Understanding the dark night of the soul (+ how to get through it).

Sarah Regan

Every spiritual journey has its share of ups and downs, and when things reach their lowest, it's known as the "dark night of the soul." While never easy, the dark night of the soul is an essential part of spiritual awakenings and is sure to teach you some hard-fought lessons .

Here's what spirituality and mental health experts want you to know about the dark night of the soul's six distinct stages and how to get through them stronger than ever.

What is the dark night of the soul? 

The concept of the dark night of the soul was first coined in a poem by Saint John of the Cross , a 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet. The idea of a spiritual depression , however, is a part of many different spiritual and religious traditions, including Buddhism, where it's referred to as "falling into the pit of the void."

According to Anna Yusim, M.D., a psychiatrist and the author of  Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life , "The dark night of the soul is essentially any time when our darkness comes to the forefront. It's as if we are doing everything we can to stay afloat, and it seems as if the universe, the world, and life is against us."

Yusim adds that the dark night of the soul will often involve suffering, setbacks, and obstacles. Nevertheless, she says, "Oftentimes, a dark night of the soul is a necessary part of people's spiritual evolution ."

As Shannon Kaiser, spiritual teacher and author of  Return to You , tells mbg, "It often happens to guide us to find our purpose in life, pay back or balance karma , and understand deep karmic and spiritual lessons. The dark night of the soul is a breaking away from the illusions of fear and ego to shift our alignment and values to what is real and true, the connection to the divine, and ultimately pave the way for your life purpose and mission here on Earth."

Depression vs. the dark night of the soul.

There can definitely be an overlap between depression and the dark night of the soul, but they are not synonymous. Someone going through a dark night of the soul may be depressed and vice versa—but not necessarily.

According to Kaiser, for one thing, depression is a mental health disorder , while a dark night of the soul is a spiritual desolation. "The dark night of the soul is more localized to feeling distressed and disoriented in our relationship with the bigger meaning to life and the creator," she says, adding it affects one's worldview, beliefs, perspective, habits, thoughts, and relationships. "It wakes one up to life," she notes.

If you suspect you have depression, seek help from a medical professional . If you are looking for guidance on getting through the dark night of the soul, read on.

Stages of the dark night of the soul.

Stage 1: major disruption or triggering event(s).

The dark night of the soul often begins with some sort of trigger or disruption that you're unprepared for in some way. Kaiser also calls this stage "The Roller coaster" and describes it as an existential crisis due to intense pain caused by outside disruption you have no control over. This could be, but is not limited to, the death of a loved one , extreme poverty, or an illness, betrayal, injustice, abuse, job loss, and so on.

Stage 2: Loss of direction and hope

Following the initial trigger, as the dark night of the soul sets in, so, too, does despair and hopelessness. As Kaiser explains, you may feel as if life, and specifically the life you've been living, is meaningless during this stage.

Think of the journey through the dark night as an inverted bell curve—rather than peaking high up in the middle, this journey leads you down, down, down to the depths, which brings us to the next stage.

Stage 3: Rock bottom

The entire dark night of the soul is not easy, but at rock bottom (or the bottom of the aforementioned inverted bell curve) it's going to feel like a breaking point or threshold of pain. Kaiser says this is typically the darkest time in someone's life.

You may become emotionally numb, lose friends and family, isolate, and/or numb through addictions during this time, she notes, adding, "Often in this phase, family and friends abandon us . This phase turns into the darkest hours of our life, but it will also teach us a valuable lesson if we are open to receive it."

Stage 4: Waking up to the truth

There is light on the other side of rock bottom—and a steady climb up that bell curve we keep mentioning—in order to return to a sense of wholeness. After your darkest hours, Kaiser says, you begin waking up to the truth, which won't be easy.

This stage can include physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, nausea, and body aches, and even psychological and emotional manifestations, according to Kaiser. "One will have the opportunity to go deeply into themselves because it's an inner journey back to source. You will finally be ready to face 'what is' instead of running away from it and wake up to the greater meaning to your life and it all," she says.

And as Yusim adds, the dark night of the soul will accentuate what you need to release or otherwise transform.

Stage 5: Spiritual study

With your newfound knowledge of self and your purpose, then begins the fifth stage of spiritual study and attaining balance. As Kaiser explains, "After you've discovered your life purpose, you will start laying the foundations of the life that you are truly meant to live."

You may become more curious and drawn to spiritual teachers and guides at this time, and you'll slowly but surely start to act like a creator and build the life you want, she adds.

Stage 6: Authentic living 

And finally, as your dark night of the soul comes to a close, you'll discover a sense of peace, understanding, and wholeness that has previously felt lost. Kaiser notes you'll know you're in the final stage of the dark night of the soul when you have a greater understanding of life's bigger picture, the lessons you've learned, and the wounds you've healed.

"So we've transformed our perspective, and then we transform the pain and suffering into wisdom, which enables us to move forward and have even more light to share with the world by virtue of having gone through that experience," Yusim explains.

In this stage, you'll be in a place where you no longer lean on dysfunctional, old patterns (both personal and generational), and you feel guided to live with more purpose and passion . You will also be inclined to be in service of others rather than self, Kaiser says.

How do I get out of the dark night of the soul?

While the dark night of the soul is anything but easy, Kaiser and Yusim recommend seeing it as an opportunity for growth and remembering that it won't last forever.

"Ask yourself what you need to feel grounded, to feel whole, to feel connected, to feel productive, to feel purposeful—and then do precisely that," Yusim says, adding that it's about "recognizing what you need and taking the best care of yourself possible. Self-care is a huge part of that."

Kaiser adds that you'll also want to trust your intuition, as well as spiritual guidance you receive. "The key is being willing to integrate the lessons and move on with serenity. The more open you are to change, the more you are likely to end your dark night of the soul sooner," Kaiser tells mbg.

According to Yusim, looking for the lesson that the dark night is trying to teach you will also be very helpful. "In every darkness, there is a diamond, and it's always about looking for that diamond," she says. "Sometimes the diamond presents itself and is readily available, but sometimes you really have to dig to see it, and create the narrative, and construct the meaning that you're going to take from that experience."

Don't try to control or resist your journey. As Kaiser explains, ego and a need for control is the biggest barrier to getting out of the dark night of the soul. "If you are someone who likes to be in control of things and fight the direction the universe presents to you, you may end up facing the same situations over and over again, until you learn the lesson and align with your ultimate purpose," she explains.

And for what it's worth, she adds, the bigger the ego, the more difficulty you'll have, "because [big egos] fail to have faith in what the universe brings and don't trust anything outside themselves."

Additionally, Kaiser and Yusim both stress the importance of not running away from yourself during this time. "There's some reprioritizing that needs to happen. Some people try to run away from their darkness, but you really can't run away from yourself," Yusim says.

Some people try to run away from their darkness, but you really can't run away from yourself.

Kaiser also notes to do your best not to numb or turn to old patterns of addiction, such as sex, substances, binge-eating, overspending, etc., since "the dark night of the soul is urging you to look at the patterns and behaviors that caused these, so you can break free and step into a healthier version of your highest vibrational self ."

"Don't run from the pain," she reiterates. "Allow for it, feel it, know it won't last forever. Do not  spiritually bypass your feelings—make sure you feel all the emotions coming up."

What to do once the dark night of the soul ends.

The good news is, once you've reached the dawn of your dark night, what to do next will likely be obvious. In fact, because the nature of this time period is to awaken you to your true purpose, the question of what to do is exactly the point.

As Kaiser explains, "The other side of the dark night of the soul is authentic alignment, awareness, peace and heart-based living allowing for true happiness. Many step into their true purpose and live with more purpose and joy, and their life becomes more rich and rewarding."

After all, Yusim notes, "The purpose of the dark night of the soul is to make us bigger, feel more at home, expanded, stronger—and able to give more light to the world."

What are the signs of spiritual awakening?

Signs of a spiritual awakening include but are not limited to: Feeling detached, reevaluating your beliefs, more synchronicities, heightened spiritual awareness and intuition, heightened compassion, and isolation.

Check out our full guide to spiritual awakenings for more information.

How long is the dark night of the soul?

The duration of the dark night of the soul is different from person to person, according to Kaiser. "Some go through multiple dark nights of the soul at different phases of their life—it all depends on how old your soul is, what truths you need to wake up to, how much karma you have to pay, and what lessons you have to learn," she explains.

What are the symptoms of the dark night of the soul?

Signs or symptoms of a dark night of the soul include spiritual depression, feeling hopeless, feeling isolated, questioning everything about yourself and your life, and searching for a sense of purpose, meaning, and/or belonging.

The takeaway.

The dark night of the soul is quite literally the darkest point in one's spiritual journey, but rest assured it will never be for naught. As the pioneering psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross once said, "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering , known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths." And while the depths of the darkness may feel all-consuming at times, there is hope and wholeness on the other side.

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The 4 Dark Night of The Soul Stages

Susan Brunton

The dark night of the soul is one of the most transformative experiences you can have. It is also one of the most painful, but to live fully, you must go through it.

You will probably experience intense pain – even despair, confusion, and disillusionment. But, there are glimmers of light in the midst of it, giving you hope.

The dark night of the soul isn’t something that just happens to you; it’s a process of purification and transformation that characterizes the spiritual journey to wholeness, maturity, and freedom.

The dark night of the soul has four stages, and they are as follows:

  • Discontentment
  • Reintegration
  • Wholeness/Maturity

Stage 1: Discontentment or Spiritual Betrayal

dark night of the soul stages

The dark night of the soul can come out of anywhere without you even expecting it.

It can be triggered by an unexpected loss or series of losses that leave you feeling deeply hurt and betrayed.

For example, this may occur after the ending of a significant relationship, the death of someone close to you, betrayal by someone you trusted, or even something as simple as failure to get accepted into your preferred school.

Whatever happens first sets off this process in your life.

The pain associated with this stage is often so intense that it feels like emotional destruction – as if nothing matters anymore.

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You feel alone and isolated because nobody understands how much pain you are going through.

You want to curl up and die – or just run away – so that perhaps you can escape the pain.

It feels like all is lost, and you have no hope for the future.

Stage 2: Desolation

Desolation often involves physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, nausea, and body aches – but there is more: psychological and emotional manifestations occur on an even deeper level of the psyche.  

This stage tends to deepen over time; regarding prolonged experiences of disconsolate feelings , this dark night of the soul phase can last from several months to several years.

It’s as if you have been abandoned by God or left alone with your problems without any resources, guidance, or hope.

Desolation has a way of taking you very deeply into yourself because it is an inner journey back to The Source – for within the abyss of desolation lies the key to re-discovering your life purpose and inner strength.

Stage 3: Reintegration or Facing Your Demons

As a result of going through stages 1 and 2, you will finally be ready to face “what is” instead of running away from it.  

You begin to accept all aspects of yourself – both good and bad – perhaps even noting that there are parts of you that need some changing.

In this stage, you begin to recognize that all of your experiences have been preparing you for a future event or goal.

Stage 4: Wholeness/Maturity

The fourth and final stage involves a deep-felt sense of gratitude regarding what you’ve learned from going through the previous stages.

You understand that the dark night of the soul is not something negative or burdensome but rather an opportunity for transformation from which you come out stronger.

In addition, there is a growing understanding of life’s “bigger picture” regarding both current events and major historical incidents in the world.  

These insights remind you that darkness always precedes light and that the night must fall before dawn.

The dark night of the soul is a critical stage in your psychological, emotional, and spiritual development, so don’t take it lightly.

As difficult as it may be, go through each stage consciously because they are all key milestones on your life path!

How Long Does The Dark Night of The Soul Last?

The dark night of the soul will continue until you have awakened to your spiritual potential.

This awakening may occur suddenly or gradually, but the process cannot be stopped either way.

Be patient with yourself and know that you are not alone.

Of all the stages in the dark night of the soul cycle, remember that reintegration is definitely the most important.  

Without this stage – which involves a conscious awareness about what you’ve learned so far throughout your painful past – there would be no point in having experienced desolation and apathy at all.   

As long as you are aware that the pain, stress, darkness, and suffering have been helpful to your spiritual growth, then you can take pride in knowing that your dark night of the soul is over.

How Do I Get out of The Dark Night Of The Soul?

dark night of the soul stages

The key here is to be patient with yourself. Don’t throw in the towel if you don’t experience progress immediately.  

If anything, consider it an important event that must happen for you to evolve into a better version of yourself.

My best advice: stay centered and grounded by focusing on your breath.

Breath awareness helps keep you present and creates feelings of inner peace which greatly reduces stress and anxiety.  

Being centered also allows you to remain calm even when things are not going according to plan because it reminds you that there is always an inner strength and wisdom inside you.

Although this may seem hard to do during times of stress, it is well worth the effort.

The other things you can do are:

  • Find solitude and practice meditation.
  • Enjoy nature
  • Consume meals that are high in nutrients.
  • Seek advice from others.
  • Keep in mind that everything, including this, will eventually pass.

If you feel stuck, remember to seek help in the form of guidance or counseling.

It’s also likely that you’ll come across many blockages along the way.  

Whenever this happens, ask yourself: What prevents me from moving forward?

The answer will point you to the root of your struggles and help you focus on those things that need immediate attention.

So, take good care of yourself, as these obstacles can only be overcome if your body, mind, and soul are healthy and centered.

What Happens After The Dark Night of The Soul?

There are many positive implications after the dark night of the soul is over, such as:

  • You develop a strong sense of self-confidence and inner strength.
  • You heal from old wounds and transform them into wisdom.
  • A heightened awareness allows you to see life’s “big picture.”
  • Sense of direction in regards to your life purpose and goals becomes clearer.

You can make your life better by using your sense of inner strength to make healthy life choices.

You can continue the road to recovery by practicing self-love and self-compassion.

After all, it is important to be kind to yourself because you deserve it!

You will slowly start feeling better about your life, and even the negative experiences won’t seem as bad.   

In fact, you’ll realize that they were necessary for your personal growth and development, which makes them more bearable.

How To Recognize Happiness

Throughout your life, you have externally experienced happiness.

For example, you probably felt happy when someone or something made you feel loved. You may have also experienced it when you finally got what you wanted.   

During the dark night of the soul, however, happiness is not experienced externally but rather as an internal feeling that keeps you grounded and balanced even during extreme pain and hardship.

According to Cheryl Richardson , this sense of balance helps us develop patience which makes us stronger when dealing with physical pain, emotional pain, anger, or illness.   

It’s easy for many of us to give up on our dreams, especially if we grew up believing that life should be fair all the time.  

As a result of these misunderstandings about life, many of us feel disappointed when things don’t go our way.

In the end, it is important to accept that not everything in life will be fair and that sometimes bad things happen for a reason.  

As you experience pain and suffering in your life, remember that all of this is temporary, and in time, you will evolve into a better version of yourself.

Now that you know what to expect, I want you to remember this: 

Yes, the dark night of the soul sucks, but it happens for a reason!  

Don’t numb yourself by abusing substances because it will only delay your process until you finally feel ready to go through the stages .  

The sooner you wake up and understand why you are going through such pain, darkness, and despair, the faster you will be able to heal and learn from your painful experiences.

In essence, embrace everything as a necessary step towards your spiritual growth!

Susan Brunton

Susan Brunton

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4 Coping Skills for Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul

Published: Sep 5, 2020 · Updated: Nov 12, 2022 by Jessica Dimas · 14 Comments · Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Experiencing a dark night of the soul is a life-altering occurrence that many of us will go through at some point in our lives. While the occurrence may not be visible to others on the outside, beneath the surface there is a transformation of self taking place.

In this article, I'm going to discuss the meaning of the dark night of the soul, what is ultimately gained from the experience, and four coping skills to help navigate your way through it.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Table of Contents

Dark night of the soul meaning

A dark night of the soul is typically described as an intense period of suffering or grief which alters a person's very identity. The experience can feel as if there is no end in sight as it strips away everything we thought we knew or believed. 

Writer Joshua Press describes it beautifully, stating, " The dark night of the soul is a stage in personal development when a person undergoes a difficult and significant transition to a deeper perception of life and their place in it."

Wisdom usually comes to us through "hands on" experience. No book or guru can teach us like the experience of living through something can. We become intimate with fear, despair, or hopelessness, and from that place a re-birth of self occurs.

What triggers a dark night of the soul

Typically, a dark night is triggered by a significant event in one's life, such as the death of a loved one, a health diagnosis, or a divorce or breakup. My own dark night was spurred by a health scare. 

Dark nights can also being triggered by something seemingly insignificant that causes a person's perception of life to collapse. For example, a person finally achieves something they thought would change their life, such as a relationship or certain income level, only to find that it didn't. This then sparks a challenging period of questioning their beliefs and very purpose in life.

Much of the world experienced a collective dark night of the soul together with the Covid pandemic. Our normal way of life suddenly came to a halt and the collective fear was palpable. Even though that was a very challenging experience, so many people have expressed how it changed their lives for the better. 

What is gained from a dark night of the soul

While a dark night of the soul can feel terrifying or hopeless, there is always a purpose for it. Despite the countless days and nights I felt disconnected and lost, I wouldn't take it back. It has brought so much depth and understanding to my awareness and state of consciousness.

There isn't anything that you go through in life that doesn't serve you in some way. There are no wrong decisions, "bad" thoughts, or mistakes. As one of my favorite teachers Abraham Hicks always says, "You can't get it wrong because you never get it done."

Your soul is on this infinite path of unfolding, realization, and learning. What you deem a mistake is gold for your soul. Think of anything that was hard in your life and then think of what you walked away knowing or understanding because of it.

We incarnate here to have these experiences. Our souls often even set them up beforehand. The big stuff in your life is usually always planned by you on a soul level before you get here for the expanded awareness it will bring you.

The dark night of the soul is an intense period of growth that absolutely expands and transforms you.

Dark night of the soul symptoms

Everyone experiences a dark night differently, but the following are some common symptoms when going through a dark night of the soul:

  • you suddenly feel disoriented within your life, with no sense of stability or direction
  • you experience immense feelings of fear/anxiety/hopelessness/disconnection
  • everything you believed before seems questionable, at times even laughable 
  • you lose trust and faith in reality/God/the Universe

The general feeling of a dark night is one of, well, darkness. You are turned away from the light of truth and facing the dark illusions that the ego believes it is perceiving.  

Making your way out of this place is what will teach you, expand you, and bring you to a deeper understanding of life that you didn't have before.

Is it depression or dark night of the soul?

Only you can know that answer for yourself, but in my experience, depression does not usually have the sudden jolt that a dark night of the soul brings. I believe many people who are diagnosed as depressed could instead actually be going through a dark night, especially if it began with a life-altering experience rather than a gradual feeling of malaise. 

Whether it is depression or a dark night, the coping skills would still be very similar. A spiritual practice of acceptance and presence are extremely useful for either situation.

Navigating the dark night of the soul

Much like the energy of the dark moon or winter, the dark night of the soul is not the time to force or push things. You can't run through it in order to get out quicker, or thrash and kick your way out–you will need to learn to float.

This is a time of deep inner transformation and a kind of death in the egoic sense. You are going through an awakening process, and while that looks different for every person, there are some timeless coping skills that will serve as life rafts when you feel lost, afraid, or overwhelmed.

1. Surrender

A dark night of the soul is unsettling and can cause much unrest within you. You may feel as if there's something you need to fix to make it all go away, but it remains elusive and ever out of reach.

Surrendering to what-is is one of the best ways to float through a dark night. You continually accept whatever it is that is causing you unrest. Try saying to yourself:

  • I surrender to not understanding
  • I surrender to not knowing
  • I surrender to allowing the answers to come to me in their own time
  • I surrender to not seeing the path right now
  • I surrender to just being

You can't thrash and stay afloat. You can't run in darkness. The solution lies in being still, accepting what-is, and being okay with things not being figured out right now.

There is nowhere you should be. There is nothing you should be doing. You just have to trust that where you are in this moment has to be okay.

This was actually the gift I received from my dark night–how to find joy and peace in the midst of pain or fear. Not waiting for things to feel better or make sense, but to just be vulnerable and present for my life.

2. Practice presence

A dark night can bring about regret from past decisions and fear of what the future holds. This is exactly what a dark night is here to guide you towards: the present moment.

It's like climbing something very high–there is temptation to look down, but if you do you might lose your footing. During a dark night, it's very tempting to look back into the past or forwards into the future, but neither hold the key that will open the door of light.

You will learn to bring yourself into the present moment because it's the only place that holds any peace. 

When you are fully present and aware of just being, there is a deep sense of Divine knowing within you, even if you can't really put your finger on it. It's as if you're a tree and the wind is blowing through you–you are aware of the beauty and life in the present moment.

Go outside and just sit. Feel the breeze on your face. Listen to the birds. Watch the shadows move as the sun makes its way across the sky. Whatever has happened or will happen is okay, because you flow, surrender, and accept it.

All is well in the present moment. I highly recommend reading Eckhart Tolle's book to really understand how to come into the present moment.

