The Dark Night of the Soul is an intense emotional period that forces you to deal with the baggage, patterns and behaviors that are keeping you stagnant. I have explained this more deeply in part 1, along with some signs to know it is happening to you. My hope with part 2 is to share some practical tips for dealing with it when it does come up, and as we try to better ourselves and be the best person we can be, it most certainly will. It is certainly nothing to be afraid of, but embraced and valued as the vehicle that will help change our lives. I know it certainly has changed mine.
- Acceptance: This means accepting and surrendering to what is and what was. This will allow you to stop fighting against your own head and heart and begin to sift through events and emotions that linger. It is time to stop pretending we are ok and everything is fine and just be in the emotion. We don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, just accept it within ourselves and work with it. The first step to moving past something is to accept it. It was probably the hardest, yet most liberating step for me as I was always the one who was ok. I never wanted to cause a fuss or ‘rock the boat’. Accepting that I was not ok, within myself, allowed me to drop the heavy weight of responsibility I had somehow managed to take on for myself and move forward. I didn’t have to be ok for anybody. I just had to be. Acceptance is the first step that opens up the others and makes them possible. It is also about accepting our lives and relationships as they are. I first had to accept that I had an absentee father, before I could move through the healing process that is the dark night and forgive (see step 3 below) him for not having the tools to be the father I needed. Accept that your family is dysfunctional or your relationship is failing or you life isn’t what you want it to be. Acceptance allows things to heal.
- The only way out is through: As much as I tried, I couldn’t just drop the emotion behind me and forget about it. I had been trying to do that all my life, and it got me nowhere. Nowhere I wanted to be anyway. We can’t cut it off, dissolve it with white light and love, melt it with visualizations of fire or lava. We have to sit with the emotions and give them space. Cry. Scream. Punch a pillow. Whatever. Just giving ourselves permission to feel them and the space to release them is all that is needed. Journaling also helps tremendously. It allowed me to gather my thoughts and see more clearly what was going on and the patterns and origins emerged more clearly. They key here is ONE at a time! I had to learn this the hard way. Be patient with yourself as you move through this and deal with one emotion/event/issue at a time. The onion analogy might seem like a cliché, but it is far from it.
- Forgiveness: of yourself and others. This doesn’t mean it’s ok what happened or that we’ll let it happen again, just that it no longer defines us or rules our lives. Accept, learn, forgive and walk away. We also have to forgive ourselves: for not knowing better at the time; for making mistakes; for hanging on far too long. A big part of this is compassion, but that also comes with time. For me, forgiving myself was the first step to forgiving others. If it is true about love – to love another you must first love yourself – then it is true for forgiveness too.
- Seek help: Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. A *friend is great, but we often sugar coat things out of fear of hurting them – especially if they are part of the problem. Talking to an unbiased third party can help us to uncover more about ourselves as we are free to speak our truth, 100%. See a counselor or psychologist. Try kinesiology or NLP. See a reiki practitioner or crystal therapist. Try aromatherapy or homeopathy or naturopathy. Read articles such as this, or watch YouTube clips or documentaries. Sometimes just knowing we are not alone is enough to help get us through. Personally, I avoided pharmaceutical drugs, because I feel they only mask the symptoms and don’t get to the cause, but don’t be afraid to consider it. I did, but didn’t like the side effects, but I know they are there if I need them. Just be willing to ask for and accept help and be open to all possibilities. We are all different and what works for someone else may not work for you, so try a variety of things and do what does work for you.
- Withdraw: It is ok to give ourselves time away from the world, time alone, to say no to things. Explain as much or as little as you like, just give yourself permission to say ‘no’. If you have demanding job or kids, it might be hard, but even a 30 minute walk outside is enough, as long as you are not inundated with meaningless noise and able to look within. It is vital that we spend as much time with ourselves as we can. This was particularly hard for me as I was always the person who put herself out for others, always saying yes to things I really wanted to say no to. I didn’t want to upset the other person by saying no, and had a miserable time doing so! Now, I realize it is vital that I learn to say no and honour where I am at that point in time. I put this one last as it is the one that we need to continue after the dark night is over. Once we emerge from the fog and darkness, we are totally different to the people we were when we entered and we need to give ourselves time to assimilate the changes and get to know ourselves again. This will help us to re-centre and recharge after we emerge back into the world and keep us connected to who we really are. Remember to be gentle with yourself here too. If you do find old patterns coming up, just remind yourself that you are no longer that person, forgive yourself and move forward. These things take time, so allow yourself to make a few mistakes along the way, just don’t go back!
The one thing we must not do during this process is ignore it, try to push it aside or even hurry it along.
Have patience with yourself.
This too shall pass.
*Your friendships may change and you might lose people during this process. Frankly, let them go. If they don’t support you and love you unconditionally, then they aren’t serving you anyway. Let them go, mourn their loss, but keep moving forward. Now you will have room in your life for new friends to enter, one who are more aligned with who you are now, your true kindred spirits. Release with love and welcome with love.