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Shamanic Training: Trauma Work and The Decoding Process

Shamanism and other esoteric practices are growing in popularity in our Western world with more people receiving the call towards powerful evolutionary pathways and being in service. As people seek deeper connections with themselves, others, and the spirit world, shamanic training offers a path of continuous healing and transformation. However, many do not understand that for the aspiring western shaman, trauma work is the most important part of the initiation. In this blog post, we will explore these elements, their significance, and how they contribute to personal and collective healing.

Understanding Shamanic Initiation

What Is Initiation?

Initiation is something that everybody undergoes in all areas of life, whether they are on a conscious healing journey or not. Everybody has a soul which possesses attributes that far exceed the programmed personas of the physical plane. Everybody has a unique evolutionary path that is in alignment with the attributes of the soul. Through trauma, we undergo what is referred to as “soul loss” which is the fragmentation of authenticity and self-expression, causing us to move through life from a place of obligation as opposed to authenticity. When the trauma occurs, we learn to respond in ways that neutralise the perceived danger, therefore, we go through life doing everything in our power to avoid the same thing occurring. This causes us to act from a place of neutralising unwanted feelings as opposed to cultivating the feelings that we actually want. This paradoxically causes us to attract more of what we do not want through the need to escape from it. 

It is our shadow that is the way back to our authenticity as it is the unconscious parts of the self that the ego has learned is not safe to truly feel and embrace. The shadow can be described as the underworld equivalent of our higher-self. Because it is our unconscious, we cannot interact with it internally. However, it communicates with us through the external world. In essence, the world around us is the avatar for the shadow, or as we refer to it in shamanism, the dark matter. This means that what we encounter in the world around us is going to act as a mirror for what we have in our unconscious that we are not fully owning. This doesn’t mean that the actions of the external world are your fault. For example, if someone in the street chooses to shout at me for no apparent reason, their choice is not my stuff, however the emotional response this triggers within me is my responsibility - this response is what the shadow is communicating in that example. So because the world around us is the avatar for dark matter energy, it also acts as our primary initiator into higher states of consciousness. 

Any emotional trigger that emerges through the external world is a direct initiation sent by the underworld equivalent of our higher-self (the shadow) to help us own and step further into our truth. It is our ego which refuses what the shadow is showing us; it blames, denies, justifies and refuses help. It is not a bad part of us but it is simply the part that has been designed to separate us from source and create order from chaos. This means that it is going to try to keep us safe from the truth. For this reason, the majority of the collective do not listen to what the shadow is showing them through no fault of their own and then the capability to change remains within the actions of the external world as opposed to them individually. So to summarise, the initiation into authenticity and truth is ongoing. The shadow is constantly sending us reminders of what dwells within the unconscious so that we can befriend these parts and continuously grow further towards our soul’s evolutionary path. For many, this happens unconsciously without much awareness to the bigger picture of what is unfolding. However, when we become conscious of the ways in which dark matter functions and the roles in which it plays in our evolution, the transformation accelerates.

What is Shamanic Initiation?

Shamanism is a path of conscious initiation and is an ongoing alchemical process that goes beyond the realms of any course or workshop. One can attend practitioner training or workshops but true initiation is something that is highly personal and greatly transcends the barriers of any set way of working. The initiatory process is one that varies depending on both the tradition and the intent of both the teacher and student. In the example of the medicine  wheel, which is the initiatory system that I work with as a foundation for myself and my students, this involves stepping into various currents of energy that once stepped into, start to stream into your energy field and daily life. The process is about decoding the programmed restraints of what our consciousness is capable of attaining and establishing union with the world of spirit. Our trauma work plays a vital role in this process. This approach varies from many of the indigenous medicine people as these are shamans that have been born into the practice. These shamans have their own challenges but ones that are very different to ours in the western world. We have grown up in a dualistic, patriarchal system that separates us from the creator, nature and the world of spirit in general. Therefore, the process of a westerner initiating into Shamanism is drastically different from that of the indigenous as the decoding process that is required is much more complex. For this reason, initiation in the Western world tends to involve a balance between modern psychology and ancient knowledge in order to make the teachings comprehensible to our world. This balance is essential as these two approaches complement each other. As we embark on the continuous journey of processing our trauma and befriending our shadow, we gain greater access to vast reservoirs of wisdom and knowledge within the self. Many describe this as a process of learning to truly feel the suppressed feelings and emotions, without classifying them as good or bad. Doing so also gradually expands the ability to feel and interpret the world of energy as our psychic abilities begin to awaken and our connection to source deepens. 

