Dark Night of the Soul: A Spiritual and Existential Crisis

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Through victimization by a psychopathic person, we enter the dark night of the soul—a period of spiritual desolation in which all sense of consolation is removed. You may be in a state of despair, feeling lost and alone, powerless, and without any purpose or direction in your life. Your sense of reality and your worldview are shattered. Eckhart Tolle describes it as the collapse of the meaning of life, of the belief that you understand what it’s all about. You doubt everything you have known to be true. You ask the big questions: What is the meaning of life? What does it mean to be human? What is my purpose?

You may feel that everything that defined who you think you are is gone… but don’t forget, YOU are the one who is experiencing that.

What is the soul?

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘soul’ as “the immaterial… the moral and emotional part of man.” It has also been described as the spiritual part of humans regarded in the moral aspect, and the seat of the feelings or sentiments. The soul has been called ‘the very essence of life’, life’s breath, the life-force, the spirit, and the animating or essential part of us.

Carl Jung described our shared, instinctive self or soul as our ‘collective unconscious,’ which we are born with. It includes psychic contents that belong not to one person, but to the entire human race. It contains a set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society. Archetypes—simple representations of universal figures and relationships, such as the mother-child and father-child relationship—are a large part of it. Our collective unconscious, which Jung considered the soul, tells us how things are supposed to be in relationships and societies made up of people who have a conscience and who are loving, altruistic, nurturing, and have a genuinely moral instinctive self.

What happens when we become entangled with someone who does not have our inherited, collective-unconscious soul? Someone who has no conscience, no altruism, no love, no morality, and no compassion?

We suffer a soul injury, and get a ticket for admission to the dark night of the soul.

souls in anguish, not a psychological disorder

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung said that wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow because he recognized that only finding understanding of our dark side could end our underlying insecurity about our fundamental goodness and worth as humans and, in so doing, make us ‘whole’ again. Not only do we experience our own shadow self in a dark night of the soul, but the shadow self of the whole of humanity—the psychopath.

When Adam and Eve were demonized and banished from the Garden of Eden, they were separated from our original cooperative, innocent, loving, moral, instinctive soulful state. The same thing happened to us, courtesy of a psychopath. You, as a loving and compassionate human, came into contact with a being who lacked all compassion and who was incapable of love, much like the biblical serpent. The price you paid for it was separation and banishment to the dark night of the soul. Your innocence was lost. You felt shame and betrayal. You felt naked, vulnerable.

Your soul was injured. Soul injury is also known as moral injury, which is the damage done when a person witnesses, or is the victim of, acts that transgress their moral and ethical values or codes of conduct. It also occurs when a person perpetrates, or fails to prevent, such acts (such as a soldier might when involved in war).

“Moral injury is damage to the soul of the individual. War is one of, but not the only thing that can cause this damage. Abuse, rape, and violence cause the same type of damage. ‘Soul repair’ and ‘soul wound’ are terms already in use by researchers and institutions in the United States who are exploring moral injury and paths to recovery,” says The Moral Injury Project of Syracuse University.

The spiritual perspective on moral injury can be credited to Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini. They emphasize moral injury as “… souls in anguish, not a psychological disorder.”

Moral or soul injury is different than PTSD, although often confused with it. The concept of moral injury is still in its infancy (and discussed mostly in the context of veterans) so therapists will have a hard time recognizing it, let alone know what to do about it. It requires a different approach than PTSD, though. Current treatments for PTSD do well when trauma is fear-based, but not all moral injury fits under that umbrella, according to Brett Litz, the director of the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiological Research and Information Center.

“Perhaps there can be no clear boundary between a nervous breakdown and the experience of the dark night of the soul.”

~ newkabbalah.com

A Spiritual and Existential Crisis

Although it resembles depression—nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything—a dark night of the soul is a much different experience. It is a spiritual and existential crisis. An existential crisis “is that point in our lives when we encounter the absurd as a formidable opponent. It has crept into our lives, uninvited, challenging the very meaning of our existence,” writes Juan Pablo Hern on the website, Fractal Enlightenment. It is a spiritual depression.

How can you tell the difference?

It is these seven “omens” that together signify you might be going through a Dark Night of the Soul, according to Lonerwolf:

  • You feel a deep sense of sadness, which often verges on despair (this sadness is often triggered by the state of your life, humanity, and/or the world as a whole)
  • You feel an acute sense of unworthiness
  • You have the constant feeling of being lost or “condemned” to a life of suffering or emptiness
  • You possess a painful feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness
  • Your will and self-control is weakened, making it difficult for you to act
  • You lack interest and find no joy in things that once excited you
  • You crave for the loss of something intangible; a longing for a distant place or to “return home” again
  • The ultimate difference between depression and the Dark Night of the Soul is that depression is usually self-centric, whereas the Dark Night is philosophical in nature and is accompanied by existential reflections such as “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?”

