HJ: The most important thing that those having a dark night of the soul experience must understand is that it can only be overcome by looking within. As long as someone in the midst of this experience focuses outside of themselves, they will remain within it, for the only way to transcend the experience is to begin dealing with the personal existential crisis which gives rise to it. On the upside, the dark night of the soul is often times the catalyst for a very profound and life-altering awakening experience that can truly launch one to the heights of greatness and happiness. This is because during one of these experiences, you are essentially being forced by your higher self to do the inner work necessary to liberate yourself from suffering. Doing the inner work always leads to greater happiness, health and freedom.
Perhaps you have heard the saying “two steps forward, one step back”. The dark night of the soul is that one step backward, preparing you to make two steps forward. Those who do not succumb to the experience become massively strengthened by it.
The most important piece of advice I can give to those currently experiencing this type of crisis is that you must take full responsibility for your life. As soon as you begin to do this, you will immediately be empowered to change your life instead of feeling like a victim or out-of-control, which is absolutely not the case. Taking full responsibility liberates you to create life on your terms and if that means leaving the dark night in favor clearer skies, then so be it.
And finally, despite feeling a slew of ‘negative’ and difficult emotions, you must ultimately embrace them because they will lead you to understand why you are suffering when observed objectively. Instead of continuing to repress and fight them (which will only make things worse and prolong your suffering), instead ask yourself the most profound questions: “Why am I feeling like this? What is the source of this emotion/feeling? What inside of me has been causing me to feel this way?” These questions will always lead you to the source of your suffering when answered honestly. The answer may take time to come as those experiencing a dark night of the soul have often been hiding from themselves and repressing the source of pain for some time, but it will come and when it does, you then have the key to end your suffering. You must heal this unhealed part of yourself. Accept it, understand it, thank it for teaching you its lessons and release it permanently.
Beyond this advice you will find a more detailed exploration of the experience and additional advice for dealing with and ultimately overcoming the dark night experience. There is also a checklist for you to go through to rule out certain health challenges that may cause a ‘false’ dark night of the soul experience.
Getting Through the Dark Night of the Soul
This process can occur at any point in one’s life, but it usually emerges after a spiritual seeker has attained a lot of spiritual knowledge or growth. This is because the ego is now being called out for what it is and it tightens its grips on you to hide you from the light that you are. The dark night of the soul is a process many spiritual seekers go through at some point in their lives, I being one of them. The dark night is not mentioned that much in spiritual texts and teachings. A lot of the times, we are being told to be happy, raise your vibration, look to the light, but none of this will be lasting until you have loved the dark.
The dark night of the soul is an overall beautiful experience where a person’s ego/false self is “dying" to their true Self which is love or in other words one is realizing the ego self is false and never really existed.
Even though this is a very beautiful and sacred process, it can be perceived at the time as very difficult. Especially when you are in the thick of the fog. This is why it is called the dark night of the soul (it may feel like a dark century of the soul to some…).
You feel as if you are stuck in the dark with no hope of seeing the light again. You already feel totally alone due to this process, and ontop of that it is not talked about often in spiritual texts. This is because a lot of us look for the light only and try to run away from the dark, not realizing that the dark will only grow larger the more you ignore it.
Many think they have done something wrong when the symptoms of the Dark Night appear. Especially if they just went through so much perceived spiritual growth. This is furthest from the truth! When you find yourself in the Dark Night show gratitude because you are going through a sort of rites of passage or a spiritual detox. The pain you feel is the pain you have tried to suppress for years, decades, and even lifetimes. It is now finally bubbling up to the surface to be healed with the love you give it. Even though it seems painful to face this pain, you should feel honored that this pain is finally flowing out of you. We don’t even realize the heavy baggage that we
have held onto for so long.
For whatever reason, you are in a position right now where it is inevitable to heal your pain, suffering, and feelings of separation from source. This pain is not personal pain, even though it definitely feels like it when you are in the Dark Night! Since our ego selves do not really exist, this pain is only a feeling we attach stories to. This pain you feel is collective and felt through-out the world. We feel this due to our belief that we are separate entities, cut off from Source. When you accept and heal this pain, you heal the world’s suffering automatically!
When you are in a Dark Night, you feel as if you are in a depression. Though you are in a “spiritual depression," this is different from clinical depression because the symptoms do not come about due to a certain external situation. You are not depressed because of someone or something, it just naturally emerged. You feel miserable to say the least and you don’t know why. You try everything to break yourself out of it and nothing works. The more you try to get out of the Dark Night, the more it will persist.
All types of emotions you have tried to suppress for so long, haunt you day in and day out: guilt, shame, frustration, helplessness, anger, sadness, self-pity, loneliness. These emotions are trying to get your attention, but we keep ignoring and resisting them. Think of these emotions as a child that only wants your love. They are trying to get your attention until you finally face them and accept them for what they are-emotions. They are not your emotions, they are just feelings in the body that we tie a story to.