So taking this into consideration, it is important to understand that there is no end point; initiation is ongoing for everybody. We have also become attached to seeking an end point where we get to a certain point in our lives where the work is complete. As soon as one embarks on Shamanic initiation, they begin to merge with infinity and truly realise the illusion of the end point due to the fact that everything is truly infinite. As Shamans, it is essential that we are open to every possibility and to the continuous cycle of death and rebirth. In essence, when we engage consciously with our soul’s initiatory journey, we speed up the process significantly, which can initially feel more intense. This alone is something that puts many people off as it’s a threat to the ego’s perceived security as it involves aligning with the soul’s truth and authenticity, which we have all been programmed to perceive as unsafe. The key to this journey is feminine energy which is the negative charge in the universe. It is the part of us that receives, feels, allows and surrenders; all things that we have been wired to suppress. Embodying this means entering a state within the self which is much more unpredictable in nature which will uproot the student if their life has been built from a place of obligation as opposed to authenticity. The problem is that many want the Shamanic power, but are not willing to do the trauma work in order to safely and effectively attain it.

The Dangers of Bypassing Trauma In Shamanism

Generally speaking, one does not need to be undergoing continuous trauma work to be open to spirituality as this is something that is unconditional. We are all unconditionally connected to source, however, trauma work is an area that is missed in so many of these practices and new age spirituality in general. In other words, the shadow gets bypassed, shamed and villainised and hidden in love & light. This leads to many people projecting their unresolved traumas into their spirituality and this can be very dangerous both for the self and those in which they are in service to. If we refuse the shadow and suppress the trauma, it gives the primordial expressions of the unconscious much more power over us, leaving us more open to their negative influence. Because practices, like Shamanism or the occult can help a person find power quite quickly, lack of trauma work can lead to significant dangers. Below are some of the dangers of lack of trauma work in these spiritual practices:

Re-Traumatisation and Psychosis

Don’t get me wrong, metaphysical power can be built without doing trauma work, but without it, there is no chance of truly being able to ground and integrate the energies effectively, which can lead to re-traumatisation and in some cases, psychosis, particularly if there is a history of mental illness. I have personally witnessed people going through Shamanic or occult initiatory processes that require continuous work with the shadow in order to ensure its success and due to them not being willing to look at such parts of themselves, they have ended up unconsciously projecting their unprocessed wounds into their spirituality and have ended up worse off than they were before the initiation. Our shadow is our higher-self that is trying to provoke us into growing closer to our soul’s evolutionary path. If we ignore this and refuse ownership of it, we will never attain the change that we are seeking and if we embark on journeys from a place of fragmentation, they will only bring us more fragmentation. 


Because the shadow is our primary initiator of transformation and change, bypassing it limits our own growth and change, causing us to stick to what feels safe, even if it’s disempowering for us to do so. We are programmed to place our power and capability to change in the external in reality, it’s not the role of any external force, be that an attunement, initiatory path, plant medicine or healer, to do the work for us. Approaching anything from that perspective will always fall short. An example of this is when people are in therapy for decades with no significant change. 

Misuses Of Power

If we bypass our trauma, it plays out in the world around us, via the people we meet and the dynamics that enter our lives. If we refuse ownership of these parts, they get pushed further back into the unconscious mind which gives them greater influence over us. This is what creates misuses of power and unbalanced power dynamics within spiritual communities and is especially apparent within many new age groups. This also plays out amongst indigenous communities such as the Shipibo, who are well known in terms of working with medicine in the amazon rainforest. This occurs simply because they are born into the practice and in the Shipibo, the Maestros are initiated from a very early age, which means many of them are already highly skilled medicine people before the age of 20. Don’t get me wrong, this process is amazing, however, when there isn’t much awareness of the existence of the shadow-self, it expresses itself through their practices. This even manifests in the form of psychic warfare amongst the different communities within the Amazon rainforest and is known to play out in the form of taking advantage of westerners during medicine ceremonies and unethical sorcery that is channelled through their master plants. 

