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  • Writer's pictureDana Webster

Dark Night Of The Soul

Because I have set out to write honestly about my life and my experiences of it, I am going to share that I am in the throes of a Dark Night of the Soul and have been for some time now. It is easy to confuse a dark night with Depression.

I abhor the label mental illness. It comes with so many negative connotations which are mostly disempowering. I looked up a list of synonyms for mental illness and here's what I got:

But wait, there's more!

Not very pretty, is it?

By contrast, symptoms of Dark Night of the Soul can look like this:

  • Everything seems to be breaking down.

  • You feel confused, lost, meaningless, empty, and lonely.

  • You don’t feel satisfied or joy in the things that normally make you happy.

  • Life has no meaning or purpose and you have an existential crisis.

  • You don’t feel like doing anything.

  • Random emotions might surface. You might cry uncontrollably or without any reason, experience anxiety, and panic attacks.

  • Past memories and childhood events might surface.

I can honestly say that this is exactly where I am at. These last two years of the pandemic have been hard on me, not in a logistical kind of a way like having to wear a mask, or socially distance, or be on Zoom meetings all day. No, it has upended the very core of my understanding of the world, my belief in the inherent goodness of people, my faith in the greater good model of citizenship.

Literally, nothing makes sense to me anymore. This really is about an existential crisis. I am a big picture thinker, a higher level voyager where I can take comfort in the macro whilst the micro is burning all to hell. But not so much these days because I don't know what the bigger picture is. I don't know where this transition is going or even if it will be of benefit in the long run.

In my own personal world, I have all the elements that normally bring me joy and satisfaction: a loving family, a secure homelife, cats, my counselling practice, my writing, meaningful friendships, and more. However, I do not exist in a bubble of good things, much as I wish I did. The greater social ills permeate my thoughts, break my heart, and cause me to worry about both the present and the future.

For me, the difference between the psychological state of depression and the spiritual state of dark night of the soul is transformation. People in a depressed state are stuck in the mud. There is no movement, no will to climb on out of the trenches.

I have been in resistive denial which is a normal coping mechanism but not a healthy one. I've been telling myself that I am stronger than the chaos in the world, I have all the tools I need to cope (if not thrive) or push through this transition period of humanity. I have been stoic and stupid, wondering why I have been grumpy and sad for so long, why I cannot get a decent night's sleep without the aid of so many tinctures, why I have all but lost the ability to laugh out loud, to find joy in the small and big things, why panic and anxiety are always just a stone's throw away.

Everything I knew to be true is no longer. I thought we were striving for equality, fairness and healing. I thought we were shedding the old paradigms of ego-driven hate and divisiveness. I thought we were heading into a time where intelligence was revered, shared, and striven for. I yearn for my dreams of peaceful co-existence.

Well, I've finally faced reality. My reality. And like all hard things to which one surrenders, I feel hope for the first time in a long time. The best way to ride out a dark night is to embrace it, let it move through you. There's important work going on behind the scenes.

The Dark Night of the Soul is a process initiated by the soul. The soul desires growth and expansion. It pulls you towards a direction of love, joy, and peace because the soul knows that you are ready for growth. ~

Isn't that beautiful? There is movement in a dark night. A cleansing, a clearing, a breaking down further of egoic attachments which leads to peace and meaning, and a more engaged path forward. It just takes a while and it can feel truly dispiriting in the interim.

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