The Dark Night of the Soul
Learn if those dark feelings you’ve been experiencing recently are the dark night of the soul or something else.
Posted: May 20th, 2022
Do you feel like you’re undergoing a spiritual awakening and have been floating on a high for a while, only to now come crashing down into a pit of despair? Or have you been in a pit of despair for a while now but know that there is something bigger going on – you just can’t figure out what? You may be experiencing the dark night of the soul. For help, read on.
IMPORTANT: The Dark Night Of The Soul does not mean you should consider suicide.
The soul does NOT want you to die. Ongoing suicidal thoughts ARE NOT the Dark Night of the Soul. If you are feeling suicidal you should seek help as soon as possible. A good place to start if you’re feeling suicidal is to contact your primary health care provider. If you are at crisis right now and feel that you will hurt yourself significantly or take your own life, you should stop reading this and should reach out for help. Consider calling an ambulance if necessary.
Remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary (albeit sometimes long) problem. Help is available, and people, including me, do care. I see the devastation that suicide leaves behind on a regular basis. You might believe no-one cares, but trust me, they really do. Please, if you’re suicidal, reach out for help right now.
What Is ‘The Dark Night Of The Soul’?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the dark night of the soul, we need to understand that it’s just a phrase. A name, if you will. A title. And it’s been mislabelled. Because it’s not dark for the soul, and it’ll go on for much longer than a night.
It’s also worth noting that there are many references throughout history to the dark night of the soul. Perhaps the first known reference is in a poem written by the Roman Catholic Priest and mystic, St. John of the Cross. Although the phrase has its roots in Roman Catholicism the actual experience has been happening to people since the beginning of time.
It’s Not A Night
It could be the dark year of the soul, or the dark decade of the soul. It really depends, and no-one can say how long it’ll go on for. But with the right knowledge and help it can be eased while it’s happening and the timespan can be reduced. And you’ll still heal what needs to be healed (but we’ll get to that later).
It’s Not Dark For The Soul Either
It’s dark for you, in the 3D realm because you don’t understand what’s going on – and because you exist in the 3D/physical realm. The soul however knows that this ‘crap’ needs to be dealt with and now that you’re beginning to awaken, your 3D physical body is getting dragged along too.
So it should be called the Dark Year of the Body rather than the Dark Night Of The Soul really.
What Are the Signs Of The Dark Night Of The Soul
Most people who experience the dark night of the soul will be going through (or have gone through) some form of spiritual awakening. Whether that’s by their own choice or circumstances leading them to it.
You may experience some, or all, of the following symptoms if you’re entering the dark night of the soul;
- Life looks dull and dim. It’s as if all the colour has been taken out of the world. It may be dark (like night) or feel heavy.
- You lack energy. The lack of colour in your life and the heaviness can make it feel difficult to get normal everyday tasks done.
- You question the point. You may wonder what the point of your life is. Note this isn’t the same as contemplating suicide (see above) but more, it’s questioning what purpose your life serves so that you can change course.
- Significant nostalgia. Nostalgia for the past is a sign that you’re entering the dark night of the soul. It’s as if your 3D body longs for those times when things were simpler.
- Feeling disconnected. You may feel disconnected from the Universe – as if you’re not really a part of it.
- You may feel lost, not sure where you’re headed or what life has in store for you next.
- You may wonder who you really are.
- Passions you used to have no longer excite you.
If you only have a couple of these things going on and they only last a few days or possibly a week or so, then it’s more likely just a normal part of life. If you have lots of them, and they’ve been ongoing for weeks or months, then you could be experiencing the dark night of the soul.
Some of these symptoms can also indicate clinical depression, you’re going to have to work out for yourself which this is. You may need some assistance to work this out and if you feel that you do, you should reach out locally either to a spiritual assistant or the medical/psychology profession.
Why Is This Happening?
You’re waking up. You’re undergoing a spiritual transformation. Your eyes are being opened and your mind is beginning to accept that there’s more to this life than just the 3D physical realm. And your mind reacts against it, often with great gusto. It rebels. Like a teenager who doesn’t want to wake up to go to school.
When you begin to undergo a spiritual awakening you soon realise that there is much baggage that must be cleared away. Whether or not you believe reincarnation is true there is enough baggage even from this lifetime that must be dealt with if you are to awaken properly. If you do believe in reincarnation, then some of that baggage may still exist from previous lifetimes.
The soul wants to integrate that baggage into your current 3D physical life so that you can learn from it and grow. By learning from it, integrating it and dealing with it, we can move forward on our spiritual journey. Almost every spiritual master, mystic or prophet has only reached their potential after going through the dark night of the soul.
Cleansing and Healing Old Wounds
It should be fairly clear from the content on the site that we believe in reincarnation. But, it’s important to notice, if you’re going through this period in your life and you do not believe in reincarnation, that it’s quite possible that you have baggage that you have buried from experiences earlier in your current life that you don’t even realise are there.
