“Dark night of the soul” is a term coined by the Roman Catholic priest and mystic St. John of the Cross, back in the 16th century.
It was first used in one of his poems where he recounts the immense pain he went through during his own experience of separating himself from conventional religious beliefs and feeling separated from Source. Since then, it has been used in numerous concepts of psychology, mythology, religion, and shamanism.
What the dark night of the soul symbolizes is the hell and chaos that we go through before rebirth. It’s the moment we start waking up and shedding layers of ourselves that were essentially our identity for so long.
For me, this started to occur as I left the church and led myself down a path of finding my own truth and discovering who I really was under all of the learned patterns, conditioning, ideals, beliefs, systems, and habits that I had clung to for so long.
My dark night of the soul, along with many others’, was waking up to the fact that I had no idea who I was, what I wanted to do with my life, or what my purpose was, and that sent me into the darkest and scariest years I’ve ever experienced.
Some call this an existential or spiritual crisis, and mine lasted for several years. There really is no timeline that you can put on a dark night of the soul. Sometimes it will last months, sometimes a year, other times several years.
Dark nights of the soul can play out in a multitude of ways. It can look like questioning the meaning of life or feeling like we don’t belong anywhere in the world. It can play out through deep, depressive episodes consumed by hopelessness and feeling like we have no purpose in life.
This is when the darkness comes out to play. This is when the shadow work and the exploration of our inner “demons” is most necessary.
Through this dark time, our innermost fears, hidden anxieties, and traumas start to come up. We begin to try to find meaning in our lives and question life as we always knew it.
The dark night of the soul is a transformation of death and rebirth, but in the midst of that death, there is chaos, grief, loneliness, hopelessness, fear, addiction, coping mechanisms, confusion, and misery.
The shadow work is the path to rebirth. That’s why it’s so important to integrate it into our lives no matter how messy, triggering, or scary it may be.
Shadow work is a psychological practice full of introspection, self-discovery, and self-awareness—the ultimate re-birthing process leading to bliss and freedom.
We must take the time to explore our shadow, re-parent our inner child, give ourselves permission to grieve, let go of everything that is unhealed, and befriend the parts of us that we are ashamed or fearful of.
It may be triggering and feel like utter chaos, but transformation and freedom are just over that bridge, and it’s well worth it.