Dreaming the Soul Back Home

Dreaming the Soul Back Home

Q&A with Author Robert Moss

Based on Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss | Posted 2/15/12 | Updated 6/10/23

Q: What is soul loss?

A: When we suffer trauma or bitter disappointment or violent shock, soul may leave the body, to escape. This produces the phenomenon that psychologists call dissociation and shamans call soul loss. It can be seen as a survival mechanism. When you can't take any more pain, you go away in order to make it through.

A child who has been abused, a survivor grieving for a beloved partner who has died, a lover who has been betrayed and abandoned, a soldier who is shell-shocked, and the victim of a terrible accident are all likely to have suffered major soul loss.

Let's also notice that soul loss need not be major, or the result of violent events. We suffer a lesser degree of soul loss when we choose one direction in life over another, or when we put our energy and focus into one thing rather than another — like holding down the job instead of pursuing a creative project, or being a mom instead of a lover (or vice versa). Soul loss can also be merely temporary and transitional "soul drift", as when we are jet-lagged and it takes a while for us to catch up with ourselves.

Q: What are the symptoms of soul loss?

A: Common symptoms of soul loss include: chronic fatigue; emotional numbness; chronic depression; spaciness; addictive behaviors; low self-esteem; inability to let go of past situations or people no longer in your life; dissociation and multiple personality disorder; obesity or unexplained weight gain; abusive behaviors; absence of dream recall; recurring dreams of locations from earlier life, or of a self separate from your present self.

Q: What is the difference, in a practical sense, between someone with a lot of soul in their bodies and someone who does not?

A: For people with a lot of soul, or vital energy, in their bodies, most of the symptoms of soul-loss listed above would be rare, transient, or absent. For someone who has suffered significant soul loss, three or more of these symptoms are likely to be chronic.

Q: Why does the soul have a hard time staying in the body?

A: We suffer pain or abuse, grief or shame, and part of us finds the world so cruel that we want to go away. Soul loss is also caused by wrenching life choices: we decide to leave a relationship, a home, a job, a country, a lifestyle — but part of us resists that choice, sometimes to the point of splitting away and withdrawing its energy from our lives. We also lose soul energy when we give up on our dreams and settle for a life of dull compromise, refusing to trust ourselves to love or to take that creative leap.

Q: Where does soul go when it leaves?

A: Sometimes we find that a part of ourselves is stuck in the old place, in Grandma's house, or in the apartment we shared with our first love. Sometimes a soul part we lost seems to be living in a separate reality, like the land of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. When we wish ourselves dead, a part of our soul may go far way, as far as a Land of the Dead.

Q: Are all aspects of soul recoverable?

A: There are parts that are so damaged we don't want them back. Sometime they appear burned or charred, dark or addicted. Sometimes our life choices are so radical that a part of ourselves simply cannot be persuaded to share our present situation. For example, my inner businessman is quite disgusted with the choices I have made, and won't stay close to me unless I make money more of a priority than I am likely to do!

Q: What is the first step that someone who would like to experience more soul in their life to take?

A: You do some cleanup, and you ask for help. In the book, as in my retreats, I offer practical guidance for psychic cleansing and release. One of my favorites is a very simple fire releasing in which we cast out any heavy energies that are holding us back and clear a space for vital soul to come back in. It's very important to remember that we have help available, including from our spiritual allies and our own Greater Self, and that it's always a good idea to ask for help nicely.

Q: What role does addiction play in soul loss?

A: Addiction can be both a cause and an effect of soul loss. Part of our brighter energy may leave us if we fall into habits and company it doesn't like. When we are missing a part of ourselves, things come in to fill the gap, and we reach for things to fill that gap. From a shamanic viewpoint, addictions are often worsened by spirits of the dead who are seeking to feed their own cravings through a living person. I have never met a true alcoholic, for example, who has not (from my viewpoint) been accompanied by dead drunks. In the book, as in my programs, I offer practical guidance to create healthy psychic boundaries between the living and the deceased.

Q: What is the difference between spirit and soul?

