Let’s begin with the end, because that’s where all the light and the hope lie. The end-purpose of a dark night of the soul is personal transformation. This is how you come out of it; you emerge out into the light with a fresh realization of who you are and what you are made of. This end-goal is the spiritual reason why the night suddenly enshrouds you and why the circumstances of your life, all of a sudden start to shape-shift around you. Believe it or not, it is all actually happening for you, to usher in your new awareness and to peel back another layer of who you thought you were. You are being prepared to embark on a different life-path and you cannot take the same people, experiences and habits along with you. That’s where all the sorrow emerges from, in the difficulty of letting things go.
How Do You Know You are Going Through a Dark Night of the Soul?
A dark period is not just a depresssion or feeling low and uninspired. It is a period in your life that touches upon all other aspects: it affects your capacity to love, relate and establish intimacy with someone, your capacity to value your self-worth and advance in your work, and it affects your health and wellbeing and your relationships to your family members. A deep transformation is happening in your life, which is changing the way you understand yourself and your surrounding reality. So things will be in flux, shifting and uncertain in this transitional phase, and its important to understand right from the beginning that a dark night of the soul is a transitional phase (this is not your entire life). Some days will be still and heavy, other times there will be an overwhelming amount of emotions and new insights to process. It might feel scary if you are a person that is emotionally attached to certainty and stability. However, as you go about facing the dark, there is usually one area of your life that remains stable and continues to offer you blessings. My advice is to hang on to that and remain as much as possible grateful for that anchor (for me, it was the love and support of my friends that got me through it).
So it’s important to understand that having low moods and feeling uninspired, being bored and feeling stuck, or having a constant string of romantic failures and not feeling like you can keep up healthy habits, are not symptoms of a dark night of the soul. Meeting ‘the dark’ requires a traumatic episode. Let’s break down its stages, so we can understand how this process takes place.
- First, a shocking piece of news filters through: usually someone dies, someone wants to separate, you get a difficult disease, you lose an important opportunity in your career, you find out something crushing about your parents, you are about to become evicted…
- Second, is an internal response, or your reaction to it: an angry outburst, jealousy and vengefulness, despair, screaming, crying, numbness, denial, passing out, fear and panic. This is how the trauma is aknowledged.
- Third, some swift readjustments are happening: usually moving out, relocating, isolating yourself, securing your finances, or emptying your savings account, cutting connections with those around you, deleting accounts and phone numbers, burning relational bridges and saying things that hurt or harm back. It’s a Saturn-ruled influence, so things feel like an amputation, like a cut-off, and an icy silence comes to settle in.
- Fourth, you are now in the realm of the darkness. Once the action and shocks are dying down, you now find yourself faced with the fact that it’s done; the trauma cannot be undone. And now you have to deal with your own body, company, feelings and thoughts. How you handle yourself is important because it will show if you want to move on with life, and how that might happen. I’m reminded of this gem of a song:
Or for those of you that love the written word, I’m reminded of these two heart-wrenching novels about loss:
I’m placing these references here for you, because culture provides a lot of solace during a dark night of the soul. This usually comes to you in the fifth phase, that of stilness, when the mind has processed some of your emotions and is able to read and process information. You might read stories that resonate so powerfully with your dark experience, and thereby you might feel less alone, less frustrated and more at peace, knowing that your difficult experience is shared, and is part of the entire beautiful canopy of human experience.
As you do, you enter the sixth and most beautiful phase, that of pure healing. This is how you know you are out of the woods and into the bright clear light: you feel lighter, rested and you see reality more colourful again. You understand, you accept and you surrender. You feel that you are not alone. That in a world so vibrant and populated, you can never be fully alone. And you begin to treasure your solitude, stillness and silence, because it is truly was a gift…one meant to help you level up in life and get more in touch with your soul, albeit through some painful purging first. The wisdom found in other people’s stories and in how they overcame their personal misfortunes, can be like a cooling balm to your tired heart, and you ‘enter the light’ again by reaching out to others.
What is So Dark About This ‘Night’ Compared to Others?
