The 9 Levels of Self are part of the theory and practice of Life Force Arts Shamanic Healing that I created beginning about 1985. These aspects of Self are a map from the most inner landscape to the farthest reaches of external worlds. Knowing and working with these Levels creates profound and powerful healing, artistic expression and understanding of how to have successful relationships within oneself, with others, with Nature and with the spirit realm.
The 9 Levels of Self are
- Integrated Self – Who you normally think of as “you”; the chairperson of the committee of the sub-personalities
- Physical Body – The body that can be seen and touched in physical reality. The Physical Body has a life of its own as well as being a major communicator of messages from the other Levels of Self
- Emotional Body – The individual self’s emotions
- Spiritual Body – Energy (chi, prana, aura) in and around the individual’s physical body
- Sub-personalities – One personality within the individual self; a soul part
- Imprints of Other Individuals – A particular individual’s energy that you have taken on and integrated. Example: verbal phrases, body gestures or thought patterns that you picked up, consciously or unconsciously, from imitating another person
- Group Energy – The energy/emotions of a group or place. This includes influences of one’s culture or subculture. Group energy can influence an individual in “real time” or from past experience/memory
- Spiritual Entities – Spiritual entity not part of a living individual or group. Spiritual entities may be a variety of beings, such as angels, ancestors, gods, goddesses Example: phenomena of channeling
- Life Force – Pure energy, life-force; the Great Cosmic Soup that includes everything in existence; Spirit, Source, Creator, God/dess, Higher Power
You will notice that the 9 Levels of Self are not just the inner personalities of an individual, such as Internal Family Systems.
We work with both the component parts of the individual, such as the physical body, emotional body, spiritual body, as well as allowing for interaction with parts of what might be called the Greater Self, such as groups one belongs to, spiritual entities and the Life Force.
As a spiritual healing practitioner, I have found that knowing what part of the Self needs the healing is crucial. It is the first thing to ascertain, and will save you and the client all kinds of false starts. A rule of thumb I share with my students in Life Force Arts Shamanic Training is, “The Level of Self who comes to you for a healing session is never the Level of Self that needs the healing.” The Self that asks for the session is the part that recognizes the need for healing. Starting with this premise makes healing very efficient: we can pinpoint what Level of Self to address, significantly reducing down the amount of time it takes to accomplish the healing.
How did I come about doing this, and how is it related to the arts? I started out life as a dancer and performance artist, working with improvisational dance and vocalizing. A certain percentage of people who came to my performances or classes would run screaming from the room and have breakdowns and breakthroughs and have to go to therapists for months after coming to my events. I knew enough about the emotional and spiritual power of the arts to understand that I was doing cathartic work. I realized I had two choices: I could be the kind of artist who takes no responsibility for the reaction of their audience. Or, I could understand what is this power that’s coming through me. I chose to do the latter.
At first, I studied Western methods such as dance therapy, but I quickly understood that the work that I was naturally doing was best defined not in psychological terms but rather as spiritual energy. From 1985 to 1995, I studied many forms of spiritual practices, alternative healing and energy work, and in 1995 I began to identify my work as a modern form of shamanism.
I developed the 9 levels of Self from learning about theories such as Gestalt therapy and Hal & Sidra Stone’s Voice Dialogue. But while these methods tend to work with the sub-personalities, as a dancer and somatic specialist (Laban Movement Analyst) I work with the intelligence of the body, and as a shamanic practitioner I work with the soul and with spiritual entities. Combining all of this knowledge, I created the 9 Levels of Self as a way of identifying which Level a client might need to work on at a given time.
Joan Forest Mage is a shamanic healer, teacher and performing artist. She has studied shamanism and healing ritual with numerous teachers, and is the founder and director of Life Force Arts Center. First awakened to energy work through her life-long profession of music and dance, Joan began doing shamanic healing in 1995 and created an extensive Shamanic Training program. She received a Master of Arts degree from School for New Learning, De Paul University, Chicago, with the focus area “Creating Healing Ritual Through the Arts.“