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The dark night of the soul is a time of intense suffering, usually brought on by life-changing events like divorce, natural disasters, job loss, moving to another country, or death of a loved one. It can also be brought on by undergoing an inner process of change with no apparent outside reason.
The dark night of the soul is called “dark”, as you might experience a sudden loss of meaning in your life, depression, a loss of identity and surfacing of old traumas, insecurities, and fears. Most of the time it is also a loss of faith or connection to a higher power, God or the Universe.
The concept of the dark night of the soul was originally described by a Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic who lived in the 16th century by the name of St. John of the Cross and is a very common event, although most people don’t recognize it as such.
Throughout history, many famous mystics, sages, and poets like Rumi have written about this most difficult time, in which false ideals are shed.
Many believe that The Dark Night of the Soul is a type of initiation, which can happen either before, or after an authentic spiritual awakening.
During a dark night of the soul, you will be confronted with what is called “the shadow” part of your psyche. These are the parts that you have ignored, pushed away or simply refused to accept within you. The human psyche is connected to a collective field of consciousness and all darkness that exists within the collective, ultimately also exists within you. This is a concept often very hard to grasp because we usually see ourselves as “good” people. Meaning, we will ignore the parts within us that are jealous, feel isolated, insecure and alone, distrusting and even violent.
This, of course, does not mean you are a violent person and that you will act upon it. It simply means that the seed of violence is also within you and when ignored, usually does come to the surface in some way or the other. For example, it could be expressed through screaming and yelling, violence towards yourself by thinking poorly about yourself, or worse, physically harming yourself.
This might sound scary and you might even reject this information but the truth is that you cannot spiritually advance without facing your shadow. People who keep ignoring their shadow, engage in what is called “spiritual bypassing”, which I have done too. This is a state in which you only see the so-called good parts within you without accepting the parts that are in the dark, and which ultimately seek the light, healing, and wholeness.
It is important to note while moving through the dark night of the soul that even though the shadow part is within you, it is ultimately NOT you. You are not your wounds, your fears, depression or insecurities. You are much more than this.
You are ultimately the light but you can only come to this conclusion when you have faced your shadow parts.
By recognizing your shadow and bringing it to the surface and into the light, you have made yourself whole again.
Most importantly, you need to understand that the Dark Night of the Soul is an intense process of transformation. In the deepest sense, it is an initiation. An initiation into the realization that darkness is nothing to be feared and that it is ultimately an expression of the Divine.
Our physical world is a world of duality, where nothing can exist without its opposite: Up and down, right and left, big and small, white and black.
It is the same for darkness and light.
Without darkness, you would not know what light is.
Even the spiritual traditions talk about this deep transformation. If the Buddha had not suffered intensely, he would have never known what liberation feels like. If Jesus had not been crucified, there would not have been a resurrection.
Ultimately, embodying both the darkness and the light within helps you to become your divine self.
As a human species, we are also collectively moving through a dark night of the soul and sensitive people will feel it more than others.
My dark night of the soul happened after a spiritual awakening and was brought on by the end of my 13-year marriage. When I moved back to Austria, my country of origin, I also experienced the resurfacing of old childhood traumas, intense insomnia, fears, a loss of identity and meaning. It somehow felt like God had abandoned me, which is a very typical theme going through a dark night of the soul.
Do you feel like you are you going through a Dark Night of the Soul?
7 Signs You Are Experiencing A Dark Night of the Soul
1. You are going through a major life event like divorce, loss of your job, or death of a loved one.
2. You experience an intense feeling of loss.
3. Your life as you know it has lost its meaning.
4. You feel depressed, anxious and you have a hard time connecting with others.
5. You don’t know who you are anymore.
6. Nothing makes sense to you anymore.
7. You feel abandoned by God or The Universe.
Since I have experienced a dark night of the soul, I can sympathize with you and know how lost you might feel. However, I can assure you that it will not last forever and that you will come out a different person. Looking back, I now can honestly say that it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It forced me to acknowledge, experience and heal all the dark places within myself. It helped me shed an old identify that was not meant for me, I found myself with a new life that I love, I am feeling much more comfortable in my skin, and most importantly, I learned how to trust.