3. Ask this question

I was listening to another one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Dr. Michael Beckwith , and he was talking about the importance of quality, growth-consciousness questions to ask yourself when going through difficult periods.

This one really stuck out to me:

  • What within me needs to be birthed, in order for me to have peace of mind, if this situation were to last forever? 

That question elicits that which your soul is wanting to evolve towards. Rather than try to just survive a dark night, or push it away in the hopes that one day it will be gone, asking yourself this question will help to practice and develop a conceptual framework that will serve you for the rest of your life.

For me, the answer to this question is surrender. I have spent so much of my life trying to not let any of the pieces fall and running from things that terrified me, so to surrender to what-is has been life-changing for me. I practice it on a daily basis now.

4. Follow the crumb trail

Your emotions serve a very important purpose, and that is to let you know where you are in relation to where your higher self is. In this way, you can follow a beautiful crumb trail set up by your soul that will always lead you to where you most want to be if you choose to follow it.

This not only helps you to stay in the present moment, but takes you down the most efficient and beneficial paths for you personally.

What you do is ask yourself as often as you can throughout the day: what would feel good to do right now?

What could bring you relief in this moment? Pleasure? Excitement? Ease?

This is one of my absolute favorite techniques to utilize as often as I can remember to do so. When you do this, you will literally move closer to who you really are. Things will begin to flow, and you will be more relaxed and present.

It's essentially like playing Marco Polo with your soul. Call out "Marco" as often as you can remember every day, and listen to where you hear "Polo".

Maybe it's calling you to take a long bath, to go for a walk, to call a loved one, to go to bed early, or to make a good dinner for yourself.

When you practice listening, you'll find that you are led towards everything your soul is wanting you to explore, to that which you are ready to perceive and understand.

What I learned from my dark night

A dark night brings you closer to where you need to be, wherever that might be. It will look different for every person.

One thing I had always pushed away was death. I was also unaware of how future-focused I always was. I had really delved into the excitement of becoming aware of my thoughts and beliefs, and how those manifested into reality , and it was definitely fun. But I was never present. I hadn't learned the art of surrender and just being.

My dark night forced me to acknowledge death in all of its many forms, and to shed former beliefs I held around death and control. It invited me to step into the present moment, and to see that there actually is no death, only transitions.

I learned to surrender to the unknown. To let go of attachments I have to others, places, and things, and to feel the immense beauty and love in the presence of just being.

The terrifying darkness illuminated so brightly the light, so that the darkness didn't feel terrifying anymore. I felt safe in both, and became aware that when I'm present and accepting, everything just flows to me...I don't even need to try.

I really can't put into words how it changed me, because it was so profound on a deeper level of my consciousness. I'm walking away with a different understanding and perspective. I feel more me, more whole, and more free.

A dark night holds so much value and purpose when we can pull ourselves back, be still, and reframe our perceptions. It's normal to thrash, to lose hope, and to be afraid. Transformation couldn't come without it.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article and found something to take away with you. 

To receive my weekly, self-care focused email that inspires you to go deeper inside the magic that is you, sign up for the  Self-Care Sunday emails.

Jessica Dimas is the creator of Manifesting Magic with the Moon , a self-care journal for connecting with yourself through the energetic phases of the moon.

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About Jessica Dimas

Jessica is the founder of the site Dwell in Magic , where she shares how to practically apply everyday self-care for a more magical, joy-filled life. Her writing has been featured on Today, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, Redbook Magazine, Motherly, and many more. She is passionate about metaphysical studies, transformation and personal growth.

Reader Interactions

October 21, 2020 at 12:37 am

Great article! Overwhelming pearls of wisdom.

October 28, 2020 at 10:36 am

A year and a half ago, this site was the very first where I heard of attraction law...And I must admit, despite this, I experiment dark night too. I couldn't find anywhere on LOA sites how to end it, because nobody had ever written about the two reasons behind it. You know one: the pandemic and its flock of never ending deprivations of personal freedoms. The other is personal: I don't have a home for three months. Despite all my efforts, the two situations worsen. I really need, right now, to talk about these in particular, I think.

January 27, 2021 at 1:41 pm

Thank you for this article. I’ve been in my dark night for a few years and have felt so lost. I finally had a moment of awakening the other day and have been obsessively searching for the answers about this new spiritual path I’m finding myself on. This gave me so much insite and peace ❤️

Jessica Dimas

January 28, 2021 at 3:08 pm

Very happy to hear that, thank you for letting me know <3

February 19, 2022 at 11:55 am

Thank you, I really needed this guidance. I am in that dark place right now, and I keep getting self care messages, this elaborated what that self care looks like and I'm a very intuitive person with my spirituality, now I can embrace this dark place and ask myself the right questions to evolve. Thank u. Much needed

March 01, 2022 at 5:24 pm

I'm happy your guidance brought you to this article at the right time. I love your mindset of embracing this dark space and asking the right questions to evolve. That's a powerful place to be. Sending you love <3

March 04, 2022 at 3:03 am

Hi Jessica,

I am going through a Twin Flame journey and I think I've reached the "Dark night of the soul" stage. It came out of the blue a few days ago. And the whole thing started with me remembering a past life memory during meditation. And I went through a blindness trauma in my past life. And now I am terrified that it will happen to me in this life too. At the same time I am experiencing a lot of anxiety and at moments I feel like I am literally dying. I read that your Dark night also was initiated by a health scare. I am hoping you can shed some light on my situation since you been through your own journey.

July 09, 2022 at 2:05 pm

Hi Sara, this is a super late response and I apologize for that. Yes, for about 2 years I feared I was dying due to a specific pain I had in my body. It was like nothing could penetrate my mind, it was convinced I was dying. One thing that really helped me was listening to a playlist I created of videos on Youtube by Abraham Hicks, talking about healing with your mind. That helped IMMENSELY. And in the end, I really learned the art of surrender and being okay with whatever happens. I wrote a few articles on how to surrender and let go of fear. This was one of them:

March 25, 2022 at 10:21 pm

Thank you. I needed these words. Going through an extreme dark night. Have lost friends, family, support, finances, etc (was a Dr. Of Acupuncture/Intuitive… thought I had already done the dark night thing that brought me to in alignment with those gifts). Surrender completely 2 months ago, and a hell like situation shifted over night. Feels like time for another big surrender as more situations are building again.

July 09, 2022 at 1:42 pm

Hey Laura, I really hope things are going better, although I know dark nights can last awhile. I'm glad you already know how powerful surrender is. I know my last dark night truly seemed to only be teaching me surrender. I hadn't really understood before. The dark night is a great teacher, there's no doubt about that.

November 13, 2022 at 8:59 am

Aloha Jessica,

I just lost my husband and am left with two children to raise, I am going through my dark night and this article is what I really needed to hear/read this morning. I/we were always making our plans and that is my big regret we were so many times focused on the future that we did not always fully enjoy the present…Many thanks for your writings this morning!

December 04, 2022 at 11:39 am

Dear Tami, I apologize for somehow missing this comment. Thank you for sharing those true words of wisdom. My deepest condolences for the loss of your husband, from one mother to another. I found a lot of solace during my dark night from Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now, as well as Byron Katie's work, which can be found on Youtube. Presence is truly the most healing and comforting place we can ever be.

May 19, 2023 at 7:21 pm

Thank you so much Jessica for this article. I have read other articles on The Dark Night and not gotten really much out of them. Although a few I feel are from my go-to trusted sources, they just weren't confirming that I am experiencing a dark night. Your article set me to tears because it was like I had come home to welcoming arms. Thank you. You stated that every journey for a person on a Dark Night of the Soul is different. That was very affirming. and there's little nuggets all the way through. This article is clear and offers good, solid counsel. I truly appreciate what you have done here to help us. Love and light to you.

September 09, 2023 at 11:51 am

I'm so, so, so glad this article helped you in any small way. Dark nights can be so very confusing and isolating. Sending you love!

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Soul Integration Coach

Dark Night of the Soul: Understanding the Spiritual Crisis and Its Significance

Dark Night of the Soul Spiritual

The Dark Night of the Soul is a transformative experience that can lead to profound spiritual growth. It is a time of deep introspection, where the individual is forced to confront their own limitations and weaknesses. It is a time of shedding old beliefs and attachments and embracing a new way of being in the world. While the experience can be painful and challenging, it is ultimately a journey toward greater self-awareness and enlightenment.

Origins and Meaning

The phrase “dark night of the soul” has its origins in the writings of the Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross in the 16th century. He used the phrase to describe a spiritual crisis that he himself had experienced, a time of intense suffering and doubt that he believed was necessary for spiritual growth.

In modern times, the phrase has taken on a broader meaning, referring to a period of intense emotional or spiritual turmoil, often characterized by feelings of loneliness, despair, and a sense of disconnection from the divine. This experience is often seen as a necessary step on the path to spiritual awakening or enlightenment.

The dark night of the soul is not a one-time event, but rather a process that can occur multiple times throughout a person’s life. It is often triggered by a major life transition, such as the loss of a loved one, a traumatic experience, or a spiritual crisis.

Symptoms and Characteristics

The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of intense spiritual and emotional turmoil that can last for months or even years. It is a time of deep questioning, confusion, and uncertainty, and it can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Here are some common symptoms and characteristics that people may experience during this time:

  • Feelings of sadness, despair, and hopelessness
  • Intense fear and anxiety
  • Feelings of unworthiness or self-doubt
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, body aches, and nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and other stimuli
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Intense mood swings and emotional instability
  • Feelings of detachment or disconnection from the world around you

It’s important to note that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and some people may experience additional symptoms that are not listed here. Additionally, the severity and duration of these symptoms can vary widely from person to person.

One of the most challenging aspects of the Dark Night of the Soul is that it can be difficult to know when it will end. Some people may experience a sudden breakthrough or epiphany that marks the end of this period, while others may simply gradually emerge from it over time.

It’s also worth noting that while the Dark Night of the Soul can be incredibly difficult, it can also be a time of profound growth and transformation. Many people emerge from this period with a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them, and a renewed sense of purpose and direction in life.

Famous Examples

The concept of the Dark Night of the Soul has been explored in various forms of art and literature. Here are a few famous examples:

  • Lord of the Rings: Frodo and Sam have finally reached Mount Doom, and Frodo must decide to part with the precious Ring. This moment marks Frodo’s descent into the Dark Night of the Soul as he wrestles with the weight of his burden and the realization that his journey may not have a happy ending.
  • The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield’s journey through the Dark Night of the Soul is a central theme of the novel. Struggling with feelings of alienation and disillusionment, Holden grapples with the harsh realities of the world around him and questions his place in it.
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne’s time in prison is a metaphorical Dark Night of the Soul. As he endures years of abuse and injustice, he must confront the darkest parts of himself and find a way to hold onto hope in the face of overwhelming despair.

These examples all demonstrate the power of the Dark Night of the Soul as a storytelling device. By putting characters through intense emotional struggles, authors and filmmakers can create deeply moving and thought-provoking narratives that resonate with audiences long after the story has ended.

Spiritual and Psychological Perspectives

Dark night of the soul can be viewed from both spiritual and psychological perspectives. From a spiritual perspective, it is a transformative process that leads to a deeper connection with the divine. It is a time of purification and preparation for a new phase of spiritual growth. This process is often accompanied by feelings of emptiness, despair, and a sense of being lost.

On the other hand, from a psychological perspective, dark night of the soul can be seen as a period of intense inner turmoil and crisis. It is a time when one’s beliefs, values, and sense of identity are challenged. It can be a time of depression, anxiety, and existential angst. However, it is also a time of great potential for personal growth and transformation.

Both perspectives recognize that dark night of the soul is a difficult and painful process. However, it is also a time of great potential for growth and transformation. It is a time when we are forced to confront our deepest fears, doubts, and insecurities. It is a time of self-reflection and self-discovery.

Ultimately, whether viewed from a spiritual or psychological perspective, dark night of the soul is a time of transition. It is a time of letting go of the old and embracing the new. It is a time of surrendering to the unknown and trusting in the process. It is a time of transformation and rebirth.

Coping Strategies

Experiencing a dark night of the soul can be a challenging and overwhelming time. Here are some coping strategies that may help you navigate this difficult period:

  • Surrender: Surrendering to the process and accepting that you are going through a difficult time can be a powerful coping mechanism. Instead of fighting against your emotions, try to observe them without judgement and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.
  • Practice Presence: Focusing on the present moment can help you stay grounded and reduce anxiety. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can be helpful tools for staying present.
  • Ask Questions: Asking yourself questions such as “What can I learn from this experience?” or “What do I need to let go of?” can help you gain insight and clarity during this time.
  • Seek Support: Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional can provide much-needed support and validation during a dark night of the soul. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
  • Engage in Self-Care: Taking care of yourself during this time is crucial. This can include getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  • Follow the Crumb Trail: Following your intuition and taking small steps towards what feels right can help you move through the dark night of the soul. Trust that you will find your way through this difficult time.

Remember, everyone’s experience with the dark night of the soul is unique, and there is no one “right” way to cope. Be gentle with yourself and trust that you will find your way through this challenging time.

The Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritual journey that many people experience. It is a time of spiritual darkness, confusion, and despair. It is a time when one feels abandoned by God and feels a deep sense of loneliness. However, this journey is not one to be feared. It is a journey that can lead to a deeper relationship with God and a greater understanding of oneself.

St. John of the Cross’s book, The Dark Night of the Soul, provides a roadmap for this journey. It is a guidebook for those who are experiencing this spiritual darkness and can help them navigate through it. The book emphasizes the importance of surrendering oneself to God and trusting in His plan. It also emphasizes the importance of detachment from worldly possessions and desires.

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Growing through a Dark Night of the Soul

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

  • By Bill Gaultiere

The Dark Night of the Soul is one of the most important subjects that I teach to pastors, seminary students, and others. Very few Christians understand it or how to deal with the experience when they have it. Have you gone through a period of spiritual dryness or darkness when God seemed far away, no matter what you did to connect with him? Probably you have. If not, at some point you’re likely to experience this. I have been through two, long, depressing Dark Night trials.

The Dark Night is not something to fear. Yes, it feels empty and lonely. But it doesn’t have to cause you shame. And it doesn’t have to lead to burn out. In fact, it can be a prelude to a great spiritual breakthrough in your life — if you understand what’s going on and learn how to follow Christ in the darkness.

Are you ready to learn? Are you willing to put some time in to study? Will you prepare your heart now so that when you go through a Dark Night of the Soul you are ready to respond with trust in Jesus? Imagine you’re a student in one of my classes. “Growing through a Dark Night of the Soul” is one of the lessons I teach…

Three Ancient Stages of Spiritual Growth

Saint John of the Cross (1542 – 1591) is one of the ancient writers that offers us a developmental understanding of our life with Christ.  This 16 th  Century monk has so much to teach us today about the spiritual life: who we are before God and how we grow in holiness and wholeness.  As we said earlier, the goal of the Christian life is love – growing in the love of Christ for us (abiding in him) and through us (bearing fruit).

We want our spiritual life to be an upward journey of growing closer and closer to God and becoming more and more like Christ.  And we want to  feel  this continual improvement and  see  it in our life circumstances.  But in reality our growth does not progress in a straight upward line.  Nor does our experience of intimacy with Christ.  Our journey goes up and down, forward and backward.  The realistic goal is that  over time  we would make progress in developing a more Christ-like character.

Just like a child grows into young adulthood and then into parenthood or eldership so also disciples of Jesus mature in their faith through stages.  Here’s my distillation of what I’ve learned from Saint John of the Cross (and also from John Coe, Director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation at Talbot seminary) on spiritual development and the Dark Night of the Soul.

Consider the Apostle John’s identification of three stages in our spiritual journey:

12 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 13 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:12-14).

Let’s explore further these stages of maturing in God’s love.   Keep in mind that we don’t progress in a linear fashion.  The stages overlap, so much so that we may have aspects of all three in our lives.  Nonetheless, we can see a general progression of maturity in disciples to Jesus who are devoted to him and intentionally engaged in their spiritual formation with him.  And, we must admit with sadness, that many and perhaps most “Christians” don’t get much beyond the first stage in their spiritual development!

Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that the first stage is bad.  We all begin our journey with Christ in this spiritual childhood.  And we all have aspects of this in us all our lives long.  God understands this and is compassionate and patient!  But as we look across the landscape of Christianity today we ask, where are the apprentices to Jesus who are learning more and more to live lives that are fully submitted to Christ and the purposes of his kingdom?  Where are the disciples who persist in their devotion to Jesus even when he seems distant and doesn’t seem to be blessing them?   And, of course, you and I need to turn our attention to looking in the mirror… Is a submitted and devoted disciple of Jesus there?

1. New Disciples Love God for the Pleasure He Gives (“Purgation”)

“I’m forgiven of my sins!”   The Apostle John says that our spiritual journey begins by putting our faith in Christ and receiving the gift of forgiveness for our sins.  Indeed, when we first trust in Christ or return to him after a period of selfish or sinful living we’re blessed immensely by God’s mercy to us that removes our guilt.  St. John of the Cross called this first stage in our spiritual development “Purgation” because when we trust Christ as Savior he begins to purge us of our sins and cleanse us of worldliness (1 John 1:9; 2:15-17).  Turning away from sin opens up space in our heart and our life for God in his grace to move in!

“I know God as Father!”   The other blessing we enjoy in our early journey with Christ is discovering that the Almighty God and Creator is our Father and we are his children!  What a blessing it is to come to know the father-love of God.  Jesus said that if we want to be born again and enter his kingdom of the heavens that we must become as children – humble, honest, eager, teachable, trusting, playful.  We all begin our journey as children.  And in a sense we always want to remain child-like before God, appreciating the gifts of forgiveness and the Father’s love.

2. Young Disciples Love God for the Relationship with Him (“Illumination”)

“I am learning to love God in hard times.”   The Apostle characterizes the middle stage in our spiritual journey as one of persevering through challenges.  The early blessings of faith may seem to give way to the trials of life.  We appreciate that the Christian life is about more than being forgiven and loved by God – we’re to learn and grow as disciples of Jesus in the midst of the stresses and opportunities of daily life.  We get to develop an interactive relationship with Christ, growing in closeness with him and drawing strength for life from him.

“I am learning to overcome evil by relying on God’s Word.”   Our learning and growth comes out of our interactions with God’s Word, which was embodied and proclaimed by Christ.  We discover that the Bible is a treasure store of wisdom and knowledge about the good and godly life and so we read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize portions, and learn how to pray and apply it in our lives.  St. John of the Cross labels this stage “Illumination” because God’s Word enlightens our way and the new life of Christ is getting brighter and brighter in us.

3. Spiritual Fathers and Mothers Love God for God (“Union”)

“I am submitting to God’s will in all that I do.”   The ancient Christian writers, like St. John of the Cross, taught that the spiritually mature grow towards “Union” with Christ.  The key to this deeper intimacy and identification with Christ is submission to the Sovereign Lord’s will in all things.  In our activities, trials, relationships, work, projects, errands, ministry, and all that we do we learn to seek first the kingdom of God, praying, “Lord, your will, your way, and your time.”

“I have seen the Sovereign Lord work over the course of my life.”   The Apostle John said that the key to growing into spiritual parenthood is to trust God as sovereign over our lives in loving ways.  At this stage we’re able to look back over all the ups and downs of our life and see that God was in charge and he was loving and guiding and shaping us in good ways.  Our worship of God deepens and we realize more fully what an honor it is that our praise to God and our service in his name blesses the Lord.  And we also appreciate that it is only out of God’s grace and wisdom working its way into our lives that we can minister to others, partnering with Christ in his kingdom work.

The Apostle John’s Spiritual Growth

The Apostle John didn’t just teach these three stages of spiritual development:  he lived them!   When he came to Christ with his brother James they were called “Sons of Thunder.”  Sure enough, these fiery, ambitious fishermen who entered Jesus’ school of discipleship had the gall to ask Jesus to let them sit at his right and left hand in his kingdom glory!  They wanted more of God’s blessings! (Mark 10:35-45).  They hadn’t learned yet to live by Jesus’ Greatest Commandment, that the real joy of living was to give themselves away in love to God and others (Mark 12:28-31).

But immediately after John and James made their audacious request Jesus showed them that they were like blind men!  The real opportunity of their lives was to see Christ and follow him down the road. (Mark 10:46-52).  And so John learned that life was about more than seeking to be blessed by the Lord.  It was about a relationship with Jesus, a student learning from his rabbi, a servant working for his Master.  And so John by the end of his three years of training with Jesus (the time period covered by the Gospels) started identifying himself as “the disciple Jesus loves” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) and at the Last Supper he leaned his head against Jesus’ chest (John 21:20).  John grew into a joyful intimacy with Jesus and this was what empowered him to overcome sin and evil and to become more like Christ.

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

Consolation and Desolation

How do we progress in our spiritual development?  The defining point according to Saint John of the Cross and the church fathers is how we respond to hardships and difficulties.