A: We can't lose spirit, when the term means mind, higher consciousness or our spark of the Godhead. But we can lose contact with it, and block our own access to the Greater Self. Soul is a different matter. Soul is quite mobile and soul energy is divisible; we can lose parts of it and take on parts from others that we really don't want around.

Q: You have developed an original approach to healing through what you call "soul recovery." What are the key elements in this approach?

A: We use the core techniques of Active Dreaming to bring more of soul into the body and help others to become whole. By learning to share dreams with others in the right way, we create a safe space where our younger and brighter selves can draw closer, and we start to build communities of soul friends. By learning to use a dream as a doorway through which we can travel — in shamanic lucid dreaming — into a deeper space, we can go to the places where lost souls can be found and reclaimed, and we help each other to do this.

Q: Are there other ways, in addition to working with our dreams, to experience soul recovery? If so, what are they?

A: Soul retrieval, as opposed to soul recovery is a shamanic operation in which the practitioner makes a journey on behalf of a client to locate lost aspects of soul, brings them back, and transfers them to the client's body, often by blowing them into energy centers such as the heart and the crown of the head. It can be a profoundly healing event. It reaches parts that Western psychology often does not reach, and may be essential in cases where people are missing so much of themselves that they are not equipped to become self-healers until an intervention has taken place. The limitation of this is approach is that nearly everything depends on the character and skill of the practitioner, on the reality of his or her connection with spirit helpers, and on the quality and motivation of those helpers.

Q: You say that dreams not only show us what the soul wants, they also show us where it has gone. Please elaborate and provide an example of this.

A: Our dreams can tell us which parts of ourselves may be missing, and when it is timely to bring them home. Recurring dreams in which we go back to a scene from our earlier lives may indicate that a part of us has remained there. Dreams in which we perceive a younger self as a separate individual may be nudging us to recognize and recover a part of ourselves we lost at that age. Sometimes we do not know who that beautiful child is — until we take a closer look.

A middle-aged woman recently approached me for help. She told me, "I feel I have lost the part of me that can give trust and know joy." As preparation for our meeting, I asked her to start a dream journal, although she had told me she had not remembered her dreams for many years. When she came to see me, she had succeeded in capturing just one tiny fragment from a dream. She remembered that she was standing over a table, looking at three large-size "post-it" notes. Each had a typed message. But the ink had faded and she could not read the messages.

Slowly and carefully, I helped her to relax and encouraged her to try to go back inside her dream. Quite quickly, she found herself inside a room in the house where she had lived with her ex-husband prior to their divorce, almost twenty years before. Now she could read the typed messages. The first read in bold capitals, "YOU CAN DO IT." They were all about living with heart, and trusting life.

She realized that she had left her ability to love and to trust in that room for nearly twenty years. I asked her what she needed to do. She told me, "I need to bring my heart out of that room and put it back in my body." She gathered up the messages and made the motion of bringing them into her heart. As her hands crossed over the place of her heart, we both saw a sweet and gentle light shine out from her heart center. She trembled, eyes shining, and told me, "Something just came back. Something that was missing for twenty years."

Q: What is a shaman?

A: First and last, the shaman is a dreamer. Shamans typically receive their calling in dreams and are initiated and trained in the Dreamtime. The heart of their practice is the intentional dream journey. They may incubate dreams to diagnose a patient and select the appropriate treatment. They travel — wide awake and lucid — in their dream bodies to find lost souls, to intercede with the spirits, to fight sorcerers, and to guide spirits of the departed along the right roads.

Q: What is the relationship between dreaming and shamanism?

A: The essence of the shaman's power to travel and to heal is the ability to dream strong. In our everyday modern lives, we stand at the edge of such power when we dream and remember to do something with our dreams. If you want to be a shaman, start at the breakfast table, by sharing dreams the right way with your family and friends.

Q: Can we meet the deceased in our dreams?

A: Contact with the deceased, especially in dreams, is common and it is natural, rather than supernatural, for three reasons. Our deceased may still be around, sometimes because they don't understand that they are dead. Or they may come visiting. And in dreams, we travel to realms where the departed are at home; this has been the main source of human belief in a soul that survives death. We need to understand that our ability to communicate with the deceased through dreaming can be a tremendous source of healing and closure.