When depression ends, not much has changed in your life in terms of your beliefs, values, and habits. However, when the Dark Night of the Soul ends, everything in your life is transformed.

“It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your, life, the meaning that your mind had given it. So that results in a dark place. But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness.”

Eckhart on the Dark Night of the Soul

“Life now insists that we encounter groundlessness. Systems and ideas that seemed reliable and solid dissolve at an increasing rate. People who asked for our trust betray or abandon us. Strategies that worked suddenly don’t. Groundlessness is a frightening place, at least at first, but as the old culture turns to mush, we would feel stronger if we stopped searching for ground, if we sought only to locate ourselves in the present and do our work from here.”

~ Margaret Wheatley, The Place Beyond Fear and Hope

What is going on as we go through the dark night of the soul? Is it all bad, or does it hold the potential for something else?

“As in the processes of dying and birthing, a paradigm shift is occurring, from that which was, to that which must be. It begins in your own garden of Gethsemane. Here is where great darkness falls upon the soul and spirit and the travailing begins.”

~ Sis. Bonita Petroff

“Socrates once said, ‘I call myself a peaceful warrior because the important battles are inside.’ Now I faced my own inner battle — a time of disillusionment, cynicism, and mental paralysis. I felt frozen in place, stuck between two worlds, belonging fully to neither. I wanted to go back, but I had seen too much to do so; yet I couldn’t see a way to go forward.

“As my psyche went through this process of reorganization, I experienced a time of profound disorientation and suffering, not unlike that of those suffering from mental illness. This was my dark night of the soul, as various spiritual traditions have called it…” ~Dan Millman

You are not alone.

“I reserve the expression ‘dark night of the soul’ for a dark mood that is truly life-shaking and touches the foundations of experience, the soul itself.”

~ Thomas Moore, A Dark Night of the Soul and the Discovery of Meaning 

“The dark night of the soul is described by seekers of all mystical traditions as an important stage of the quest for deeper knowledge — as unavoidable as confronting the dragon who guards the treasure in every mythic hero’s story. Only one who has risked the fight with the dragon,’ notes the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, ‘and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the ‘treasure hard to attain’. . . . he has faced the dark ground of his self and thereby gained himself. The night sea journey takes you back to your primordial self; not the heroic self that burns out and falls to judgment, but to your original self, yourself as a sea of possibility, your greater and deeper being,” writes Thomas Moore, former monk, psychotherapist, and author of Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals

“If processed, all who have undergone the dark night of the soul agree that it is ultimately a doorway to deeper awareness and understanding. On the other side awaits a more authentic self and a broader concept of the world.”

The Only Way Out is Through

“The only way out is through. Once we begin to see the value in our shadow aspects and dark night periods — whether it’s a dark night day, month or year — we can learn to stop resisting the discomfort and surrender to the process, to view it as an initiation, a transition. If we view every aspect of the journey as sacred, we are better able to glean its gifts, for behind the dark night awaits a silver dawn.” ~ Tai Carmen, Navigating a Dark Night of the Soul

“A dark night of the soul is a kind of initiation, taking you from one phase of life into another.” ~ Thomas Moore

How is it possible to discover gifts in such a difficult experience?

“This is the mystical experience of the ‘dark night of the soul,’ when old convictions and conformities dissolve into nothingness and we are called to stand naked to the terror of the unknown. We must let the process move through us—one which is much greater than we can comprehend. We can never force our way back to the light. It is only in this place of absolute surrender that the new possibility can emerge.” ~ Christine Valters Paintner

“In the process of discovering our true nature, the journey goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. We move down and down and down, and with us move millions of others, our companions in awakening. Right there we discover a love that will not die.” ~ Pema Chodron

“The term ‘dark night of the soul,’ coined by sixteenth century poet-mystic St. John of the Cross, refers to the kind of spiritual crisis that leads us from profound unknowing to radiant transformation.” ~ Mirabai Starr

“The Abyss was the place of transformation for the mystics. In its depths shone the illumination of the ‘divine dark,’ where divinity revealed itself.” ~ Linda Schierse Leonard

“You become the wounded healer, someone who has made the descent and knows the territory. You take on depth of color and range of feeling. Your intelligence is now more deeply rooted and not dependent only on facts and reason. Your darkness has given you character and color and capacity. Now you are free to make a real contribution. It is a gift of your dark night of the soul!” ~ Thomas Moore

You may feel defeated, damaged and destroyed, but you are not.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:7­-10).