In our family of five at the dinner table we always share our “peak” and our “pit” of the day.  We’ve done this since our kids were just starting elementary school.  This may seem like a simple conversation starter, but it really goes much deeper than that.  It’s a way for each member of the family to get a turn to be listened to with compassion as he or she verbalizes the best and the hardest parts of his or her day.  It’s an implicit acceptance that life is full of ups and downs, good times and bad times.  And it’s a lesson that a good life is made in the midst of not just the times of blessing, but also the times of struggle: God is in both the peaks and the pits of our days and our opportunity is to live these times with him and one another.

The ancient writers in Scripture and church history talk about two basic and recurring movements of God in the spiritual life: spiritual peaks called “consolation” and spiritual pits called “desolation.”  Both are essential learning opportunities in our apprenticeship to Jesus.

Consolation  refers to times in which God helps us to feel his presence – we sense that we’re blessed and encouraged by him.  When our practices of worship, prayer, solitude, meditation, fellowship, service and the like facilitate an enjoyment of God’s goodness then we have received consolation.

Desolation  refers to a certain kind of trial in which God feels absent.  We seek God through church services and spiritual practices but we don’t experience his blessings.  We pray and it seems that God doesn’t answer.  Our spiritual life becomes dry as dust.  We’re bored listening to sermons.  We’re not motivated to read the Bible or pray.

Desolation is different from depression.  Depression is a psychological disorder that is pervasive across the life context and personality of the person.  And things like chemical imbalances, unresolved grief, anger problems, and negative thinking may cause it.  On the other hand, desolation is focused on our relationship with God and our spiritual life, though it is affecting our emotions, personality, and relationships.  And desolation’s cause is spiritual also.  It may be that God has intentionally withdrawn his felt presence in order to strengthen our character and teach us to rely the reality of his person and presence and not only on our feeling sense of his blessings.

Desolation is not the same as being disciplined by God for being spiritually lukewarm or backslidden.  We might think of God’s loving corrections as being one type of desolation.  But sometimes those who are committed to the Lord, spending time with him and serving him actively find themselves feeling dry and empty in their spiritual life.

Desolation is the Psalmist crying out again and again, “O Lord, why is your face hidden from me?” (Psalm 13:1, 22:24, 27:29, 44:24, 69:17, 88:14, 102:2, 104:29, 143:7).  In the 16 th  Century St. John of the Cross described these kinds of intense or prolonged desolation experiences as “Dark Nights of the Soul.”

Purposes of Desolation

It’s our human nature to want more consolation from God and to avoid desolation – or at least get out of it quickly!  Consolation is a time to be strengthened in our trust in God’s goodness and in our practicing of spiritual disciplines that help us to grow, whereas desolation tends to discourage us.  We’d rather, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) than wrestle with God in a Dark Night.

Why would God want us to experience desolation?  Why wouldn’t he just keep giving us more consolation as we seek him?

1. Increase Self-Awareness

Desolation (like all trials generally) is a time of testing that surfaces immature or sinful parts of us that need to be brought into God’s light and love. At these times God invites us to look into our soul like a mirror to see what comes up out of the depths.  The Lord is searching our hearts.  David teaches us to join the Lord in this discovery process by praying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

When we pray in times of desolation the Spirit helps us to ask fruitful questions to open our hearts deeper in our relationship with.  We may ask…

  • Why am I not enjoying prayer recently?
  • Why am I daydreaming during the church service?
  • Why am I distracted and bored with seeking God and waiting upon him?

In times of desolation the Lord doesn’t just ask us questions like these in a detached and clinical way.  And he certainly doesn’t ask them in a condemning or even frustrated way – though that may be our own tone toward ourselves.

The Spirit’s work in us is designed to open our hearts deeper in our relationship with God as Abba (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) and Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3), to help us know that, even though in desolation when we don’t feel God’s love as much as we want to, still God is present with us, caring for us and teaching us.  The Holy Spirit is deep inside us helping us with our weaknesses, praying for us, and forming the prayers of our hearts to help us learn about ourselves and our relationship with God and to grow (Romans 8:26).

For instance, in a time of desolation God may show us that our spiritual life has gotten into a rut and he wants to lead us into a new rhythm of life with him.  Sometimes the disciplines we use become stale or we may be using them in a pressured or harsh way and in that case God wants to show us this and then, ultimately, to renew us and lead us in his gentle way of grace, fitted to our personal need and season of life.

2. Share Honestly

Becoming more aware of our emotional struggles presents the need and opportunity to seek support from one another – if we don’t slip into guilt or shame.  The danger in times of desolation is that we may feel bad about our struggle and try to hide it or to fix it so it goes away.

Instead, if we share our feelings of being distant from God, frustrated with unanswered prayer, or lack of motivation in practicing spiritual disciplines then we discover how desolation can be God’s gift to us. By taking courage to share with one another vulnerably, we open ourselves to the compassion and grace of God that we need.  And we let others who are also in desolation know that they are not alone.

This is an important part of how we grow in discipleship to Jesus and are formed into his image.  And it’s why in our conversations with one another we need safe and focused times to share with one another about our consolations and our desolations.  This is the heart of what it means for us to be an authentic community.  There is no spiritual growth without honestly wrestling through the stresses and hurts in our lives.

And it’s just as important for us to share with one another our consolations: the new things God is teaching us, what disciplines are helping us to grow and how, or about our special times of closeness with the Lord.  To verbalize our spiritual learnings and experiences with others helps to reinforce them.  And when others hear these consolations shared in a spirit of humility it can encourage them with an example of spiritual growth that is possible.

3. Grow Out of Causal Thinking

Desolation shows us if we’re bringing causal thinking into our relationship God.  If this is the case then we’ll get frustrated that our participation in church services or our practices with the spiritual disciplines aren’t producing for us the consolation that we want.  We may interpret our experiences of desolation as being due to some sin in our lives or are lack of sincere and faithful devotion to Christ.  The assumption here is that we experience God’s consolation  because  we’ve sought him in spiritual practices.  But Scripture and research both debunk the simplistic and prideful rationale that if I do A then God will do B.

We must learn that our feelings of God’s presence do not necessarily correlate with the reality of God’s presence or our spiritual maturity.   Early in our Christian life and in times of spiritual renewal we tend to experience a growing sense of consolation from God to reinforce our commitment to Christ and our spiritual growth.  And often it is the more mature disciples of Christ that are likely to experience times of desolation that test their faith, bringing their sins and weakness to the surface and helping them to go deeper in their trust in the Lord.

4. Wean Ourselves Off of Dependency on Feelings

The ability to feel emotions is one of God’s gifts to us.  It is very important to be aware of our feelings.  And what a blessing it is when the Lord gives us the consolation of a felt sense of his presence or a felt sense of his guidance for our life.   But if we are overly reliant on having good feelings it is a problem.  Indeed, in our culture we will do almost anything to feel better!  We may even take this attitude into our worship so that more than worshiping God we worship the positive feelings he gives us or that we generate ourselves in our excited celebration.

Times of desolation from God hold up a mirror to us and show us if our love for God is rather dependent on feeling his blessings, in which case we need to learn to trust and love God simply for who he is.  This means being weaned off of depending on having the feeling of God’s presence in order to love and serve him.  It is desolation that teaches us to look for God beyond our feelings and to develop a way of knowing God that is deeper than feelings alone.

Thomas Merton put it well when he said:

God, who is everywhere, never leaves us.  Yet He seems sometimes to be present, sometimes absent.  If we do not know Him well, we do not realize that He may be more present to us when he is absent than when He is present”  (No Man is an Island).

5. Learn to Endure

Ultimately, in times of desolation we hope to learn what David demonstrated in Psalm 13 during a time of desolation:

How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

David suffered so much injustice at the hands of Saul and had to live out in the desert for years, foraging for food, sleeping on rocks, being hunted like a criminal year after year.  And yet he had faithfully served Saul, risking his life as a soldier in his army, playing the harp for the king when he was depressed, and submitting to the king’s authority.  He learned how to rejoice in God in the midst of his unfair and painful trials.  He appreciated that the privilege of being a part of God’s kingdom in his midst was of greater importance to him than having his life circumstances improve.

The Bible is full of encouragement for us to help us deal with times of desolation.  We have the models of our heroes who endured times of desolation and trusted and loved God in the midst of the darkness, not only David, but many others including Job, Jacob, Joseph, Naomi, Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus in his passion.

The Psalms are the prayer manual we need and they are full of Laments, like Psalm 13, that put words to our sadness and struggles.  (Based on the songs we sing and the lines from the Psalms that recent generations of Christ-followers have been reciting in church you’d never know it, but actually there are more Psalms of Lament than there are Psalms of Praise and Thanksgiving or any of the other types of prayer in the Psalms.)  The laments are very important for teaching us how to pray in times of desolation, how to become the kind of people who honor and love the Lord even when we’re not feeling his presence or his blessings.  We need the laments brought back into our corporate worship!

Accept the Rhythm

Over the course of our journey with God we will flow back and forth between consolation and desolation.  These movements of God are like the waves of the sea.  They rise up and come in.  They come down crashing to the shore.  Then they flow back out to sea and cycle again.

Or they are like breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide.  In and out…  Receive and release…  Be strengthened to face difficulties and be emptied to make space to receive new blessings…

We need to accept this rhythm – not just that it’s a reality that is bound to occur, but that it is ordained by God and it is good for us.  It is God’s training for us to learn how to follow Jesus in the good times and in the bad times.

In the good times we need to hear the Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are you in your time of health (or prosperity or fortunate circumstances) because yours is the kingdom of heaven.”  The real blessing in times of consolation is not in our pleasant circumstances, but in our favored standing in God’s kingdom.  And when we don’t appreciate our spiritual blessings, then in reality what we think is a time of consolation is really a time of desolation!

Similarly, in the bad times we need to hear Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are you in your time of sickness (or financial loss or troubled circumstances) because yours is the kingdom of heaven.”  Even in the unhappiest of circumstances it is possible for us to learn to tap into the joy of the Lord because he is with us, he loves us, he is teaching us, and he is empowering us to work alongside him in his glorious kingdom forever!  As we learn to appreciate the kingdom of God in our midst we discover that our experience of desolation is really God’s consolation!

My Story: Following Christ in the “Dark Night of the Soul”

Saint John of the Cross taught us much about the kind of desolations in which God  purposefully  withdraws the felt sense of his presence from us in order to teach us (this is his loving discipline/training, not harsh, angry punishment).  He called this the “Dark Night of the Soul.”  It is by submitting to the sovereign work of God and trusting him through these Dark Nights that our love for God matures beyond seeking pleasure from him.

I’ll never forget my first experience with the Dark Night of the Soul.  It began the day I stepped out of the hot humidity of a Chicago summer and into the freezing chill of the grocery store meat market where I started work as a 21-year old collegiate trying to earn money for my upcoming senior year of school.  I was introduced to the Head Butcher, a very wide and squatty man covered in black hair and with two big dark eyes staring out from behind an acne-scarred face.  This meat cutter looked more like an ogre than a man and I was to be his apprentice!

That summer was  hell on earth  for me.  The Head Butcher and his meat cutters were foul-mouthed, perverted, and abusive.  They denigrated me every time I made a mistake.  They persecuted me for being a “nice Christian kid.”  They blasted hard rock music, told dirty jokes, gave me ridiculous jobs, gossiped about me behind my back, laughed at me to my face.  I got depressed and withdrawn and then they taunted me for that!  In short, they harassed me every chance they could because they resented that their store manager hired me to enable me to make money for continuing my studies at a Christian college and not to become a butcher.

I held back tears.  I tried to be strong.  I worked hard and did my best to do a good job.  And everyday at lunch I prayed, read Peter’s teaching on suffering for Christ in 1 Peter, and cried out to God to help me.  Where was my “God of grace” who would “restore” me after I had suffered “a little while”? (1 Peter 5:10, NIV).  I wasn’t feeling God’s grace and it didn’t seem to me like I was suffering “a little while.”   I certainly didn’t “greatly rejoice” in the midst of my trial (1 Peter 1:6).  I felt no sense of God’s presence and no help from him.  I lasted just over two months and then I quit.  I was exhausted, broken, and believed I was a failure.  I went home like a beaten dog, whimpering and licking my wounds.

At the beginning of the summer I had planned to take a three-day private retreat at a local monastery right before going back to college.  I needed to make decisions about my future.  What was God leading me to do with my psychology degree?  What would it mean for me to become a Psychologist and where would I go to graduate school?  What seemed like a good idea three months earlier looked frightening now!  Again and again in the Bible, not only Peter, but also Paul and James told me to “rejoice in my trials” (Romans 5:3, James 1:2) and here I was despairing in mine and certainly too depressed to wait on God by myself for three days!  I felt horrible about myself.  I failed at my job, was a lousy witness for Christ, and couldn’t sense God’s presence.  I wasn’t sure I even liked God any more!  But I was stubborn and I kept my commitment.

So there I was in this monastery.  Monks in hooded dark habits surrounded me with hands folded at their waist, shuffling by me as they chanted their songs.  They were enjoying God’s presence, why couldn’t I?  But I was in silence so I couldn’t ask them (I was too scared to talk to them anyway!).  For three days, I didn’t say anything except prayers to God, I didn’t eat anything except the Scriptures, and I didn’t go anywhere except my prison-cell-like room and the grounds around the monastery.  It seemed that all I did was cry out to God, “Why did you want me to be butchered?  Why didn’t you comfort me?  How long will you be silent?  Will I ever feel your love again?  Will you ever speak to me about my future?  You don’t care do you?!”

I felt nothing from God except darkness and I was sure that it was all my fault.  What a disaster my summer had been!  What a disappointment my retreat was!  I now know that I was being refined in fires of the Dark Night of the Soul.  Looking back from the vantage point of the life-changing vision and wonderful blessings from God I experienced after this Dark Night, I’m so happy that God led me into that time of suffering and that he hid his face from me for that season!  Now I can see that the Lord did a deep work in my soul, stripping me of my performance based self-esteem and my dependence on feeling God’s blessings in order to rejoice in Christ.  This was my first lesson in learning to worship God for who he is even when he’s not doing I want, to trust him even when everything in my life felt bad.

The Dark Night of the Senses

The Dark Night of the Senses is the first of two distinct types of Dark Nights of the Soul according to Saint John of the Cross.  This is what I experienced as a young man in the meat market.  The Dark Night of the Senses is a time when God seems distant – we don’t feel his love or blessings (e.g., Job and the Psalmist, “O Lord, why is your face hidden from me?”).  These times of not being able to sense or feel God’s love are a great test to our faith and our learning to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

If we accept this trial and learn from it then in our spiritual development we can transition from the first stage of loving God for his blessings to loving God for our relationship with him, from loving God for the pleasure he gives to loving him for the opportunity to be close to him.

The growth opportunity in a Dark Night of the Senses is to move from a “top-down” spirituality (passively receiving blessings from God) to a “bottom up” spirituality (participating with the Spirit’s deep work of truth and grace inside us).  God wants to develop an interactive relationship with us in which we are in continual conversation with him: he speaks and we listen, he leads and we follow.

And another challenge to our faith in this Dark Night is that the Lord wants to helps us grow out of the causal and conditional thinking that says, “If I do A then God will do B for me.”  (e.g., if I have enough faith then God will heal me, if I practice the right spiritual disciplines then God will bless me).

The Dark Night of the Spirit

The second type of Dark Night that God uses to mature our love is the Dark Night of the Spirit.  In this case the opportunity is for us to transition from loving God for our relationship with him (stage two) to loving God for God – to bless him and to advance his kingdom.  This is a very mature love.  Perhaps the most we can hope for is to sometimes and in some ways to live in this kind of generous love and full “union” with Christ’s sufferings and resurrection and his purposes.

In the Dark Night of the Spirit God asks us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to him so he can live through us.  We learn to submit more and more to God, to want only what God wants for our lives, loved ones, and ministry.  The Bible gives us the example of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac – his precious only son and his God-given dream for his life to be the father of many nations.  This, of course, foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice.  And Jesus gives us the ultimate example of this faith, not only on the Cross, but also in the Garden of Gethsemane when his sweat was as drops of blood and he prayed three times to his Abba, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

Years ago, Ray Ortlund, in his discipleship group, and then Richard Foster, in his book  Prayer,  introduced me to John Woolman, a Quaker tailor who lived in the 1700’s.  What I learned had a profound impact on me.  Woolman had a dramatic experience in which he heard a voice so melodious and harmonious that he believed it was an angel and the message was: “John Woolman is dead.”  Deeply puzzled over these words, he went into prayer to try to understand.  Then he felt the Spirit move his mouth to declare “I am crucified with Christ” and at that moment he realized that he was to die to his own will.  So he lived simply, quietly and faithfully serving his share of customers needing their clothes tailored and generously referring many to other tailors.  He learned the secret of letting God live through him.  This deeply satisfied his soul and it empowered him to do great things for God like advancing the cause to abolish slavery from America.

My heart resonated when I heard about John Woolman.  I thought back to an experience I had when I was 18 years old and preparing to go to college.  I had shared a special weekend with my two best friends that included some deep times of worship and during a period of private prayer I heard the words, “You will die for me…  You will die for me…  You will die for me.”

What did this mean?  Such awful words…  Or were they  awe- full words?  Indeed the voice was so soothing and so heavenly.  I felt warm all over my body.  I started crying tears of joy.  I knew God was good and he had something wonderful for me that I didn’t yet understand.

Later, I told my mother and she worried that I’d be a martyr, but I was so in love with Jesus and so full of his love, joy, and peace from my experience that the thought of dying literally for the Lord didn’t scare me…  Until my mother bought me  Foxes Book of Martyrs.   Those stories  were  frightening to me!  And the weird looks that I got from my friends and family when I tried to explain my experience bothered me.  I started to wish that I hadn’t ever heard those words.  Worse, years later when I spoke of my experience to the Christian Psychologist who was helping me at the time I left his office thinking, “Maybe I was ‘hearing voices.’  Maybe a screw did get loose.”

But then after learning of John Woolman’s experience and the wonderful effect it had on his life I didn’t feel crazy or even scared – I felt set apart to the Lord!  “Yes, I’m to die to myself for Jesus!”  I remember sitting in Ray’s discipleship group and praying that God would help me to be like John Woolman, to be glad to share my client referrals with other psychotherapists, to give my will entirely to Jesus like John Woolman so that I too could live simply and powerfully for him.

I now realize that as a young man I had an early vision into the way of the Dark Night of the Spirit.  Again and again in my life God has called me to fall to the ground and die like a kernel of wheat so that his life could live in me and be seeded from me to others.  He’s called me to take my desires and dreams to the altar of submission to God, following in the footsteps of Abraham who offered his son Isaac on God’s altar: As a young man who was single and wanted to be married to a certain kind of ideal woman…  As Ph.D. trained Christian Psychotherapist working full time as a security guard and wanting to be a successful Psychologist…  As a new Christian Psychology author and speaker dreaming of writing best-selling books and being a sought after keynote speaker…   You will die for me…  You will die for me…  You will die for me….   Each of these times (and other times as well) God’s answer to my plea was, “Wait on me Bill.  Die to your self.  Leave your dreams here on the altar.  Let my love be enough for you.  Realize that you’re significant because you belong to me, not because of what you accomplish.”

I’m still learning!  I go in and out of this state of surrender to God and his kingdom.  Like Abraham I’ve had to learn not to make my own Ishmael, but to wait for God’s Isaac and then when God gives me an Isaac to offer him back to the Lord.  God doesn’t give me what I think I want when I want it.  He gives me what he knows I need when the time is right.  And what I need is  him:  His LIFE flowing into me and out from me to others.

As I’ve learned to surrender my dreams and my self to God to live with and for Jesus an amazing thing has happened: he’s brought me more than I could’ve ever asked for or even imagined (Ephesians 3:20).  And he’s changed my dreams, making them far better and more wonderful: the wife he gave me in Kristi is far better than the one I asked for; providing Christian Soul Care for a few clients is much more rewarding than the successful psychological practice I wanted; and quietly writing and teaching on Christian spiritual formation to website visitors, students, discipleship group participants, and pastors fulfills my purpose way beyond writing and teaching as a famous Christian Psychology guru ever would have done.

Help for the Dark Night of the Soul

If you’re going through a Dark Night of the Soul we can help you. Our book, “ Journey of the Soul: A Practical Guide to Emotional & Spiritual Growth ” talks about the different stages of our faith journey and offers insight and help for experiences of being stuck, spiritually stagnant, and distant from God.

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Understanding the 'Dark Night of the Soul'

  • Written by  Manager

The feeling of spiritual emptiness, or being abandoned by God, is natural in the process of growing closer to Christ.

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

For some, the letters became a source of scandal.  But for those familiar with the stages of spiritual growth, they served as a profound testimony to Blessed Teresa's sanctity.  In those decades of desolation, she lived what St. John of the Cross termed, the "dark night of the soul," which was the title of a poem he wrote.