The main reason this night is so dark – to play upon the metaphor a little bit – is that you feel dark. You will feel that food is tasteless, your actions are worthless, you barely have energy to get up and shower or get dressed. You usually crave to be alone, left to your own devices and to sleep due to the inner planet of exhaustion you might feel in the after-math of the trauma. Emotions will rule you for a while, they will overcome you in the oddest moments of the day – they do not have a map, just a mission and that is to wash over you. So let them.
I am trying to write this as broadly as I can, but each dark night is coloured differently depending of the extent, intensity and purpose of the trauma. A person that was raped for years will undergo a different period of healing than one who suffered the sudden end of a long-term commitment. These are both forms of deep and human pain, but no pain is the same, even if the trauma might be similar. The healing will take place very differently. In one case the body will become the center where wounds needs to heal and love, self-acceptance and tenderness will have to be re-learned; while in the other case disfunctional relating patters will need to be replaced by new ways of communicating, trusting and emotionally opening up. But this is again just putting it broadly, because each person’s character will create a unique healing experience and a way of coping with such a dark passage.
How Does Tarot Play Into It?
You tend to turn to the occult during such dark periods. Because you are hyper-sensitive as well, you might also discover some hidden extra-sensorial capacities or you start to notice things you were not able to when you were…happier. So tarot decks might gravitate towards you through some friends that might dabble in the art, or recommend you a good reader, maybe some will gift you a deck or you might just be drawn to purchasing one yourself during one of those days when you are pretty much zombiying around, trying to numb the pain in a bookstore or coffee shop.
Tarot-wise, dark nights of the soul are governed by the following tarot cards: The Tower (the beginning – something unexpected that pushes you in the dark // or you begin with a gradual icing of personal relationships, love, respect, admiration and income, and you might endure a couple of Tower moments throughout); The Hermit (the middle part – going within, retreating from society and learning; mastering your self through the lens of self-analysis) and The Hanged Man (the middle as well – everything is halted, and you are placed in an uncomfortable period of watching and waiting in your life in order to shift your awareness); and finally The Death (the end – feeling intensify and rise up to wash over you, if you let them they will heal you; if you run from them, you will gradually be destroyed by your own repressed emotions). Death means a rebirth in this context; hopefully you have undergone a pyshological rebirth and you emerge out into the light, transformed and improved. Keep in mind this is about your soul, and not necessarily about your appearance, although it might suffer changes as your mind increases its awareness.
In addition, like a pair of watchful guardians, The High Priestess and the Hierophant are the Major Arcana who watch over you as you walk through this dark night of your Soul. Turn to them for solace – place them on your desktop or as a wallpaper to your phone, or get a tarot deck and place the cards next to your bedside. These two energies remind you, that in order to overcome the darkness you must take the path of self-analysis and learning, to observe and understand the lessons inherent in your misfortunes, to allow your light to blend with your darkness.
Paradoxically, such tough periods are blessings in disguise because they offer you the opportunity to blend your contradictions, to meet your Shadow Self (the 7th house in astrology and any planets or asteroids you might have there) and integrate it into your Solar Consciousness (the sign and house of your Sun Sign). So that you no longer walk around giving off confusing signals to others, so that you are aware of your blindspots and are able to master your emotions, instead of letting them rule you and continue to create karma in your lifepath.
How Does Astrology Play Into It?
Dark nights of the soul usually place you on your dharmic path, so it helps if you know your North Node placement and truly study it. Your North Node (by sing and house placement) is like a lighthouse beacon during this dark period because it shows you what you are growing into.
Furthermore, these periods are marked astrologically by Saturn and Pluto transits – especially on your Moon, and secondarily on your Sun and Ascendant, but to my mind nothing hurts like a rought transit to the Moon (just as nothing is more soothing like having Venus or Jupiter stationing conjunct there for a while). So make sure you know your chart well and prepare for the worst when these planets hit your Moon, your Sun or your Venus (you can’t know with a 100% accuracy what will happen, but you can be forwarned that it won’t be easy, and this preparation calms the mind and the spirit). It helps as well to know the length of the transit.
