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What is a Dark Night of the Soul (and how can I navigate it?)

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • you've recently experienced something that would objectively be seen as a major crisis (scary diagnosis, divorce, physical death of a loved one, financial loss, war, etc).

  • you're no longer interested in things that once lit you up (or not as interested as you once were)

  • feeling like you need more time to yourself than before

  • lower energy levels than you're used to (even with extra rest)

  • feeling out of alignment with people that once felt very much like your home

  • confusion on a deep level

  • feeling like your life has lost meaning, nothing makes sense anymore

  • feeling like you're not sure what you believe in anymore (in other words, a crisis of faith)

From a clinical perspective this sounds a lot like depression and a skilled practitioner will usually be able to tell the difference and advise you appropriately. At some point, we will all go through an experience like this. My belief is that the the soul is here on this Earth plane to evolve, and sometimes that evolution requires lessons that can be excruciatingly painful. When you're in it, it's difficult to see the experience as anything but darkness, but I'd like to suggest that this is often actually a time of major awakening (which in most cases will only become clear later). It's often from our darkest moments that we gain the most knowledge, wisdom and perspective.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you on your journey:

  1. As painful as it is, if at all possible, try not to distract from, or numb the pain (or at least don't get stuck in that form of coping). I find that the more we are able to face whatever it is that is coming up (rage, hatred, anguish, a sense of sheer injustice, sadness, etc), the more easily we pass through it. You may need the help of a skilled practitioner with this part. Hopefully they will give you the tools to help you simply be present with your feelings so that eventually with practice, being with whatever is in any given moment will become second nature to you.

  2. It's important to move our emotions out of our body so that they don't settle and cause imbalance on a physical level. For anger/rage, primal screaming works incredibly well. When you're alone, bring to mind the thing that's causing you to feel anger. When you're ready, let out a scream. At first your own voice might surprise/scare you, or you may find it's difficult or silly to scream. Keep going. As time goes on you might find that your voice becomes stronger and emotions come up from deep within you. You'll know you've released it all because you'll truly feel complete. Often your rage may turn to tears or laughter. Both of these things usually signal that you've gotten it all out for now.

  3. One way to explain this experience psychologically, is through the concept of ego death. Even if your dark night doesn't involve a physical death, psychically and spiritually, this is very much a death and rebirth experience. Who you were is gone, who you will be is not yet clear. This is a middle place that can be deeply unsettling. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Take it day by day, even hour by hour.

  4. Pay attention to your dreams. I find that when a major crisis presents, it tends to open us up psychically. When that portal is open our dreams are often vivid and very informative. Even if it doesn't make sense, write it down. Meanings can become clear later. Your dreams are always guiding you to more clarity, and showing you where you need to focus your attention.

  5. Slow down. Go to work, care for your kids, do the things you must do but be cautious about taking on anything more than you absolutely need to. This piece of advice serves two purposes. On one hand, a dark night of the soul experience usually isn't just a brief moment in time that passes and then things go back to normal. No. This type of experience can last months or even years and nothing will be the same during, or after. It can be exhausting and confusing. Preserve your energy. The second reason is that staying (or getting) busy is a way for us to distract ourselves from what is happening. It's best to be with it.

  6. Connect with people who can simply hold space-- this may need to be a practitioner depending on your situation. One of the challenges of a dark night is that you often feel isolated. Maybe you're experiencing something that your friends or family haven't been through. Feeling like you're the only one, or that no one understands, can add to the pain you're already feeling. Maybe the people you once felt at home with just don't feel the same way anymore. It's best to connect with people who will simply listen and hold space (as opposed to trying to give advice or problem-solve).

  7. Practice gratitude every single day. This sounds cheesy, I know, but trust me it works. When you're practicing gratitude you can't also be terrified, heartbroken, or angry in that specific moment. The truth is that even when your life is collapsing around you, there are still things to be grateful for. Do you have a roof over your head? Are you in relatively good health? Were you able to feed your kids that day? Do you have clean water to drink? All of these things are gratitudes (and things we often take for granted). Start there.

  8. Practice surrender. When I say surrender patients sometimes hear that as me advising them to give up. You're not giving up, you're recognizing that some things are simply out of your control. Always do your best, pursue exactly what you want, but also recognize when it's time to let go. Sometimes things work out differently than we had hoped and perhaps there is a greater plan at play. Sometimes we simply have to wait and see how things unfold, and trust that everything will be okay in the end.

  9. Acknowledge that no matter how bad things are, they will change. The old saying, "this too shall pass," is true. The one constant is change and your situation will change, too. In the meantime, know that you are strong enough to handle it. One interesting thing that I consistently find is that no matter how exhausted and hopeless you might feel, there is a strength in most people that they didn't realize they had until they're really on their knees (metaphorically).

  10. Support your adrenals and your body generally. You may experience physical symptoms that are entirely new to you, or there may be an exacerbation of existing symptoms. Make sure illness is ruled out, but know that this is common during a crisis experience. This is a time to really take care of yourself. There are lots of really good ways to do this, and certain minerals that I believe everyone should take, but it requires an appointment since it's considered medical advice.

Once you've realized what's going on and you've found some balance within the chaos, these next steps may be of use to you:

  1. Ask yourself, what is this experience calling me to do? Maybe it's asking you to step into your power. Maybe it's asking you to set very clear, non-negotiable boundaries. Maybe it's asking you to say no. Maybe it's asking you to soften, or work on your communication. Every dark night has something that it's helping you to learn. One thing I've noticed is that the lesson is often associated with fear. What are you afraid to do? Are you afraid to say no? Then that's probably part of the lesson here. Look at that more closely. What if you say no? What do you fear will happen? How does that feel in your body?

  2. Look back and see how you've changed. Perhaps you've gotten stronger. Maybe you're not as trusting anymore and you have developed a greater level of discernment. Maybe you've seen parts of yourself or other people that you didn't see before. Maybe you speak your truth more. Maybe you've become more stoic, less easy to rattle. Maybe you're a little more fierce, or a little less. Notice these changes because remember, this is a rebirth process.

  3. What lessons have you learned? Really take time to reflect on this because this is pure gold. What was really difficult at first but now you've found a way through it (even if it still carries some uncomfortable feelings)?

My experience is that when the rebirth process makes itself known, no matter what you've been through to get there, you wouldn't change a single thing because all that you've gained is far greater than what has been lost.

Hopefully some of these thoughts and sharings have been helpful for you on your path. If you'd like further support, please feel free to reach out.

Yours on the journey,



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