Anatomy of The Soul’s Dark Night


I have a deep Soul prayer for growth.

One of the biggest reasons I ended my 6 year relationship, was because of it.

I could feel that prayer like a low growl…

I imagine it like the kind of sound a flower might make, just as it prepares to crack open the bud.

I did all I felt I could to encourage the relationship to grow… to come with me… but it became clear to me that that wasn’t a possibility… not in the way that my growth was calling me.

Be Careful What You Wish For

There’s a saying: “Be careful what you wish for”… but I knew that.

The life of a growth seeking being is not about maintaining stability. It’s not about settling for ‘normal’. It’s rarely about security, striving for or subscribing to the known.

While these things things are welcomed as passing phases, growth requires chaos, destruction, dissolving, profound not-knowing.

A tree get’s its rings from seasonal growth cycles… In spring and summer it expands, which create its thick light rings. The thin dark rings come from autumn and winter, where the leaves have fallen and all appears dead. The energy of the tree comes inward, the growth appears to slow, and deep inner preparations are made for the coming spring.

I was under no illusion, that looking for growth would take me to my edges. After all, it’s only by going beyond your edges that you enter new territory.

Growth, of course, happens all the time. But sometimes a deep Soul prayer will take you into a deep dark night, and I have seen that there are specific qualities in that process which I would like to share with you here.

I must give credit to my colleague at The Inner Journey Clinic, Marion Young (no relation) who earlier this year helped me realise I was experiencing a dark night. It’s her framework (for the most part) I’m borrowing here… with my own twist and experience too.

So let’s look at the anatomy of the Soul’s dark night…

The 6 Stages of The Dark Night of The Soul

Preceding the dark night, can be a spiritual high. A sense of completion, a break-through that appears to settle things. This could last for a while like a plateau of Graceful yumminess. But inevitably the Soul gets restless… And life usually presents a significant event which begins stage 2…

My Advice for Stage 1: Make the most of this time. On some level you’ve earned it – it’s blossoming time. Be available to the signs of winter coming if they do, but be present to the joy of now.


The Fall is a crazy time. It can feel as if the rug has been pulled from under you. It’s a time where what has been known falls to pieces and there’s nothing to cling onto. Any attempts to maintain what has been can cause a great deal of pain and suffering… still it seems to be a natural human urge for us to try.

My Advice for Stage 2: As much as you can, embrace the fall. NPA can really help smooth the road here, as you let things go. In the same way that NPA has enabled some women to have swift and (in some cases) pain free child bird experiences, it can help you NOT cling and hold on as much – which is where the excess suffering can occur in this stage.


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There comes a point where you realise there is nothing you can do. You are in the deepest darkness. During this stage there can be a loss of hope and trust, a sense of disillusionment. It’s a time where you (at a personality level) are choicelessly experiencing the deepest pain… the shadow. Feelings of shame, unworthiness, hatred (directed both inward and outward) can surface. And no matter what technique or approach you throw at it… any attempt to ‘fix’ it fails. This is a time of pure experience. Living through it is the only option.

My Advice for Stage 3: Give yourself FULL permission to be in it. Experience IS the point of this phase. You are literally LIVING the ‘stuff’ out. Reframing, processing, digging etc. can actually ADD suffering to the equation here. It IS really helpful however to get support from someone who can remind you to just be. A lot of times in my practice, my job is to remind people to stop and just be, rather than charging in with analysis and process work.


At some point, seemingly by itself, the illusion collapses. Mercy steps in and cracks of light appear. This can happen without us immediately realising it, in the way that day can break while you’re still asleep. While there is a lightening, through this stage there remains exhaustion in the aftermath

My Advice for Stage 4: Engage in LOTS of self care and rest. The support of family and friends can be very important at this time. But come out slowly… don’t force your pace. A wise lizard knows not to go running straight out into the desert when its skin has shed. It waits for the expansion and some solidity in its new skin before venturing out.