“There can be no rebirth without a dark night of the soul, a total annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were.” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan

“Be assured, if you should experience “the dark night of the soul” in any of its many forms, you are a person of significant potential, that God is challenging to enter a new level of being, which is beyond the domination of the lesser values of the material world. It is a humble beginning, but the humble do, indeed, inherit the earth!” ~ Dr. Meredith J. Sprunger

Beneath all the trauma, you are whole.

“And this word, yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” ~ Hebrews 12:27

“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

All great truths begin as blasphemies. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes you have to go crazy because, hell, it’s a crazy world out there… Going crazy takes time, getting sane takes time… What you need is to read books, read poetry, you need nature and good friends.

~ Jeanette Winterspoon

A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness, and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you. ~ David Whyte, Sweet Darkness

“You’ve been fire-tested. You’ve been verified by vicissitude. Your strength comes from your ability to adapt and overcome to falling apart and coming back together again, from wholeness to brokenness and back to a stronger form.”  7 Signs You May Be Experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul

“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” ~Joseph Campbell

“Our deepest wounds surround our greatest gifts.”

~ psychologist Ken Page

Laughing Buddha at Chinese Restaurant, Photo by Petteri Sulonen on Flickr

And one last thought, if you entertain any ideas that you are to blame…

 

A Zen master’s life is one continuous mistake.

~ Dogen

 

♥ Thank you for reading.

 

 

Comments are closed. 

 

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“This small book was full of tons of useful information. I don’t usually write in my books, but my copy of Boundaries has underlining on almost every page. I was really glad I bought it.”

“My eyes have seen the light. How I wish I would have read this book years ago.”

“Worth your time! Well written, clear, and concise. So thankful I came across this quick, but powerful read. I so appreciate the wisdom I found in this writing. I feel empowered once more! Easily rated at 5 stars.”

“A must-read for those affected by abuse. It met and exceeded my expectations! The author did an excellent job with her explanations and helpful advice!”

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34 thoughts on “Dark Night of the Soul: A Spiritual and Existential Crisis”

  1. Alice

    Dear Adelyn,
    Thank you so much for this excellent post and this great blog! I have been following you since I was thrown into my own dark night of the soul about two years ago, I´ve walked through the pain and overcame it the best I could. It took me a long time but I feel blessed for the experience, as strange as it may sound:-)

    Recently, I wrote a poem about my experience, here it is:

    The One

    You were the one,
    the one I wasn´t ready for.
    You were the one
    The one who shook me to the core.

    A parc in spring
    Wild parrots flying high
    Did you see what I saw
    When you pointed at the sky?

    Blindfolded, you made me scream
    With a cruel smile, you tore me upside down,
    Inside out, into the dark night of the soul…
    You made me feel. I might have drowned.

    I cut myself with your knife
    Deep, deeper, too deep!
    Sweety, you gotta embrace your pain
    You gotta bleed if you wanna be free!

    An easy dance for you?
    Acedia… ennui… you do as you please
    A fickle game for you that is
    But not for me – I had to leave.

    Today, I am moving, floating
    Flowing towards the sea.
    The Universe is shifting fate
    the skies are embracing me.

    ~ Alice McDuff

    ********************

    Happy 2017 everybody!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      You’re welcome, Alice, I’m glad you liked the blog post! It doesn’t sound strange at all to have come through feeling blessed for the experience. I feel the same way. It’s not what was done to you, but what you were able to do with it that makes it worthwhile. It’s about taking the lemons you got and making Rosemary Honey Lemonade Margaritas out of them, and writing a wonderful poem to boot. Here’s a toast to you for a very happy 2107! Nice to hear from you xx

      1. Janes/ Lady Vigilant 2

        Very empowering !

