What’s a dark night of the soul?
I tend to use the term the way Evelyn Underhill describes it in her book Mysticism. It’s what typically follows an initial awakening or set of awakenings, and an initial honeymoon phase. It seems to be a phase of life squeezing the bulk of what’s left out of us, so it can be seen, felt, and loved. Unexamined identifications come up to be examined. Unloved parts of us surface to be loved. Unfelt emotions come to be felt. It can be experienced as a very dark phase, depending on the duration and intensity of what’s showing up.
As Jeanne Zandi says, any form of manipulation tends to backfire in this period. It just makes things worse. The dark night of the soul seems to be similar to a gestation and birthing process that needs nurturing and support. (And not a problem or illness to be fixed, although there may be things happening during this phase that can benefit from such a approach.)
I notice that if I go as a client to someone who’s trying to “fix me”, it tends to not work. It’s painful, and it often makes things worse for me. It’s happened with spiritual teachers, a therapist, energy work, well-meaning friends, breath work, and more. It feels much too harsh, and it seems to come from a basic misunderstanding of what the dark night of the soul is about.
In the beginning of this phase, I got burnt several times, and now seem to fortunately have wised up a bit.
What does work is allowing and love, and also gentle inquiry to see what’s already here. And that – along with nature, understanding friends, a good diet, some herbal support, rest, and a few other very simple and nurturing things – seems enough.