Misuse of healing modalities and sacred medicines

A very common mechanism for bypassing trauma is the use of healing modalities and medicines within new age communities. This happens when the ego does not want to sit still with the shadow self, so it projects it into external things. Lighter modalities such as Reiki is a common example of this and some may even try and use lighter healing modalities to remove/suppress an unpleasant feeling instead of simply allowing themselves to feel it without judgement. This also occurs within new age medicine circles with many experiencing the profound benefits of plant medicines but then end up using them excessively to maintain the post-medicine afterglow and ultimately avoid feeling what the ego doesn’t want to feel. Don’t get me wrong, these are profound allies on the healing path but are merely co-creators to assist with an existing process. Your healing path and relationship with your shadow is not defined by how many plant medicines you consume or how many healing modalities you have under your belt, but exists in your ability to truly sit still with yourself and feel your emotions. Anything that moves you away from that state is merely a distraction. 

Key Traits For Initiation

When embarking on a deep alchemical process, such as the journey into Shamanism, it’s important to be aware of the fact that the only thing that gets in our way is ourselves, simply because we are wired into the wounded masculine state of constantly maintaining order from chaos. In other words, doing everything in our power to know what simply cannot be known. The ego is only trying to keep us safe but will initially resist any significant change to an existing paradigm of perceived safety. Below are the key traits to ensure optimal success in your initiations, not only in regards to Shamanism but generally in your evolutionary path:

  • A genuine desire to change - it sounds simple but many do not actually want to change. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to neutralise what one doesn’t want to feel instead of truly cultivating what they do want to feel; there is a huge difference between these two approaches. You have to be willing to let go of the creature comforts that may be holding you back from your truth and this can mean making some serious changes to your life in order to cultivate that desired feeling. Many desire healing and inner power, but are still attached to the job that they hate or have outgrown and the dynamics that are draining their life force. 

  • Structuring your world in a way that is open to new possibilities - many don’t realise it but through traumatic experiences, we learn to associated the simple feelings that our soul desires with turmoil, causing us to build our lives in a way that keeps us shackled and closed to new possibilities, simply through an attachment to the way that things are and the roles in which we play. Initiations emerge in many different forms via the mundane world in order to trigger a shift towards authenticity. We need to establish our lives in a way that does not block these new possibilities from coming in. This can mean making changes to the mundane world that create greater freedom for the soul. 

  • Stillness & feminine energy - stillness and non-doing are the most powerful tools that I have found to truly process trauma and change in an effective way. When things become intense, the ability to truly sit still and observe without judgement is something that many find extremely challenging. It’s important to remember that everything is paradox so if we try and get rid of the undesired feelings or emotions when they emerge, it will only give them more power over us. However, if we truly sit and feel our emotions and be present with ourselves, surrendering to the moment, paradoxically, we will have more control over them by simply not having the need to control or remove them.

  • Non-attachment - this is the true holy grail of transformation for one solid reason, if we attach to a specific outcome or way of being, we are closing ourselves off from our full potential. Non-attachment is the very first thing I teach on my Foundation Course Into Shamanism. We need to remain open to every possibility. This is essential for any change we are seeking; if I attach to the material-level change that I want to take place, I am placing my capability to feel what that brings me outside of myself and that will always fall short. 

Our soul has chosen to be here to evolve and change. It is our shadow which is the initiator for this change but because it contains the unconscious parts of the self, our ego is naturally going to try and keep us safe from it by refusing responsibility for what the shadow shows us. There is only so long that we can avoid the shadow for before it ends up in front of us with a big mirror through the external world to show us what we are not looking at within ourselves. One needs to be truly aware of the level of personal development that is required for optimal success in this path.

Kickstarting Your Initiation

Before embarking on a deep alchemical process, you first need to identify what it is that you are truly seeking from it as it’s this intention that will define the outcome of any journey. In regards to Shamanic Training, there are many different approaches that you can take. For example, if you just want to learn a bit about Shamanism and learn a few healing tools, then a shorter, intensive workshop will be the most suitable. If one just wants to learn how to be a Shamanic practitioner, a shorter practitioner training will be suitable. However, for those who are seeking deep levels of transformation and are willing to put the time and energy into their healing path and being of optimal service both to themselves and others, then my Q’ero Medicine Wheel Training is an amazing approach to take and this extends over multiple years. For those who are wanting to get the journey started, my Foundation Course Into Shamanism is a necessary first step to get your system used to the energies that you will be working with on the full initiation. 

So to summarise, Shamanism for the Westerner is a continuous process of decoding. As Shamans, it is our own trauma work which is the most essential part of the practice, especially if we plan on being in service to others with this work. It is our continuous work on ourselves that keeps us growing and open to every possibility. The deeper we go into the shadow, the further into the light we can go (as above, so below). So full openness to working with the shadow self is important for this work. The deeper we go within ourselves, the deeper we can take our communities. 

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