The Dark Night of the Soul
Everyone descends into the dark night of the soul a time or two or three. Some absorb the darkness. Others rise. This post is about the difference.
The difference between everyday blues and the underworld is you’re alone. Encouraging words from friends feel like skipping stones on a frozen pond.
The dark night of the soul:
Recurring disappointment leads to lost hope. Doubt steals confidence. Courage quivers in a corner. You wrestle with yourself at night.
“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” Joseph Campbell
Rising through darkness:
#1. Face the darkness.
Rising from your dungeon has nothing to do with others and everything to do with you. Others point the way, but the path is narrow.
#2. Beware disaster:
Blame is the messenger of disaster. The journey is about you, no one else. Not a lousy team. Not the person who overlooked you.
You lose yourself under scabs of disappointment you won’t let go.
#3. Battle yourself.
Achievement and success are dangerous when they obscure reality. Disillusionment reveals the truth.
The external world drags you into discouragement, but the real battle is with yourself. Why rise in the first place? Why try again?
You see yourself best in the dark.
#4. See yourself.
You find freedom when you rise through the dark night of the soul.
You see yourself best in the dark. Something happens when you feel like giving up – that only happens there. You realize you do what you do because it’s who you are.
When you win, glory obscures the reason you run. When you don’t win, you learn the truth.
You run the race because it’s in you.
What has the dark night of the soul taught you?
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This is a powerful message. Most of us have real difficulty looking at our shadows. The survival of our protective, well-armored but ultimately self-defeating ego depends heavily on refusing to stand at the abyss and look in…but to examine ourselves in our darkness is the only path to authentic living, loving and leading.
Thanks Anne. Such an eloquent comment that speaks to my heart. Self-defeating ego…there it is.
Hi Dan: Those of us that work in the behavioral health field spend a lot of time with others that experience many dark nights. We explore the depths often in therapy, and have to bring fog lights to illuminate the way through. Self injurious behavior and thoughts permeate them, and they are often “help-rejecting” and complain when the help is offered. There’s a real tipping point that has to be reached to get someone through the dark. Ultimately it’s not others but personal choice.
Thanks for jumping in today, Brian. The difference between a guide/helper and embracing our own journey seems to be a tipping point.
The term “help-rejecting” speaks to me because I’ve done it so great.
Dan I found that in the night we often dream about our daylight issues and this can help us understand and hopefully deal better with them.
What has the dark night of the soul taught you?
That you’re on your own. There’s nobody coming, no cavalry in white hats.
That you can’t necessarily walk away. Like it or not, you’re too tied in to leave.
That when you look into the darkness, the darkness is looking back into you.
Hi Dan- great post to read today. I needed this in ways you can’t imagine. Not sure of your spiritual connection, if any, but the original author of Dark Night of the Soul is John of the Cross. He was a Spanish poet/mystic who used the image of dark night as a means to teach us that hard things happen and in the midst of them God works to bring us through to a different/better place. I maybe simplifying it but it’s the basic gist. I am reminded that when I am in this dark night I have been here before either because of my actions or regardless of them. However, the same thing is true- that darkness although painful and seemingly hopeless- is temporary. It’s not the ending and with grace, patience and good friends I can get through it. Having humility which is at times in short supply teaches me what brought me to that place and how to avoid it in the future. Great post today. Thx
Powerful self-awareness message. Thanks for the reminder. No storm lasts forever. The sun will shine again. The Oakridge boys (my all-time favorites) have a song that goes “Where the sun always shines there’s a desert below, there’s got to be a little rain to make love grow”. Same way in our life. We’ve got to make it through the rain.
So good and timely. Needed this reminder today
There is nothing like a good long and hard look at yourself. The older I get the more critically I have peered at my dark nights. I’ve always pulled myself up by my bootstraps but have not always assessed what I could have done better. I have experienced great success even though I traveled through some darkness. My only regrets are when my actions in those hard times caused difficulties for others.