How to navigate the dark night of the soul

by Martijn
How to navigate the dark night of the soul

What you will find in this article

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A few years ago I went through a few very difficult years. It was probably the most challenging time of my life. I struggled with depression, anxiety, and other physical issues. Looking back at that period it’s very clear to me that this was my dark night of the soul. And now I’ve left that dark period behind me, I can easily see what helped to get me through it.

How to navigate the dark night of the soul

The most important thing to navigate the dark night of the soul is to understand you have not all of a sudden entered a dark period.

Instead, you are starting to discover the light. And this makes you see the darkness that was already present in your life for a very long time. That can be very confusing and most people don’t understand the darkness they now see was always there.

When you realize the dark night of the soul is not a dark phase in your life and, in reality, it’s the start of a new era in your life in which you become more conscious of the reality you live in, you can become aware of all the opportunities for growth that are presented to you.

This period might still feel awfully difficult to get through and you will often feel you prefer to go back to when life seemed to be easier. But this perspective is very important for you to move forward because it helps you to understand that it’s part of your spiritual awakening.

What is the dark night of the soul?

The dark night of the soul is a phase in your life in which you encounter yourself in a huge struggle with yourself. It can go hand in hand with other physical or material problems but the real conflict is always mental.

The dark night of the soul is your best opportunity to wake up from the dream you are living.

The reason why it feels like the worst period of your life is that you’ve reached a point in your personal and spiritual growth at which you become more consciously aware of who and what you really are.

This generates a huge conflict with the ego inside of you. The ego ruled your life in darkness up to now. But through your personal and spiritual expansion, you turned on a little light that makes you see bits and pieces of reality for the first time.

And you are so appalled by what you see you cannot tolerate your old self any longer. This means you lose your identity. Which can lead to all kinds of problems that often are very hard to overcome.

How do I know if I’m going through the dark night of the soul?

So, how do you know if you are going through the dark night of the soul?

Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell because not all people with anxiety or depression are going through the dark night of the soul. However, I believe all people who are experiencing the dark night of the soul have one thing in common; they are in the process of changing their identity.

And this creates a sense of feeling lost, of belonging nowhere. Not to a place, not to a certain group of people, and often not even to the earth.

This sensation creates a huge conflict in your mind because you still have your old habits and beliefs that made you who you believed to be. But because you became a bit more aware and conscious of your reality and life in this universe, something from the depths of your soul is tearing you apart and is pulling you into a new reality.

It creates uncertainty, and feelings of loss and lack because you know you need to let go of the old you. And at the same time, your new identity is not firmly established at all, which creates a tremendous amount of fear to let go of the past.

Does everyone have a dark night of the soul?

Not everyone experiences the dark night of the soul consciously. However, I prefer to see the period of the dark night of the soul as the first step to spiritual awakening. It’s the phase of your life in which the first rays of light shine on the darkness of your existence.

This makes you realize that, in reality, everyone has a dark night of the soul. But they only become aware of it once the light is switched on.

Most people are too afraid to consciously turn on the light and prefer to continue in darkness. Believing that is their true reality, exalting the identity they have adopted in this lifetime.

Nowadays, in a world where the glorification and elevation of the individual personality and identity through social media have become normal, this has become more obvious than ever before.

Resulting in more and more people who consciously experience the dark night of the soul. Simply because they cannot handle the pressure of being who they pretended to be any longer.

What triggers the dark night of the soul?

And that is only one of the things that can trigger the dark night of the soul.

There is no fixed event or experience that triggers it. It depends on your circumstances and what you hold dear in life.

Often some sort of loss or forced, unforeseen transformation precedes the dark night of the soul. Because those situations demand a closer look at what is going on in your life and who you have become.

And as you are going through a rough time you associate that first glimmer of light, that can ignite your spiritual awakening and transform your life completely, with the dark night of the soul.

Don’t let your pain and sadness hold you back from that transformation. If you allow the light to illuminate your inner demons you will see things you never wanted to see, understand things you never wished to understand and get to know who you never wanted to be.