During the Dark Night you feel totally alone. You don’t know many, if any, people that have gone through this or are currently going through it. You don’t feel like being bothered with loved ones and friends that don’t understand because they either think you are crazy and need help or their own fears arise about it and make matters even worse. If you could snap out of it you would, but you barely have any energy or even many interests anymore. All your energy is going to the ego through resisting the inevitable or trying to protect the false self. Things that don’t serve you anymore.
You feel totally stuck! The funny thing is, you truly want to be stuck or you wouldn’t be in the Dark Night anymore. This was a realization I had during the Dark Night. On one end you are miserable and suffering, but on the other end you know that to leave from this Dark Night, you have to let go of this suffering and allow this change to occur. And this is one of your deepest fears! Your ego self is deathly afraid of finally coming out of existed. Even with all the suffering I felt during the Dark Night, I still did not want to let go of it. If I did, this meant my identification as the ego would drop and what then? The fear of losing control that I never truly had and fear of the unknown kept me stuck in a very uncomfortable spot!
Sometimes the external circumstances during the Dark Night can get so uncomfortable and overwhelming that it pins you into a spot where the only way to get out is to surrender. There is no way that the little personal self can “fix" these circumstances anymore and you need to allow life to work through you. At the time you are so frustrated with this situation, but when you remember the big picture, this is definitely a blessing!
The reason why we find ourselves in a Dark Night is because we are learning trust, acceptance, love, and surrender. This is our true nature, and the ego knows this and puts up a fight. A very strong fight! The ego is unwilling to give up its control and fearfulness and this is perfectly normal because this is ego’s nature. When you see it as ego’s nature and not your nature and that it is inevitable, it gives you the power to allow.
Now to get out of the Dark Night, it is up to you. How fast you pass through this depends on how willing you are to let go of your addictions. The tighter the ego’s grip, the longer it will take. This was me!
We are addicted to suffering and attaching to pain because we love to fight ourselves. We are in a constant battle with our ego. This battle is what keeps the ego alive. So we then believe we have an identity. Without this battle we don’t know what we would be. We fear this unknown territory and being vulnerable to this. But this vulnerability and unknown territory is love. This is our true nature.
We are human beings and this means that we are always seeking the Being or LOVE to fill this void we feel as humans since humans are seekers. So the Catch 22 is that we fear the one thing we want more than anything. These are all the reasons why one would find themselves in a Dark Night.
The first step of getting out of this process is to realize that this is a natural and inevitable process for you to go through since you are in it right now. Once you realize you are in a Dark Night, you will realize nothing is wrong with you and you can start to step out of the way and let this spiritual detox work through and for you.
When we are in the Dark Night, we want to get out of it so much because we cannot take the pain and suffering, but when you realize that you are in it because your soul truly wants to be in it and that you can let go at any time, you can accept this process as inevitable. This will speed up your process because you are embracing it and not resisting it anymore.
The next step is to do nothing. Now, this may seem simple, but coming from an ego’s point of view this is impossible and symbolizes “death" for the ego. The ego will make so much noise telling you lies and trying to get you to worry and be fearful or to “control," but you are not these thoughts or feelings. You are far greater since you are aware of these thoughts and feelings. You are love or Awareness itself. So when these thoughts come up, simply watch them or if a feeling comes up, simply feel it. Love and embrace every thought, feeling, and situation you are trying to resist. Acknowledge when you are resisting something. Just be aware of it and feel how it feels in your body when you resist. Tight and compacted right?
So doing nothing in this context means to simply be. Be the love and awareness that you naturally are. The Dark Night seems very miserable because we are resisting so much. The ego’s fearful grip is so strong at this point because it wants to stay “alive." We have forgotten that we are love and if we are love, we embrace everything because we realize the inevitability of doing so
and because we know that nothing can harm us. Nothing can touch you. Nothing can shake you. The light that you are shines on anything so that it would turn it to its natural state of light also. We are all one.
Since all we have is now, you won’t get out of the Dark Night tomorrow, you will only get out of it now! The key to getting out of it is… loving – the only reason we are on Earth. The great thing is, just like our egos, the Dark Night is an illusion. We have always been home and we have been the light the whole time that we were looking for it in the Dark Night. Of course we have been the light, how else would we have been aware of the dark? If we were dark too, we wouldn’t be able to observe the dark.
Take this beautiful time to finally face and embrace the dark once and for all. Let the light of love shine on it and dissolve it. You are awakened now. You are love now. There is no other way it could be. Anything else is merely a dream! The more you resist the Dark Night or the “stuck" place you are in, the more you keep repeating the lessons you need to learn. Accept and embrace where you are now. Embrace this pain and suffering.
