December 12, 2023 — Shani Shoham

What is the Dark Night of the Soul?

The Dark Night of the Soul is an intense, and often painful period of profound spiritual, psychological, and metaphysical transformation. Typically following a cataclysmic event, this phase is often characterized by a deep sense of despair, disconnection, and hopelessness. The term for this particular mystical evolution gained notoriety through the 16th century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, in his written work Dark Night (or, Noche Oscura). This phase, however, has transcended its religious origins and has come to describe an arduous journey through the inner depths of the soul where individuals must confront their deepest fears, desires, and traumas as a process of spiritual ascension and union with the divine.  

Spiritual Depression vs. Mental Depression

Spiritually depressed person covers face with hands

While the Dark Night of the Soul shares some emotional and psychological features with clinical depression, it differs in its underlying cause and purpose. While depression can stem from circumstance or can be rooted in biological, psychological, or social factors, the Dark Night of the Soul more closely resembles a crisis of faith, existence, and identity.

Both can present in a given individual as fatigue, burnout, lack of motivation or interest, alienation, and grief and can often be mistaken for one another. However, clinical depression is a pathology, and may sometimes be alleviated through therapeutic interventions and medications. It is for this reason that it is imperative to differentiate between the two and seek guidance from mental health professionals or spiritual healers as needed. 

Phases of the Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul is a highly individual, painful process with no specific time frame. However, a dark night only lasts until the dawn comes. While the process in itself may feel unendurable, it will ultimately lead to an authentic, actualized, and meaningful life.  

Phase 1: Notable Shocks and Disruption

The initial phase of the Dark Night of the Soul often originates from a singular significant event in one’s life. Sometimes that moment manifests as a traumatic event to a loved one or oneself; (such as the discovery of a life-threatening illness, the loss of the life of a loved one, a Near-Death Experience), a meaningful synchronicity or a profound epiphany. Oftentimes this primary experience can be accompanied with a multitude of other life-altering events, even taking the form of a painful breakup or losing a job. 

At the time of their occurrence, these events may feel catastrophic and overwhelming to the soul enduring them. It becomes clear that the nature of life, as it once was, is no longer. It is here that the individual begins the descent into the “fall of the tower”, and the course of the individual’s life changes drastically.

Phase 2: The Tower

The Tower Tarot Card of the Major Arcana 

Much like the ‘Tower’ card in Tarot, the secondary phase of the Dark Night of the Soul is what occurs after a massive upheaval and unexpected change in one’s life. Following the initial sense of shock, an individual traversing the Dark Night of the Soul experiences a breakdown of old constructs, ways of being, and a shattering of previously held worldviews. 

It is within this phase that the individual will begin to question their belief system, their values, and their identities. This period of disillusionment with the world around them will begin to take rapid shape, and the charms of what once fed the ever-hungry ego will cease to arouse desire. Many have described this phase as the ‘crumbling of the Matrix”. This collapse is felt most especially by empaths and Light Workers, alike.

Phase 3: Loss of Hope and Identity

With the empty facades of what once captivated them, the individual moves into the most critical and most painful part of the process: the loss of identity and hope. As the individual’s view of the world shifts dramatically, confusion and hopelessness arise. 

The initial crisis leads one to question everything that, at a time, imbued their life with purpose. Ambitions, achievements, activities, and even religious beliefs that were at a time crucial pillars in the creation of the identity of the individual can suddenly become negligible. Disconnected and stripped of their previous identity, life can, in this phase, feel empty and meaningless. They might ask themselves: 

If God were real, then how could He do this to me?

Why did this happen to me?

Who Am I?

In this sudden loss of identity and innocence, the soul in the third phase of the Dark Night can feel deep sadness, loneliness, lethargy,  frustration, and even a sense of homesickness for a home that never existed. Fear is persistent as the human being no longer knows who they are, or who they are becoming. 

With the collapse of old social constructs, the individual likely experiences burn-out with old routines that no longer fulfill and satisfy, and intense physical exhaustion. This is due to the purging aspect of this critical phase, where dense, negative energies are attempting to be expelled from the physical plane.  

Because of the overwhelming despondency in this phase, many seek not to feel it and actively try to avoid and escape it. It can be very easy to get lost in this phase, and many do by giving in to coping mechanisms of avoidance. The ego does not want to be in discomfort and in a perpetual state of lack of control, and many choose to follow this urge by developing avoidant coping mechanisms.  Addiction is a notable way in which one can find themselves stagnating in this process. These coping mechanisms can cause the individual to alienate their family and friends, and feel even more isolated and alone. When one cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, positivity and optimism may falter. This characteristic absence of hope can lead a person to their existential breaking point, such as suicide.

Phase 4: Surrender

The process of surrendering to this loss of self-identity is the most instrumental and, counter-intuitively, arguably the most challenging. This is a choice that the individual must make themselves. In this period where the Night is perhaps most dark, the soul must make the conscious decision to choose to explore the darkness. In the previous phase, the mind and the Ego put up their best barriers of resistance to the darkness. Here, they need to immerse themselves in the deep abyss of their soul.

The individual’s process of surrender must be accompanied with unconditional love and acceptance of oneself. In this darkest of phases, the individual will come across their deepest fears, desires, and repressed traumas. Unearthing these repressed and denied aspects of the self, understanding them, and bringing them into conscious awareness is called Shadow Work. This approach requires much self reflection and radical honesty with oneself. The individual must be ready to allow themselves to truly feel all the dormant emotions that society does not encourage them to openly feel: absence, guilt, shame, grief, resentment, jealousy, and anger. 