This might be your best shot at happiness you will ever get.

How do I prepare for the dark night of the soul?

People ask how to prepare for the dark night of the soul. But that’s like an unborn baby asking how to prepare for life. You can’t prepare for something you don’t know is coming.

Therefore, if you ask how to prepare for the dark night of the soul, most likely you’re already in it.

Preparation can only be done when you know what is ahead of you. You can’t prepare for what has been hiding deep within your unconsciousness since the beginning of time.

So, the only reasonable advice I can give you is to expect to discover your inner monster under a pile of dirt, represented by dualistic representations of your deepest fears.

It’s up to you to either use them to your advantage or let them destroy you.

How to heal from the dark night of the soul

If you decide to fight the feelings and emotions all the previously unconscious junk causes you, it will slowly destroy you. If you decide to turn off the light again and look the other way, it will slowly destroy you. Because you might be able to turn off the light, but you can’t unsee what you observed while the glare lit up the depths of your soul.

So, acceptance, surrendering, allowance, gentleness, and patience are key skills you will need to learn to apply in your new, more conscious life.

You must understand the stages of the dark night of the soul to facilitate your healing.

These are the stages you will inevitably go through.

  1. Unconscious darkness, hidden behind a dualistic framework of a “normal” life as a human being. Being unconscious of your deepest pain and fears.
  2. Conscious darkness, the dawn of your spiritual awakening. The most difficult period where your fears come to the surface. Pain, suffering, and fear can drive you to dangerous mental states such as anxiety, depression, and addiction.
  3. Unconscious light in the darkness, you slowly start to understand the “why” of your suffering and you begin to believe you are so much more than you thought before.
  4. Conscious light in the darkness, you now understand the world is an illusion. A representation of your fears, appearing as physical forms that you now use to become a beacon of light for yourself and the people around you.

How long does a dark night of the soul last?

It totally depends on you how long each of these stages will last. Of course, the first stage of unconscious darkness is the longest for most people. For many, this will even be the only phase they will go through in their life. But they will never know about it.

In my experience, the phase of conscious darkness lasted around four years. And only in the last year have I moved to the stage of conscious light in the darkness more consistently.

The four stages are not fixed, and you will be moving from one to another continuously, depending on the decisions you make and the thoughts and beliefs you entertain in your mind.

The more resistance you put up against the rise of your awareness of what was hidden in the darkness, the longer it will keep you in the dark night of the soul. You need to let go of that resistance to become comfortable with the light that you guarded inside of you for so long.

Stuck in the dark night of the soul

The temptation to fight against the darkness or to even return to oblivion will often be extreme. But you can’t go back now. And even if you do, what you saw in that brief moment of brightness will hunt you down like a sniper waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger.

This means the only way out of the dark night of the soul is through the release of your resistance, the acceptance of your dark side. Doing the shadow work that allows you to integrate that part of you you never wanted to acknowledge.

And by embracing your pain and fears they disappear. Because it was the resistance to them that put them there.

The existence of darkness depends solely on the presence of light. When light is present, darkness cannot exist. Just like pain, fear, and suffering cannot coexist with love.

When you become love, the dark night of the soul will soon be over for you.

What happens after the dark night of the soul?

And once you have achieved that, you will be ready for the completion of your spiritual awakening. You will let yourself be guided by love, compassion, and an inner security that you were not familiar with before.

Your life will become more peaceful. Not because the circumstances change (which they might, but it’s not the reason), but because you have changed your perception of those circumstances.

And your priorities in life will shift. Inner peace and harmony will now be unnegotiable and will be the main driver for all decisions you make in life.

Even when you go through periods of suffering, you now know what it’s for and how to transform it. You know how to be happy, regardless of what is going on in your life.

And that is what the dark night of the soul can do for you. But in the end, it depends on what you decide to do with it.

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Find more articles about spirituality here and personal development here.

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