The timing and duration of Mother Teresa's dark night was unusual — and markedly so.  But the fact that she encountered a dark night wasn't.  Every Christian, on their way to God, must pass through his or her own dark night.  So, what is (and isn't) the dark night of the soul?

It is necessary

Every fallen human being has disordered desires and attachments.  We love what we shouldn't love, or we love what we should but in the wrong way.  We seek our own comfort, our own pleasure, our own will.  We value what we want more than we value what God wants.  We do wrong, even if only in our hearts.

But we can't do wrong and stand before God.  We can't even want to do wrong and stand before God.  A prerequisite for seeing God face to face is that every attachment to sin, both in our lives and in our hearts, must be broken.  If we want to become saints, we have to desire only God's will.  And we have to desire God's will not out of fear of hell, but rather out of love for heaven, out of love for God.  Some of that breaking we do, as we learn to avoid vice and pursue virtue.  But some of that breaking only God can do.  The dark night of the soul is, in part, how he does that.  By seemingly withdrawing all spiritual consolations — all the little comforts and supports that typically come from pursuing a relationship with him — and allowing an almost crushing sense of abandonment to descend upon us, he purifies our desires and prepares us for heaven.

It is unique

The dark night of the soul looks different in different lives.  Laypersons don't necessarily experience the dark night the way religious do.  Nor do active religious necessarily experience the dark night the way contemplatives do.  Some people experience it primarily through external circumstances.  They find themselves persecuted or afflicted.  In the midst of those afflictions, all calls for help go unanswered.  To the person passing through this type of dark night, it feels like God has left them to deal with their cross on their own.

Others experience the dark night through temptations: Temptations to pride, vanity, anger, sexual sin, and even unbelief assail them.  Then, there are those who experience the dark night of the soul mainly through inner desolation: The gates of heaven seem barred against them, and no matter how much they pray, no consolation seemingly comes.  Lastly, there are those who experience the dark night as a combination of all three: trials, temptations and abandonment.

Likewise, for some, the dark night comes but once.  For others, it comes many times.  Usually, it lasts for only a short while.  Occasionally, it lasts much longer.  But when it finally ends, it ends for good.  A definitive work has been accomplished in the soul.

It is unpredictable

The dark night of the soul doesn't come at the beginning of one's journey to God.  Traditionally, spiritual directors identify three primary stages (or ways) of growth in holiness.  The first is the purgative way, where we break habits of vice, acquire habits of virtue and learn to live a Catholic life.  The second is the illuminative way, where we grow in virtue, charity and the life of prayer.  And the third is the unitive way, where our wills and hearts move in perfect harmony with God's.

Near the end of the purgative stage, we experience a type of dark night — a time of trial and affliction where it feels as if God no longer loves us.  This dark night, however, is not the dark night of the soul.  Rather, it's the dark night of the senses.

In the dark night of the senses, God purifies us of our attachments to the things of the world — physical comfort, physical pleasure, material success, popular acclaim — as well as of our consolations in prayer.  Sorrows afflict us, and things that used to comfort us — food, sex, shopping, compliments, even the liturgy — no longer do.  Through this dark night, God prepares us for the illuminative way and a deeper, more contemplative life of prayer.

The dark night of the soul occurs at the end of the illuminative way, as we prepare to enter the unitive way.  During this dark night, God roots out our deepest attachments to sin and self, and the desolation that accompanies that rooting out is overwhelming and crushing.  More than just a lack of consolation, this dark night plunges a soul into an abyss of darkness and nothingness, essentially revealing to us what we are without God and preparing us to not only carry our crosses, but to love our crosses and carry them joyfully in union with Christ.

It isn't depression

From the outside, depression and the dark night of the soul bear a striking resemblance to one another.  And they're not entirely separate things.  As St. John of the Cross noted long ago, depression (or as they called it in the 17th century, melancholia) can go hand in hand with a dark night, whether by exacerbating it or resulting from it.

But while clinical depression is triggered by an objectively sad event (losing a loved one, fatal illness, etc.) or by a biochemical problem, the dark night of the soul is purely an act of God; it is God working in our souls to draw us closer to him.

Likewise, while depression weighs down both body and soul, eventually rendering those who suffer from it unable to go about the normal business of their life, throughout the dark night, the spirit stays strong, and those suffering through it can perform great works of charity and service.  They remain active and don't experience the same temptations to total self-loathing or suicide that those struggling with depression suffer, nor do they lose their faith in the midst of the dark night.  Belief remains.

It isn't evil

The dark night of the soul is not an evil to be endured; it's a good for which we should be grateful.  Of course, it doesn't always seem that way.  The thought of plunging into a spiritual abyss and losing all the sweetness in our relationship with God strikes few as appealing.  But neither does surgery.  Having cancer removed from our bodies isn't a fun process.  Nevertheless, we submit to the surgeon's knife readily and quickly, knowing that the sooner we have the surgery, the sooner we can live a healthy, full life.

What's true on the natural level is true on the supernatural level.  If we want to become the people God made us to be and live the lives he made us to live, we must let him excise sin and unhealthy attachments from our souls.  There's no getting around it.  Before we can enter heaven, it has to happen.  It can happen in this life or it can happen in the next — in purgatory.  But here is better.  For the sooner we let God root out unhealthy attachments, the sooner we can get on with the business of being saints.

And there's no better business than that.

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  • Author: Emily Stimpson


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Joyful Simply

Dark Night Of The Soul Stages

Dark Night Of The Soul Stages —that overwhelming feeling of exhaustion, despair, and loneliness that comes with life’s toughest moments. What Happens After The Dark Night Of The Soul ? It is the phrase before spiritual awakening .

These difficult times are an opportunity for your growth. In this post, we’ll be exploring the five stages of the dark night of the soul—what it is, how you can recognize it in yourself, and how to make it through with grace and strength.

Dark Night of the Soul – Preparation For Your Spiritual Awakening

The Dark Night of the Soul is a term that has been traditionally used to describe an individual’s spiritual journey to personal transformation. In this process, the person reaches a profound level of internal reflection that allows them to reach new levels of insight into their lives and personal experiences. (See When Does Spiritual Awakening Happen ? )

This can be a deeply emotionally challenging, yet rewarding timespan that can lead to true spiritual enlightenment. The process is often divided into three distinct stages: purification , illumination , and union . Though each stage can be individualized depending on the person’s needs and experience level, there are some general recurring themes across many individuals who experience this type of soulful growth.

Below is a brief overview of each stage to give you an idea about what happens when someone undergoes this important process.

The Dark Before The Dawn

The Dark Night of the Soul, also known as an “illumination of the soul” or a “metaphysical separation” is a spiritual journey famously described by St. John of the Cross in the 16th century in Spain, in which a person travels through stages of psychological and spiritual purification to become closer to God.

This journey is difficult and can be painful , but those who endure it arrive at a place of peace, serenity, and enlightenment. The Dark Night of the Soul traditionally includes three stages: purgation (the cleansing stage) , illumination (the climactic stage) , and union (the ecstatic state) .

During the purgation stage, individuals feel like they are being stripped away from all earthly pleasures and desires and are left to experience feelings such as fear, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, depression, and despair.

During this stage, you may go through stressful situations that push your spiritual beliefs.

In the illumination stage, individuals begin to become more in tune with their relationship with the Creator as well as their own inner self .

This stage can induce deep insights about life itself that can be both exhilarating and tremendously liberating for those who experience it.

During this intense trance-like state understanding between spirit and body will occur which will bring about a faith-based realization that surpasses any understanding of everyday life.

Dark Night of the Soul Phrases

It is a process of spiritual transformation that often includes intense feelings of loneliness and emptiness. This process, also known as the ‘ dark night’ phenomenon , is one that can often trigger strong emotional reactions in people and result in depression or even suicidal ideation.

Remember, this stage of spiritual growth is ultimately a necessary part of transformation and, though difficult, the end result will likely be transformative and positive in nature. Those experiencing a dark night are likely to experience many difficult symptoms including:

It is critical to seek professional guidance from a qualified mental health provider when experiencing these symptoms; your physical health can be affected when undergoing an intense time such as this so it is important to have support throughout the process.

Reasons Why It Happens

The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of intense spiritual struggle and loneliness .

In a traditional sense, it is an awakening process that leads to a profound personal transformation and union with the divine.

The term can also refer to any period of suffering or difficulty in life that leads to deeper understanding and heightened awareness. The causes of Dark Night vary greatly; individuals often go through this process due to various life circumstances such as a relationship end, job loss, illness, or other traumatic situations.

There are also internal causes such as physical exhaustion and cognitive fatigue caused by psychological struggles with depression, anxiety, or fear of abandonment. (See Spiritual Awakening Anxiety )

Stagnation can also cause feelings of depression and meaninglessness when one feels stuck in life without direction or purpose. The Dark Night is an unpredictable journey that no one can prepare for—it is unique to each individual soul as it forces self-reflection that unlocks deep truths about oneself that may be previously hidden from plain sight.

Forcing oneself into this process can lead to extreme mental anguish and despair; however, if experienced authentically and fully, will be ultimately rewarding with newfound knowledge of oneself leading towards spiritual growth and awakening (See 7 Stages Of Spiritual Awakening ).

Stages of Dark Night of the Soul

It is a journey through turmoil, suffering, and despair that leads ultimately to light, enlightenment, and liberation.

While the process is commonly experienced among religious practitioners, it also applies to anyone seeking transformation within their own life. During this experience, people often go through five identifiable stages: Stage 1: Recognition – This is when you start to become aware that something isn’t quite right in your life and feel compelled to do something about it. You realize you are no longer content with your current lifestyle and need something more meaningful or satisfying. Stage 2: Descent – This marks the beginning of your spiritual journey as you let go of familiar beliefs and expectations that no longer serve you. It may involve facing fears and mourning losses as you become vulnerable to new possibilities that await on the other side. Stage 3: Purgation – During this stage, experiences such as illness or depression can happen due to emotions coming up such as anger or guilt which need to be released in order for healing and growth potentials to be realized. Stage 4: Illumination / Rebirth – This marks a turning point when your spiritual eyes open wide enough so that personal liberation begins happening gradually over time resulting in fresh perspectives being revealed on all aspects of your life experience providing invaluable experiences for personal transformation. Stage 5: Transformation/Union – As growth accelerates beyond one’s wildest imagination all fears subside into an incredible understanding sensing a feeling of being-ness where surrendering happens which allows one’s soul essence remarkable clarity providing amazing experiences with deeper aspects of life’s mysteries.

One’s soul mission starts becoming more apparent surrounded by inexplicable joy-filled enthusiasm excitement inspiring complete dedication heart-threads interweave with unity consciousness creating profoundly empowered extraordinary journeys ..sobereaved!

Your Unconcious Coping Mechanism At This Stage

The Dark Night of the Soul can take many forms, from depression to feeling completely blocked from expressing creativity. Recognizing and understanding the stages that one may experience during this difficult period is important for effective coping strategies.

Here are five common coping stages with it: 1. Despair – A feeling of helplessness, sadness, apathy and despair. You feel disconnected from your true self and cut off from other people’s support. 2. Anger – This stage often involves feelings of criticism , judgments, and a deep sense of injustice over events in your life you have no control over. 3. Confusion – Feeling lost in a world that doesn’t make sense anymore as reality shifts untenable beliefs you once held close to your heart become dismantled in an instant. 4. Acceptance – Acceptance of new truths and realities begins to emerge after thorough contemplation on what took place during the previous three stages bringing about clarity about what the experience brought about. 5. Transformation – You can begin introducing new activities into your life that bring joy and foster spiritual growth like mindfulness practices, yoga, or meditation. Replacing old behaviors to provide a much-needed distraction from old emotions resurfacing or returning later on.

Down the line as they often do in cycles throughout our lives until we learn how to better manage them when they return once more

Seeking Professional Help If Needed

Navigating through a dark night of the soul is often one where many individuals find it helpful to seek out professional help. Accessing the right form of support and resources can be invaluable when attempting to work through feelings of despair and hopelessness.

However, it’s important that the type of treatment is customized to your individual needs – while some may be more suited to traditional forms of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic counseling , others may find alternative sources such as energy healing techniques or psychosynthesis more suitable.

Equally, peer support networks like 12-step programs or spiritual mentor-like figures can also be beneficial. Though such approaches require financial investment, there are many self-help books available for those on limited budgets that provide valuable insight into helping you process and make meaning from your experience.

Whatever approach you select, it’s key to ensure that you feel safe within your choice and open-minded in exploring unfamiliar practices and resources that offer non-judgmental support during this period.

Final Thoughts

The dark night of the soul is a true blessing. If you’re going through one, chances are, you’re the chosen one .

The Universe only gives you whatever you can take, you’re strong, clever, and have a deep connection with the divine .

The person who has gone through this process is now viewed in a different light, and carries with them certain experiences and qualities that many could not go through – let alone understand.

They are equipped with valuable lessons learned and newfound insight that can be applied to their lives going forward.

At this stage, one can find themselves feeling more connected to themselves and others , having gained insight into their values, purpose, and passions that they can carry with them as they continue on their journey of personal growth. The final stage is a reminder that no matter how long or difficult your journey may seem, life always ends in full dusk – when the sun begins to dip behind the horizon. Just as the light reappears after deep darkness , so too will life’s gifts return once again if you stay on course and navigate your way through the seemingly never-ending winter nights.

Successful completion of such an experience combines inner strength with resilience which allows us to emerge from our experience wiser, more expansive individuals than before we entered it – having gained an invaluable understanding of living life authentically .

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The Dark Night of the Soul

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

The dark night of the soul. This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time. It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears. It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, “The Weeping Prophet.” It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him. This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him.

Spiritual depression is real and can be acute. We ask how a person of faith could experience such spiritual lows, but whatever provokes it does not take away from its reality. Our faith is not a constant action. It is mobile. It vacillates. We move from faith to faith, and in between we may have periods of doubt when we cry, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.”

We may also think that the dark night of the soul is something completely incompatible with the fruit of the Spirit, not only that of faith but also that of joy. Once the Holy Spirit has flooded our hearts with a joy unspeakable, how can there be room in that chamber for such darkness? It is important for us to make a distinction between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness. A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head. The joy that we have sustains us through these dark nights and is not quenched by spiritual depression. The joy of the Christian is one that survives all downturns in life.

In writing to the Corinthians in his second letter, Paul commends to his readers the importance of preaching and of communicating the Gospel to people. But in the midst of that, he reminds the church that the treasure we have from God is a treasure that is contained not in vessels of gold and silver but in what the Apostle calls “jars of clay.” For this reason he says, “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Immediately after this reminder, the Apostle adds,

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Cor. 4:7–10)

This passage indicates the limits of depression that we experience. The depression may be profound, but it is not permanent, nor is it fatal. Notice that the Apostle Paul describes our condition in a variety of ways. He says that we are “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.” These are powerful images that describe the conflict that Christians must endure, but in every place that he describes this phenomenon, he describes at the same time its limits. Afflicted, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed.

So we have this pressure to bear, but the pressure, though it is severe, does not crush us. We may be confused and perplexed, but that low point to which perplexity brings us does not result in complete and total despair. Even in persecution, as serious as it may be, we are still not forsaken, and we may be overwhelmed and struck down as Jeremiah spoke of, yet we have room for joy. We think of the prophet Habakkuk, who in his misery remained confident that despite the setbacks he endured, God would give him feet like hind’s feet, feet that would enable him to walk in high places.

Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians gives them the admonition to be “anxious for nothing,” telling them that the cure for anxiety is found on one’s knees, that it is the peace of God that calms our spirit and dissipates anxiety. Again, we can be anxious and nervous and worried without finally submitting to ultimate despair.

This coexistence of faith and spiritual depression is paralleled in other biblical statements of emotive conditions. We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness. In like manner, we see that it is a good thing to go to the house of mourning, but even in mourning, that low feeling must not give way to hatred. The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God.

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What Is the Dark Night of the Soul?

The dark night of the soul refers to a period of spiritual depression, struggles, and pain. It can happen to any believer, and it can happen multiple times throughout their lives. We don't need to be afraid of these times because we can learn much through these dark nights.

What Is the Dark Night of the Soul?

The concept of the dark night of the soul comes from the poem written by John of the Cross . The poem is titled “Dark Night of the Soul.” Through painful and difficult times, we have each gone through dark nights of the soul. If you are presently going through a difficult time, you could be going through a dark night of the soul.

The Dark Night of the Soul

The dark night of the soul is when you are going through a dark season of life. Whether you are struggling with your faith, recently lost a loved one, or are going through a family issue, these can all be things that lead to a dark night of the soul.

Even the most faithful and strongest Christians in their faith have gone through dark nights of the souls. Throughout the Psalms, we see David struggling with dark nights that cause him to lose sleep, not eat, and grow weak.

When we look at David, we often only think about how he was a spiritual giant and walked with the Lord. We often fail to see him as the struggling writer of the majority of Psalms. He poured his heart out to God and petitioned for God to help him.

Without a doubt, David went through multiple dark times of the soul throughout his life. Most of us can relate to the Psalms and the cry for help that David experiences. Going through dark nights of the soul is never pleasant, but rather painful.

Going through a dark night of the soul can extend from a day to years. It can last for however long your period of pain lasts. Some can be in these dark nights for the majority of their lives.

While depression is a separate mood disorder not connected to the dark night of the soul, many individuals have likened the dark night of the soul as being a " spiritual depression ."

If you are going through a dark season in your spiritual walk, know that you are not alone. It might feel as though you're alone, but you're never truly alone.

It is easy to think that going through dark nights of the soul has no purpose, yet this isn't true. Some of the most important lessons we can learn are from difficult times. Through trials, pain, and agony, we can grow in our relationship with God.

Think about the last time you were going through a happy time in your life. Do you remember producing any spiritual fruit? Were you growing closer to God? Did you remember to spend time in prayer with God and reading His Word?

Most of us would probably answer no to all of these questions. Even though everyone enjoys happy times, we don't have much growth through these times. Instead, through the dark nights and the difficulties are when we experience the most growth in our Christian walk and character.

Now think about the time when you were going through a dark night of the soul. How much growth came from that difficult time? Could you see how you started leaning more on God and learning about Him in the process?

More likely than not, you had your greatest growth during the dark nights of the soul. God disciplines us as His children because He loves us. He also can use bad things for our good.

We might think nothing good will come out of our dark nights of the soul, but that isn't true. There can be much growth through the dark nights of the soul.

The pain we experience during the dark nights of the soul is not permanent. They will not last for eternity. While some of the time this "spiritual depression" can last a lifetime, it will not continue throughout all eternity.

There will be relief one day for all of us from these dark nights and these troubles. Everyone is bound to have more dark nights of the soul throughout their lives, but what matters is what we do with them.

Are we going to allow them to set us back in our Christian walk, or are we going to see them as an opportunity for growth? Dark times are always hard, but we don't need to allow them to make us grow bitter or hateful.

How Does This Apply to Us Today?

If you are suffering from a dark night of the soul at the present, know that your pain is completely valid. Also, know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. As mentioned, all Christians have gone through this challenge at least once in their life.

The struggle of the dark night of the soul is difficult, yet God is always by our side. He promises to always be with us, and He will never leave ( Hebrews 13:5-6 ).

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Jesus knows every single pain we experience, and He can empathize with our pain. Even if nobody around us understands our pain, we know Jesus understands it.

In our own personal dark nights of the soul, we have to do our best to see them as opportunities to grow to become more like Christ. Throughout our lives, we are constantly being molded to reflect the image of Christ to the world.

While we will never be just like Christ, our goal needs to be to live in obedience to Him and follow Him faithfully. Even through the dark nights of the soul, we can still love Jesus and hold fast to Him.

You may have had people hurt you or have been mean to you when you were going through the dark night of the soul. Since many people incorrectly see the actual mood disorder of depression as a sin, many people also see this "spiritual depression" as a sin.

It is not a sin to undergo dark nights of the soul. We will all undergo them at one time even if we don't recognize it at the time. Maybe you are going through one now, or maybe you have recently been through one. In any case, you can grow through this pain.

Similar to how a gardener prunes and cuts back leaves and hedges, God also prunes us in order for us to bear much spiritual fruit. God doesn't cause the dark nights, but He can use them and turn them into good things to help us grow more into His image.

If this is the first dark night of the soul you are experiencing, know that it will not last forever and there is a purpose to your pain. Every tear we shed has a purpose.

What Does This Mean?

As you are enduring the dark nights of the soul, turn to Christ and reflect on Him. Ask Him to strengthen you as you walk through this difficult time. You will not be alone because God will be walking right by your side through it all.

Thus, the dark night of the soul refers to a period of spiritual depression, struggles, and pain. It can happen to any believer, and it can happen multiple times throughout their lives.

We don't need to be afraid of these times because we can learn much through these dark nights. God will be walking with us through every dark night, and He promises to never leave us.

For further reading:

Why Did David Ask, ‘How Long O Lord?'

How Are the Body, Soul, and Spirit Connected?

