What is the Dark Night of the Soul?


Everyone, no matter how happy or successful they are, eventually hits a wall. This happens when they become derailed by pain and suffering, which usually arises from unresolved issues from the past, namely trauma. Trauma takes many forms and does not have to be physical and sexual abuse but can also take the form of emotional neglect or household dysfunction from poor mental health or substance abuse, to name a few.

The problem with trauma is that, in childhood, we don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with difficult emotions so we tend to suppress them. This is why the pain of difficult emotions becomes suffering over time. Eventually the suffering becomes so unbearable, which is when one enters the dark night of the soul.

The dark night of the soul is a universal experience, which has been described in the literature and in popular culture and carries a certain mystique. It is the process of purging yourself of all of your negativity thoughts and suppressed difficult emotions. It is usually not an intentional undertaking but happens by chance, especially when one’s suffering becomes so unbearable that there is no other way out of it.

When this happens, the way to deal with the dark night of the soul is to become completely present and focus on your breathing. Take slow deep breaths with your exhalation longer than your inhalation. It is important to focus on your breath because this is the one constant in our lives which does not change despite our personal circumstances. Focus on your breath and feel whatever you are feeling in the moment, but fully.

Do not resist the anger, fear, guilty, shame, grief, melancholy or whatever else you are feeling. Let it wash over you and then pass through you fully, no matter how long it takes. This is how the dark night of the soul can help you release trapped negative emotions. Nobody has ever died of feeling trapped emotions but people do die of suppressed emotions that turn into symptoms and eventually can lead to chronic disease.

The dark night of the soul is, traditionally, described as an individual experience but some may argue that it is also a universal experience, one that our planet seems to be going though, in this time of pandemics, war, racism, political instability, economic uncertainty, climate change and the general unrest of humanity as a whole. In next week’s article, I’ll discuss the global dark night of the soul in more detail.


Dr. Nauman Naeem


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