The “dark night of the soul” is a concept that has been discussed for millennia, typically associated with a poem written by St. John of the Cross. It references the sort of spiritual depression or detox that someone has to go through to “wake up.” But if you’re experiencing it and don’t know what’s happening, it can be really scary.
1. You’re confused because you feel like you “should” be happy right now.
That’s the thing about the dark night of the soul – it usually comes up right at the moment in which you have every reason to be content. What’s happening is you’re seeing how the external things didn’t heal you. Your illusions about what really matters are breaking down. The part of you that is still chasing outside things to make you happy is dying. Once it does, you can begin actually doing things that make you whole.
2. You start having “purge” symptoms.
For some people, this is an actual gagging motion. For others, it’s gravitating toward healthier foods, feeling unexplainable chills, heaviness or lightness, wanting to sweat more, or declutter your home and social life.
3. You feel overwhelmingly stuck, or “lost.”
The feeling of being “stuck” usually comes up when we’re beginning to recognize all of the limitations that we place on ourselves. Feeling “lost” just means you are no longer living by the script you made up for yourself – you’re opening up to a completely new way of living, and a totally new life… of course it feels like you don’t know where you’re headed.
4. You begin to desire to impress people less, and to connect with them more.
You realize that there are two ways of interacting with people: trying to get their approval by being “better” than them, or trying to connect with them genuinely. Trying to impress people into liking you will always leave you feeling empty. It’s a very pervasive mechanism the ego uses to soothe itself when the fear of truly being seen by another person arises.
5. You begin to resonate with Eastern philosophies and spirituality.
The fear-based system in which you beg for mercy just isn’t cutting it anymore. Instead, you’re interested in learning how to harness your mind and awaken to your own power – for your own healing, and for other people’s.
6. You’re having random and intense memories and dreams of past partners, forgotten childhood experiences, and so on.
This is because all of the emotions attached to those experiences are bubbling up to the surface. The energy that you have been ignoring all of this time is beginning to diffuse, and you are beginning to open yourself back up to the parts of your subconscious mind you “forgot” about while you were suppressing other memories.
7. You’re radically rethinking your idea of “success.”
You begin listening to the countless warnings that fame and wealth and “success” is not the luxury life that you think it is. You begin realizing that you don’t really want any of it anyway… you’re relying on the idea of it to soothe some fear or insecurity you have about your own worthlessness.
8. You’re discovering your inner child again.
Whether it’s deciding that you want to do something you once loved very much and gave up – like a game, or a form of art – or even just letting yourself be silly now and again, you are letting yourself begin to revert back to your most innocent state.
9. You are starting to understand what people are talking about when they say we’re all socially conditioned, living disingenuous lives, and are subtly addicted to our problems.
You’re slowly shaking awake and realizing that the majority of people are living on a numbed, disconnected autopilot in which everything from their interests to their life partners are chosen more by what “society” prefers and less by how they really feel.
10. You have frightening, irrational thoughts, sometimes even along the lines of “I’m dying.”
When you’re going through your dark night of the soul, a part of you is dying. You’re becoming aware of your ego and how it has been controlling the quality of your life.
11. You begin to recognize, and feel, what true suffering is.
When you really suffer, you become able to empathize with what actual pain is. Beforehand, seeing movies with war scenes and dying siblings and positive cancer tests were sad, but didn’t really resonate with you. Now, you are starting to really feel what refugees and people stuck in war-torn countries and those who are dying of illnesses and can’t afford better treatment must be experiencing.
12. At first, this revelation of true suffering is overwhelming, but it won’t be for long.
Feeling this at first will make you want to get up and change as much as you can, though of course, you are not responsible for alleviating all of the world’s pain. You will eventually figure out what your role is in helping and healing. In the meantime, you’ll become a more patient and understanding person, even toward strangers.
13. Your sleeping habits are irregular, you’re hungrier than usual or not hungry at all, you’re sometimes so overwhelmed by emotion that you feel like you can’t function.
The most important thing to remember during a dark night of the soul is that you must get more rest than usual. You need to take it easy. Your whole body is recalibrating, and it’s only natural that you’re going to have some (perhaps literal) growing pains.
14. The coincidences begin piling up.
Especially right now, the coincidences in your life are trying to point you in the right direction. Heed them.
15. You are getting the feeling as though you just need to be still.
If you’ve moved around a lot in the past months or years, you are getting the intuitive nudge that it’s time to be present, and refrain from continually running away from your issues. Even if your past adventures have seemed like just that – adventures for the sake of it – there is something profoundly important about being able to stay still where you are and work through whatever emotions arise.
16. You’re becoming conscious of how your mind has been operating.
The racing, irrational thoughts that you noticed once in a while are now becoming totally clear to you. You’re realizing how much your brain creates what it wants to see in reality, and how your biases and subjectivity influence what you experience and feel.
17. You discover your dormant healing capabilities.
Most people who go through spiritual awakenings tend to have inherent gifts they don’t realize. They often have the potential to become teachers, counselors or actual energy healers. This is, in part, what makes them such sensitive people.
18. It seems like your life is asking: will you commit every day of the rest of your life to healing?
Something that you will learn during this time is that a few more yoga classes or anti-stress essential oils are not going to fix this. Nothing fixes it but overhauling every micro-habit in your life, one by one, so that you’re filling your days with things that are positive and productive. To fully step into the person you are meant to be, you have to commit wholeheartedly.