In order to move forward as a soul, we need to overcome this baggage. And to overcome it we need to confront it and deal with it. This investigating and cleaning helps us to understand who we’ve become over time – and it might not be who our soul is actually meant to be.
We Need To Remember Who We Really Are
We need to understand that who we are today isn’t necessarily our authentic self. Our soul is screaming at us to become our authentic self – who we’re really meant to be – but our 3D brain says ‘Oh no no no, I enjoy this lifestyle thank you’.
This then leads to a disharmony in our own selves. And it’s this that causes the depression, the darkness. And it’s this that leads us to claim that it’s not a dark night of the soul, but a dark night (or timespan) of the body. The soul knows who you really are. It’s this lifetime body that needs to accept it.
But how do we do that?
How Do We Navigate The Dark Night Of The Soul
Identify That We’re In The Dark Night
Firstly, it is important to consider, for ourselves, whether we are struggling with the dark night, or whether we have a different issue. It is perfectly possible that we are simply depressed, as a result of chemical imbalances in our brain. Or our circumstances have led us to over compensate. This is particularly true in the 2020/2021 pandemic world where there has been significant disruption to our lives and for some people, significant loss. Grief can occur for many reasons and untreated grief can lead to depression.
It’s vital to determine whether you’re experiencing depression (for whatever reason) rather than the dark night. PsychCentral address this issue in a post from 2016 whereby they poignantly note that one should not forego treatment because they think that the pain is necessary to purify ones soul. This is particularly important if you are feeling suicidal or feel that a desire to die means you are a mystic.
The Soul Wants Us To Live
The soul has no desire for us to die. It does not fear death (since it does not die), but it does not encourage it either. This makes sense – if we are dealing with the dark night of the soul, then it is imperative to the soul that we live to see it through. Death is a considerable hinderance to the process.
There is considerable difference between the thoughts of ‘this would be much easier if I just simply died’ versus actively considering or plotting to die. The former could still be the dark night of the soul, whereas the latter is definitely not. The latter requires external qualified help as soon as possible, as mentioned at the beginning of this article.
If you’re experiencing the disconnect – the feeling that you’re not where you should be, accept this it’s natural. You may feel really tired, worn out, burned out even. You may have physical symptoms such as feeling faint, overly emotional, extra anxiety. You may feel empty, dull or hopeless. You may find it difficult to function, and in particular be around other people. You may feel like you’re in the darkness.
This of course can have medical reasons, so you may need to consider seeking advice from your primary healthcare provider. But if you’re satisfied there’s not a medical cause then it’s likely you’re out of alignment with your true self. Your soul is indicating to you that it’s time to slow down and introspect.
Accept this. It’s tough. Life wants to get in the way – and it will at times. Accept this too.
You may have to step down from things that take up a lot of your time. You may have to get selfish for a little while as you go through this. You’ll still need to do the things you must do, if you have kids, or a job or other things that you rely on for life.
But there’s probably other things that you can stop doing for a while. You may need to pull away, at least temporarily from volunteer activities to concentrate on yourself. This might be hard if you’re a driven type of person. But you need to accept this. Much of the rest of life is a distraction which you’re doing to yourself to avoid addressing the imbalances in your soul.
Many of us cannot accept ‘free time’. We must be busy. You will need to change, at least temporarily, and accept this time for yourself. It’s not lazy – it’s beneficial. Getting through this will enable you to pick things up again (if they’re still part of your authentic self) much more productively once you are through it.
Your brain will tell you that you cannot stop doing the extra things you do daily. Your brain will tell you that you’ll lose relationships if you don’t show up. Your brain is lying to you because it doesn’t want to deal with what needs to be dealt with.
You need to surrender yourself to the process. Surrender yourself to stopping, pausing if you prefer. Surrender yourself to the fact that your brain will try to tell you that you should be doing things, be in places. And surrendering yourself to this fact means you can more easily ignore the falsehoods it is telling you. Don’t let it take up space in your head – because if it is, then it’s just as big a distraction as actually doing the things.
Surrendering releases you from the guilt – gives you permission to do nothing.
Caring For Yourself
During this time we must make sure we look after ourselves. This time is going to be exhausting. We must continue to eat well, a proper balanced diet with all the right nutrients will give our bodies the energy it needs to deal with the emotions that are going to surface during this time..
We must also get enough sleep. Good quality sleep is more important than the time spent sleeping, within certain limits. Make sure the room is setup for you to sleep at your most comfortable. Some people like a slightly warm bedroom, some like a cooler one. Set yours up to suit you. Good quality sleep is vital to help deal with the emotions that are going to come up while we’re going through this phase of our lives.
Nature has an amazing way of grounding us and relaxing us. There’s a reason the colours green and blue feature so highly in any colour therapy or crystal healing that you might read about. Green and blue are the most common colours we see when we’re in nature and we’re attuned to it. You can of course use crystals or colour therapy to help your energy during this period – but for this, going outside in daylight hours is likely to be a significant boon.