What Is the Difference Between a Soul and a Spirit?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Alexandra_pp

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What Is a Dark Night of the Soul? 9 Key Symptoms Decoded

by Nerdy Creator | Aug 3, 2023 | Spiritual Awakening , Spirituality

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spiritual journey dark night of the soul

“The Dark Night of the Soul” is a term that is commonly used to describe a period of spiritual transformation.

During this dark period, one may feel depressed, lost, and confused .

In this blog post, we explore the 9 main symptoms of the Dark Night of the Soul. But before we go any further, let’s have a deeper understanding of what the Dark Night of the Soul is from a spiritual perspective, its origins, and how it is different from depression .

Table of Contents

The Origin of the Dark Night of the Soul

The term “Dark Night” is made popular in the 16th century by Saint John of the Cross , a Spanish mystic, in one of his poems, “Noche Oscura” (which means “dark night” in Spanish). The poem describes his spiritual journey and the hardships he faced in his union with God.

Somehow along the way, the term “Dark Night of the Soul” becomes more widely used instead of the term “Dark Night”. It is now being referred to as a period of spiritual crisis and transformation that one can experience during their spiritual awakening journey.

Most spiritual traditions have a concept of the Dark Night of the Soul, which can be seen as a period of intense emotional and spiritual struggles. The idea is that once we go through this difficult experience, we come out of it with greater wisdom and insight. It may even lead to profound changes in our lives.

However, this term can be somewhat misleading to the layman because it suggests that our soul is suffering.

But our soul isn’t dying. What’s dying is our ego.

Our soul is always full of aliveness, joy, freedom, and love. It’s always expanding and connected to the Higher Power. But the problem is most of us are not in tune with our souls. We act from the ego instead and therefore, we suffer. The phrase “Dark Night of the Soul” is used in modern spirituality to describe this suffering of the ego.

What Does the Dark Night of the Soul Mean Spiritually?

In spirituality, the Dark Night of the Soul signifies the beginning of a shift in perspective from our ego to our spirit. We realize that the ego’s perspective no longer works for us but we are not yet connected with our soul. So we are stuck between these two states and have no clear sense of identity or a stable home to reside in.

According to Eckhart Tolle , the “Dark Night of the Soul” is a term used to describe a collapse of a perceived meaning in life. What dies, in essence, is the egoic sense of self. This is also known as ego death.

Previously, when we act from our ego, we derive our identity from our career, our wealth, our relationships, our roles, etc. But once we realize that these things don’t actually make us happy, we lose our purpose in achieving or acquiring them. The conceptual framework that once gave us meanings and kept us going in life collapsed.

That’s why we experience an existential crisis and a loss of identity. We don’t know who we are, what we want in life, and what to do with our lives anymore.

Dark Night of the Soul vs Depression: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between a Dark Night of the Soul and depression is there is no spiritual evolution or component in the latter. This means that when you recover from psychological depression , you might have a healthier mind but you are still identified with your mind. You still think that you are your thoughts.

The Dark Night of the Soul results in a total shift of identity while depression doesn’t.

Someone who gets through the Dark Night of the Soul doesn’t completely identify with their ego anymore. You experience some kind of ego death and you know that you are not your thoughts. You are more connected to your soul, you have a new purpose in life, and you take on a different identity. There is some kind of transformation and spiritual awakening . Your old personality dissolves and you come out a different person.

The best way to describe this difference is to use the caterpillar and butterfly analogy. Recovering from a psychological depression makes you a stronger, healthier caterpillar but in the end, you are still a caterpillar. There is no change in identity. In contrast, a Dark Night of the Soul is like a caterpillar hiding in darkness in its cocoon and allowing metamorphosis to take place. The caterpillar has to digest itself, break down its cells, and regroup them before it comes out as a butterfly.

My Example of the Dark Night of the Soul

Before I went through my Dark Night , my identity was shaped by my career. I jumped from being an auditor to an accountant and then to an animator, trying to find my identity. Once I no longer wanted to be an animator, I became depressed and lost my sense of self. If I’m not my career, then who am I?

I felt lost and confused.

I’m not sure of what i want to do with my life anymore..

It’s only through my Dark Night that I am awakened and realize that I am not what I do. My whole identity shifted and I became more in touch with my spirit and my purpose. What’s amazing is that previously I hardly read any books on spirituality and have no interest in the topic. But once I’ve had an identity shift, suddenly I can understand all the books about spirituality with ease.

9 Revealing Symptoms of a Dark Night of the Soul

When going through a Dark Night of the Soul, it’s common to use the term “depression” to explain your experience to others. Sometimes, people even called it a spiritual depression.

While both may share similar symptoms and we may go through them concurrently, it is important to understand their fundamental differences. Below, we will explore 9 key symptoms of the Dark Night of the Soul and explain how they differ from psychological depression.

1. You feel that life has no meaning or purpose.

Going through a Dark Night of the Soul can make life feel meaningless. We know that the old egoic way of life no longer serves us and it is time to let go and move on. However, we have not found a new purpose yet, leaving us uncertain about life’s direction.

We may become overly philosophical, questioning our purpose on earth. This constant existential questioning, without inspiring answers, can lead to depression and apathy. It can also leave you with a deep sense of emptiness when you feel that there is no purpose in life.

People with psychological depression can also perceive life as meaningless but it is usually when something of significant value to them is taken away from them. For example, the loss of a relationship. Their depression is not due to an existential crisis, but their struggle to accept their loss.

2. You lose interest in everything you used to love.

When going through a Dark Night of the Soul, it’s common for our passions and hobbies to fall by the wayside. Our interests no longer excite us like they used to and we find it difficult to concentrate on anything for an extended period of time.

This can be different than depression, where people often feel a lack of energy. In the Dark Night of the Soul, our old passions may still have their appeal but no longer bring joy. There is something of a higher purpose that we are yearning for that we haven’t discovered yet. We are so focused on finding this new purpose that everything else feels unimportant. Without a new direction, we lack enthusiasm for life and don’t feel like doing anything.

3. You feel a strong desire to be alone.

Withdrawing and isolating oneself is a common trait during the Dark Night of the Soul. We may become exhausted by socializing and find it difficult to connect with others . We may also feel like no one understands us or our journey, making it challenging to communicate with anyone else.

Oftentimes, we feel a deep need to be alone in order to process and make sense of our inner turmoil. This period of introspection allows us to learn more about ourselves and what we truly need in life to be happy. In the Dark Night of the Soul, there is a desire to be alone with our thoughts in order to find clarity and peace.

In contrast, people struggling with depression often withdraw socially and isolate themselves for fear of judgment or rejection . Typically, they engage in rumination rather than self-reflection.

4. You become overwhelmed with emotions.

The Dark Night of the Soul can be an emotional rollercoaster. Random emotions may surface. We may feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness , sadness, anger , anxiety , or fear that we have not felt before. We may cry uncontrollably or without any reason. These intense emotions can come and go without warning, making it difficult to stay balanced.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed with emotions during this time. Our egoic wounds are brought to the surface to be processed and released. We are letting go of limiting beliefs, traumas, and anything else that no longer serves us.

Unlike depression, where individuals may struggle to understand their emotions, those experiencing the Dark Night of the Soul are often more conscious. Even though we don’t know how long our suffering will last, we know it serves a spiritual purpose, guiding us toward transformation.

For a full list of emotions you may feel during the Dark Night, read my article on the dark side of spiritual awakening .

5. You find yourself consumed by thoughts.

The Dark Night of the Soul can be overwhelming mentally as well. We may question everything in our lives, including our beliefs, values, relationships , and purpose. We may reflect on the past, pondering on the choices we made and how things could have been different. On the other hand, we may also think a lot about the future, contemplating our next steps and how to move forward.

Being too focused and obsessed over certain topics can make us feel lost , guilty, regretful, worried , and hopeless. The thoughts can become so intense that it feels like our mind is continually racing.

While individuals battling depression may also be consumed by their thoughts, their identification is mostly with their egos. In contrast, those experiencing the Dark Night of the Soul have some detachment from their egos. Rather than being driven by ego narratives, our racing thoughts are often a result of endless questions and seeking answers in life.

6. You experience extreme fatigue.

Moving through a Dark Night of the Soul can take a toll on our bodies. We may experience extreme fatigue, both mentally and physically. We may also have sleep issues. For example, we either sleep too much or too little or feel more tired than usual without any known cause.

The fatigue is exacerbated by the inner turmoil and confusion we are going through during this period of spiritual transformation. As we try to make sense of what is happening to us, we become drained and overwhelmed.

This symptom can be found in depression too. However, those who suffered from depression often experience a more severe case of fatigue. They are also less likely to take care of themselves when they experience physical pain and discomfort. It is as though they have given up on their lives.

7. You feel confused, disoriented, and out of control.

The process of spiritual transformation can be overwhelming and disorienting at times. Everything seems to be breaking down. Prior to our spiritual awakening, our egos are in control and we have specific goals established by society that we are told to achieve. Now, with the ego out of the way, everything that we once knew to be true is no longer valid. There is no script for us to follow anymore. You don’t know what to do or who you are anymore, and that is why everything seems so chaotic and out of control.

During a Dark Night of the Soul, it is common to feel like we are losing control. We may feel confused and unsure of which direction to take while trying to make sense of our inner worlds. We may become scared or hesitant to make any decisions because we are unsure if they will lead us closer or further away from our spiritual path.

People with clinical depression may also feel helpless and lost. These feelings, however, are often rooted in deeper and more personal issues such as self-esteem and family dynamics.

8. You feel a deep longing for something without knowing what it is.

The Dark Night of the Soul often involves a deep, insatiable longing for something that cannot be described or explained. It is an intense feeling that cannot be put into words. This longing comes from the depths of your soul and you may not know exactly what it is.

The longing is often for something more spiritual or something that lies beyond our physical reality. It is an intense craving for understanding and connection with the divine. People who experience this deep longing will often turn to meditation, journaling, art, and music to help them make sense of what they are feeling.

In contrast, people who struggle with depression may feel an intense longing for emotional connection or comfort. They usually yearn for something they don’t believe they can have or deserve to have.

9. You feel hopeless and may have suicidal thoughts.

Suicidal thoughts are one of the most serious and concerning symptoms of a Dark Night of the Soul. When we go through this kind of spiritual crisis, our minds can get overwhelmed by feelings like hopelessness, despair, and helplessness.

These intense emotions can sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts. Not everyone experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul will have these thoughts though. But there is often a sense of something dying within oneself, known as ego death.

Suicidal thoughts are also common in individuals with depression. However, their intention is often to end emotional pain and suffering. In contrast, those experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul may want to return to Source. They struggle to connect with their purpose on Earth and find continuing life meaningless. They also feel a sense of hopelessness for humanity and the world in general, and there is nothing they can do about it.

Dark Night of the Soul FAQ

How long does the dark night of the soul last.

A Dark Night of the Soul can last from as short as one month to as long as 10 years. It depends on the individual and the attachments they have to let go of. My first dark night lasts for 2 months and is very intense, while my second dark night lasts for more than 3 years but is less intense.

Can you have multiple Dark Nights of the Soul?

Yes, it is possible. Typically, each dark night has its specific theme and brings about a set of lessons and gifts. For example, my first dark night is about letting go of my attachment to my career, while my second dark night is about letting go of my attachment to my relationships .

What triggers the Dark Night of the Soul?

The Dark Night of the Soul is often triggered by a major life change or shift. It could be something as drastic as a death in the family, a divorce, or even job loss. These profound changes can lead you to contemplate what truly holds significance in your life. As we let go of our attachments to our old identities and roles, we can experience intense discomfort and feelings of emptiness or void-like states.

Does everyone go through the Dark Night of the Soul?

No, not everyone experiences the Dark Night of the Soul. It is one of the 8 stages of spiritual awakening and can lead to great personal growth. However, it is also possible that someone may have many awakenings without ever experiencing a dark night.

Why do people go through the Dark Night of the Soul?

The Dark Night of the Soul is an integral part of spiritual and personal growth. It helps us let go of our attachments, liberate ourselves from expectations and limiting beliefs, and open up to new possibilities. It also helps us come into alignment with who we truly are deep down, and gain clarity about our life’s purpose.

Who goes through the Dark Night of the Soul?

Anyone can experience the Dark Night of the Soul. It is a universal experience that affects all people, regardless of age, gender, or race. However, it is more common among those who are going through major life changes and spiritual awakenings.

Final Thoughts

The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of intense transformation where we have to dig deep and learn how to cope with uncomfortable feelings . However, at the end of it, we come out stronger, wiser, and more connected with our purpose in life.

If you need help with this process, I recommend reading my comprehensive article on navigating the Dark Night of the Soul . It will help you discover valuable insights and strategies to overcome this challenging phase and find inner peace.

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11 Strategies to Move Through the Dark Night of the Soul To Freedom

Moving through a dark night of the soul into a new phase of awakened light.

Many spiritual greats have written about the Dark Night of the Soul , which is a troubling and incredibly difficult phase of spiritual awakening.

Not everyone on the spiritual path experiences this challenging period, but for those who do, it has the potential to be incredibly transformational .

Historical References

Other great saints, like Teresa of Avilla, have written about this phase, but it is not a subject that many speak about.  Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun who was called to minister to the sick and dying of Calcutta, India, wrote to her confessor about decades of spiritual darkness .

Many people feel that they must always work to raise their vibration, feel happy, and move forward on the spiritual path .

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

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So Wait… What is The Dark Night of the Soul?

The Dark Night of the Soul is a phrase used to describe reaching a low point in life, where you experience a loss of meaning in your life, and face the deep questions around your own mortality, and a previous lack of meaning in your life.  There is little joy in this phase, and an overwhelming sense of meaninglessness to everything you perceive.

From the outside, the experience looks similar to a depressive state. You lack motivation, nothing makes sense, and the compass that generally steers you in the right direction seems to be hopelessly malfunctioning leaving you stuck in a “pit of despair”… Energetically drained, not seeing things as they are, and lost about how to get out or even where to go if you could emerge.

Every Dark Night Awaits an Incredible Bright Light

This experience of a “dark night” is something that happens to many, and I too have experienced a dark night of the soul. At the time, I was miserable, but now looking back it's clear to see that moving through this period of pain, darkness, and depression in my life aligned me with an incredible light and a beautiful gift.

Do you think you may be experiencing the phase that is the Dark Night of the Soul?

Trust that you will make it through, because just as is the case in the cycles of the earth , when there is the experience of a dark night, the light of day is always sure to follow.

The key, is to explore and embrace the phase you're in, to be present with the sense of loss you may be feeling, and through this presence you are able to learn lessons of the moment in order to transform and move through them.

How Does the Dark Night of the Soul Start?

Moving Through And Beyond A Dark Night of the Soul

  • The death of someone close to you, especially an “out of order” death, like losing a child or a young spouse, is often a trigger.
  • Any crisis or disaster which renders the meaning you’ve given to your life invalid can be a catalyst.
  • Some report experiencing a dark night after an intense or sudden period of spiritual growth and realization.

But just as regularly, there is no clear or obvious trigger.  You are moving through your life with relative ease, creating meaning in your relationships, career, community, and suddenly, this meaning collapses.

16 Dark Night of the Soul Symptoms

I mentioned before that a Dark Night of the Soul looks, and feels, similar to a state of depression .  Initially, the experience can be confusing until you learn to identify the symptoms and gain some understanding.  A few things to look out for:

  • Feeling negative emotions: anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, hatred, etc., without knowing why or being able to identify a cause.
  • You have tried methods and techniques to shake off the negativity, loneliness, and confusion, but nothing works. In fact, it might sometimes be made worse.
  • You have memories or an intuition that of childhood pain that you cannot seem to shake.
  • When you try to talk to others about what you are experiencing, you have a sense that they do not or cannot fully understand. You feel alone, even isolated from the Divine, a previous source of comfort and inspiration.
  • You feel fatigued and listless; your energy is spent trying to resolve these negative feelings.
  • You feel abandoned by everyone. This can be from society, your family, your friendships, romantic partner, and community.
  • There is an innate feeling of shame and worthlessness that you can’t seem to break out of.  You don’t feel worthy or deserving of anything good in your life. You feel ashamed of your existence, feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, and unable to love yourself.
  • You feel at loss, like you’re grieving for humanity, or for a place you long to call home.
  • You feel sad because your ego and your beliefs have been shattered . While suffering this loss, you also feel lost, purposeless, and don’t know which way to go next.
  • You ask yourself philosophical questions like, Who am I? What is the meaning of life? Does any of this even matter? On some levels, there is a call for an ego-death, a rebirth, and an identity change that you are not prepared for, but are learning to accept.
  • You try to convince yourself to be happy, when you believe to have the perfect life everyone wants… And yet you experience an incredible void, and sense that “something is off”
  • You’re experiencing physical, emotional, and spiritual detox symptoms. This could be a sudden food intolerance, pain from an old injury that resurfaces, buried memories resurfacing, hot and/or cold energies and tingles moving through your body.
  • You experience intense dreams, nightmares, and past life memories
  • Because of some unresolvable differences in beliefs and values, you lose your support system of family and friends, or by choice you distance yourself from them.
  • You experience waves of angst and disillusionment with your understanding of God and your community. Feeling hopeless and disappointed at all that you believed to be true.
  • An event triggers you to experience an existential crisis, feeling disconnected from everything and everyone.

When this happens, through external or internal circumstances , the framework of life as you knew it, of life as you were comfortable with, crumbles; meaning is gone and is replaced confusion and spiritual pain.  You feel that you’ve been left in a dark place.

The Darkest Hour is Before the Dawn

Some have described dark night of the soul as feeling like being stuck, with no hope of lightness or joy.  Many talk about feelings of loneliness, isolation, and being misunderstood. Life feels pointless and painful.

Allowing yourself to feel whatever you are feeling this during the challenging times of the dark night will help you move through this time gracefully , expanding your consciousness, and anchoring you closer to your true self.

All of the symptoms that you feel are there to teach you love, surrender, trust, connection, and acceptance.  In other words, they have come to teach you about your true self.   The conflict comes when the ego fights to maintain its control over your life.  Do not attempt to struggle with the ego, let it relax and through the lessons you are learning, you will see your true Self emerge.

The time of the dark night of the soul can feel interminable, but if you can learn to welcome these emotions, you can move through to a clearer and higher level. Over time, you awaken to something deeper that is not based on the ego’s perception of reality.  Purpose returns and with it a greater sense of connection with the Divine and with your own soul.  For some, it is as profound as the complete death of the ego .

Take Your Time and Trust the Process

While trusting your journey,  this dark night of the soul process may feel destabilizing, therefore accept what rises within you . From this place of awareness, reflect what is coming up for you, and the purpose it serves for your transformation.

A Passage into The Light of Day

While it’s happening, the Dark Night of the Soul can make you feel miserable; as if you’ve been abandoned.  Some people have a tendency to ask “Why me?” as if they’ve done something wrong. One of the most difficult things to do during this period is to embrace the difficult emotions and to find gratitude for them.

How to Make it Through The Dark Night

In essence, the dark night is a rite of passage .  Those who move through it can come to a profoundly different and more peaceful life. Sort of light bouncing off of rock bottom, the only place you can go from this low of lows is up!

The pain you feel during this low point is often a lifetimes worth of repressed emotions, finally coming up for release and resolution. It's your soul saying “Enough is enough,” its time to experience all this feeling rather than burying it… Its time to process, experience and finally let the heaviness go.

One of the keys … Is to lean in:

  • If you are experiencing a dark night of the soul, recognize and accept that this is a natural phase of life . Don't just yourself for being here… Allow it to be okay.
  • Make an effort to face what is arising head on. Keep your heart open and remember that pain is only a visitor, that carries a message from your True Self.
  • Seeking advice from a spiritual teacher, counselor, or friend, is also a good and comforting idea. Pursue whatever healing modalities feel right to you.
  • Know that there is no punishment or persecution from the universe here. You may have experienced a tragedy, or a life time of stuffing emotions (a tragedy in itself) and the universe has made a move to shake you up, help you release, and help you come into your full spiritual potential.
  • Nothing is wrong with you, and know that this is the process of shedding layers of all that is not serving you. You're not being punished, or attacked, and you're definitely not a victim. Get out of your own way, being extra gentle, loving, tuning into the inner voice of compassion  and allow this process to unfold!
  • The ego will give you lots of advice.  Perhaps tell you just to stuff the emotions or blame someone or something else. When you are in the thick of your emotions, try just observing them and not identifying with them.
  •  Allow them to be.  Feel emotions fully no matter how rocky the feelings are. Make space for whatever is asking for some face time.

When you feel like you want to run away, distract yourself, or push the feelings aside, simply allow yourself to notice the resistance.