Q: What does it mean when we dream of animals?

A: In the nature and condition of our dream animals, we see the state of our own vital energy. But this goes beyond personal psychology. Dream animals come to claim us as powers of the deeper world, revered and inhabited by our ancestors and still vitally alive in the deep cave of ancestral knowing.

Forming a strong connection with a dream animal is already soul recovery, restoring vital energy and clarifying the natural path of that energy. The dream animal may prove to be a power animal, and a guide and protector for other forms of soul recovery for ourselves or others.

Q: What do you mean when you say that "dreamers are time travelers"?

A: We travel outside time in our spontaneous night dreams, into the past and the future and into parallel realities. As we become more conscious and active dreamers, we become able to develop skills for trans-temporal healing and adventure. In the book and in my workshops, I guide people to make a conscious journey across time to understand and resolve issues involving counterpart personalities in the past or the future. I also explain how to you can journey to younger versions of yourself within your present life experience, in their own Now time. You can provide encouragement and counsel that a younger self may need at a time of unbearable pain or challenge. From this can flow tremendous healing for both of you, in your own times.

Q: What is "dream archaeology"?

A: Dream archaeology is an amazing tool for accessing the necessary past and facilitating cultural; soul recovery. It works in two ways. Secrets of the past, of which the waking mind may know nothing or very little, come to us in dreams because we are ready for them. Or, already engaged in the quest, we draw on the skills of shamanic lucid dreaming, as well as spontaneous gifts of the night, to find what cannot be located in ordinary ways, but what can often be confirmed by subsequent dream-directed research. The dream archaeologist combines the skills of the shaman, the scholar, and the detective.

Q: Many of us are suffering a dream drought. How do we begin to reconnect with our dreams?

A: Set yourself a juicy intention for the night and whenever you wake up, write something down. You don't remember a dream? Record something anyway, like your first thoughts or feelings on waking. That way you are saying to your dream source: I'm here, I'm ready to play. Be kind to fragments. That wisp of a dream — maybe just a color or a funny word — can be a clue that can lead you to interesting things. And remember you don't have to go to sleep in order to dream. When you pay more attention to synchronicity in waking life, you may find your night dreams open up too.

Q: How can we learn to "navigate by synchronicity"?

A: Two coincidence games for any day. First: ask yourself is there a theme or question on which you would like some guidance right now. Then play this game. Carry that question with you and accept the first unusual or striking thing that enters your field of perception as a possible message from the world. Second: schedule ten minutes of free time every day. Go outside and use all of your senses to see what the world may be saying to you. This works in a city street, or out in the woods, anywhere you are ready to expand your attention.

Q: What led you to follow the path of a shamanic dream teacher, for which, as you say, "there is no career track in our culture"?

A: I have always been a dreamer, and I learned in boyhood — in crises of illness and through friendship with Aborigines — that our dreams can take us into the Dreamtime, into a deeper world where we may be able to discover the origin and purpose of our lives. Then in the mid-1980s I had what Jung called a "confrontation with the unconscious" after I moved to a farm on the edge of traditional Mohawk land and started dreaming in a language I did not initially understand, which I learned to be an archaic form of Mohawk. My visionary encounters with a Mohawk dream shaman of long ago, combined with other inner events, deepened my understanding of what dreaming can be, and led me to a complete re-evaluation of what matters in life.

©2012 Robert Moss. All rights reserved.

Robert MossRobert Moss is the creator of Active Dreaming, an original synthesis of modern psychology and shamanism, and offers workshops on dreaming, creativity, and shamanism throughout the world.


"I have always been a dreamer, and I learned in boyhood — in crises of illness and through friendship with Aborigines — that our dreams can take us into the Dreamtime, into a deeper world where we may be able to discover the origin and purpose of our lives."

"We can't lose spirit, when the term means mind, higher consciousness or our spark of the Godhead. But we can lose contact with it, and block our own access to the Greater Self."

"Addiction can be both a cause and an effect of soul loss. Part of our brighter energy may leave us if we fall into habits and company it doesn't like."