        1. Adelyn Birch

          I’m happy you feel empowered, Janes/ Lady Vigilant 2! It is empowering to see it as not as a painful journey taken alone, but as a universal journey that many have been on, one that will lead to growth and wisdom, and not destruction. As sure as night turns to day, darkness is followed by light xx

    2. Shirley Naylor

      Adelyn, I have just finished reading you post entitled dark night of the soul.
      Your site is excellent and you seem a very compassionate lady, but your description of depression as self centric is wide of the mark, and very unfair. Depression is hugely complex and much misunderstood. This reminds me of many outdated accusations regarding people who have depression.
      My heart went out to you when you described the judgements and hostility you experienced following your encounter with a married psychopath . Having suffered depression for 38 years your comments left me feeling somehow accused of selfishness and egocentricity. I do not deserve the definition.
      I sympathised with your stance regarding Donald trump, I live in England where the current government are cutting benefits to claimants who have long standing disabilities and leaving them with no means of support. I myself am not far from eviction and cannot pay my bills and spend little on food.
      I have also recently ended an affair with an abusive manipulator. I think he deserves the titles selfish and egocentric, not me. I frequently get used, let down and abused, although obviously this guy took this to a whole new level. My memory and concentration are now appalling. I don’t know if this is due to my ( now horrendous) levels of depression, the daily fight to survive, isolation ( including old friends disappearing) or the abuse, but as you can imagine my life at the moment is a frightening ordeal and has sapped me of energy and any confidence I ever possessed.
      I don’t know where these myths accusing depression sufferers of selfishness and self obsession come from. I read a book years ago by a psychiatrist, very kind and down to earth he seemed and he alluded to the old the lunatics have taken over the asylum effect. And he brilliantly pointed out- don’t worry about them, worry about the people who put them there.
      This is so true of depression sufferers. We are often vilified as self obsessed, precious etc.. Only someone who has lived with major depression can know it’s true horrors. Even now I’m more frightened of going back there than of homelessness and destitution.
      Please don’t take this as an attack, you do such good work, but I feel you underestimate the nature and severity of depression.
      Lastly it is totally wrong to state that nothing much has changed when you come out of depression, regarding values. On the contrary, coming out of a major depressive episode changes everything about you. Everything.
      Thank you
      Shirley

      1. Adelyn Birch

        Hi Shirley. I’m sorry that you’ve suffered abuse and that you are going through a hard time, and I’m sorry you suffered major depression. I agree that it is a very severe condition, potentially deadly, and in no way do I consider those who suffer from it to be self-obsessed or precious, nor would I ever accuse you or others who’ve been through such a painful ordeal as being selfish or egocentric. I’m not sure what it was that brought you to these conclusions. If there is one main theme on this website, it’s not blaming victims. I can’t even imagine vilifying the sufferers of depression. I myself suffered from depression in the past. I’m very sorry if my writing came across to you in such a negative way. It was certainly not intended. My apologies.

  2. Sue693

    My goodness…I am crying as I read this….it explains so well how I am feeling…I am 8 months in…I feel as though I was a pane of glass and my ex shattered it…he broke me into small tiny pieces…I lost me! I have more good days now…but I can so very easily go back into that dark night…particularly when I see him and I feel sorry for him, but I know that just pulls me back in. Thank you so much your blogs and emails have been a constant support to me…especially on my dark nights where I feel my soul has been lost..let’s hope 2017 is a year where I/we find the light of our soul. THANK YOU xxxx

    1. Adelyn Birch

      It’s good to hear you’re having more good days, Sue, and that my blog posts have been a source of support and understanding for you. Don’t be discouraged when you take two steps forward and one step back; that’s the way it goes. You’re still making progress. Thank you very much, and may 2017 be the year you—and everyone who comes here—finds the light within xo

  3. Janes/ Lady Vigilant 2

    Cant wait, Amen to that:)

  4. John

    Every single one of your topics demonstrates a care and concern for your current (and future) readers. I now own all of your books (Christmas present to self). You are the “wounded healer” to whom Thomas Moore refers: “someone who has made the descent and knows the territory”. Thank you and wishes for a happy a fulfilling 2017 to you and yours.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I suppose I am that wounded healer Moore speaks of, John. Thank you. When I read that quote and I got to the part that said “It is a gift of your dark night of the soul!” I thought, yes, it’s the gift that keeps on giving… as in giving me years of writing assignments! Truth is I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love doing it. I know the hell I went through, and if I can make it even just a little bit easier for someone else, then I’ve made a lot of good come out of my own experience. I hope the books will serve you well. Thank you for buying them. May 2017 be a happy and fulfilling year for you and yours, too.

  5. Dear Adelyn,

    I happened across your work quite some time back due my interest in psychopaths in politics. I am not a victim of a psychopathic love relationship, but have followed your blog with some regularity since then. I even wrote once when I thought my perspective would be beneficial for your readers. My purpose this time is to let you know how beneficial your work has been to me and my work. Many people find themselves wandering through that Dark Night of the Soul that is your current subject, albeit for different reasons. I have found myself caught in that darkness from time to time in one part due to the lack of a family in my life and in another part recently due to the dismay I am experiencing from the capture of the political system by the very psychopaths I was concerned about. I have been studying the system for many decades and now it all seems to have been for naught. The barbarians seem to have won and for now, I can see nothing to be encouraged about.