  • Ask questions like, “Where do I feel this in the body?  What does it look like? Where has it come from? Can I let this be here now?  Can I let this go ?”
  • Get into motion! Movement is one of the best ways to support yourself in processing heavy emotions and old energies so you can recalibrate your mind, body and spirit. Your body has a natural ability to heal and restore itself back to balance. Support this ability by walking in nature, stretching, doing Qigong, Yoga, or dance.
  • Remember that there's no one right thing you need to DO to make it through this. When the pain is paralyzing, when you feel like you must DO something, remember this Buddhist saying, “Nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to be.”
  • Cultivate the practice of mindfulness and let your thoughts and feelings pass without being attached. Think of the phrase, you are not your thoughts, but you are the engine that thinks these thoughts. 
  • This experience is a great teacher and if you continually ask your pain, “What are you here to teach?  What lessons do I need to learn?” you allow the pain freedom to move, enter your consciousness, and transform.
  • While the pain may have affected or hurt you, remember to be gentle, compassionate, and tender…practicing self-acceptance more than judgement for all that you feel.
  • Take the space you need to feel and don’t overthink or rush the process. There’s no way of doing “the dark night of the soul” wrong. Know that everything happens for a reason and in divine time. Give yourself permission to be, to feel, and to know yourself, and recognize what is really being shown for you.
  •  As part of the Universal law, the greater the darkness, the brighter the coming light. See this phase as an incubation as a period of shedding the layers to the unfolding, true you. Be gentle on yourself, while you reflect and process the new levels of consciousness the dark night of the soul brings.
  • As counter intuitive as it seems, accepting the pain, loving the part of yourself that is scared, hurt and in pain, and letting it all be okay is exactly how you begin to move through the dark night into the light of day.
  • Begin a daily practice of gratitude. Gratitude raises your vibration and helps to taking your wounds, and transforming them into light.
  • Focus your attention towards what you appreciate about your day, about your life, about the universe, about your surroundings. It could be something simple, like seeing a bird outside your window, or eating a meal that you enjoyed. There is always something to appreciate in a day. You just have to find it!
  • Even during the dark night of the soul, there is a transformation happening within you. Take your time to honor it, these internal changes in your mind, body, and spirit.. feeling gratitude for yourself at the heart level.
  • Focus your intention on gratitude is opens your heart light, shifting you out of fear and lack, and preparing you for the miracles life is ready to bring you.
  • Clear your mind. So much of the suffering you're feeling and experiencing is not your truth. Clear your mind with golden light to allow the emotional storms of suffering to, with grace and ease, blow through.

Moving Through and Beyond

As humans, we fear the unknown, and moving through a Dark Night of the Soul, when we cannot see ahead, beyond the control of the ego, is a huge unknown.  Through the ego, most of us are addicted to suffering, attachment, fulfilling desires. The longer you let the ego rule, the longer and more intense your dark night is likely to be.

Another unknown is what life will be like after you move through this phase of suffering but maintaining the status quo. “Better the devil I know that the devil I don't know.”

In response to this, I want to simply remind you… That incredible blessings await on the other side of fear.

Your True Self is full of so much love and joy and is connected to everything including the Divine. Greater blessings than you can even imagine right now await you… Its just about clearing out the old energy so you can come into vibrational and physical alignment with these blessings that await.

Support is Available

Just because I'm saying to be present with the feelings arising… And to be present where you are, does not mean you have to do so alone.

In fact, there is incredible Angelic Support and energy available to guide you through!

Check out my Free Angel Emergency Call Meditation here for help!

How Long Will it Take to Get Through This?

There is no timeframe or prescribed set of do’s and don’ts for a Dark Night of the Soul. Each path is unique.

Yes, there will be challenges, and likely pain too, but suffering is not a prerequisite. Suffering only arises when you're attached. Let go. Surrender to the Divine path of Life and Light and allow the path through to appear.

A dark night of the soul cannot and should not be avoided.  It’s not necessary to try to rush through it, though that will be the ego’s instinct.  It won’t always feel like a gift, you won’t always make the best choices. But when you can, let love shine on your pain; open your heart and feel what you can. Allow your pain to be the catalyst for the greatest transformation in your life.

This is the natural course to what is happening to you, as your breakdowns become your breakthroughs . Learn the ebb and flow, the push and pull that is happening in you and within the collective consciousness. The patterns and challenges that present itself are not happening to you, but for you.

The Time is Now – Use Your Dark Night As Fuel For Transformation

However your transformation takes shape, most begin to experience the ability to observe the world around them without identifying with it. On the other side of pain and confusion is your transformation. Use this time to get a better understanding for how your dark night is there to move you towards a higher truth. People going through the dark night of the soul often describe their process like this:

  • You see the perceptions of the ego and the order and control that the ego wants to place on the world, but you also see that none of it is real.
  • You realize that you, the Self, are real, are Oneness.
  • You can see that while the ego was creating meaning in your life, and allowing you to feel that you had it all figured out and knew where you were going, that in fact, it was creating illusion for you to feel comfortable in, maybe even satisfied.

There is joy in this Oneness.

You are not separate from your life, but you are no longer attached to the ego and its desires. You feel all emotions , from good to bad, but you remain seated in the Self.

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote regularly about the Dark Night of the Soul (though he didn’t call it this). Use his words as comfort and guidance as you make your way through this dark night toward your own true Self.

“Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you.”

“The cure for the pain is the pain.” -Rumi

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

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Keep going. Let it be okay…. Know that although it doesn't feel like it, this too shall pass, and many days of love, light, and blessings await.

With love and light,

Melanie Beckler

About the author 

Melanie Beckler

Melanie Beckler is an author, meditation guide, and the soul behind . Her meditations, angel messages, and bestselling books, including "Archangel Michael Speaks," inspire individuals around the world to realign with their higher potential, inner light and soul purpose. Her work is rooted in love and compassion, empowering you to shine brightly on your unique spiritual journey of growth and transformation. Ready to elevate your spiritual journey? Immerse yourself in the premium meditations and angelic activations inside of the Angel Solution Membership . Want a free guided .mp3 angel meditation by Melanie? Click Here For A Free Angel Message Channeled By Melanie!

Subconscious Servant

The 7 Dark Night Of The Soul Stages [An Eye-Opening Guide]

By: Author Alexandra Tiodar

Posted on Last updated: May 25, 2023

Categories Spirituality

The 7 Dark Night Of The Soul Stages [An Eye-Opening Guide]

The Dark Night of the Soul is an increasingly popular topic, because, as the vibration of planet Earth is rising and the world we live in is in continuous transformation, more and more people start experiencing it. 

If you chose to read this article, you most likely are experiencing this spiritual challenge, therefore I will describe in detail the 7 Dark Night of the Soul stages:

1. Waking up to the truth

2. The triggering event/ events

3. The Darkest time of your life

4. The Rollercoaster

5. discovering your life purpose.

6. Attaining balance

7. Becoming the best version of yourself

Reading about these stages will help you gain a better understanding of your own journey with it and how to emerge from it sooner.

Table of Contents

What is the Dark Night of the Soul? 

The dark night of the soul stages

Spiritual people from different cultures have been speaking about the Dark Night of the soul in their books and writings for centuries. 

It is a concept that has been deeply explored by Christianity, but one carmelite priest, John of the Cross, actually described the whole process in his poem “Noche Oscura”. 

Therefore, people have been experiencing this since time immemorial, but what exactly is the Dark Night of the Soul?

The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of time in a person’s life when a lot of difficult experiences will happen, to make them grow spiritually, find their purpose in life, pay heavy karma, and understand deep karmic and spiritual lessons. 

How Long Does It Take To Move Through The Dark Night Of The Soul Stages? 

The duration of the Dark Night of the soul is different from person to person. 

For some people, passing through the Dark Night of the Soul stages lasts a few weeks, for others months or years, whereas for others it lasts decades. 

It all depends on how old you are as a soul , what truths you need to wake up to, how much karma you have to pay, and what lessons you have to learn.  

Another important aspect is how quick you are when it comes to learning your spiritual lessons. 

If you accept the lessons that life is presenting to you, integrate them, and move on with serenity, you are likely to end your Dark Night of the Soul sooner. 

However, if you are someone who likes to be in control of things and fight the direction that the Universe opens up for them, you may end up facing the same situations over and over again until you learn your lesson and align with your ultimate purpose.

It’s important to note that older souls can sometimes (not always) have tougher and longer Dark Nights of the Soul, as they may have more karma to pay than young souls. 

Also, souls with a big ego can have more difficult Dark Nights of the Soul because they fail to have faith in what the Universe brings and tend to always want to control things. This prevents them from moving on and learning the lesson.

During the Dark Night of the Soul, life will present you with all sorts of painful situations.

Your ego will be torn to pieces and you will need to face who you are as a person and as a spirit. 

But before that, you will find your connection to the Divine, and ultimately, your life purpose and mission here on earth. 

The journey of the Dark Night of the Soul can be compared to a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.

At first, the butterfly is scared and thinks his life is over, but in reality, his life has just begun and he starts to fly as high as he wants. 

The 7 Dark Night of the Soul Stages

showing the dark night of the soul stages

1. Waking up to the truth 

The first stage of the Dark Night of the Soul is waking up to the truth and becoming spiritually open and awake. 

Before this, you were probably living your life just like anyone – going to work, coming home to sleep eat, and spending time with your loved ones. 

Then, all of a sudden you started feeling the urge to discover more.

You start to feel and understand that life has a spiritual meaning as well, and that there is a higher force in this universe. 

There could be a person helping you realize this, or a situation, or even a place.

You could even come to this realization on your own.

In this stage you become more interested in the spiritual world, and start exploring it, trying to find your path and understand your journey.

This realization, that there is a Divine Energy out there and that we live in a spiritual world gives your life a whole new meaning. 

You feel stronger and wiser than before, and you could even feel very happy and very aligned with who you’re supposed to be. 

The only thing is that you’re only at the beginning of your spiritual journey, and you haven’t yet discovered who you’re meant to be. 

2. The triggering event 

The Dark Night of the Soul is always triggered by something that happens to you. 

This event could be something negative, as well as something positive.

It could also be just one event, or more events, one after the other. 

For example, you could meet the love of your life and then lose them.

Or you could lose your home, or your fortune, or your health, or several loved ones.

Some people even lose their faith or mental stability, as a triggering event for their Dark Night of the Soul.

Others lose their entire family, the city where they live, or everything they had.

The triggering event is always something that will completely shake up your entire world and reality. 

What you believed to be yours, whatever offered you stability is now gone, and you have to make it on your own. 

The only thing is that at this stage you are not able to make it on your own, as you don’t know who you’re meant to be yet. 

The triggering event is meant to bring to the surface your deepest fears, wounds, insecurities, from this life or from past lives, to give you the possibility of healing them. 

This is when your spiritual journey really begins.

This event will bring you immense pain, and you will feel like you no longer know who you are or why you’re here, in this lifetime.

3. The Darkest time of your life 

woman going through the dark night of the soul

I call the third Dark Night of the Soul stage “the Darkest time of your life”.

If you’ve been through it, you understand why. 

After the triggering event, in which you’ve lost something that deeply care for or which was essential to who you are as a person, you will be confronting a lot of ugly inner demons. 

The triggering event is meant to make you face a lot of intense negative emotions or states.

You could be experiencing anger, sadness, hatred, confusion, or even depression or anxiety. 

And it will not end very soon, because it is meant to make face your darkest fears and thus heal your deepest wounds. 

During this stage, it is indicated that you get support from friends, family, and even a therapist or psychiatrist, if that’s the case. 

Do not be ashamed to ask for help and to do whatever it takes for your healing.

Remember that this is just a stage, and it will pass, but you must take action towards your own healing. 

Taking the right action during this stage could help you heal faster while postponing it could prolong your state.

After the “Darkest time of your life”, there will be a stage in which you start feeling better and it feels like you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

This stage comes when you start healing the negative emotions you were feeling in the previous stage of the Dark Night of the soul. 

I consider this stage to be a period of transition. Things will not be good yet, but not as bad as before. 

You will have moments in which you will feel amazing like you can conquer anything – because you are overcoming something huge.

But then will be moments in which you will feel like you’re back where you left from because something negative will surface again and cause you to see what is yet unresolved, also making you feel all that pain all over again. 

In this “Rollercoaster” stage, life will give you all sorts of spiritual tests. 

And I know this may not be fair, as you’re not completely healed yet, but how you pass them can also speed up your healing and ease your karma. 

If you don’t pass them, don’t worry – just make sure you understand the lesson after every failure and remember to do better next time. 

It is very important to have self-love and compassion for yourself during this stage, and do not beat yourself up over small or big failures. 

When you start seeing failure as an opportunity to grow, the concept of failure will not exist for you anymore.

Just remember to listen to your heart, but take your brain with you. 

As you start healing old wounds and start feeling better, you will also positively shift your emotional state. 

You will have a deeper understanding of the events that needed to happen and you will understand that it had to happen in order to shape you into being who you’re destined to be. 

By understanding and accepting this, you will reach a state of inner peace and personal power like never before. 

You will have confidence that you can achieve and overcome anything. 

With this mindset, it will be possible for you to discover your real-life purpose, as you are now ready for it.

You have a lot of courage, power, and determination in chasing your dreams and bringing into reality whatever you want to bring into reality. 

If you’ve been through this process, you may be someone who has a mission involving healing or spirituality – perhaps a lightworker. 

This incredibly difficult journey is something most spiritual people must go through to develop empathy, compassion, and to be able to heal and love unconditionally.

If you’ve discovered your life purpose but has nothing to do with spirituality, not to worry, still pursue it, because you’re probably bringing healing in the world in ways you did not know are possible. 

6. Attaining balance 

spiritual image of woman in the dark night of the soul

In the sixth stage of the Dark Night of the Soul, you will be achieving a state of balance that may not even believe it’s possible anymore. 

After you’ve discovered your life purpose, you will start laying the foundations of the life that you are truly meant to live. 

This is a time of building the rest of your life, or in other words, an amazing chance to start all over again! 

What will happen during this dark night of the soul stage is that you may not receive as much guidance as before, especially in stage one, when you were at the beginning of your spiritual journey and a lot of angels and spirit guides were probably helping you. 

This test is also spiritual, as it is the time for you to start acting like a creator and to build the life that you want. 

I advise you to have determination and faith, that you are on the right path and that you are being helped and supported in achieving what you need to achieve. 

7. Becoming the best version of yourself 

Now that you have been through all the previous dark night of the soul stages, you have become the best version of yourself that there could possibly be. 

You were shattered, you were in deep pain, your whole world was torn to pieces, then you suffered tremendously and managed to heal yourself and build an amazing life. 

You have also learned a lot of lessons, healed many old wounds, and broke many dysfunctional patterns – both personal and generational.

Now you will be able to catch yourself before reacting to something that might have triggered you in the past and to stop. 

You are also able to recognize negative patterns as they start developing and not choose to allow them into your life anymore. 

You can control your emotions and maintain your inner peace in any situation, and also be able to fulfill your destiny and continue to create an amazing life. 

From this point on, you will also be able to offer support to others, and you can say that your life has just begun. 

❤️ Related: 20 Signs You May Be Experiencing A Dark Night Of The Soul

Emerging from the Dark Night of the Soul

emerging from the final dark night of the soul stages

If you are in the process of emerging from the Dark Night of the Soul, the following advice can help you overcome it faster: 

1. Trust the Universe 

Trust God, or the Universe, even if it’s hard to understand why you had to go through certain experiences. 

Let go of your need to control life and just surrender to what it is bringing to you, trusting that everything happens for your higher good. 

When things happen to you, let go of resistance and just try to just go with the flow of life.

2. Get the lesson 

After every unpleasant or painful event, do your emotional healing and look at what lesson was there to get. 

You can do this through meditation, or simply by having a look or asking the opinion of someone you deeply trust.

This way, you will evolve spiritually and will not have to go through the same lesson later on.

3. Spend time alone and meditate

woman meditating in the dark

Don’t be afraid to spend time by yourself, having an honest look at the role you played in certain situations. 

Don’t try to blame what’s happening to you on others, as it is not their fault – you are the one creating your life. 

Rather, take responsibility for your actions, thoughts, and energies, and look at how you were creating things in the wrong way. 

Only this way you will know how to create a better life in the future. 

4. Close the door on the past

One trap that many people fall into is spending too much time thinking about the past and contemplating certain situations which can never happen again. 

No matter how beautiful the past was, or how much it has impacted you, you can never go back in the past to change it or live it again.

Life is happening now, and you’ve done a lot of work to move on with your life, so allow yourself to enjoy the new life you have created for yourself.

To conclude, the Dark Night of the Soul happens to most people, especially spiritual people in this lifetime and it is a very difficult experience, but it allows you to transform and become the best version of yourself. 

If you are living this currently, or have been through it, share it with us in the comments below and let us know in which one of the Dark Night of the Soul stages you’re in.

❤️ Related Post:

  • The Twin Flame Dark Night Of The Soul [10 Signs You’re In One]

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

Alexandra, the head author at Subconscious Servant is a Psychologist, Reiki Therapist, and writer. She loves writing about any topic from Applied Psychology, Metaphysical and Spiritual healing, hoping that people on a spiritual, self-discovery journey will find guidance and light through her articles. If you want to read more about Alexandra, visit her full author bio here .

Saturday 22nd of July 2023

I like to think I am in the rollercoaster stage as I had three weeks of deep depression and then three weeks of bliss but now I am in the severe state of depression. I keep telling myself it is only temporary and I should be thankful but it can be tough. Thank you for the above and sending love to you all.

Monday 22nd of August 2022

Thank you. I believe I am getting out of it(stage 6 too), but it still feels painful and low on occasion. Thank you for taking time to write the article, it is really helping to know, that we are part of the process.

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad the article was helpful. I know it can be painful and difficult to go through the process, but it is worth it in the end. Thank you for taking the time to write. 🙏

Sunday 1st of May 2022

I cannot thank you enough for writing this article. I was beginning to think that I was totally loosing it, looking for some glimmer of hope that I wasn’t. I am in the mist of stage six. I have found a greater sense of peace knowing that there isn’t so much an end but a new beginning at the end of the tunnel. Thank you so very very much.

You're welcome! I'm glad this article was able to give you some peace of mind. Wishing you a peaceful journey through your final stage. :)

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7 Omens That Herald the Dark Night of the Soul

by Mateo · Jul 22, 2023 · 509 Comments

Image of a sad woman in black experiencing a dark night of the soul

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest Souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. –  Khalil Gibran

At some point, most of us go through a phenomenon known as the Dark Night of the Soul.

Although we try to run from it, it is still there. Although we try to cover it up and smother it, it is still there. Although we try to put on a happy, smiley face and pretend it away, it’s still there.

While some of us seek reprieve in religious thought, others of us seek respite in spiritual philosophy or psychology, and still, others seek relief through addiction and mind-numbing external pursuits.

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The truth is that although we are all born with Souls , not all of us know how to fully embody and integrate them into our human experience. The reality is that in our modern world, we live ego-centrically rather than Soul-centrically.

Mystics , saints, and shamans throughout history have all referred to this ego-centric human struggle in different ways. But the one thing they all had in common was their tendency to point to the need for us to consciously grow into our Divine potential.

One of these people was Saint John of the Cross , a Spanish monk who coined the term “Dark Night of the Soul” (“ Noche Oscura ” the name of one of his poems) based on his own mystical experience.

These days, the concept of the Dark Night of the Soul has come to be used in a much broader way. What was once a term reserved for people actively going through a Spiritual Journey , has now come to easily label anything ranging from a few bad days and a period of depression to the death of a loved one.

But what really is the Dark Night of the Soul?

(Note: if you feel the need for further gentle guidance after reading this article, I recommend checking out our Dark Night of the Soul Journal which is a wonderfully supportive way of finding a continued sense of direction and healing.)

Table of contents

What is the dark night of the soul, dark night and depression – is it the same thing, why suffering is necessary, what is the point of living, happiness isn’t this or that, happiness is, the dark night and the spiritual awakening process, dark night of the soul meditation.

First, we’ll start with a basic definition:

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The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of utter spiritual desolation, disconnection, and emptiness in which one feels totally separated from the Divine. Those who experience the Dark Night feel completely lost, hopeless, and consumed with melancholy. The Dark Night of the Soul can be likened to severe spiritual depression (it’s a type of spiritual emergency .)

The concept of having a Dark Night of the Soul has existed for a long time, and spans back to the 16th century when poet and Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross wrote a poem entitled, “ La noche oscura del alma (The Dark Night of the Soul).”

Wrote Saint John:

If a man wishes to be sure of the road he’s traveling on, then he must close his eyes and travel in the dark.

Traditionally, the Dark Night of the Soul refers to the experience of losing touch with God/Creator and being plunged into the abyss of godless emptiness. The modern understanding of having a Dark Night of the Soul, however, is not exclusively a religious one, but can often mean losing all meaning in life , feeling out-of-touch with the Divine, feeling betrayed or forsaken by Life, and having no solid or stable ground to stand on.

Some of the heaviest questions we ask during this period include for example, “Why am I alive?” “ Why do good people suffer? ” “What is truth?” “Is there a god or afterlife?” and “What is the point of living?”

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The Dark Night of the Soul is not the same as depression.

