There is a time in almost everyone’s life when we go through the ‘dark night of the soul’.
Some may call it depression, loss, or transformation. Well, it can be any of these things.
But there’s a special element to a dark night of the soul. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung coined this term because it’s a time that is so painful, with such a crisis of faith, that a part of you dies.
According to Jung, going through a dark night of the soul is to experience the death of an egoic part of us, one that we’ve attached to something else outside of us.
It can feel extremely saddening to lose this part of us.
But what’s incredible about it?
When you come out the other side, you have evolved into a version of yourself that you never thought was possible.
How can you know if you’re experiencing this?
Read on for the 7 signs that you’re experiencing what Carl Jung termed, the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’:
1) Emotional turmoil
Are you experiencing intensely painful feelings of grief, despair, or turmoil?
These sensations might feel so heavy you’re unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Just know that this is a main element of a ‘Dark night of the soul’ and that there will be an end to them – even if you just can’t see it clearly yet.
Know that these emotions are temporary, and don’t fear them. Try to allow yourself to feel these emotions without identifying yourself with them.
So if this resonates, read on to learn the next sign that this might be Jung’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’
2) Loss or change of identity
Alongside feelings of intense despair, this phenomenon often comes with a loss or a change of one’s identity.
This could be caused by something external, such as the loss of a loved one, a profound realization, or in some cases having no clear ‘external’ cause. Instead, it could be an internal sense of falling out of alignment with old aspects of life.
In any case, it’s feeling a loss of a part of you that may have been attached to something else, including (but not limited to):
- A belief
- A perception
- A career
- A relationship or a person
- A lifestyle
- A dream
The realization that the things you thought you’d have forever, are no longer a part of you, is what can trigger this transformational period of your life.
Just know that whatever loss you are experiencing may feel unbearable right now, but ultimately it is not truly you who is being lost. The spiritual realization you may have is that identifying with anything will cause pain.
Once you are liberated from all attachments to external identities, you will experience the freedom to find yourself.
3) Feeling purposelessness
You may feel a sense of emptiness in life. You may be questioning why you are here.
You may lose interest in activities, relationships, or pursuits that once brought you joy. It can feel like a loss of passion or enthusiasm for life.
It can also feel like emotional or physical exhaustion and fatigue.
Know that whether you once felt you had values, beliefs, and purpose and have lost that, or you’ve simply become more aware of lacking purpose – this is a common effect of the Dark Night of the Soul.
Let me tell you a story:
When I went through this as a young adult, I had been an atheist my entire life. For 21 years, nobody could convince me that spirituality wasn’t simply a tale people used to feel better about their lives.
While that may or may not be true… without a belief in anything, all I know is I was myself unhappy, aimless, and empty.
Without a belief in anything, I had no belief in me. And so I wasn’t able to experience true joy or bliss.
As I opened my mind to spirituality, I realized that it’s not about believing in specific stories portrayed by any religion or anyone else.
It’s about personal growth, expanding awareness, and feeling a flicker of light ignite from the darkness inside of you, into a source of warmth that can carry you through life.
It’s been a decade since my Dark Night of the Soul, and I’ve never felt purposeless since.
4) Isolation and alienation
Someone going through this phase may self-isolate or feel isolated from others.
Even if you’re actually craving connection, you may feel that no one truly understands the struggles you’re experiencing.
Don’t worry – this is normal. You are meant to learn to be there for yourself, first and foremost.
That doesn’t mean not accepting support from friends and family. They may have been through a similar time and may have lots of wisdom to impart.
However, the main experience in A Dark Night of the Soul seems to be that it’s a universally lonely process.
It’s a process of shedding an old version of you, in order to reach a rebirthing experience within you – and no one else can experience that on your behalf.
Try to build trust in yourself through this process.
5) Deep self-reflection
Do you find yourself having a higher sensitivity and self-awareness than usual?
Heightened sensitivity and introspection will develop naturally when you’re going through a difficult period.
You feel drawn to delving into unresolved issues, traumas, or aspects of yourself that you’ve been ignoring until now.
Through this reflection, you’ll come to new understandings about your life, your patterns, behaviors, and how you got to become the person you are now.
And that’s one of the first gifts of a Dark Night of the Soul!
It truly is a gift, because with this proclivity for self-reflection, you will be able to move through future challenges with more grace, ease, and self-trust.
6) Seeking answers or guidance
The thing about such a deep spiritual transformation is that you will eventually realize: that you’re not alone.
People have been going through the same things for millennia before you and will continue to as long as humans exist.
And that’s a beautiful thing… because it means there is guidance out there that you can seek.
That could be in the form of someone else like a mentor, teacher, or therapist. Or, you may seek the answers within yourself through meditation, creating rituals, ancient medicines, and other practices.
Either way, once you’ve gone through the difficult part of this process, you will come to a period of seeking answers or guidance.
You’ve been through hell and back – where the, “and back” part is really just a moment of surrender.
You embrace the uncertainty and darkness, which can be a truly liberating experience.
Once you embrace the darkness, to your surprise, you actually find a pivotal point for yourself – a small seed of hope that starts slowly growing within you.
It may still feel difficult to move forward, but you continue to nurture that seed each day with small choices that help water it to grow.
If you’re at this point, keep watering that seed.
It is your way out of the Dark night and into the sunrise that awaits you.
If you relate to these 7 signs, I know what you’re experiencing is one of the most difficult things in life.
However many people emerge from a dark night of the soul as a new person, with a renewed sense of purpose and zest for life.
Because you’ve transcended the minor qualms in life that once seemed important.
You’ve learned more about who you truly are.
You’ve gained a deeper connection to your soul in the process of holding yourself through immense turmoil.
All you have to do is keep showing up with a little more patience, and acceptance, and opening your heart more when it wants to shut down.
Just like me with spirituality, try to let yourself explore things you’ve previously dismissed.
Because the grief you’re experiencing is most likely a sign that your soul is craving expansion and growth from what it thought it knew previously.
But as with anything that’s difficult, life will reward you. And the rewards aren’t usually of the superficial kind.
These will be the gifts that can never be taken away by anyone or anything.
They are truly gifts of the soul.