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Understanding the Dark Night of the Soul: What is it and What Are the Symptoms & Stages

INSIDE: The dark night of the soul refers to a phase in our spiritual journey that brings us to a collapse in our sense of purpose. Let's explore the symptoms and stages of this essential aspect of spiritual awakening.


Our spiritual journey is not always a bed of roses. It has its share of challenging experiences and lessons that, while they may be daunting at the moment, are all meant to lead us to our spiritual awakening. 

The dark night of the soul meaning dates back to the 16th century. Spiritual masters describe it as a deeply disheartening experience similar to falling into a pit of emptiness in our existence.

It feels as if the whole universe is working against us and nothing can save us from our misery. However, knowing how to go through it can help us overcome the illusions of our ego and connect more deeply with our Higher Self.

Let's find out what the symptoms and stages of this experience are and how to navigate it with more awareness.

What is the Dark Night of the Soul?

The dark night of the soul is an inner state that may feel very similar to entering a depressive stage. Our life lacks purpose, and we don’t find the motivation to keep engaging in our everyday affairs.

Nothing makes sense anymore and the activities that used to bring us joy now don’t excite us. In short, the meaning we gave to our lives suddenly collapses, and the only thing possible to do now is to emerge out of it into a more conscious individual. 

The dark night of the soul exposes the illusions of the ego, which can be extremely painful at first. Things that used to satisfy the ego no longer appeal to us, so everything in our existence becomes much darker.

However, this is an opportunity to connect more deeply with our spiritual path. Without the distractions of the ego, it is much easier to enter into a more advanced state of consciousness.

We will then have the opportunity to live a life based more on the promptings of our soul than on the concepts of our mind. This is why the dark night of the soul is seen as a kind of rebirth in our spiritual journey.

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Dark Night of the Soul Symptoms

It can be difficult to distinguish the symptoms of depression from those of the dark night of the soul. While the manifestations can vary from person to person, you can look for the following signs that most people experience who go through this stage.

Feelings of Sadness & Hopelessness

The most characteristic feature of the dark night of the soul is a deep sense of sadness, emptiness, and even despair. Most people feel that their lives no longer have any meaning, and they begin to question the point of being alive. They also feel disconnected from their relationships and goals in life and begin to withdraw from the outside world.

Existential Questioning

People who go through this challenging period experience a crisis of faith that causes them to question their core beliefs and values. While this is positive at other stages of life, it can be despairing in this context, as the cosmovision that previously held our existence together breaks down into a million pieces.

Intense Emotional Turmoil

The dark night of the soul forces us to confront deep-seated fears, unresolved traumas, and repressed emotions in order to heal and transform them. This process leads to a psychological battering that takes up most of the time and energy of the person going through it.

what is the dark night of the soul

Loss of Interest in Previously Enjoyed Activities

Similar to depression, a dark night of the soul symptom involves a loss of interest in activities that previously brought joy and fulfillment to the person's life. These individuals typically withdraw from social interactions and isolate themselves as they fight their inner battles.

Spiritual Disconnection

During the dark night of the soul, people feel disconnected from their inner self and intuition, as if their inner compass has stopped working or the universe has stopped guiding their steps.

Loss of Self-Concept

The dark night of the soul reveals the illusions of the ego and brings this person into an identity crisis as they let go of old attachments and patterns. This process can be very challenging, causing the person to feel disoriented as they navigate their daily struggles.

A Desire for Spiritual Awakening

Going through the dark night of the soul ignites the desire for a deeper connection with the Divine. Despite the difficulties, this process is accompanied by a deep longing for transformation and spiritual awakening that drives us to expand our consciousness.

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Dark Night of the Soul Stages  

The dark night of the soul passes through different stages. If you are going through this transformative process, knowing which stage you are in can help you face your challenges with greater awareness.

Let's dig in...

Stage 1: Trigger of the Disruption

The dark night of the soul begins with an external or internal disturbance that triggers the process. It's normal and expected to feel unprepared, which is why we feel an existential crisis over which we have no control.

Stage 2: Feeling Lost

After the great disturbance that triggered the dark night of the soul, we begin to feel despair and an inability to respond effectively to our circumstances. We feel lost and hopeless as we perceive the life we've known as meaningless and false.

Stage 3: Hitting Rock Bottom

After going deep into the depths of our psyche and soul, there comes a point when we hit rock bottom. While every stage of the dark night of the soul isn't easy, this stage will feel like a breaking point of pain. This is when most people isolate themselves, become emotionally numbed by toxic substances, and feel like there is no going back.

Stage 4: Finding the Light on the Other Side

Of course, having hit rock bottom, we have no place to go but up. This stage is described as waking up to the truth after the illusions of the ego no longer distracts us. We are ready to face our authentic self instead of fighting it or running away from it, which leads us to find the true meaning of our lives.

Stage 5: Introspection

With this newfound sense of self and renewed purpose in life, we begin a period of introspection and spiritual study to lay the groundwork for a more soulful future. Our thirst for knowledge may lead us to spiritual mentors and practices that encourage us to act on the basis of a more spiritually fulfilling life.

Stage 6: Living According to Our Higher Self

In the final stage of the dark night of the soul, we find a sense of understanding, inner peace, and wholeness like we have never experienced before. Our intuition and sense of compassion are fully attuned and we are able to see the bigger picture of our life experiences.

In this stage, we are grateful for the lessons we have learned, and our emotional wounds begin to heal. We no longer repeat dysfunctional patterns and are able to live with greater awareness, guided by our inner compass and our passion for life. We also feel naturally inclined to help others and make a positive contribution to the world.

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How Long Does Dark Night of the Soul Last?

Everyone's spiritual journey is unique, so there's no specific timeline to determine how long the dark night of the soul will last. Some people go through this process in a relatively short period of intense emotional turmoil, while others navigate it as a more gradual and prolonged process.

What's important is not how long it lasts, but how ready and willing we are to confront our inner shadow and work through the challenges this experience presents.

A spiritual crisis like the Dark Night of the Soul can feel like the most important battle you'll ever experience in your life, but it will definitely lead to profound growth and transformation, regardless of how many months or years it takes. 

No matter where you are in the process, approach it with patience, self-compassion, and radical acceptance. Even if it feels like the universe has abandoned you, the divine realm is right there with you, so trust that everything will unfold as expected.

Final Thoughts

Anyone who has gone through the dark night of the soul will attest to the life-changing insights it brought to their existence. The only way to reach our spiritual enlightenment is to let our ego ripen like a fruit.

Once the fruit is harvested, it falls from the tree, and this is what the dark night of the soul represents. We are no longer supported by the illusion of being on the branch of the tree where we spend our whole life. Once we go through the stages, we'll be able to plant our seeds into a more authentic and soulful existence.

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* Crystals and stones should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please read our full disclosure notice here.

Understanding the Dark Night of the Soul

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