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Although depression shares many of its characteristics with the experience of having a Dark Night of the Soul, it can often be treated and sometimes cured with medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness practices, lifestyle changes, and so forth.

Furthermore, depression often has its roots in biological chemical imbalances and/or unhealthy thought patterns, and often comes as a result of personal loss, mental illness, physical illness, abuse, genetics, and so on.

However, while the Dark Night of the Soul isn’t the same as regular depression, it can be thought of as spiritual depression.

One of the biggest differences between the Dark Night of the Soul’s depression and regular depression is that the Dark Night is primarily a spiritual and existential form of crises that can’t be treated or cured with therapy or psychiatry. Therefore, those of us going through the Dark Night can often feel an increasing sense of hopelessness, unease, and despair as we discover that no one can save us but ourselves. Inevitably, this makes us feel even more alone, frustrated, and confused about the world and about ourselves.

I am intensely aware of what it is like to experience complete psychological and spiritual desolation and although the feeling seems endless, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you just know where to look.

Image of a black forest symbolic of the dark night of the soul

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.  – Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“ What’s the difference between the dark night and depression? ” you may still wonder.

Even back in the 16th century, Saint John of the Cross himself was at great pains to distinguish the Dark Night from mere melancholia (depression).

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After all, the symptoms of the Dark Night of the Soul are not that different from depression. But while depression is psychological/neurological/biological, the Dark Night heralds deep-seated changes occurring within us known as spiritual transformation .

Here are 7 “ omens ” that you might be going through a Dark Night of the Soul:

  • You feel a deep sense of sadness, which often verges on despair (this sadness is often triggered by the state of your life, humanity, and/or the world as a whole)
  • You feel an acute sense of unworthiness
  • You have the constant feeling of being lost or “condemned” to a life of suffering or emptiness
  • You possess a painful feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness
  • Your will and self-control is weakened, making it difficult for you to act
  • You lack interest and find no joy in things that once excited you
  • You crave for the loss of something intangible; a longing for a distant place or to “return home” again

(You can also take our free Dark Night of the Soul test to help you discover whether you’re going through this experience or not.)

The ultimate difference between regular depression and the Dark Night of the Soul’s depression is that regular depression is usually self-centric, whereas the Dark Night’s depression is philosophical in nature and is accompanied by existential reflections such as “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?”

Also, when depression ends, not much changes in your life in terms of your beliefs, values, and habits. However, when the Dark Night of the Soul ends, everything in your life is transformed, and life becomes wondrous again.

Image of a woman drowning in water symbolic of the dark night of the soul

My desire to live is as intense as ever, and though my heart is broken, hearts are made to be broken: that is why God sends sorrow into the world … To me, suffering seems now a sacramental thing, that makes those whom it touches holy … any materialism in life coarsens the soul. – Oscar Wilde “ Letters “

Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dąbrowski once coined a term Positive disintegration which views tension and anxiety as necessary in the process of spiritual and psychological maturing. In other words, it is the friction within us that causes the mirror of our Souls to be polished enough for us to glimpse our True Nature .

I often hear people speak of the Dark Night as some kind problem they have to “fix,” or something they “went through a long time ago, that is now over, thank God.” But what these people thought was a Dark Night may have just been a glimpse of the darkness within them, especially when they speak egotistically about it as if it were a badge of honor.

A true Dark Night of the Soul leaves a long-lasting impact on you – it changes you completely. When you exit a Dark Night, you will discover that something is always taken away from you (for the better), such as your beliefs, your perceptions, your former meaning in life , or even in rare cases, your ego identification.

The metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy put it this way:

No creature can attain a higher grade of nature without ceasing to exist.

Have you ever seen a butterfly begin to emerge from its cocoon? It must struggle in order to strengthen its wings. If someone frees the butterfly from its cocoon prematurely, it won’t be able to fly because its crucial tempering stage will not have occurred.

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The same is true for trees. Trees need wind in order to build their structural strength to stay upright.

Your Dark Night of the Soul is your wind, your cocoon; it is an ego death whereby you shed the ego that prevents you from embodying your Soul.

If you try to avoid the hard work of, as Ananda put it, “ceasing to exist,” or breaking down your old confining structures, you won’t have what it takes to truly embody your essential nature.

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Here’s another central question and concern that emerges over and over again during our Dark Night of the Soul.

What is the point of living?

Such a question weighs down on us like lead, oppressing us constantly.

Each day we might obsessively search for an answer, but find to our greatest dismay that the answers to such a question are as expansive as the waves on the ocean.

Some people tell us, “the point is to serve God,” others tell us, “the point is to make a difference,” and others tell us, “there is no point: you make your own meaning.” These are only three of hundreds, even thousands of possible answers.

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What the hell are we supposed to do?

Who is right, who is wrong … if there really is any “right” or “wrong” answer? We walk down one path and immediately become dissatisfied, disillusioned, and repelled by what we discover. Then we walk down another path and history repeats itself again and again until we realize with horror, “Every path is meaningless to me,” and we collapse in grief and despair, winding up at square one again.

Such a cycle repeats itself over and over again during the Dark Night of the Soul, so much so that it can become like torment. I know because I have experienced it. The strange thing is that although we get to a point of complete desolation, we still hold a glimmer of hope that pursuing the same path over and over and over again will somehow bring us to a deeply satisfying meaning one day. We seem to think that the mind is the solution to our problems; that utilizing the mind will release us from the original prison created by the mind that feels the need to quantify, measure, and define everything.

What most of us fail to do, however, is to question the actual questions we are asking and pursuing the answers to. Have you ever tried asking:

Why must there be a point to living? Instead of, What is the point of living?

I’ll elaborate on this below.

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Earlier today I opened my email and received a poignant message from one of our long-time readers asking:

I don’t understand. Why am I alive? Why do I experience life? I don’t know why I am here now. I don’t see the point of living my life. I don’t want anything, not material /physical achievements, not relationships, not entertainment, nothing. I don’t know what to do with this body, mind, and feelings. Or maybe I just experience this life too intensely until I am numbed. But why?

My answer to anyone experiencing this is that although you might feel cursed, you are actually blessed. It sounds absurd, even insulting, but this is the truth.

Before any true growth or healing can occur, there must be a process of destruction and complete annihilation of everything you thought would bring you happiness.

Most people experiencing Dark Nights realize this: that nothing makes them happy anymore; not bodily, not sexual, not emotional, not material, not political, not social, not even spiritual. And this is the start of the purification process.

Conditioning vs. reality …

Since birth you have been conditioned to believe that money will make you happy, a sexy/rich partner will make you happy, a high IQ will make you happy, a big house will make you happy, a thriving career will make you happy, a perfect life will make you happy.

But this is all a lie because whenever you pursue happiness, you are immediately losing touch with the fact that happiness is already here, right now, in this very second, without you having to do anything or question anything. Happiness IS.

This sounds like the most ridiculous thing you might have ever heard, and yet deep down you might sense the truth in it. If this is the case the first layer of your illusion has been peeled away; what a blessing!

A blessing in disguise …

In reality, it is absolutely terrifying to have the ground beneath your feet ripped out from beneath you, and this is precisely what we experience during the Dark Night of the Soul.

And yet, this experience is the greatest teacher of all to us because it illuminates what is fragile, transient, and subject to change, growth, and decay. We are subsequently left with a feeling of great inner emptiness , but within this emptiness, we eventually come to see what can never come, go, change or die, and that is the truth of who we are : pure, peaceful, and blissful conscious essence.

The mind is always frantically searching …

The mind is a product of our evolutionary development: it protects us and structures our existence, and through it, we can experience the beauty of life. But in order to truly come to any closure during our Dark Nights we must understand that the mind is limited, narrow and finite – and therefore so is our reasoning.

Why must there be a “point” to living other than the experience of being alive in all of its fascinating and shocking diversity? Why must we “pursue” or “find” something rather than simply experiencing each moment fully and completely in the simplicity of Being?

That is why I say that happiness isn’t this or that, happiness IS. What exactly are we seeking when we want to answer the question, “What is the point of living”? We want a satisfactory answer that will appeal to the mind and “GIVE” us happiness.

But happiness can’t be given because happiness IS. This might all sound like fancy rhetoric, but I recommend that you let it sink in and really look into it more. For me it took years, but these six questions  helped to solidify the understanding that happiness and fulfillment are already here, now. Please read them to continue your journey.

The Dark Night of the Soul image

As humans, the prospect of change is avoided and resisted because it is unknown territory. Therefore, we fear it. For this reason, we require a Spiritual Awakening .

There are three ways that Spiritual Awakenings can occur:

the first is at the hands of wise spiritual teachers, the second is through the spiritual drive of soulfully mature people, and the third is spontaneously due to life experience.

Spontaneous awakenings arrive in a number of ways: a terminal diagnosis, old age, a near-death experience, a physical accident, the loss of a loved one, a romantic breakup, the destruction of your home or homeland, suicidal depression, or the complete loss of your religious faith.

The Dark Night is a herald, an omen, of change. It lets us know that we can’t continue living the way we have been living. There is no growth, no awakening in life, to life, without first seeing and acknowledging our existing disappointment.

Acknowledging our disappointment means becoming aware of the deeply held sense of “incompletion” that we all carry; it means becoming aware that something is desperately missing from our lives. Those that have experienced, or are currently experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul will know that something very fundamental at a core level is out of focus or completely lacking in their lives. Those going through a Dark Night will sense that so much more is possible in their lives, even though they don’t exactly know what that “so much more” is.

Paradise lost and found …

One of the common reasons why Dark Nights occur and are prolonged is due to mystical experiences , or short glimpses of the divine, which spiritual teachers often refer to as “grace” or samādhi. Soon afterward, the person “loses” this experience, and is plunged into unhappiness again. This is called the “halo effect,” “afterglow” or what the Sufis speak of as the “sobriety of union.”

Why does the “halo effect” happen? It happens because of the stark contrast between one’s rediscovered Divine Self and the return to one’s disconnected and tormented Ego self. To the spiritually mature person, the halo effect sets the stage for a future encounter with the transcendental, with God.

However, for the less prepared seeker, the glimpse into the Divine stirs up even more distress as old habits, obsessions, thoughts, and behaviors reappear. Now, such a person realizes that he has a long, complex, and demanding task of purification and transformation ahead of him.

In Spiritual Alchemy , there is a word for this experience called solutio ; putting all the hard stuff in the waters of reflection (your ideas, your habits, etc.), where it dissolves and breaks apart, shows itself for what it is, and gives you the opportunity for a fresh start.

Find freedom through purging …

The solution to one’s suffering and disconnection from the divine realm can be any method of cutting away, dislodging, disintegrating and clearing old pieces of your life so that you can begin afresh.

Essentially, the Dark night is a process of shedding away your old home and going in search of a new one. Understandably, this process requires a huge leap of faith into the unknown which can come at quite a sudden and frightening pace.

If you think you might be going through this journey, it’s important to understand that many of us have been where you are. Many people still are. There is no map, there is only the flickering luminescence of your Soul to light the way.

I hope our work can encourage, embolden and support you if you are undertaking this descent into your Underworld.

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While every experience of the Dark Night of the Soul is different, the one common thread is that it is a path of initiation. You are in the dark so that you can understand what Light is. You are disconnected so that you can know what connection is. You are lost so that you can find your way back Home. If these explanations of the Dark Night don’t resonate with you, please go ahead and discard of them. I’m not here to tell you what the Dark Night of the Soul should  mean because ultimately  you  must figure that out for yourself. You need to be the one to make meaning out of your experience. I can only offer my own understanding.

If you have read up until this point you are probably looking for additional help, and that is completely understandable. However, the Dark Night of the Soul is a complex and profound experience and it cannot be solved by reading a “six-step” formula or bullet list. What I  can  offer you, however, is a simple meditation which may provide you with some level of relief.

When you can dredge up enough energy (I know how exhausting and depleting the Dark Night can be), try experimenting with the following Dark Night of the Soul meditation:

Find a quiet and undisturbed place. If you like, play some celestial or ethereal music in the background to set the mood. Lie down and close your eyes. For a minute or two focus on your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall. Once you feel connected with your body, shift your focus to creating an image of yourself walking through a dark forest. Imagine that you are looking above to see the dark tangled branches of the forest obscure the sky. What does the forest feel like? Is it cold, hot, balmy, humid or icy? Can you smell, feel or taste anything?

As you keep walking through the dark forest, the path in front of you seems endless. The atmosphere feels deathly and melancholic. Suddenly, a white wolf emerges from the trees. It looks at you with intelligent and kind eyes and begins to accompany you as you walk. Your feeling of loneliness lifts slightly as you enjoy the company of your animal friend. Suddenly, the wolf beside you stops and stares intensely into the dark trees ahead of you. You peer ahead but cannot see anything but dark shadows. Suddenly, your wolf companion lifts up his head and lets out a loud and haunting wolf call.

The hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Just after the wolf stops howling, a white light slowly emerges from deep within the forest. At first, the light is tiny and like a pinprick. But as you walk towards it, the light becomes bigger and brighter. A feeling of hope begins to fill you.  Tentatively, you start jogging towards the light. You notice that the faster you run, the bigger the light gets. The closer you move to the light, the more open and expansive you feel. You pick up your pace. The feeling is exhilarating! Far behind you, the white wolf howls again. A feeling of wildness and freedom starts to warm you from the inside out. As you continue running, the light begins to consume your vision. The dark forest begins to quickly fade. As you look down, you notice that your legs are the legs of a wolf – without knowing it, you have experienced a total transformation – and it is liberating! Picking up your pace, you keep running and you let out a loud howl. The piercing sound of the howl dissolves all hopelessness, sadness, and darkness left within you. The howl has completely purified you. All that remains is pure light, love, hope, power, and peace. You feel spacious and open. You are free!

Enjoy the feeling of freedom for as long as you wish. When you are ready, wiggle your fingers and toes and return back to the room. You may like to journal about your experience.

Feel free to record this visualization, get someone to read it out to you gently, or change the meditation to your own liking. It has been created to ultimately benefit  you. 

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To end this article, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Dark Night of the Soul quotes by David Whyte – a man who understood the value of making peace with the darkness:

…Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love. The dark will be your womb tonight. The night will give you a horizon further than you can see. You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you. – “ Sweet Darkness ” by David Whyte

Now, over to you:

What has your experience been like with the Dark Night of the Soul? Please share below to help others not feel so alone.

P.S. If you’re experiencing the Dark Night and desperately need more guidance, see our Dark Night of the Soul Journal for extra help. Our article on Soul Work might also be of assistance to you.

7 Omens That Herald the Dark Night of the Soul

More Facing The Darkness

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About Mateo

Mateo is a spiritual educator, guide, entrepreneur, and co-founder of one of the most influential and widely read spiritual websites on the internet. Born into a family with a history of drug addiction and mental illness, he was taught about the plight of the human condition from a young age. His mission is to help others experience freedom, wholeness, and peace in all stages of life. [Read More]

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Dark night of the soul for me was an excruciatingly painful experience both mentally and physically. It hurt like nothing I have ever experienced before. I felt completely defeated and did not want this life anymore. Did that mean I was suicidal? No. I wanted a better life and I couldn’t understand why I was so different from everyone else. Why I felt things so deeply. Why I cared so much for others in a world that doesn’t care about me. Yes, I was feeling like a victim with no self-worth. This life felt pointless like an empty void that I was stuck in and I couldn’t find my way out. The pain lingered and felt more intense everyday. The silence deafening. The loneliness unbearable. The shadows becoming darker everyday, taunting me. Laughing at me. Pulling negative energy from my emotional disparity. Becoming stronger as I became weaker. Sucking the life out of me until I had nothing left. It was then I called upon the Creator and COMPLETELY surrendered. I had nothing left and I gave my Creator complete and total power. Every cell in my body, every piece of my soul and entire essence of my spirit, surrendered. …  Read more »

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19 Signs You’re Experiencing the Dark Night of the Soul


If you’re feeling lost or in despair, you might be experiencing this spiritual awakening. This article will help you recognize the signs and navigate through this challenging yet rewarding journey.

Table of Contents

Dark Night of the Soul Signs to Look Out For

Recognizing the signs of the Dark Night of the Soul is the first step towards understanding and navigating this spiritual journey. Here are some common signs:

1. Spiritual Awakening

The Dark Night of the Soul often begins with a spiritual awakening. This is a profound shift in consciousness where you start to perceive the deeper meanings of life. You may begin to question your purpose, your beliefs, and the very nature of reality itself. This awakening can be triggered by a variety of experiences, such as a life-changing event, a deep existential crisis, or a sudden realization of life’s impermanence.

To further illuminate your path, explore our comprehensive guide on the 7 stages of spiritual awakening and how to navigate them , a roadmap to your spiritual evolution.

2. Emotional Turmoil

During this journey, you may experience intense emotional pain and turmoil. This is often triggered by a significant event in your life that shakes your very core. It could be the loss of a loved one, a serious illness, or any event that causes deep emotional pain. This triggering event often brings to the surface unresolved issues and emotional wounds that need to be healed.

3. Changes in Sleep and Eating Patterns

You may notice significant changes in your sleep and eating patterns. You might experience insomnia, sleep disorders, or changes in appetite. These changes are often a result of the intense emotional and spiritual processes taking place.

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

4. A Desire for Deeper Connections

As you navigate through the Dark Night of the Soul, you may find yourself yearning for deeper, more meaningful connections. Shallow, superficial relationships may no longer satisfy you. You may find yourself seeking relationships that offer deeper emotional and spiritual connections.

5. Discovering Your Life Purpose

One of the most profound aspects of this journey is the discovery of your life purpose. As you navigate through the stages of the Dark Night of the Soul, you may start to gain clarity about your life’s purpose and mission. This often involves aligning with your Higher Self and embracing your authentic self.

6. Feeling of Emptiness

You might feel a deep sense of emptiness or meaninglessness. Things that once brought you joy or satisfaction may no longer do so. This is a sign that your old self and old ways of being are dissolving, making way for the new.

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7. Loss of Identity

You may experience a loss of identity, feeling as if you don’t know who you are anymore. This is a sign that you’re shedding old beliefs and identities and moving towards discovering your authentic self.

8. Intense Fear and Anxiety

Fear and anxiety are common during the Dark Night of the Soul. You’re venturing into the unknown, and this can naturally bring up fear and uncertainty.

9. Feeling Misunderstood

You may feel misunderstood or isolated from others. As you’re going through profound inner changes, you may find it hard to relate to others who are not going through the same process.

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

10. Longing for Home

You may feel a deep longing for ‘home’, even ifyou can’t define what or where that home is. This is a longing for your true spiritual home, for unity with the divine.

11. Seeing Through the Illusions of Society

You may start to see through the illusions of society and the games people play. This can lead to feelings of disillusionment and alienation, but it’s also a sign that you’re seeing more deeply into the nature of reality.

12. Increased Intuition

Your intuition may become heightened. You may start to know things without knowing how you know them. This is a sign that your spiritual faculties are awakening.

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

13. Experiencing Synchronicities

You may start to experience synchronicities or ‘meaningful coincidences’. This is a sign that you’re aligning with the flow of the universe.

14. Heightened Sensitivity

Your senses may become more acute, and you may become more sensitive to energy. This can include sensitivity to the energy of places and people.

15. Aversion to Negativity

You may find you have a strong aversion to negativity, whether in the form of negative people, negative news, or negative environments. This is a sign that your vibration is rising.

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

16. Desire to Be Alone

You may have a strong desire to be alone. This solitude can provide the space you need to introspect and to process your experiences.

17. Seeing the Beauty in Nature

You may start to see the beauty in nature with new eyes. This is a sign that your consciousness is shifting and you’re becoming more attuned to the beauty and sacredness of life.

18. Unconditional Love

You may start to experience love in its purest form – unconditional love. This is love that doesn’t depend on conditions or circumstances. It’s a sign that your heart chakra is opening.

spiritual journey dark night of the soul

19. A Sense of Oneness

You may start to experience a sense of oneness with all of life. This is a sign that you’re awakening to your true nature, which is one with the nature of the universe.

Navigating the Journey

Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul is a deeply personal and unique journey. It involves a lot of self-care, self-discovery, and overcoming obstacles. Here are some strategies to help you navigate this journey:

1. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is crucial during this journey. This involves taking care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It could involve practices like meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, or any activity that brings you joy and peace. As someone who has navigated this journey, I can’t stress enough the importance of self-care. It’s not just about pampering yourself; it’s about honoring and nurturing your whole being.

2. Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to seek support during this journey. This could be from a trusted friend, a spiritual guide, or a mental health professional. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. In my experience, having a support system can make a significant difference. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone and that there are people who understand what you’re going through.

3. Embrace the Journey

Finally, embrace the journey. The Dark Night of the Soul, while challenging, is a transformative process that leads to profound personal growth and self-discovery. It’s a journey towards becoming the best version of yourself.

As you navigate this transformative journey, understanding the 5 Dark Night of the Soul stages can provide a roadmap to help you survive and thrive during this intense spiritual process.