    So what does this have to do with your work? What I have appreciated about that is how you go about assuring your readers that their situation is not their fault. You offer facts in the place of fear and guidance where there is no visible way to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You provide a torch which lights the way when one cannot see that without help from another person who has also walked that dark path. You make available the classroom where your readers can develop the tools they need to work themselves through the situation so that they will gain confidence in themselves and thereby burst out of the dark with a greater confidence and resilience they did not have before. They will be better than before because they have been able to confront and overcome the dragon that assaulted them like the Hero Joseph Campbell wrote about.

    My study of the system has always been motivated by a personal desire to know how things work. So the current problem with the political system feels like an assault not just on it but against my personal being and what has kept me going for many years. For me it is a dark night of the soul. When I read what you are writing for your readers I can transpose that to my different situation and use the same offerings that you have provided to them to help me get through to the morning that will surely come in some as yet unknown way. Thank you for that and for what you are doing. I am glad that my path crossed yours. I am much to the better for it!

    Best regards and wishes for the new year!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you so much for your very kind words, Al! I truly appreciate that! I’m so glad to know my writing has helped you with your work.

      I’m sorry that you’re going through a dark night of the soul over the current political happenings. I’ll bet a lot of people are going through it right along with you. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I have heard people saying they don’t feel like they’re home anymore and that they’re feeling a lot of uncertainty and fear. It’s a feeling of groundlessness, of being between places of safety—the liminal place I once wrote about,which is actually the same as the dark night of the soul.

      I agree, it’s hard to feel encouraged about what’s coming. Do what you can to fight for what’s right. Beyond that, it’s really out of your hands. There is always the possibility that things will not turn out as badly as you imagine, isn’t there? We never know what tomorrow might bring, but even with that ongoing uncertainty we live with, we go about our days. Don’t let it stop you before anything has actually stopped you, do you know what I mean? Be sure to give time and attention to things you love and enjoy, despite your fear and uncertainty. Like just about everything else, for the most part, it’s out of your control.

      There’s a quote in this blog post that I think especially pertains to your situation:

      “Life now insists that we encounter groundlessness. Systems and ideas that seemed reliable and solid dissolve at an increasing rate. People who asked for our trust betray or abandon us. Strategies that worked suddenly don’t. Groundlessness is a frightening place, at least at first, but as the old culture turns to mush, we would feel stronger if we stopped searching for ground, if we sought only to locate ourselves in the present and do our work from here.”

      ~ Margaret Wheatley, The Place Beyond Fear and Hope

      May you, and all the readers, overcome the dragon just like Campbell’s Hero did. Best wishes for the new year to you too, Al.

  6. Sarah S.

    I’m a year and nine months into this Dark Night of the Soul. My marriage of 32 years was all a sham. He lied and continues to lie about everything big and small. He confessed to dozens of sexual encounters. He was never faithful. And yet the day before he was forced to confess because of what I found on his phone to which he gave me his password, how much he loved me. And yet one day after he told me he didn’t love me enough to go to therapy. Told me over the weeks of mediation when he had the chance to talk to me alone how he was simply a good actor that I believed him. He said it with a smile on his face. Now after the divorce he has enlisted one of our sons who has always had similarities I now see to his father, to be one of his flying monkeys that even include common so called friends of ours. This cut me to the quick. I have another son who thankfully is of the human race and has all the feeling and empathy one can hope for. But I see that I will never be able to escape his endless attempts at smearing me with anyone who will listen and now corrupts his corruptable son against me. I have two therapists. I have new and old friends who love me and who i love. But I feel as though I will never be able to normalize my life again. I have changed my outward self and lost weight and look attractive once more but my inside is a lost mess especially after having discovered that the son who is like him has joined him in the punishment of me for surviving his abandonment. What can I expect from someone telling me that it was me who abandoned him while selling our home from underneath me. Thankfully I had just inherited a small home from my family. So much to be grateful and yet I cannot feel the ground underneath me. And I cannot seem to give the men I date a real chance. I’m unavailable. Cut off. When will this get better? It will be two years soon and my divorce is final but I’m left with such a horrible realization of a long con job that I wake up every night in a panic. Some nights I sleep without waking but it’s rare. I do want this Dark night of the soul to end soon. I’m very tired. Thank goodness for my work which is in the arts. I finally can concentrate to do that at least.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Hi, Sarah. I am truly sorry to hear of your marriage of 32 years ending like it did, and of the pain you’re going through. It’s good that you have the support of one of your sons, your friends, and your therapists. It’s not surprising that you’re emotionally unavailable to the men you date, since you are still traumatized, still within the dark night of the soul. I understand your impatience with it—I felt the same way—but there’s no way to rush through it. The only way out is through.

