Surviving Dark Nights of the Soul
At three o’clock in the afternoon, it’s pretty easy for me to be kind and compassionate with myself. I can feed my body green juice, sit in meditation and treat myself with loving kindness, bless my body with yoga or a hike, and receive a nurturing massage.
But sometimes, at three o’clock in the morning, I find it practically impossible. On those dark nights of the soul, the voices of my Gremlins become deafening. The voices usually start in dreams, when I’m vulnerable and my defenses are down. And then the voices get so loud they wake me up, and the battle ensues in real life.
You’re not enough…
On these dark nights of the soul, the voices spew not only all of my fears, insecurities, and doubts — they also echo the voices of other people who are either criticizing me or trying to improve me. The bottom line message is “You’re not enough. You’ll never be enough.”
This is just the beginning of the self-torture. As the night rolls on, it gets worse. In the half trance fatigue, the Gremlin morphs, shape-shifting into other people I love, projecting onto them voices that scoff and sniff, ridicule and judge. I become disoriented. I lose touch. I can’t quite tell what’s real anymore. I sink into a hell of my own creation. I lose my faith.
Then morning rolls around, and the sun peaks its little head over the mountain, and I’m surrounded by the grandeur of nature where I live. And 5-year-old Siena wakes me from my restless night and snuggles in next to me and tells me how much she loves me — and it should snap me out of it, but it doesn’t. The dark night lingers through the morning sometimes, the voices still reverberating in my head, taunting, jeering.
But it doesn’t last. By three o’clock in the afternoon, I can usually find a way to give myself a hug, nurture my body, forgive myself for my shortcomings, and pat myself on the back with an, “Atta girl!”
Back before my Perfect Storm, when I was still sleep-walking through my life, I didn’t use to have dark nights of the soul of this intensity. Sure, I had the occasional sleepless night wherein I wrestled with stress and uncertainty. But now these nights are alive with demons in a way they didn’t use to be. It makes me question: am I doing something wrong? Have I gotten off course? Are these dark nights Signs from the Universe that I should be switching directions? At three o’clock in the morning, I tend to think so.
But at three o’clock in the afternoon, I think not. I think that when you start to wake up, you feel everything more intensely. Along with the deepening joy and vitality comes a darker, more visible shadow. I think it’s about learning to embrace the shadow, about learning to know that you ARE enough, even in the midst of a dark night of the soul.
Until we can stand face to face with our shadow and be with what truly is, the dark nights of the soul will force us to go there. Our subconscious minds will create dreams. Our Gremlins will spew evil nothings. The more we run from the shadow of ourselves, the more our shadow will chase us. Until we learn the lessons we are meant to live in this life, we will be pursued by our darkness.
Embracing the shadow
So now it’s 7:00am, and I’ve just awoken from one of those dark nights of the soul with new resolution. What if, instead of wallowing on these mornings, I can honor myself with radical self-care? What if I can sip my green juice, do some yoga poses, take a hot bath, rub myself with aromatherapy-scented coconut oil, and remind myself that I am enough, just as I am? What if I can sit in meditation next to my shadow and hold her hand, welcome her in, and integrate with her, rather than fragmenting myself?
So that is what I will try to do this morning. I will go to the darkness, rather than running from it in frantic search of light. I will be my shadow. I will live in that. I will see how that feels.
When we make it wrong to have a dark night of the soul, we give it power. If we can remove the judgment and allow it to be just another learning experience, we can neutralize it so that darkness and light can coexist more peacefully.
So I will try, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s always a journey.
What about you? Do you have these dark nights of the soul? How do you handle them? Do they get you down? Do you learn from them? Can you learn to love your shadow?
Do tell, my love.
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
Learn more about Lissa Rankin here.