Final Thoughts

The Dark Night of the Soul is a profound spiritual journey that can lead to immense personal growth and self-discovery. It’s a process of shedding old beliefs and patterns to make way for a new, more authentic self. While it can be a challenging journey, remember that it’s a path toward becoming the best version of yourself. Embrace the journey, practice self-care, and don’t hesitate to seek support when needed.

Remember, the Dark Night of the Soul is not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s a sign of spiritual awakening, a call to embark on a deeper journey of self-discovery and personal growth. So, if you find yourself in the midst of this journey, take heart. You’re on a path toward becoming the best version of yourself.

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Why do we go through the Dark Night of the Soul?

  • Carlos Barraza
  • February 3, 2024
  • Personal Development , Spirit

One phrase that I heard and might fit the best to summarize why do we go through a Dark Night of the Soul is that “it is always darkest before dawn”.

It is similar to the proccess of diamonds, where the carbon has to be under high pressure until being turned into a diamond.

And more analogies can be said, but what is the real reason of going through such spiritual experience?

In this article I will write about my thoughts and opinions of why I have experienced such tremendous moment.

Why do we go through the Dark Night of the Soul

The call of our Soul or is it Destiny?

Have you seen in people or has happened to you that when you give or get something easy, it is usually not totally appreciated, or being taken care of, as something that cost even more to get.

Usually, for the things that have taken more work, more time, more effort or seem impossible to get, as we get it, the value of either that thing or experience has even more value, mainly because of the arduos proccess that had to be passed in order to achieve it or become it.

Similar could be an experience of the Dark Night of the Soul, but of course in a broader spiritual and mindful escence.

The spanish mystic and poet, St. John of the Cross with his poem makes allusion to the feelings of this experience.

I think that we, the ones who have experienced a Dark Night of the Soul, start to value even more life after it.

Probably before, we already have enjoyed the ups and downs of life, but now, with the eye open (literally the Pineal Gland activated) and a deep sense of meaning and a purpose driven life.

It is said that there are some who experience a longer Dark Night of the Soul and some who have a harsh quick experience.

For the first ones, the spiritual growth and life changes are gradual, where for the second ones changes are more drastical and faster.

I could consider myself in the second type.

As I remember how it was my 2020, the year of my spiritual awakening , at the beginning of “my call”, it was about questioning the meaning of life and asking the divinity for the love of this world, specially for the COVID-19 worldwide events.

Day by day of that lent of 2020, I dedicated time for meditating and praying at a place in Heilbronn named “Liebespunkt” which means “Love Point” .

I started to be aware of synchronicities and I had a sense that something started rising within me. 

But little did I knew, even though I considered myself christian-catholic but I was never taught by the church about these concepts, that people who do strong spiritual practices could also end up in a strong experience such a Kundalini Awakening, which in conjunction also goes through the Dark Night of the Soul . 

I was in the dark, because I was not aware that for the emptiness that I wanted to fill, I was searching outside for the external to do so. 

While most of the world was in a lockdown, my spiritual experience ended up in a different kind of lockdown, in a mental hospital in Germany with what I could say an Ego Death .

I stayed 9 weeks at the clinic, which to be honest, the clinic was really gorgeous surrounded by nature. 

For this period of time, I could refer it as a symbol of the 9 months of a mother’s pregnancy, a gestation period.

My time at the mental health hospital was an inflection point for me, a death and rebirth process and the continuation of the awakening of my true self.  

After I left that place, my life started to change drastically and completely.

I had the urge to build a new life , to quit my wonderful job, to leave behind the lovely and comfort life I was building in Germany and return to my home in Mexico. 

That might sound strange. Probably from an Ego perspective, it is. 

If I was enjoying a life like that, then why change?

Eventually, this crave to learn from spirituality after the Dark Night of the Soul, teach us that everything is connected and as within so without, as above so below.

That inner voice, that higher true self is already connected with the divinity and it guides us.

So I decided to follow that “instinct”, that “inner voice”.  

And as one person in the clinic told me, “ only God knows “.

The purpose of the Dark Night of the Soul in the Spiritual Awakening Process

So after almost 4 years of my experience, what has happened or how I have found meaning to living a dark night of the soul?

I could consider that living this experience eventually is a catalyst of personal development and growth. 

Spiritual Development

One main area that expands exponentially is the acknowledgement of the spiritual journey.

I started to crave for “spiritual information” and started to read, view and listen to blogs, books, videos and audiobooks that covered such topics.

As it is, the Youtube algorithm eventually started to show on my feed more and more related videos that talked about spirituality.

I started to search for keywords like spiritual awakening, kundalini awakening, dark night of the soul, spiritual depression, hero’s journey and find out worldwide and locally known people who were already talking about such experiences like Eckhart Tolle, Alan Watts, Saddghuru, Deepak Chopra, Stanislav Grof, Joseph Campbell, Christina Lopes, Teal Swan, Zack Alexander, Loner Wolf Blog by Aletheia Luna and Mateo Sol, Jamie Munday, Gogo Ekhaya Esima, Yvonne Speck and many more.

Learning from other people who have make through such experience really help to develop on this spiritual journey. 

Certainly, at some point, the “mind” starts to understand such spiritual experiences.

As well, I am sure that this spiritual proccess also helps to learn how to become more the “observer” of the thoughts and not neccesarily believe that one is the thought.

This, the “observer” part, also helps to ease life and to don’t be attached to the thought, specially for negative or diminishing thoughts.

Another part of this spiritual evolution is becoming conscious about synchronicities. 

The psychiatrist Carl Jung is one who have talked about this meaningful events.

And synchronicities are not just observing the numbers 111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 666, 777, 888, 999, but also to observe events that seem that there is no direct correlation.

Some examples I lived in the recent years are that once it happened that I was checking Instagram stories, and a friend who lives in another country had on her Instagram story the song “Memories by Maroon 5”, and right after, I got into my car, and the song that was on the radio was the same “Memories”. I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but it was so curious for me.

Another example, as I was walking with a friend in Cancun, and talking that now I am observing more number synchronicities, a taxi with the number “111” on its side just passed.

And the most recent synchronicity as I write this article, some days ago I have started to listen in the morning the audiobook of “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. In the night of that same day, I started to watch a movie “Medios Hermanos” and in a part of it, the main actor makes a Google search and what he starts typing is “how to make friends”, which the Google results show the book. It was another, “Oh God” funny moment.

At the beginning of the acknowledgment of the spiritual journey, synchronicities were a “what the heck” moment, but as time passes, one enjoys synchronicities even more.

And last but not least, in terms of spirituality and religion , as being used to consider myself as “christian-catholic”, it fell down the need to go to church . I attend a couple times to the church mass, but it did not felt right anymore. At least for me.

As I recall, Echkart Tolle mentions in one of his books a New Earth, there are signposts in religions that eventually move people forward to realize about the connection with the divinity. 

In my opinion, yes, in some matter religions do point to the connection with the God within, but not mention literally and directly, at least the christian-catholic, about what is that dormant kundalini energy within that rises up the spine and activates the pineal gland. 

For me, religion has turned out a dogma that keeps people seeking for their desires outside, rather than inside. 

Ancient civilizations understood this and taught this with the use of mythology, but we only take those stories as merely folk fantasy tales.

What I have kept doing, is to do prayers and meditations . Those spaces of alone moments with daily spiritual practices have become also a reinforcement of the connection with the divinity. 

After a Dark Night of the Soul, a new level of consciousness is achieved. 

Mental Development

Mental health.

The mental and emotional aspects of a person are a motor of how we behave, feel and react to our environment.

For the decisions that we take, we either rationalize and think things, what is good for the Ego I suppose, or we follow our “gut”, which is listening to our soul.

In the last years, it has taken even more relevance the topic of mental health and its care, but unfortunately, that also has included the stigma that if you have a certain behaviour, then you have an illness and you need to be medicated.

And I say unfortunately or maybe fortunately for a higher purpose, because I also experienced from first hand at the german mental health clinic being medicated for my “depression”, for my “psychosis” and “symptoms of schizophrenia” without even being questioned, or without the doctors doing a profound investigation of what happened, a spiritual emergency and an altered state of consciousness.

People who experience a spiritual awakening and a Dark Night of the Soul, in some cases end up in such mental health institutes and are medicated, inclusive against their will, even if all the labs like electroencephalogram or MRI were proven to be “normal”. 

Mental health treatment models are based on “what the statistics and the medical books have shown”, without even considering in first place the individual, his or her experience, his or her root causes, and in general the full body-mind-soul spectrum of what is unbalanced.

Visiting a mental health clinic might be part of a healing proccess, but what I can say is that the current way of being treated and medicated by such mental health clinics is not the path towards healing. Mental health clinics must change their approach on how they treat the patients. 

In fact, such approach, of basing the 6-12 week treatment on what the medical books say, having 5 minute sessions with the “specialized psychiatrist doctors”, and 5-10 minute sessions with a “specialized psychologist”, only impedes or diverts the person’s healing journey. 

The good thing I have read is that there are some clinics that are already applying a different approach towards the  spiritual emergencies . You can find more throught the Spiritual Emergence Network .

Two videos that I find relevant are the Ted Talk of Phil Borges “ Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening ” and “ Sick or Gifted? Bridging the Connection Between Mental Health Issues and Spirituality ” by Gogo Ekhaya Esima.

This talks bring up the awareness of different spiritual experiences that are quickly labeled as “mental illness”. 

If the doctors who are in charge of such places are not “spiritualized”, then the spiritual emergencies cases might take even more time to heal, hence the need to bring up more holistic healing spaces and develop doctors that have an holistic healing view. 

Personal development on Mental Level

As for myself to keep developing on a mental level I have done several things. 

One simple action like, dedicating time in nature , helps not only to calm the mind, but actually helps to bring the stress levels down, and as consequence by lowering the cortisol levels, also the inflammation levels in the body and the brain go down. 

Time in nature is a common effect of a spiritual awakening, and as well, animals like dogs and cats do come closer, which also helps to relax. 

I have been planting more trees in the last couple years after my spiritual awakening, than in my whole life. 

As well, I also have been focusing on learning in general about personal development as well in topics like wealth creation .

The focus on the growth of personal finances has been a controversial topic for people who are in a “spiritual community”, and it is understandable because at one point of the awakening journey, one part is to “leave behind any attachment” and that also includes money.

The talk about money and spirituality can have plenty of contrasts, but as for me, money has to be seen as a tool that helps to build a life that one desires. As said by some authors, money is energy, and we can see it as simple and plain as that. If we use it for good or for bad, is the personal decision. 

Another aspect that has helped me in the last years, is to  write my set of goals and commit to myself .

Doing a personal development course by Marco Antonio Regil , and listening to other personal growth speakers such as Bryan Tracy and Jim Rohn, goal setting has become also a part of me.

I have not only set my goals about money, but also about experiences that I want to achieve.

This has helped me as well to understand that is more about the proccess and the journey, not only about the end result.

Also, I have listened to audiobooks and videos of Neville Goddard, Wayne Dyer and Bob Proctor.

Such style of teaching has helped me to internalize the spiritual and mental lessons of ask and it is given and treat thoughts as things , which basically were lessons taught by Jesus-Christ. 

Physical Development

I could say that also the Dark Night of the Soul experience was a medicinal experience for the body.

Before it, the autoimmune disorder that I had, Hashimoto, was also driving me nuts. 

I experienced the “Doctor’s Dance” and visited plenty of endocrinologists, one after the other, searching for answers of why I don’t feel myself right.

Unfortunately, for autoimmune conditions, it takes time to spot what are the root causes that are generating those random symptoms such as sleep disorders, brain fogs, anxiety, depression, inflammations, rashes, arrhythmias, bulked eyes, fatigue and many more.

Eventually, also in the search for understanding the spiritual journey, I also learned more about healing the body. 

That drive inside me, to take full responsibility on the well-being of myself without really waiting for the outside (doctors) to heal my body, was an important step.

For the autoimmune disorders, it is crucial to learn which foods are your triggers like Gluten, Egg, Strawberries and more.

I did a blood test ordered by an holistic doctor in Germany, which checks which are the foods that generate an immune reaction.

After knowing my results, eventually I started my Hashimoto diet that eliminated my food triggers .

I did a course on Trophology, which also has the idea of using food as medicine. 

I commited to my juicing therapy , and every morning had different types of juices and smoothies like green juice, papaya-coconut smoothie or the banana, cacao powder, cinammon and nuts smoothie, and some others that included the vegetables and fruits that I can eat. 

As well, I focused on not over excercising. 

I loved to go to the gym almost every day and to play sports. It is usually recommended to do excercise to keep the body healthy, when in reality it is important to not over do it.

Doing too much work-outs also adds up stress to the body, and in autoimmune disorders, the aim is to reduce stress and inflamation in the body. Therefore, it was crucial for me to find the right balance of not being too lazy neither too extreme with my workouts .

And another big and important point to keep the body healthy is sleep.

Some people are night owls some other are early birds, and what is important is to get to know your own circadian rhythm and aim to sleep the full straight 7-8 hours .

In my thyroide case,  the change of the right brand and reducing the dose of levothyroxine for my thyroid was really a big relief , since previously the doses that doctors gave me, plus the type of brand, were a factor that impeded me having a good and continous sleep.

As I am an early bird, I sleep around 9 pm and wake up around 5 am, feeling replenished and with energy most of the times.

Eventually, day by day after my Dark Night of the Soul, and with the slight changes done, the symptoms went into remission.

And I can say that my improvement is thanks to the development of the combination of the three factors, the body, the mind and the spirit, which God/Universe/Divinity guided me to. 

If the three areas are balanced, it becomes easier to push oneself up back again.   

Sharing is caring

I healed, so can you.

And as stories of people around the world that I have read helped me, I know that my spiritual and healing journey story can also help. 

I know, I still have a long journey forefront that I will keep sharing, but as for now I wanted to share the insights learned along this path after 4 years of my Dark Night of the Soul experience . 

Here are some short healing tips that helped me.

Healing the Spirit

  • Practicing gratitude
  • Acknowledging that a higher power, God/The Universe/The Greater Consciousness/ The Source, is already guiding us towards healing
  • Practice own spiritual prayer. (In my opinion, regardless of religion, they can lead towards connecting with God
  • Spiritual prayers for healing ancestral trauma
  • Developing an attitude of not self identifying with the mind, and knowing how to merge and balance the spirit, the mind and the body
  • Understanding that everything is connected.
  • Angels follow you in your healing path and guide you in the form of synchronicities.
  • Find out about chakra blockages and work towards it.

Healing the Mind

  • Stress relief activities: Reading, going for a walk, listening music, dancing
  • Nature / animal work
  • Talking therapy
  • Spotting and understanding own subconscious patterns
  • Shadow work and integrating the suppressed emotions to be channeled into new form of energy such as creative arts or creative work
  • Dedicating time to heal childhood emotional traumas
  • Hashimoto and Thyroid Issues are psychological related to being unable to express oneself, and talk onself truth, therefore focusing on expressing such emotions and not suppressing them is important.
  • Understand sickness as an invitation to change, evolve, grow and heal, similar to the point of view of the German New Medicine.

Healing the Body

Why do we go through the Dark Night of the Soul

Privacy Overview

The Dark Night of the Soul in the 21st Century

dark night

The CDC recently reported that seventeen percent of teenagers today in America are contemplating suicide; 14% have a plan. A high proportion of teens feel hopeless . Health Affairs reported that in 2013 mental disorders cost the United States more than any other medical condition: $203 billion. Suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death in the USA—across both genders and all ethnicities. There are 25% more suicides now than there were in 1999. Why?

There are multiple answers, of course. But, I think the bottom line is many of us are undergoing a Dark Night of the Soul—a sense that our lives lack meaning and the kind of connections that would give our lives meaning and purpose. Call it a “Spiritual Emergency”.

The Dark Night

In the 16 th century Saint John of the Cross, after first achieving an extraordinary communion with God, wrote a poem describing the despair he felt when that connection was interrupted. As a monk he craved to feel constant union with his God. When his connection was broken he felt terribly alone as if a dark night surrounded him 24/7. He called it the “Dark Night of the Soul”.

In 21 st century USA, the Dark Night may not be about religion’s “God”. Our longing may be about choosing to align with someone or something that is greater and more powerful than the ego and its needs for survival and self-glorification. Our Dark Night might be thought of as a longing for meaning, for love itself, or truth, or beauty–or just something more than survival and the competition to get ahead. It’s the ego, with its anxieties, jealousies, and anger that would have us feel separate, alone and, at times, hopeless.

“ The Ego should be a controlled substance.” –Steven Colbert

Let’s consider that the depression that has become epidemic in the 21 st century is similar to what John of the Cross wrote about– a deep sense of separation and a hopelessness that the profound connection we long for will never be found. Perhaps this is the root cause of the despair increasing in the USA, EU and AU, at least something that needs our focused attention if we are to stop the rise of suicide rates.

It is likely that addressing this Dark Night through education and support groups in schools, colleges, corporate wellness centers, and community settings could prevent suicide. How? By helping people support each other in finding connection, meaning and purpose in their lives.

All too often the dark feelings we may have around our deep aspirations get jammed into the category of “clinical depression” without recognizing their spiritual origins. Similarly, all too often the ecstatic highs of spiritual experiences may be labeled as “manic episodes”. In both cases they are typically cast as mental illness. Then, they are typically managed solely through psychiatric medication that separates us from our real feelings and can obstruct our passage through spiritual crisis into greater wellbeing.

  Making Sense When Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

“ If something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before….  Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it.  So that results in a dark place.”— Ekhart Tolle

  When the needs of the ego are not fulfilled and/or hold little interest a person may feel lost. Healthcare providers will ask: Is that psychological depression or a spiritual crisis? Perhaps it’s both.

Depression is often caused by a perceived loss (e.g. a relationship, job, health, etc.) or the arising of the effects of past trauma. Psychotherapy may well be the best remedy. But a spiritual emergency needs a different approach. It needs mentoring and encouragement in how to enter into deeper communion with the Higher Self, or Source, as it is now called.

Those that provide support for spiritual emergency may have nothing to do with conventional religion or psychology or psychiatry. In fact, it can be that those who have spiritual crises today feel that neither religion nor psychological processing speak to them. The moralizing and judging characteristic of some churches has turned people away—especially now when many churches withhold acceptance of the LGBT community. Young people today are not attracted to the idea of having “fear” of God. Increasingly, they are searching for a direct, invigorating, personal relationship with higher forces, or Higher Self, rather than 3 rd party mediation via a priest or rabbi. Problem: Most psychotherapists are not trained to help someone negotiate these territories

  Minding the Psychological and Spiritual

  “The ultimate difference between depression and the Dark Night of the Soul is that depression is usually self-centric, whereas the Dark Night is philosophical in nature and is accompanied by existential reflections such as  “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?”   Also, when depression ends, not much changes in your life in terms of your beliefs, values, and habits. However, when the Dark Night of the Soul ends, everything in your life is transformed, and life becomes wondrous again.” –Mateo Sol

  It’s essential to remember that The Dark Night so many are experiencing now is a crisis of loss of connection that typically has both psychological and spiritual aspects. The crisis demands we learn how to create, manage and sustain supportive, trusting relationships with ourselves and others. Peer support as well as counselors and psychotherapists can be of great service in supporting us on that path. But finding support for the spiritual journey is just as important; and finding qualified assistance may be more difficult.

Who can do it? What do we look for?

Qualified people who can be of assistance may not have an office or even a historical role in society. They may not be priests, ministers, or rabbis. They may not be psychologists or psychiatrists. Instead, they may be elders who have divested themselves of such prominent roles in society. They may be meditation teachers, yoga instructors, spiritual healers or those doing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. They may be humble people with no titles: those immersed in a quiet life of prayer and meditation, or those with lived experience who can give peer support. They may be people who knit, garden, or cook in service to family. The only way to identify such a person is the deep happiness and peace they have found that emanates from within. They know how to commune with what is eternal…what is pure joy. They are loving and compassionate folks.

Of course, some are better than others in being teachers, facilitators, or mentors. Perhaps our next step in preventing suicide is finding those teachers and making them more available to those searching for meaning.


Author Bio …..Emma Bragdon, PhD is the Executive Director of “Integrative Mental Health for You”, , an online learning program for those seeking to learn about the full range of effective ways to manage emotional disturbances. One popular course is “How to Effectively Support Someone in Spiritual Emergency ”. It’s followed by a live Practicum weekend and qualifies graduates to become certified as Spiritual Emergence Coaches®. These coaches who are now leading support groups are listed in a Directory .


(Photo at top was taken at Palacio da Regaleira in Portugal. It shows the inside of a deep well  on the property. Within it’s walls is a walkway with stairs going around the well hole. The journey down the well symbolizes the need to go deeply within and be initiated into communion with the true Self.)

  • Posted on July 13, 2018
  • Emma Bragdon
  • dark night of the soul , depression , spiritual crisis , spiritual emergency

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