Know that you are helpless in this process and surrender to love. Use your pain as the catalyst for a great transformation and rebirth. Any transformation in life has had to go through some pain right before. Birth is most painful right before coming out of the birth canal. Caterpillars, snakes, and crabs are a few animals that go through a transformation where the old self "dies" to the new self. Be like the phoenix and rise above the ashes of your old false self just by Being the love that you are! Life is all about cycles. Nothing lasts forever. View this process as a rites of passage for a remarkable rebirth. You will finally be free from the baggage you have clung onto for so long through resistance.
Just like Spring always comes after Winter, you will see the light! Just like dawn always comes after the darkest hour, you will see the light! Just like the sun is always there behind the clouds, your light is always illuminating your way through the Dark Night. Trust in this process and know that it is just that-a process. This too shall pass.
“Like a lotus flower that grows out of the mud and blossoms above the muddy water surface, we can rise above our defilements and sufferings of life." -Buddha
Tips For “Dark Night” Journeyers (And Those in Their Lives)
By Jamie S. Walters| Ivysea
I cannot and do not claim to be an expert in this subject. I can’t provide advice or counsel to you if you’re going through a “dark night of the soul”, or if someone you know and love is.
But I can share that which was significant for me, in terms of practices or resources that in some way served as lanterns or guides during my journey. If they feel right for you, experiment with them. And if you feel the need for professional support, don’t hesitate to seek it out.
If you’re experiencing a “dark night”, consider the following:
• Get a physical checkup with your physician to ensure that you don’t have a hormonal or biochemical imbalance or an illness which requires medical treatment;
• Try to find a physician who is open to or specializes in integrated medicine, who combines the best of Western healthcare with the best of Eastern and alternative care;
• Consider taking an “integrated wellness” approach, including alternative healers in your health and wellness repertoire to the extent possible, such as massage therapists, acupuncture, Eastern Medicine, energy healing, etc. If you have questions or doubts about the credibility and validity of integrated or alternative options, visit the California Pacific Medical Center’s web site, and seek referrals from people you trust;
• If you feel called to, seek out a psychotherapist who is familiar and experienced with issues of spiritual emergence, dark night of the soul, and similar experiences. A Jungian or transpersonal psychologist may be the best match;
• Explore information and resources related to mind-body-spirit wellness, mindful nutrition, and other things that will support your overall wholeness and wellness;
• Accept that sometimes “doing nothing” is exactly the best thing to do. Downshift. Remember that “for everything there is a season.” Relax, surrender, have patience with the “not knowing” element of the journey. See it as a time of incubation, initiation, fallowness, hibernation … like a seed or bulb under the dark soil of winter, waiting for the right time, strength, and impulse to push up through the soil into Spring;
• Build a support network – this can be difficult in the dark night, when your impulse is to burrow and hibernate. The two impulses can complement one another;
• Focus on your own wellness, balance, and development — learn to say “yes” to what appeals to and nurtures you, and “no” to those things that affect you negatively;
• Be protective of yourself and any budding visions, insights and ideas. It can feel so miraculous to receive these after seemingly silent times, but share only with people whom you know will be supportive and sensitive. Consider these “buds” very fragile and tender, and in need of your protection;
• Understand the importance of spiritual and relaxation practices, and create a menu of practices that work for you and from which you can draw every day;
• Read uplifting books and magazines, watch uplifting movies — the “human spirit prevails” themes;
• Be gentle and compassionate with yourself; this is the start and source of true compassion for all else.
If someone you know is experiencing a “dark night”
• Don’t go “AWOL”
• Stay in touch — offer to listen, drop kind notes in the mail, send kind emails, share the things you love and admire about the person, ask them to lunch or tea, ask if there’s anything you can do to be supportive, and just listen and offer your loving presence and kindness.
• Make an effort to be compassionate and sensitive — heightened sensitivities of someone in the “dark night” make curt comments or other insensitive behaviors seem even more so; harsh comments or body language can make a “dark night” journeyer feel as if they’re getting shot at with broken glass — which hurts.
• Listen to and encourage budding insights and ideas — when the lights start to flicker on, and the person shares emerging insights, don’t criticize or “edit” them, and don’t immediately list the 100 people you know who are doing the same thing. These “buds” are very fragile, so it’s incredibly helpful to simply listen, ask questions, look for ways you can affirm rather than deny, minimize or dismiss.
• Understand that everyone is different — it may be difficult for the person to know what would be helpful, or even for a time seem accepting of your offers of support, but it’s still helpful to know that people are there and care
• Increase your knowledge about “dark night” or, if appropriate, depression, so that you have a better understanding of what your friend or loved one is going through.
• Be patient. Another’s “dark night” journey is often a solo trip, and one with a “map” and schedule all its own. But it’s a journey that can be made easier by the reassurance that others are there, patiently waiting, not judging, for the transformation time to complete itself.
Other experienced and wisened journeyers can no doubt offer additional suggestions. Wishing you wisdom, and wishing you well.