      There are still things of enough significance to keep you in the dark night, things that still need to be recognized and/or processed. I don’t like the word “processed” very much; it sounds too impersonal and machine-like to me. What does “processing” emotional trauma really mean? The goal of processing trauma is to be able to decrease the high-intensity emotional charge while creating meaning. The dark night of the soul is all about creating meaning. The pain you’re experiencing isn’t pointless torment, although it can feel that way. It has a purpose.

      Writer Andrew Solomon, in his brilliant TED talk ‘How the Worst Moment of Our Lives Make Us Who We Are’ said “We call it finding meaning, but we might better call it forging meaning… You need to take the traumas and make them part of who you’ve come to be, and you need to fold the worst events of your life into a narrative of triumph, evincing a better self in response to things that hurt.” When you turn your trauma into a narrative of triumph, the dark night of the soul ends. You can watch his TED talk hear: How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are

      Remember to have compassion for yourself. You’ve been through a serious, soul-shaking trauma. If someone said to you, “It’s time you moved on, isn’t it?” you would probably feel they lacked empathy, that they lacked an understanding of your experience and your feelings. It would feel invalidating. So please don’t say that to yourself. It’s the opposite of what you need. Be patient and kind with yourself. Forge meaning from the adversity you’ve faced. Best wishes to you, Sarah.

      1. Sarah S.

        Thank you for this. And your website and books. Reading intelligent informative books about these flawed souls who damage us and the world around them, has been so essential to my getting through this dark night of the soul.
        I will listen to the TED talk today.
        Thank you for your kindness.

        1. Adelyn Birch

          You’re welcome, Sarah! I hope you loved the TED talk as much as I do. I forgot to warn you that you’ll cry at the end. It’s for the best of reasons, though.

  7. amanda

    where is there no support for me out there I now go to a council place to die as will do nothing he knew I never live in council after 34 yrs on property ladder totally destroyed by him set out from the start to destroy me with help from his fat broker friend If I not got so ill after he stripped my account for a timeline may he rot in hell I out for my revenge now as huge legal errors I get to sue solicitors but my family still not safe psycho out there destroying next one in a timeline

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Amanda, you’re in a very dark place right now and my heart goes out to you. I’m sorry you’ve been through so much, and I hope you will be able get the help and support you need so badly. Please don’t give up. Give counseling a chance. I wish you peace and the best of luck as you move forward. A big hug for you xx

  8. Charlie Green

    Amazing and timely article.. i have loved your writing since my own beginning,.. 2 years ago lat week.. I wade through my Dark night, feeling not much further out than in the beginning… but i know i have come along a ways… i have both of your books.. they are incredible.. have just started reading “Boundaries”, and the first book, i have already lent out twice.. and re-read dozens of times… thank you so much .. I feel like you walked me through a ways.. and this article really resonated.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Charlie, I’m so happy to hear my work has been helping you! I’m honored to have walked you through a ways on such a difficult path. May you be back in the bright, warm light of day one day very soon xo

  9. AudrieL

    Adelyn, do you think we are at the end? Mine came just months before all of this happening in the world and it has enlightened me and terrorized me — at once I see transparently what is occurring and in motion. Biblically, I connect the apple from the beginning to the “apple” in our hands as seeds of evil being used to divide and categorize us by authority now present. I am unable to look away and the terror of knowing has not diminished. I have a daily desire to pack family and find safety. I know this is trauma talk but spiritually I FEEL this happened to me for a reason at this time and awoke me to the education and connection through your words (which I have no idea how I stumbled upon) when I was attempting to sort out what had happened to me. Is this the end– Alpha and the Omega. Is he coming? I am terrified and yet I know I should be grateful to have this enlightenment but with it– I am searching for how to guard others hearts and souls with this knowledge in a realistic way. Much love- a.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Although I also have the urge to pack my bags and run to safety, I won’t, because I don’t feel we’re at “the end.” Yes, a mentally incompetent person has control of the nuclear codes, despite warnings that came in every form imaginable, the foremost being his utter lack of decency or honesty—so anything is possible. Yes, a Pandora’s box of hate and ignorance has been cracked opened. Yes, the people with the power to stop the insanity (the Republican Senate) are ignoring it all–the threat to national security, the threat to democracy–while they raid the cookie jar and consolidate their power. It is a dark time. I can’t deny that. But rather than being the end, it will serve as a time for the Force for Good to wake up and consolidate its power, and once and for all rid ourselves of the opportunists and cowards that have a stranglehold on us and our government. We have a lot of powerful people on our side right now, Audriel. An army of lawyers and journalists and great minds, and even the CIA. A journalist—one journalist!–took Gen. Flynn down with one article (The Spy Revolt Begins.) We also have the vast majority of the population on our side.