Meditation has many benefits, even when you’re not experiencing the dark night of the soul. It will help with the acceptance and surrender steps of this process. And most importantly it will allow your 3D physical body to get in touch with the soul to figure out which baggage it is that needs dealing with on your path to enlightenment.
Meditation may require practise but the most important thing is to find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and where you can sit comfortably – but not so comfortable that you will fall asleep. Some soft music or nature noises in the background can help. Empty your mind. If things wander in, ignore them. Don’t concentrate on them – or fight them. Just ignore them.
Once you’re in a meditative state with an empty mind you may then see or feel things that wander in. Observe these things but don’t concentrate on them. Watch as if you’re watching nonchalantly from a window. Experience them without passion or emotion. And let them come or go as they please.
After the meditation it is important to ‘close down’ again. This means you consciously thank the universe for your experiences and you consciously say to yourself ‘I am now finished’ and you bring yourself back to a wakeful state deliberately and slowly. You can mentally visualise the closing of a door, or covering yourself in a protective all-over raincoat or something similar. However you do it, it’s important that you bring yourself back to the 3D realm completely and deliberately.
You can also use verbal affirmations to help train the 3D brain and subconscious into surrendering control of this process and knowing that your soul is control. You can affirm things such as ‘I relinquish control of this process’ or ‘I release resistance to this process’ or ‘I release control of my journey’.
All of this will help relax you, and will allow your brain to calmly accept that what’s happening is for your own good and needs to be done.
You can use this to reframe your thoughts. Knowing that your mind is trying to convince you of the negativity of a situation, and realising that in fact it’s a positive experience even if doesn’t feel like it. Use these affirmations to reframe your thoughts.
Be grateful for everything. Being grateful for everything that is good in your life is relatively easy. But you can practice with these things first. Write down what you’re thankful for. It can be as simple as the cup of coffee you’re having at breakfast. Or the sniffing of your pet dog as you get up in the morning. Be thankful, grateful, of all these little things. Then when you’re better practised you should also show gratitude for the things you believe are not as good in life.
This has two effects. Negativity can’t exist in conjunction with gratitude. If you can be grateful even for the things in your life you don’t like, you won’t be able to be negative about them. It takes practise but it can be done. And it’s logical – if you have the ability to experience anything at all then you have something to be grateful for. It may not seem like it – but you do. And if you can affirm gratitude for these things you’ll be showing your soul that you’re willing to go along with it because you know that it’s really for your own benefit.
How Long Will This Last?
It is impossible to tell how long the dark night of the soul will last for you individually. It depends on how much baggage your soul wants you to deal with. It depends how quickly you can accept that this baggage needs to be purged and learned from.
It’s likely to be at least a few months though.
But remember, although your 3D body, brain and ego is feeling very dark and heavy – your soul is not struggling or suffering. Your soul is happy, you are engaging with your real meaning in your authentic life. If you can accept this, the darkness won’t be as intense, and the length of time will become largely irrelevant.
The process will still be painful. It can be intense and challenging. But you will come out the other end of it achieving more than you ever had before.
For more information about what to expect after the dark night of the soul, have a look at the 6 stages of spiritual awakening which we’ve written to help you through this difficult time.
This has been a hard topic and you may be going through a horrible time at the moment. Remember though that the darkness you’re experiencing is down to the 3D physical body being pulled along by the soul. Your soul knows exactly and precisely what you need and when you need it.
You’re awakening and it’s a wonderful time to be alive. It doesn’t feel like it – but it is. It’s your time to flourish. You’re learning – and learning is difficult at times. Fortunately there’s no exam at the end. Butterflies come from a painful process of expulsion through the chrysalis. You will come through this painful process too.
Your soul is in control. Your soul knows the direction. Your soul will guide you. Your task is to not dwell on the darkness. Acceptance is the key to getting through the dark night of the soul. Accept the lessons. Accept the cleansing and know that you’ll come out the other side a lot better person.
For many people who go through the Dark Night Of The Soul, it’s a stage of the spiritual awakening process. Which usually means that they’ve been through the 2nd stage, The Bliss. If you have been through that bliss, remember that when you come through the dark night, this bliss will return. If you’ve not been through that – know that you will get the bliss once you do get through it.
Find yourself a mentor who’s been there and share the burden with them. They can help remind you physically of why this is happening and can keep you balanced when everything looks bleak.
Be grateful of the experience, and we wish you all the very best for your journey!
1: Various Authors. (2021, June 3). John Of The Cross. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_the_Cross
2: Northwestern University. (2015, August 17). How traumatic memories hide in the brain, and how to retrieve them. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150817132325.htm
3: Borchard, T J. (2016, January 6). Is It Depression or a Dark Night of the Soul? PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/blog/is-it-depression-or-a-dark-night-of-the-soul
Featured image by Artie_Navarre from Pixabay (cropped to size for the web)