hill toll. I played a decoy for my companions and for my effort I was snapped up into the air, whipped back and forth like a child’s toy with my knee being the bending point. I couldn’t walk for days afterwards and now, almost two years later, my knee still gives me trouble as if I had physically injured it. I’ve seen scratches pop up before my eyes after a spirit encounter where I’ve only been sitting in the middle of a couch with no way for such marks to appear otherwise. I’ve been possessed and nearly thrown off cliffs before. Sure, maybe it is psychosomatic but the point is you can be injured by spirits. But I have and always will attest this: just because your mind is producing the phenomena doesn’t mean that it isn’t also real. It may simply be that spirits use our minds to hurt us.
Experiences in the astral can be extremely traumatic. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been trapped and tortured where in a single night days worth of trauma was inflicted. Time doesn’t work the same way in the spirit realms. So much can happen in a short period of time. Seeing someone murdered – or murdering someone yourself – can still affect you. Although it’s rarely spoken of, we have a tendency to view spirits as “others” and thus murdering or harming them doesn’t count. You can wake up and it’s over, not matter how much you’ve hurt a spirit. This isn’t universally true, of course. Some people treat spirits as equals and others will have to deal with the consequences of their actions long after the event occurs. It depends on the situation and the individuals involved. You can be hurt by them and they can be hurt by you.
Trauma caused by spirits isn’t just spiritual in nature however. You can be affected even outside of the astral. You can be abused, manipulated, and gaslighted. The abuser could be anyone from a ghost, to a nature spirit, or even a deity. Just because these individuals might be nice and beneficial to someone else doesn’t mean they won’t hurt you. Never think that. These beings are far more complicated and complex than many practitioners realize. There’s no reason to think that a deity could be a savior or role model for one practitioner wouldn’t also be a spiteful, cruel abuser to another practitioner.
The ways to deal with the situations as they arise can be easy. Say no. Defend yourself, violently if needed. Distance yourself. Protect yourself. And let others know of your experience so you can help help.
These steps get trickier when the being is non-corporeal. Binding, banishing, and cleansing can do wonders. Surround yourself in protections and wards designed to keep them specifically out. And keep saying no.
But just because they’re gone doesn’t mean the situation’s over. Spirit wounds take longer to heal and the trauma you’ve experienced isn’t suddenly gone. It’s a long road to recovery. Spirit wounds linger and should be treated with both healing spells and magic and physical healing techniques like physical therapy and appropriate medicines. Improper care can lead to long-term damage and some wounds won’t heal (like my knee which did receive proper care but was shattered horrifically in the astral.)
Trauma should be handled similarly. Look up treatments and ways to handle similarly experienced trauma like PTSD. And take it slow. What’s good to keep in mind is that just because you experienced the trauma from a spirit doesn’t invalidate it. Try to find an open-minded or pagan-friendly therapist. You may also want to find a clergy member, community elder, or mentor that can help you work through the trauma and be someone to talk to. While licensed therapists are better, they’re not always the best solution for all problems so choose carefully. There’s also support groups that meet to discuss and support one another through the recovery process.
Victims of trauma suffer a wide variety of symptoms and trauma can occur from a wide variety of sources such as breaking up a significant relationship (which many spiritual relationship can also fall into), abuse, car accidents, humiliating or disappointing experience, physical assaults, surgery, death of someone significant, sustaining an injury… It’s actually very common. The thing to remember is that your reactions are normal for an abnormal situation – whether that trauma’s from a sport injury or a spirit injury.
Symptoms can wary widely but the most common is to be in shock and deny it ever happened. Anger, irritability, and mood swings are also common. Guilt, shame, and self-blame are extremely common, especially when one’s in a situation where they felt helpless or hopeless. Continuing sadness, hopelessness, and feeling disconnected or numb also occurs. Suffers may also feel confusion, have difficulty concentrating and withdrawn from others. Fear and anxiety, sometimes coupled with depression can linger long after the event occurs. Physically, nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, agitation, and inability to focus can happen. The opposite might also be true. You may have blank spaces in your memory and sleep excessively while plagued with fatigue and apathy. The body also responds with aches, pains, muscle tension, and paranoia which can lead to being easily startled.
Each person responds differently to trauma. My brother, for example, was hit by a car and permanently damaged for life when he was 13 while riding his bike. His dream of opening a dojo could never be realized with his injuries and he was bedridden for two years. He’s never ridden a bike since. He hates driving for any length of time and driving for longer than ten minutes will result in chain smoking and extreme agitation for him. He will always prefer someone else driving him someone to the point where he’ll schedule appointments around other people’s schedules. That’s trauma. He also experienced spiritual trauma. A few years before his accident we lived in a severely haunted condo complex. The kind of haunted where we didn’t go into certain rooms and visitors reported seeing a child ghost. Every single visitor, including the ones from out of state and never met described the child the exact same way. My brother and I have always been sensitive to spirits and always had them attracted to us. By this point I had buckled down my personal protections so spirits’ attentions shifted to my brother. Nightmares every night and physically seeing the faces of the dead. Therapy did nothing and everything I did to help didn’t help. Eventually he got sick of it and started to destroy them and banish the spirits. It led him down the path of necromancy and dealing with the dead because if they wouldn’t leave him alone he’d make them leave him alone. That’s also trauma.