While going through a Dark Night of the Soul is ultimately a call from your soul and an intense process, I want to share with you what I have learned so that you can move through it quicker.
10 Tips on How to move through a Dark Night of the Soul
1. Accept what is happening
When you have entered a dark night of the soul, there is no turning back. Resisting what is happening, wishing for things to be different or wanting your old life back will only prolong your suffering. As the saying goes: “What you resist, persists”.
I very well know that this is easier said than done as I was the “queen of resistance”. However, once I realized that there is no point arguing with reality and what is happening, I started to accept the way things were. Once I did, everything became easier.
2. Ask for Support
Going through a hard time by yourself can be frightening. Therefore, asking for support is one of the smartest things you can do. You might want to work with a skilled therapist who understands what you are experiencing, join an online community, or simply share yourself with your friends and family. Please don’t underestimate the power of love and connection that is available to you when you have the courage to ask for help.
3. Acknowledge Your Emotions and Start Releasing Them
During a dark night of the soul, intense emotions like grief, depression, anxiety or anger might arise. Even though these emotions are very uncomfortable, it’s important to acknowledge them and to resist the impulse to suppress them as this would only prolong your suffering.
Every E-motion is an “energy in motion”, which means that once the emotion is expressed, the energy of the emotion will dissipate and be released from your body.
Screaming into a pillow, crying, expressing your emotions through dance (one of my favorite ways!), or simply talking with a friend will help. From my experience, the quickest way to release emotions is through energy-based healing therapies like EMDR, EFT, and Rapid Emotional Clearing as they address the underlying energetic disturbance in your energy field.
4. Move Your Body
It sounds so trivial but moving your body does help in not only letting go of so-called negative emotions, but it will also help you feel better by increasing endorphins (feel-good hormones) in your body. You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym. A walk around the block or in the park will be a good start but if you want to take it further, you can start a yoga practice or simply dance in the comfort of your own home to your favorite music.
5. Connect with Nature
Nature is a wonderful healer but we often forget that this free healing resource is available to us. We, humans, are hardwired to connect with nature and research has shown that walking in a forest will significantly lower your stress hormones.
One of my favorite ways to connect to nature is sitting by a tree. Pick one that you feel “attracted” to and simply lean on it. Feel the bark of the tree on your back and feel the calm strength the tree emanates.
Now, if you want you can imagine sending all your worries and fears directly to the tree and into its bark. The tree will gladly absorb these energies and simply move it through its roots down into mother Earth. Once you are done “tell” the tree “thank you”.
It might sound silly to do at first but trust me when you do it you will feel a dramatic energetic shift in your body.
When it seems like your inner and outer world is falling apart, it is a good practice to come back to yourself and center yourself. Meditation will certainly help in calming your nervous system. There are lots of great meditation techniques available like the “awareness meditation”, which I have written about in this article.
However, if you are new to meditation, I suggest you start with a guided meditation that uses Binaural beats or Brainwave entrainment technology. By listening to such a guided meditation, you can quickly go into a meditative and relaxing state, even if you have zero experience as the technology will bring your brain wave into an alpha or theta state. These are the brainwaves associated with deep relaxation and healing.
7. Realize that You are Not Your Feelings
When you are going through a dark night of the soul it can feel like you are being swept away by your emotions. Like being spun around in a hurricane and you don’t know how and where you will land again.
Even though this might feel scary and chaotic, I want you to remind yourself that you are not your emotions. They might take you over but you are still much more than that.
You are a soul, made of unconditional love that is connected to God, the Universe or whatever name you want to give the higher power that has created our world. Reminding yourself of your true nature is important and eventually, you will come out of the storm and realize this deep truth for yourself.
