A few days ago, a friend texted me, “So what the heck is a Dark Night?” His question was in response to coming across the free event I posted on Facebook happening December 10th called, A Dark Night of the Soul = A Life Found. (Check it out here if you want to learn more or if you’d like to attend. It would be great to have you with us.)
My friend’s question about a Dark Night reminded me that although the term is as common to me as, “I need tea,” “I love you” or even “Charlie, drop the sock” (if you’re wondering, Charlie is my dog), a Dark Night of the Soul isn’t a term a lot of people know, even if many people have or will experience it.
The term ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ has been around for centuries. It was commonly associated with a poem written by St. John of the Cross in the 1500s. A Dark Night is the spiritual depression someone has to go through to “wake up” and strip themselves of ego. Although the term has Christian roots, it doesn’t discriminate, regardless of one’s beliefs.
A Dark Night is usually triggered by an impactful event, such as losing a loved one or experiencing something traumatic. It could also present itself when the meaning you had given your life collapses; when an activity, achievement or something you had built your life around falls apart. (Think: the sense of purpose you’ve created in your mind.)
A few years ago, I experienced a Dark Night of the Soul – a term I never knew existed until it rocked my world. The unexpected loss of my job triggered a time of deep spiritual depression and reflection.
Without my usual heavy workload combined with a drive for external validation to distract me (yes, I was a workaholic), I was left to see reality with fresh eyes: my life was consumed with self-worth issues and I’d let important relationships with my husband, mom, friends, faith and myself fade into the background.
My Dark Night brought on positive experiences too – receiving signs and synchronicities from the universe, adopting a dog (yup! That’s how Charlie entered my life) and breaking into tough conversations with my husband. All these experiences and more showed me I’d been trapped in my own limiting beliefs. Trapped by impostor syndrome, trapped by a severe lack of self-acceptance and self-confidence. When I chose to turn my back to these restricting beliefs and let them fester, they poorly influenced my emotions and disrupted my life in damaging ways.
(After reading that, don’t be discouraged… Dark Night experiences vary from one person to the next. But for everyone, there are always opportunities for growth and change.)
My Dark Night drew open the curtains and revealed my truth: I was in dire need of internal renovation, a complete makeover that would shed years of self-sabotaging ego. Washing away ego wasn’t a “one and done” process; it took many up-and-down moments to learn how my ego had negatively controlled my thoughts and actions. But I didn’t give up. I didn’t run from the pain or try to escape the darkness. I had my fair share of detours and mishaps but we are human. I am human.
What I learned is that we can always find our way back to growth, which is what I did. I welcomed my Dark Night and because of that, my Dark Night helped me find my foundation: My true self from which I could rebuild and start fresh.
Because of the profound experience my Dark Night of the Soul had on my life, I’ve spent the last few years researching it, writing a memoir about it and developing frameworks, activities and a community focused on helping others prepare for and move through their Dark Night with intent, love and care.
To learn more about my experience with a Dark Night of the Soul and how I work with clients on their spiritual journey, visit drdanielleclark.com.
And don’t forget, you’re invited to attend the free A Dark Night of the Soul = A Life Found event 12/10 at 7PM EST.
Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here.
PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you if you’re in a Dark Night of the Soul: “I embrace the darkness and know it will show me the light. I accept my discomfort and welcome change.”
PPS – To help you identify and release your ego, get out your journal. Here’s a writing prompt: A good first step is to reflect and identify which areas of your life may be controlled by ego. Do a quick Google search for the definition of “ego” and write it down. Does it play a role in your career, your love life, your relationship with friends or family? How so? When making decisions do you check in with your mind and your heart?