Saturn transiting your Moon ices everything out – you might feel emotionless, cold and detached like never before in your life. Or you might feel highly emotional but you will not be able to express this to others, or to replenish your need for affection (people might react strictly to your emotional outbursts, to set those limits around your heart). So as with everything Saturn ruled, you must arm yourself with a lot of patience. Think of how patient you can be and then train yourself to be double as patient – Saturn requires effort, and around your heart, it demands your emotional effort. The good part about Saturn is that you can feel it happening a while before the transit hits exact conjunct. Saturn is predictable, it offers you the time and the stillness to create a plan and commit to following it daily. If you endure, you get rewards: a loyal partner who reciprocates your feelings, a ground of friends that have your back, a job with a traditional insitution that gives you social prestige, the materialization of your dream etc.
Pluto is a different energetic serving all-together. It has the unexpected qualities of Uranus and the painful effort of Saturn. So a Pluto moment comes with intensity and it is usually unexpected. it does involve a build-up of energy, so watch for areas of life where you have been repressing energy as these are the areas a Pluto transit will blow up and force you to deal with. Keep in mind that low-vibrating Pluto energy rules over domination, abuse, deep sexual trauma, hostage-like situations, and the world of crime in general. The only way to deal with it, is to surrender, and allow it to transform you. As you do so you gain power and are able to ‘fight’ back energetically. A Moon-Pluto transit wants you to welcome the intensity and to have the courage to see it through until its ends.
The great part about Pluto energy is that it consumes itself in time, since it does not have lasting power (not like Saturn, that helps you build something timeless). However, Pluto energy works on you like the debris of an atomic reaction, which means it continues to mutate your DNA and offer you symptoms, even if the initial traumatic episode was brief and short-lived.
Pluto brings in your life themes of enmeshment with others, trust, power and powerlesness, sexual and emotional pain, obsession and how you cope with it, having to let go fo things you want with your entire being, or letting your guard down enough to welcome powerful new feelings into your life. Pluto marks deaths, births, losses of all kinds – it’s pretty brutal, and doesn’t understand tenderness, but once the transit passes and once you’ve been pushed into some really interesting extremes, you won’t be the same person again. Another good thing about Pluto is that it cleans you; like a Vulture, it eats the bits of meat left on a corpse, leaving only the clean white bones. So you can build the life you really want on the new foundations of your soul.
In every tough transit there is hope and light, but you might need to get comfortable loving and valuing some pretty difficult aspects of life. Such an undertaking requires strength, flexibility and emotional maturity. Don’t worry, since these are the life-long gifts granted to you, once you emerge from a dark night of your soul.
Black, As a Survival Compass
Whatever happens to you, it’s important to never give in to despair or self-loathing. This is the point where instead of navigating the dark, you allow it to infiltrate you, and you end up becoming dark instead of just surviving it.
Black is an interesting non-colour. It has so many different meanings. In dreams it means famine, sin, mourning. In the Western part of the world, black is an elegant office colour. While, Romanians predominantly wear it at funerals. It’s the preferred colour of some subcultures as well, and some people wear black because it looks slimming. Black is the colour of the unconscious, mystery, change and protection. It resonates with indifference, gloom, death, darkness, obscurity and secrecy. The really beautiful scientific aspect is that black attracts light.
This is why in summer it is better to wear white since white reflects light, rather than attract it like black does. Metaphorically speaking, the dark, this surrounding black in your life, is therefore attracting more light towards you. Like a Supermassive Black Whole, the super-attraction power of the dark is phenomenally increased, as it expands and pulls into it the light of many galaxies, so are you, going through the dark only to attract more light in your life.
Ways to cope
A) Create a totem
A totem is an object imbued with personal meaning – it is better if you create it from scratch, just as Native American tribes would take a tree and carve out of it an ancestral pillar adorned with animal spirits. You can also receive a meaningful object or buy one made out of a natural materials and connect on a deeper level to it, by carrying it around with you or sleeping with this object next to you. Your totem has the power to hold your good intent and to remind you of it, during those days when you reach that ‘what’s the point’ limit. A totem is a symbol of hope and partnership, reminding you that you are not alone in this. What got me through my own dark journey in 2013 – a year I only remember in parts, because I spent most of it crying, sleeping and working, as I was waiting for my divorce to come in – was wearing a ring with a dark stone in it.