      What can we do to make a difference? Don’t bother to try to change the minds of the brainwashed. Just smile, nod, and back away slowly. Instead, educate and inspire the apathetic and the hopeless. They MUST go and vote against this regime. Our voting rights will be battled in the courts, but that does no good without massive, maximum turnout. Pester your representatives relentlessly. Demand that those who are on your side obstruct, and threaten those who aren’t with losing re-election.

      This is not a battle of good vs evil. It’s a battle of good vs a bunch of opportunistic cowards that attained power through deceit and ignorance. We can win it. We will win it. Only fear itself can stop you, but that fear isn’t something real; it’s an emotion, in response to something that might happen but hasn’t yet. The only way it will happen is if we let our fear stop us. Bravery is required, which is feeling the fear but forging ahead anyway. There is enough at stake to make that possible.

  10. AudrieL

    Adelyn, I pray you’re right. On a personal note.. again, you’re writing saved me from total despair and the unfathomable experience of being assaulted and emotionally and physically ravaged by an evil man. You are an angel on earth! Hold tight to the knowledge that you are in my prayers and man, if it really is all coming to a head “revelation” after the dark night, you have truly done the work of the Lord by transforming pain through your experience and your words. It’s a miracle! Thank you for sharing the meaning and this understanding. Guard your heart in the knowledge that you’re on the right side no matter what comes in this crazy world. I am grateful to you until my last breath, stranger. Hope for the eternal peace that guards all hearts and minds never dies. Love, A.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      An angel on earth? Thank you, Audrie! Next time my friends or mother get on my case about anything, I’m going to tell them that :-) Seriously, I’m happy to hear I’ve helped keep you from feeling total despair. Thank you for your kind–and beautiful!–words; I will cherish them always. And thank you for keeping me in your prayers. Love and peace to you, Audrie ♥

  11. Mae

    To Adelyn and this wonderful community of strong survivors,

    I posted my story here in March of this year, and am (I won’t say ashamed) astonished to acknowledge that I actually went back and continued a relationship AGAIN with G. for April and May of this year. I just wasn’t totally done. When he moved out in May, I took a hard look in the mirror and decided that’s really it. I’m TRULY done.

    Unfortunately, our lives were so intertwined, and mine made me so publicly accessible (I was working full time as a dance and yoga instructor in communities where he was well known and accepted, so my schedule was posted publicly and he’d just waltz into class anytime he liked) that it was hard to get away from him. Even though HE was the one who ended our relationship, he kept texting and calling me, obsessively at times, and found ways to get information about me and my schedule from friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

    For better or worse, I’d gone through my dark night of the soul while in and out of relationship with him these last 4 years. I’m JUST NOW coming out the other side and the relief from that experience helped me prepare for and finally make my complete escape for good.

    The weekend before July 4th, I had friends in town. He learned this from one of the studios where I work because he went to my class and asked why I wasn’t teaching my usual schedule. Someone I don’t know very well just casually mentioned that I had a friend in town with her son, and he knew exactly who that would be.

    The idea of me spending time with this person and her son without him seemed to tip him over some edge. He became completely unhinged, sending me insanely abusive and wildly inconsistent, sometimes threatening, sometimes affectionate texts, emails, and calls. It scared me so much that I actually called him to try to calm him down and reason with him to stop contacting me, but nothing worked. So I eventually told him I was leaving town earlier than I really was, and I blocked his number.

    That night, while my friends and I were literally dancing and laughing in my living room after having dinner together, G. tried to break into my apartment. He climbed the fire escape and when he couldn’t get in through the locked windows, he kicked a potted plant off my bathroom windowsill, jettisoning it into the hallway, getting out attention, scaring the crap out of me and my loved ones.

    My friends called 911, helped me clean up, took photos, and got my bags packed. The police came. I made my fourth report against this man. And rather than waiting for morning, my friends and I left town right then in the middle of the night. Nobody felt safe staying in the apartment.