Knowing your triggers are key. I know that being held against my will, even for a few seconds, will result in me lashing out with extreme violence. I’ve literally thrown a six foot 260lbs man across the room and drew out a knife because he wouldn’t let me go when I said so. I know this and so when someone grabs me even while playing around I warn them in a no bullshit voice that if they don’t let me go I will hurt them. I let that boundary be known. Communication is important to making sure that boundaries aren’t crossed and triggers aren’t hit. That’s not always easy or doable for everyone though.
Isolation from the situation is common. You may pull back from astral travel and all spiritual contact. You may even pull back from talking to friends about spiritual pursuits and stop your practice all together. Stop your practice as needed but don’t isolate yourself. Talk to others in the community. An elder, mentor, or clergy member may be able to help you and there are support groups that can help. Talk to people, even if it’s not about the problem at hand. It might take a lot of motivation to do it but try for just fifteen minutes. If you still don’t want to after fifteen minutes, then don’t.
Grounding yourself and staying grounded is really important. Grounding techniques vary but my favorites are eating high carb foods like bread, pushing the excess energy into an object like a ball or necklace, or sitting/laying down and letting the energy bleed away from you. This isn’t just good for excessive energy. If you’re feeling confused, disoriented, anxious, or lost, sit down and take slow, even breaths. Rocking may help keep your breathing even but it depends on the person- it might make you more anxious. You may even want to concentrate on keeping the body tight and pick out objects in the room to concentrate on – like all the green objects. Feel the ground around you. Touching solid things may also help steady you.
Allow yourself to feel what your feeling. I hate that I lose my compassion when I’m triggered. I’m angry, violent, wild. I hate it. But I let myself feel it. I get it out and forgive myself later. It’s not always easy though. It may take days of self-care and losing myself in books or video games to reconcile it with myself. Doing normal things and keeping to my daily schedule also helps. Doing dishes, going for a walk, petting the cat. All these normal things helps. I’m a big, big fan of breaking up big tasks into smaller ones in any circumstances but it’s especially nice to even write them down when I’m feeling triggered. It helps ground me that these are things I can do. Accomplishing those things helps even more, even if it’s something like folding laundry. Keeping up your practice, even if you aren’t reaching out to anything spiritual, can help cement things for you. There’s many elements to many spiritual practices that don’t requires spiritual involvement.
Be kind to yourself. Self-care isn’t just about mental care but also physical care. Eat balanced meals regularly. The easiest way to do this is to make a huge bowl of salad and cut up hard boiled eggs, meats, cheese, and other additives and keep them separate. Mix and match at will. It keeps you from being bored and still having regular, balanced meals. Avoid drinks and foods with lots of sugar or caffeine in excessive. Chocolate may help calm you down but six ounces of chocolate and ten coffees isn’t healthy. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is also recommended as they might make symptoms worse or could give you an escape route from the trauma that can lead to addiction. Exercise, even just stretching, can give you an excellent venue to use excess energy or work out aggression or anxiety. It can also keep you grounded and feel more in control. Sleeping regularly the recommended amount is ideal. Not too much or too little. 7-9 hours is recommended by physicians at the moment.
Meditation and yoga can be useful. I’ve written on meditation before so pick the kind of meditation you prefer from the more “I’m going to sit here and ponder this” to the more new agey “breath in and out and go on a spiritual journey”. It might be more useful for you to do neither and just spend time sitting and listening to soothing sounds. I recommend the noise generators over at mynoise.net. Deep breathing, swimming, or activities you enjoy will also work. I like napping outside in the sun. It’s grounding, relaxing, and provides a favorite hobby: falling asleep while reading.
Many times we can treat our own trauma with time, patience, and self-care. This isn’t always the case. If you find yourself unable to engage in relationships or the trauma is affecting your life long-term such as affecting job performance, sleep months later, or trouble functioning in day to day life. Escaping into addictive behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, video games, or sleep is also a sign. Depression and enhanced anxiety or fear are also signs. If this happens to you seek out a professional therapist. If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek help.
You may need to revisit the event in order to move past it. Coming to terms with what happened often is part of the healing process. This might not happen for years later but it probably will happen. For some people, it never will. For spirit related traumas, I usually recommend joining in on a group ritual where someone else is in charge and someone is aware of your history. That last bit is exceptionally important. They watch to see if you’re overwhelmed and extra protection can be laid on you as needed. You may even want to watch a ritual instead of participating to help soothe your anxiety. One-on-one sessions with another practitioner who has a solid hand on the spirits they work with is also a good idea.
This isn’t always possible however so lead meditations or contacting healing spirits may be something you’ll want to look into. Go slowly and take your time. If you ever feel unsafe, disengage slowly and ground yourself. Reach out and contact people to help solidify that you’re here and safe. It’s a good idea to keep some protection and cleansing implements at the ready to boost your space’s safety and to reduce any anxiety.
When dealing with spirits afterwards, it may be a good idea to come up with a set of rules on how to treat each other. Penalties of the rules should also be listed. For example, my home has a “no assault” rule. No one is to be touched. So when an aggressive spirit chased a friend this past winter to his car, my brother and I didn’t just chase the ghost away but purged the entire crossroads my house sits at. I later invited back those spirits who had been banished but had done no harm. The rule stands however and no one has harassed us since. Spirits should agree to the rules but watch the way they agree to them. They might try to find loopholes just because they can. (Fae are especially known for this.)
What’s really important to keep in mind is that healing will take time but your experiences and feelings do matter and are important. Just because the person or situation responsible for your trauma is spiritual doesn’t make it less valid. You’ve been hurt and the wound sits deep in you. It will take time, patience, and work to heal. Each person is different and your healing process may vary wildly from someone else’s. Just know that you’re not alone.