I can’t explain why but this ring helped me relive the memory of my grandma teaching me how to pray to my guardian angel when I was 4 years old. That moment of safety and purity, when I was small and taken care of and my grandma taught me how not to fear a thunderstorm by counting the distance of each thunder-strike and how I would always be able to pray to my guardian angel and stay protected.
The ring gave me the feeling that even if I was liquifying with emotion, there was something material there to catch me. I looked at it and it made me feel safe and protected. The memories of my grandma, who was a religious and traditional woman, also gave me a lot of comfort. I was aware that even if I’m not naturally a religious or traditional person, for a while, as I was going through this period where everything felt hopeless in my life, memories of candle-lit Orthodoz churches, flower wreaths and people cracking eggs for Easter, somehow gave me the safety I needed. My marriage broke down while I was in a foreign land, which added to my sense of isolation and feeling disconnected from everyone around me, but that small ring, bridged the distance from Scotland to Romania while I was healing.
B) The emotional pain is your healing
As your heart is hurting, it is also trying to remain open. There is this strange contradiction you will experience where things that have wounded you (the words, the acts, and even the non-acts – the indifference, the lack, the disregard) are trying to close your heart, but your heart resists and stubbornly fights to stay open. So you will feel a see-saw, an internal conflict, that can sometimes make you feel like you might have a bi-polar disorder. Understand that those sleepless nights, cold sweats, that fear that grips you unexpectedly when you try to relax, that inescapable victim mentality, and those waves of emotion washing over your body and your mind at irregular intervals (day or night), are all part of your healing.
Whenever the fear grips, remind yourself that fear is an illusion and not your reality, it is triggered by your past and not by your present circumstances and it is just coming up for you to acknowledge that you are afraid, to be aware of this and then to let it go. During my own dark night, I used to say to myself that ‘It came with the night, it goes with the night now’ to send daily fears away and replace them with calm.
Try as much as possible not to medicate the pain or the fear; just allow it to happen to you. Medicating the fear just delays it, and it also delays the chance for you to learn how to master your emotions. Yes, grasping such moments will feel and look weird, but this is why solitude is so important during a dark period, so you can cry on your food stained T-shirt and look a mess without having others judge you or be worried sick about you. If you try to numb the fear down with alcohol, cigarettes, random sex and drugs, they will only work temporarily just like medication – these toxic coping strategies will give you life-long and expensive addictions, and will not remove the fear but rather amplify it because you are not dealing with it, and are merely repressing it or ignoring the problem at hand. You are meant to grow more into your whole self, rather than succumb to the night aspect of the journey.
C) Believe without a doubt that you are loved and guided by a Higher Force
This is the hardest thing to do and the simultaneously it’s the most beautiful. In the worst period of your life, where you feel you walk alone or that no one cares, and everyone is either against you or gone away, if you want to continue to live you will start to feel a presence around you. But it must come from your clear intent, that you want to go on. When this realization happens and you ask the Divine for help, you start to notice patterns and synchronicities around you.
I had many moments when moving on just felt pointeless. Going through a divorce at age 27, trying at another relationship and seeing it dissolve at the age of 30 due to addiction and mental health problems, letting go of a life-time post as a university teacher at age 32, and then letting go again of another prestigious career post, very recently to come home and complete my healing. There were moments when I doubted my sanity, my capacity to feel and be human, and moments when I was afraid of what I could manifest with the power of my negative thinking. But one thing was confirmed to me over and over again, that somehow I was held and supported by an unseen force. And that thought kept me going.
Although it wasn’t only the thought, but also the daily ‘lucky’ evidence: when I had just a couple of pounds in my pocket and had to choose between buying a bus fare or something to eat, I found a 5 pound banknote on the ground; when I was crying myself to sleep every night, my friend unexpectedly wrote me and asked me to come to the South of France for a weekend in the sun; when I struggled to work two jobs and study as well, I had to give up on one job and I suddenly got some tax return money back to help me through the financial readjustment; when I didn’t know how to pay for my PhD, a scolarship opportunity came in, and many more.
People gave me their time, their energy, their kisses and hugs, their money, their food, their clothers and objects – there was always something there to keep me going, even if something as normal as a sunny day. And for those moments I would always be grateful because such small moments taught me to trust in the unknown and to have faith that somehow, things will work out – my Ego didn’t need to know everything. It was all going to be revealed as I continued to live, breathe and take care of myself.
