The term “dark night of the soul” was first coined in a poem by Spanish poet and mystic Saint John of the Cross in the 16th-century. Today, the dark night of the soul is an idea that exists across various religions and spiritual practices.
At its core, the dark night of the soul is a spiritual depression, a crisis of faith, a total eclipse of meaning. But the dark night of the soul is also an awakening, a life-changing pivot.
Here are eight concrete signs you’re experiencing the dark night of the soul.
1. You no longer recognize your life as yours.
There is a profound feeling of misalignment with the life you are currently living and the life you know is meant to be yours. It is almost as if you are looking at yourself from the outside, watching a stranger go about their days.
You keep telling yourself there is no way you could have chosen this life for yourself. And in a way, you are right, but only on a technicality. Because while you did not choose this life, you have fallen into it due to your lack of awareness and intention. You have been existing in a state of autopilot, simply going through the motions of what you “should” be at the expense of what you actually want.
2. You know you “should” be happy. But you’re just not.
While your life looks good on paper, it also feels utterly devoid of meaning. You feel purposeless. Empty. Lost.
While you have always been able to push away the spiritual emptiness, the hunger pains are only growing more intense. You have finally reached a point where you can no longer ignore the spiritual starvation of settling for a conventional life. Something needs to change, and drastically.
3. You’re profoundly sad.
Everything feels as though it is too heavy and too much to bear. You’re profoundly sad all the time, and hopeless is starting to take a hold of you as well.
4. You’re “purging.”
You are being called to release in a major way. This is a huge component of the dark night of the soul because you are making room for a more authentic way of being through letting go of the relics of who you thought you were supposed to be. This purging could be through decluttering your space or through physical symptoms such as wanting to sweat more.
5. You’re no longer interested in external gratification.
After all, you’re coming to learn that internal satisfaction is far superior to anything material. You are beginning to shift your focus from what you think looks good to what actually feels good. And you’re finding the things that feel the most wonderful are also the things that feel the most authentic and true to you. You’re starting to redefine what success and a life-well-lived means to you and you alone.
6. You’re experiencing lots of random flashbacks and dreams about your past.
These memories and dreams could be about your childhood, from college, old relationships, etc. These visions are coming up because you are finally beginning to reckon with the unresolved emotions that these events and relationships brought to you. It is a crucial part of the dark night of the soul. It is imperative for healing and waking up to your true purpose.
7. You’re becoming more aware of yourself, sometimes in a jarring way.
Because a dark night of the soul is the cusp of a spiritual breakthrough, you might have noticed you are becoming more and more self-aware, sometimes in painful ways. For example, you may have noticed your shadow self more. Or maybe you’ve been more cognizant of maladaptive behaviors and coping mechanisms. Pay close attention to what is grabbing your attention the most; this may be where you should begin your healing journey.
8. You’re (almost) ready to heal.
You are finally coming to terms with the fact you have much more healing to do, healing you didn’t think was necessary before. But because you’re embarking through the dark night of the soul, you’re realizing you still have some more work to do. And you’re almost ready to face it. You’re almost ready to finally heal.