How Do Shamans Perceive Illness?

With life, there is suffering in the form of illness. We believe that is it microbes, viruses, bacteria, and injuries that cause our physical bodies illness. In the same respect, we believe that it is primarily an imbalance of brain chemistry that causes mental and emotional illness, such as depression, addiction, and so on.

Shamans, on the other hand, perceive these as the effects. They believe that, for true healing, one cannot simply mask and suppress these effects, or symptoms, with medication — they believe that we must address the root cause. The root cause is something far beyond viruses, bacteria, and brain chemistry; the root cause comes from the internal, non-physical realm: the spirit.

The Upper World is said to be the place of our higher selves — of our super-conscious that permeates all space and time.

The 3 Causes of illness

From a shamanistic perspective, there are 3 classic causes of mental, emotional, and physical illness:

Disharmony (or Power Loss)

Disharmony, or power loss, oftentimes occurs when someone has lost an important connection to life, or when life seems to lose it’s meaning. This can happen either subtly or catastrophically; either way, we experience a loss of livelihood and meaning, and experience disempowerment in the process. This loss of will, or life power, strongly and directly affects our energetic matrix, and can cause us to become quite vulnerable to illness.

A common, yet tragic, example of this is when there is an elderly couple who have spent most of their lives together and one of them dies. The survivor oftentimes goes into a life crisis upon the loss and, shortly after, incurs an illness (such as cancer) and dies — that’s disharmony.


Fear is the most common cause of illness. Fear is responsible for emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, jealousy, etc. Scientists and researchers also heavily agree that when these stress-producing hormones are present, they quickly begin to disintegrate the protective mantle of the body’s immune system, as well as it’s overall energetic matrix. Illness, as a result, is inevitable.

Half a century ago, the Renaissance physician, Paracelsus, honorably noted that “the fear of disease is more dangerous than the disease itself.” Shaman’s would surely agree with Paracelsus’ findings.

Soul Loss

Soul loss is the most extreme — yet, sadly, still common —  cause of illness; in fact, it is the most serious diagnosis and a major cause of severe illness and even premature death.

Soul loss is most often experienced after a traumatic experience takes place, such as fighting in a war (an all-too-common trigger of PTSD), a bitter divorce, or intense bullying. In some cases, these experiences can be so shattering that one’s soul can begin to fragment and dissociate. In the most extreme and overwhelming cases, these soul parts get too far lost and fail to return.

We have heard people say things like, “I have not been the same since the incident,” or “a part of me died that day.” These remarks are red flags for soul loss. As well, the following symptoms are also commonly present:

  • Feeling “not all here,” or fragmented

  • Blocked memory

  • Emotional distance, or complete apathy

  • A lack of joy, motivation, or enthusiasm

  • Addiction

  • Suicidal tendencies

  • Chronic depression and negativity

This all may seem a bit heavy, that’s okay. The point of all this talk about suffering is to enlighten about possible healing methods — not the traditional pill-form “healing” methods that only mask the symptoms, but real healing methods that nurture and mend the root of the problem: the wounded spirit.