D) Stick to a routine or practice a healthy habit
For me, work was grounding during my dark night of the soul. Having a schedule and knowing that no matter how awful I was feeling, I had a pot of coffee in the morning and I needed to get up and go to work was soothing and stabilizing. Of course, work wasn’t amazing during that period – it pretty much was darker than my own life, since I was nursing an old lady with advanced multiple sclerosis who would occasionally ask me to kill her to relieve her of her pain. I constantly needed to remind her that life is worth living (as I was reminding myself of the same thing). But this situation set things into perspective. It helped me be grateful for my body like I never was before, it helped me want to take care of it and of my own health.
I know it’s bizare to hear this from a Pisces Sun, but material things actually worked to keep me emotionally and mentally stable during the dark passage: a cup of coffee in the morning, going to work, receiving a paycheck, going to bed in my Orange bedroom, looking at my ring, remembering my grandma. Find your routine or small daily thing that can help you cope, and make that your emotional anchor for a while.
E) Ask for help
While I was working, I was also studying to become a child and adolescent psychologist. I was part of one of the most prestigious universities in Europe and initially I felt embarrased to ask for help. But one day I walked into my supervisor’s office and told her I couldn’t cope anymore – the homesickness, the heart-sickness, the pressure to do well in my research, the exhaustion from work. She suggested the help of the university’s counselling services and I was afraid of the financial expense and of emotionally opening up in front of some stranger, who wouldn’t even speak my own language.
But I bit that bullet and went one day, and chose not to listent to what everyone was telling me, that it takes ages to get into counselling. Indeed, I had to wait two weeks for an appointment, but then got into 6 free counselling sessions, because I explained my situation to the secretary and she suggested a bursary option that was available.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to drive home the point that unless you ask for it, you will not receive help. You might not even know the help that is available to you. The path is carved before you as you speak and open up about your problems, and remarkably then something beautiful happens – the suppport arrives, the options are there, the money, the goods, the space to talk, the extra blanket, the companionship, the friendliness. Plato would call it filia or brotherly love, which was one octave lower than agape, or soulful love, unconditional positive regard towards another human being. These types of love have to do with ensuring we survive and that we eventually make it out of our individual dark nights of the soul.
F) Pay it forward
This comes after. Once you make it out of this dark path, and you reach out into the light again, and you feel healed, whole and renewed, I’m here to let you know that nothing will compare to the deep intimacy you can now establish with other people around you. Even more so, you will experience gratefulness more quickly, and in many random moments of the day. Everything will feel like you are ‘on drugs’ (you won’t need the real stuff), and it will be a bit more intense, a bit more colourful and more alive. You escaped something soul crushing and regained your belief in the beauty of living, in yourself and in the Divine and this knowledged will feel exhilarating. So don’t give up before the good part ❤
From that moment onwards, as you grow through life you will be able to hear someone else’s personal story and not just simply say ‘Oh yeah, I can think that was hard for you’ but you’ll be able to have a physical and emotional reaction to that person’s story because it will feel like your own. You are now able to understand what being abandoned, abused, divorced, downtrodden and poor feels like and you will empathise with others.
And helping others in your situation will feel like a blessing in itself – it will give you an oxytocin-boost and a feeling of power (so try not to let it get to your head) and it will remind you that initially it was this vulnerability that got you to this place. I discovered I was a lightworker because I was able to survive and thrive after each dark night of my soul. Without the darkness, I wouldn’t have been able to wake up to my own inner light.
Do not fear the dark. It is here to help spiritualize a life that is lived too much in the rational, a life that is emotionally-detached and clouded by a defensive Ego. Allow tough experiences to change you, work on you and bless you. When you will look back, you will indeed be suprised by how far you’ve come and how different you and your existence will feel like. The point of life is to live it and experience things.
Even if the journey is painful, it is worth sticking through it and commiting to seeing it through until the end. We grow in life through both pain and pleasure, and such periods unfortunately bring with it some considerable pain. Remember that old saying ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes your stronger’? it could’ve been uttered by someone who survived a dark night of the soul and lived to tell the story.
With universal love,