“There is nothing more confining than the prison we don’t know we are in”. ~William Shakespeare
Our soul is energy that contains our spiritual programming about who we’re destined to become. Our soul can never be destroyed only hidden from our awareness.
When we go through the “dark night of the soul” we begin to loosen our identification with our personality (some call it our ego). In a previous post, I shared about the purpose of the dark night of the soul.
In this post, I want to propose that the “dark night of the soul” is really the “dark night of the personality”.
The actual process which can be painful and involves suffering, in the end, relieves our suffering. This is especially true when we create meaning out of our suffering. As Viktor E. Frankl so profoundly said,
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.
William Meader, a teacher of the Esoteric Philosophy, calls our personality our “outer garment”.
We develop a persona as a way to survive as children. It’s believed that we’re born with a personality and over time our personality structure becomes increasingly rigid and begins to suffocate the natural expansion of our soul.
Our personality, which at one time enabled us to survive, becomes a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that limits our growth and connection with our soul. Our outer garment blocks a deeper connection with others and what feels meaningful in life.
When we aren’t living our lives in accordance with what our soul needs we begin to experience all sorts of signs and symptoms.
The signs and symptoms may be physical or emotional in nature and are meant to wake us up to the realization that our personality is constricting our life force energy and has become a prison for us. When we begin to notice these signs that are arising from our souls, we have a choice to make.
Either we continue to feel like we aren’t thriving and living lives that aren’t aligned with our true selves or we begin to do the work to loosen the outer garment.
This always involves embarking on the inner journey, which by its very nature takes us inward and downward.
When we go inward and downward it often feels like a journey into the darkness. A journey to a place we haven’t been before. A journey that must be taken if we’re to return home to our true selves. The self that we were born with and which we have lost touch with for many different reasons.
This darkness arises when we begin to realize that we have been living a life that wasn’t truly our own. A life that may have been full, successful, meaningful and worked for us until it doesn’t work any longer.
This is where we enter the dark night of the personality. Beginning to wonder, Who am I when I’m not identified with this way of being that I’ve grown comfortable and accustomed to?
How do we become aware of this prison created by our personality?
You might think it’s through meditation, but actually meditation doesn’t help us see the lens through which we see the world. Meditation has many benefits, but seeing the prison we’re in isn’t one of them. Meditation helps us adapt and be more resilient in prison, but it doesn’t help us bust out of it when our soul needs more freedom.
This is where the Enneagram comes in. The Enneagram is an ancient system that identifies nine different personality types. As Suzanne Stabile, an Enneagram teacher says, “A person’s Enneagram type is like a mask, a layer of self-protective personality put on in early childhood. The goal of understanding one’s Number is to remove the mask, and bring one’s healthy, True Self to light.”
The Enneagram gives you the plan to get out of jail and self-awareness practices like meditation and mindfulness give you the tools to actually find your way to freedom.
Let me give you a brief glimpse into my own dark night of the personality so you get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
My personality garment was built on the belief that I was meant to be invisible and go with the flow in order to maintain a sense of comfort and harmony in my life. I avoided conflict at all costs. And because using my voice and having my own needs, might lead to conflict I subconsciously decided it was best to suppress or deny them.
In the short term, I avoided conflict and in the long term, I lost my SELF.
My personality enabled me to raise a family, have a happy marriage, be a successful Nurse, have friends, get a great education and do many other things in life. The paradox is that our personality also contains our gifts. But like all good things when overdone it can become problematic.
My personality worked for many years! And then, this same way of being (including my thoughts, feelings actions) motivated me to make decisions that weren’t aligned with my own soul and path.
I had all sorts of signs and symptoms that were confusing at the time: I felt like something was missing in my life even though I had SO much to be grateful for. I experienced soul hunger. I felt like my life that had previously been meaningful, lacked meaning. My stress hormones were out of whack and I felt dull inside. I had lost my spark.
This was the start of my dark night of the personality and removing the well-worn mask.
I had to integrate those parts of myself that I’d left behind – for me, it was my own voice, dreams, needs, and gifts. This was a very dark time for me as I had to let go of who I was not and shift into “becoming” my truer self.
Periods of transition and transformation always involve a death.
Nature teaches us that all of life is about birth-death-rebirth. In the dark night of the personality, we die to our conditioned personality and give birth to our truer self.
At its core, this is what Joseph Campell’s epic adventure, the Hero’s Journey is all about. Hearing the call and responding with the courage it takes to embark on a new adventure. This depiction of the Hero’s Journey is often portrayed as the physical adventure, but what it really represents is the journey inward.
Where we face our fears and shadows and bring them into the light for transfiguration. As we do this, we expand our soul and that part of us that was dormant, waiting patiently for us to awaken, is brought out into the light.
We start by going inward and downward and then bring this new way of being back out into the world.
Our personality takes on a luminous quality and takes its rightful place in our lives – as an outer garment that enables us to express our soul in the world.
The dark night of the personality is the doorway through which we bring our soul and its connection to spirit into conscious awareness.
Much like Dorothy’s journey in the Wizard of Oz, and many other epic adventures we’re returning home having gone on a long, meaningful, and often challenging journey.
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