What Is The Purpose Of The Dark Night Of The Soul?

For many, the dark night of the soul is a confusing time of feeling lost, like the foundation of our life has been pulled out from under us.

It’s a time of darkness as our innermost essence is in the shadow and removed from the light of our awareness.

The phrase “dark night of the soul” goes way back and originally comes from John of the Cross (1541-1597), a Spanish mystic and poet.

The most potent contemporary definition I have found comes from Dr. Zinia Pritchard, a Contemplative Practice Theologian who says, “The Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritual process where the seed of life is buried within the soil of suffering.”

Such a powerful image and realization that the birth of our true self happens when we experience the suffering and discomfort that arises when we’re confused, lost, and in the dark. All the ways we’ve drawn on to make sense of ourselves and our place in the world don’t seem to fit anymore.

A time of transition

The DNOS represents a period of transition and spiritual awakening in our lives where we shed the conditioned self that no longer serves us to step into a new way of being. One that honours our more profound sense of who we are and our soul.

We begin to question everything that we believe to be true. Our minds are desperately attempting to create meaning around our experience so that we can regain control and familiarity.

It often feels like we’re living in a void where who we were doesn’t seem to fit anymore, and we haven’t evolved into who we’re meant to become. We’re in the liminal space—no longer and not yet.

Gerald G. May, a psychiatrist and spiritual counsellor, put it this way in his book The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth:

“For all of us, however, there are moments of dawning awareness, little cracks in our armour that reveal glimpses of our deeper longing and our true nature. We begin to see that the results of our efforts are not quite as perfect as we had hoped for… Things that gave us pleasure in the past may now seem empty”(p.64).

An intervention

The dark night of the soul is an intervention orchestrated by our soul to signal it’s time to get in touch with our true selves.

It occurs when we have drifted too far away from our true selves and live lives that aren’t true to who we are.

In short, when we are being who we think we should be and not who we’re meant to be.

I will share what happened during my dark night of the soul. In doing so, I hope it will shed some light on what was helpful so that you have hope that light is waiting for you.

It was a tough time when I experienced this emptiness several years ago. I had no idea what this transition was about and didn’t know how to navigate it.

I needed to retreat into a cocoon, although I didn’t understand why. My heart was heavy, and my head was spinning with many questions about my life and what brought meaning to my days.

At the time, I was living a life that most people dreamt about, with a great deal to be grateful for, and yet I felt a deep sense of emptiness and like something was missing.

To put it simply, my whole life was turned upside down. I wrote the book, “Awakening a Woman’s Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life,” to share my journey through this transition and help others understand and navigate their own.

In the cocoon phase, I was stripping away the conditioned layers that were dulling my sparkle. These layers comprised things like the stresses of daily life, outdated conditioned beliefs about what it meant to be a good woman, anger and resentment from stifling my voice and thoughts that were like a bad roommate.

As these layers were slowly alchemized, the energy going into keeping my conditioned self alive was redirected inward to my inner wisdom and the messages from my soul.

The soul requires us to live a life of truth, which is usually uncomfortable.

A rebirth

We must let go of the old self that isn’t serving us anymore to grow into our true selves. It’s been described by many as a kind of death and rebirth.

James Hollis, Ph.D. in his book, Living an Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey put it this way:

“There is no going forward without a death of some kind: a kind death of who we thought we were and were supposed to be; a death of a map of the world we thought worthy of our trust and investment; a death of expectations that by choosing rightly we could avoid suffering, experience the love and approval of those around us, and achieve a sense of peace, satisfaction arrival home. But life has other plans it seems; indeed, our own souls have other plans.” (p. 61).

As we come through the dark night of the soul, our lives take on more depth, awareness, and alignment with our more profound truths. In a follow-up post, I share The Dark Night Of The Soul Truths as shared by way-showers who have gone through the dark night of the soul.

Our life begins to feel deeply meaningful, authentic, and expansive because we’re growing into who we’re meant to become.

This summons to depth is not an easy journey but worthwhile for those willing to embark on it. I write about the journey in The 7 Pillars Of Awakening On Your Spiritual Path article. It is an invitation to return home to ourselves and who we were meant to be before the world told us who we should be.

In the following interview, I speak with a Registered Psychologist and Holistic Healer, Dr. Angela Grace, about integrating spirituality and psychology and her journey through the dark night of the soul.

If you feel called, please comment below. Our community would love to hear from you!

Additional reading about the dark night of the soul:

In The Real Meaning Of The Dark Night Of The Soul, I intend to help people understand that the DNOS is about our personality that eclipses our soul, not our soul.

In Wisdom For Navigating The Dark Night Of The Soul Journey, I share what I learned after interviewing several way-showers who have gone through the DNOS journey.

(Original post, May 25, 2020; Updated post, Sept. 28, 2021)