Once this cathartic aspect of the process is truly and deeply felt, then the individual can begin to unfold and uncover their authentic self. They will begin to shed old habits and patterns that no longer align, outdated and fixed perceptions of their world, break the paradigm of their conditioning, release themselves from what anchored them to the past and clear a space for the new.

Phase 5: Spiritual Awakening

When the individual finally finds solace and peace in the most obscure parts of their shadow selves, they are left with space. In this space, there comes a realization that there are infinite possibilities of creation of the self. Much like the biblical story of creation, in the beginning there was nothing, and the Creator spoke everything into existence. So too will be the process of the individual’s creation of self. But this is no longer the primary focus. 

In the earlier phases following the loss of the old identity, the individual typically feels alienated and disconnected from others who cannot understand them. After surrendering the identity of the self entirely, the soul begins to awaken from the illusion of separation and distinction that is so rigidly held. The soul begins to remember its true self: that it is a fiber in the tapestry of existence, and that it is the Creator experiencing its own creations. In this type of existence there is no separation between the self and the other, there is only holistic symbiosis. 

Phase 6: Rejuvenated Life and Purpose

In this final phase, the soul recognizes its purpose and power. Much like the biblical Creator, the soul will be able to speak light into the darkness and recognize the harmony in the duality of them both. Signs that an individual has arrived at the final stage of the Dark Night include a deep sense of peace and reassured contentment. In this phase one might feel something akin to grief for the old self, but this is the process of reintegrating this newfound understanding of oneself as an empty canvas and will allow for the merging of all aspects of self. 

It is here you will rebuild life as both an individual creation and Creator. You will likely experience a euphoric feeling of joy, weightlessness, and true liberation. It is here also, that you might find a renewed sense of conviction in faith, oneness, and radical self love.

What to Do When You're Going Through the Dark Night of the Soul

Cultivating a deep awareness of the phases of the Dark Night you might be in and a hearty acceptance of the process as it unfolds will offer you much resilience and fortitude.   

Acknowledge the Spiritual Journey

The sojourn through life's bleakest moments will test the limits of your endurance. However, this is also a time for profound growth and new beginnings.

The process of walking through fire polishes the metal to shine brighter than before. You should not run away. This metaphor succinctly captures how your mind will embrace the profound transformation you undergo.

Do Not Resist the Encounter

Personal Realization comes through meditation, contemplation, and relaxation. You will need to surrender to this journey, not by giving up, but by allowing yourself to truly be immersed in the experience. 

Shifting your perspective on this Dark Night can be a powerful tool. Remembering that your soul chose your mind, your body, and this very life to incarnate into will help fortify you. The Dark Night of the Soul, though it may be experienced as painful, is not necessarily something to be feared. It is only a temporary transitional period of life in the journey of your soul’s evolution. 

The suffering and pain you might feel will not last forever, and only occurs when our Ego identifies so closely with our body and mind. And even though this journey is one you must venture alone into yourself, you are not alone in it. There are others, just like you, who have walked this path and will greet you warmly on the other side. 

When we shift our perspective from resistance to surrender, we can finally recognize the opportunity the Dark Night presents to us: a journey of mastering ourselves, and in doing so, mastering this life.

What Happens When the Dark Night of the Soul Ends?

It is always darkest before the dawn! After you have completed your journey into the dark, you will emerge with newfound wisdom and resilience.

At the end of this journey, you will have a deeper sense of self, purpose, and spiritual connection. This is the time of illumination and rebirth. Now you can embrace your divinity and your inner light, and commit yourself to being the Light you want to see in this world. 


What are the symptoms of the dark night of the soul?

There are many symptoms that may manifest in a Dark Night of the Soul. Since it is a highly individual process, the symptoms tend to vary case to case. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • A significant catalyst
  • Apathy
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of faith
  • Lack of motivation and inspiration
  • Lack of interest 
  • Alienation and Isolation
  • Discomfort and unrest
  • Shedding of old paradigms
  • Uncertainty about Self (not dissociative) 

Did you experience a Dark Night of the Soul and have different symptoms? Let us know in the comments below!

What comes after the dark night of the soul?

There is good news for those who persevere in this journey! After the Dark Night of the Soul comes a period of bliss, unity consciousness, and serenity. Importantly, after the Dark Night of the Soul, you will likely cultivate radical self love and love for others!

Once you've received your gifts of illumination from this period of darkness, you will be able to choose the course of your life as you see fit. Remember that your soul chose this journey, so make of it what you will. 

Why is the dark night of the soul necessary?

From the moment we are born into this world, we are given a genetic inheritance, a name, an identity, values, fears, anxieties, and a belief system. All the people in our lives reinforce these beliefs, whether they be relatives, friends, teachers, and the like. These conditions are not ones we can always choose, but ones we must learn in order to survive. Many people can go their whole lives not aware of this fact.

The Dark Night of the Soul will not happen to everyone. It will happen only to those who made a soul agreement to traverse it. If, and when, the Dark Night of the Soul occurs in your life, it is certain that you are equipped to endure it, and that your soul has a great purpose here in this life.


Have you experienced a Dark Night of the Soul? We want to hear from you. Let other Light Workers know that they are not alone in this journey below. 



I have experienced many dark nights ❤️✨✨✨

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