    I spent this next week camping, as planned, and the time nature did me good. Over the camp fires we’d make in the evening, I had some really hard conversations with my friend, finally admitting that I have to take more seriously the threat this person poses to my safety. In addition to being a psychopath, he has a strong family history of mental illness. His biological mother and brother both have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I’ve often wondered if G. has a mild form himself as he is often completely out of touch with reality and although he struggles to admit it, it does seem to me that at times he is hearing voices. Regardless of why, his behavior is so completely unpredictable. This quote from a psychologist Solomon Snyder, resonates: “Patients (with severe mental illness) do not think or feel in an orderly, logical way, and consequently the basic functions of the personality were divorced or split from each other.” This absolutely describes G. who is a hurricane of extreme and unusual thoughts and feelings that cannot be followed along any associative or linear lines. As you might imagine, this can be breathtakingly beautiful and creative. It can also turn darker and more bizarre and sick, violent, and dangerous than I can easily describe in this post.

    By the time we returned from our camping trip, I had decided to move. I rented out my apartment in the city I’ve called home for most of the last 15 years, went back, packed up, and moved my cat and myself to the country.

    In a week, I found an incredible job on the other side of the country and am making preparations to start a whole new chapter.

    Many of my friends are still struggling to understand these choices that I’m making. The ones who know G. and know what he’s really capable of, understand and support me completely. Some of the people I’ve worked with at yoga and dance studios are still in contact with him, though, so I am being extremely discreet about sharing my plans to move.

    In many ways, it’s a blessing to me that he behaved this way while I had guests in my home. The presence of people I trust and love made it impossible for me to minimize the seriousness of his aggressive, boundary violating actions. It also put me in a position where I saw people I love experience real fear as a result of G.’s actions. Together, this helped to wake me up.

    So I share this, in part, as a story of encouragement for those of you who are really “in” the deep trenches right now. Hang in there. Maintain faith in yourself. It’s hard to know how when, but the light will return. You will find your feet moving you steadily forward on our own well-lit path once again.

    With gratitude,

    -Meg

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Mae, I’m happy to hear you’ve made your escape for good and are moving forward on your own well-lit path once again. He was not only emotionally manipulative and abusive but violent and potentially dangerous, and yes it’s a good thing your friends were there to provide a reality check! I wish you all the best as you make big changes and move to a new place and job. Best of luck to you, my dear ♥

      1. Adelyn Birch

        Mae, I have also updated your story on the “Stories” page.

        1. Mae

          Thank you, Adelyn. Hopefully it will inspire others as I’ve been inspired by so many posts on your page.

          Now I’m in this quiet transition phase and the healing can begin. I am feeling all the feels – the hardest of which, I’m finding, is the sense of self-abandonment. It’s amazing how someone else’s skewed perception of reality can severely disturb your own vision. I’m going to read your book on boundaries. Something tells me it will help.

          Thank you, as always, for maintaining this important space. It’s healing.

          -Mae

          1. Adelyn Birch

            You’re welcome Mae. I’m sure the story of your experience will inspire those who read it. Getting clear on our boundaries, and learning to defend them, are the best way to prevent ourselves from abandoning our limits and lives for someone else. I hope you find the book helpful. All the best to you as you continue on your healing journey.

            Here’s a quote from my Boundaries book that seems appropriate given what you wrote:

            “When we don’t have boundaries, we neglect who we are and what we want.
            As a result, we see the skewed image of ourselves reflected in the eyes of those to whom we give our power,
            and we mistake it for the truth.”

  12. Willowed1

    Is there such a thing as letting the dark night of the soul finish you off? I am not the least bit interested in enduring any more pain; not for any reason. My life is quitevsimply not worth it.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      You–and your life–are worth it, Willowed1; you simply can’t see it in your present state of mind. An abuser has crushed your sense of worth, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy! It’s the lie they want us to believe because it’s the only way they can have power over us. I have no doubt that you posses the power to overcome this adversity. Have faith that you will
      get through this. Have faith in yourself. Trust that at your core, you have the strength and resilience you need; you’ll see the truth in that when you give them time and space to emerge. I know it can seem unbearable, but *make the decision* to believe in yourself and in your power to endure and to heal.

      In the meantime, you need support. Find a therapist to talk to about your experience and your feelings. Join a group at your local DV organization. And right this moment, please call someone who will listen and understand:

      U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233

      U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

      International Suicide Hotlines

      Please come back and let me know how you’re doing, okay? I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

      ♥ I wish you peace and healing ♥

  13. Mindvalley

    Well-written blog and thanks for sharing this kind of article with us.
    https://blog.mindvalley.com/existential-intelligence

    1. Adelyn Birch

      You’re welcome, MindValley. Glad I can help. All the best to you.

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