8. Know that Things always Change and this shall pass too!
This is one of my favorite tips as we often think things will always stay the same and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, which is of course not true as life is always changing and evolving.
Right now you are going through a rebirth and like the unborn who is entering the dark and narrow birth canal without knowing that there is a new life waiting for her, you are being pushed into the darkest depths of your Being. However, unknowingly you are also moving towards the light and into a new life. Trust that things will get better and that you are becoming a new and better version of yourself.
9. Support Your Body
There are wonderful ways in which you can support your body and help calm your nervous system. Touch is one of them. There is a lot of scientific evidence that touch is a great healer as it stimulates the release of Oxytocin, a hormone that will make you feel good and release stress.
If you have a loved one who you can touch often, great. If not, schedule regular massages with a massage therapist and it will support you tremendously.
Additionally, you might want to take a look at the supplements below that I recommend.
Take 400 mg of GABA to calm your nervous system. Best taken on an empty stomach along with a B Complex for better absorption.
A good Vitamin B complex to support your nervous system. I recommend this brand.
Magnesium to calm your body. In times of stress, your body needs more Magnesium as usually and most people are depleted. You can take an Epsom salt bath, which is made of Magnesium Sulfite, and your body will absorb the magnesium through your skin. Additionally, I recommend taking at least 300mg Magnesium Citrate twice a day.
100 mg of 5-HTP twice a day to help lift your mood. If you don’t feel an effect after 2 weeks, switch to 1000 mg L-Tryptophan twice a day. Take it on an empty stomach along with a B complex for better absorption.
Attention! Don’t take 5-HTP or L-Tryptophan if you are currently taking SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants like Prozac, Lexapro or Zoloft as it can cause a so-called Serotonin Syndrome. This is a rare but dangerous set of symptoms that include agitation, high body temperature, tremor, increased reflexes, dilated pupils, sweating, and diarrhea that can occur when you have too much Serotonin in your body.
10. Recognize that whatever is falling away is ultimately for your best.
I purposefully put this tip at the end of this list as when you are in the midst of it all, it is often hard to see that whatever is falling away is ultimately for your best. As you move through the dark night of the soul and you are starting to feel better, you will see that whatever was not meant for you was removed from your life.
Looking back, you will come to understand and see the (fierce) beauty of it all. You will find yourself with a new understanding of yourself and life and will feel a new sense of purpose and direction. You will have resurrected your soul and made yourself whole again. I cheer you on in your journey and wish you the very best!
What do you think?
Leave your comment or question below and I will get back to you.
Great advice from the heart with soul as always Katharina! Your words hold such strength and comfort for everyone who reads them, and everything you say is relatable. Thank you for sharing your lessons and wisdom with your readers/listeners, I am grateful for you and what you share with us 💛💜
Thank you so much Brenda!
Hi Dr Katharina, thank you for this article! It is very timely and reassuring. Came at a time when I am at my lowest point and gave me the strength to keep going. Keep up the good work!
An excellent article, pulling together the many aspects of growth, healing, recovery that are necessary for us all.
Katharina, I read so many articles on self healing and loss. This is the best article so far and completely resonates with my inner self. I look forward reading more of your articles and one day writing my own journey through my dark night of soul. Thanks so much.
Thank you for your comment and I am happy to hear you found it useful.
Wishing you the very best!
Thank you, Chris!
This is a worth-sharing blog. I like the statement that we can never see the light without the dark. As for me, the darkness is my guide to finding the light. In the darkness, that is where we know ourselves deeply. It is where we can find our purpose. And another thing, to move on from any traumatic experiences, we need to first accept what happened. And from there we can start to move on, engaging in meditation, being with nature, Accepting and releasing, if by chance we can't handle it by ourselves. There are support systems where can get further help – families, friends, and most often experts – therapists.
Thank you for sharing your very wise input!
Wishing you the very best in life.