Suddenly it IS time to emerge! An inner shift happens and your energy returns and it’s time to experience yourself anew in the world. It’s a time of discovery, where the impact of what has taken place can be determined and understood.

My Advice for Stage 5: This is very much another experiential stage, so again give yourself full permission to just live it. To make the most of this discovery stage, stay open. Resist the urge to label what you have become prematurely, as those labels can become limits. Give yourself space to ‘grow into it’


Only once you have ‘lived’ the new you do you really understand the whole process. This is when you can begin to celebrate the process and truly appreciate the purpose and benefit of the experience.

My Advice for Stage 6: Let this understanding land in it’s own time. One of the things I see a lot with folk in the personal growth world is a rush to see the lesson in it all. In the dark night, necessarily, the earlier stages keep you ‘blind’ to the lesson, so give it time to ripen, and let it fall from the tree in its own time.


The Dark Night can be a tough time, full of confusion and lostness. You are meeting a fundamental aspect of your shadow, which ultimately grows you into something much greater.

I hope by laying out this map of the journey it helps you recognise if you (or someone you love) are in the process of the Dark Night of the Soul and you can move through it as resistance free as possible.

And, of course, I’m available for some 1:1 support…

Get 1:1 support with Joel…

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“A brilliant session and just perfect – thank you for amazing ability to hone and tune and hold and guide so superbly and uniquely for me”



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  1. Pingback: Pleasure & Abundance - The Non-Personal Awareness Blog

  2. My Dark Night of the Soul kasted almost three years.. The begining.. my mom died.. next month my brother’s oldest died of cancer.. then the next month my husbsnd of 42 years died.. over 22 months 17 family members died. I had a major surgery that didn’t turn out great.. was ordered back to work too soon.. not healed completely.. after a year lost my job.. my rescue dog died.. and someone tried to steal my identity.. and through it all.. I realized I didn’t know who I was.. bc I was a care taker for my husband for 15 years.. each year getting worse.. my friends wanted the old Vicki back.. she didn’t exist any more.. she finally emerged as a healed beautiful person.. who is still caring.. loving.. and a helpful.. just not giving everyone her all so there is nothing left for her.. hope this helps someone else.. there is a light at the end of the tunnel.. and it is yours! ♡♡♡

  3. A month ago I drove to work feeling content with life. I had come to terms with a break up, I have health, wealth,a job which despite forthcoming changes was secure and I was staring a yoga course. I live with my Mum who at 79 is doing OK and two dogs. All was well and I am grateful. Then my beautiful dog got sick and I had to put her to sleep. Heartbreaking. Then today I am told my job is at risk. My options are a 150 mile round trip as they move my job to another office, possibility of a different job for less money and then only if its based in my area or again it will be 150 mile round trip, or redundancy. I am definitely stage two and do feel like I’m falling! I thank you for your words because they have given me some perspective, comfort and positive enlightenment. Thank you

  4. Joel, this is so right-on and very beautifully written. Moving through these stages, as naturally as they progress, is quite hard to find oneself in, yet there is no other way, or there place we can be once we’ve arrived at each stage. It seems to me that at some point, we surrender to the very stage we’re in and only then do we embrace its lingering and its passing. I find myself at the threshold between dawn and rebirth these days… Thank you for this concise blog; it is one I will return to. So grateful our paths are crossing.

  5. You’re welcome Taline, and thank you for sharing. Yes, in the end surrendering at each stage and embracing the experience is very much the path of least resistance. Though it rarely feels so, that space between dawn and rebirth, in essence, is a very exciting place to be x

  6. Paula, thank you for your share, and my apologies that at the time it went unacknowledged – it seems I missed several last November! I am so glad that this piece helped offer you comfort and I do hope that you are well through and have come to embrace and celebrate the lessons x

  7. Hi Vicki – thank you so much for your inspiring share and, as I have just said to Paula on this thread, it seems I missed several comments this time last year – including yours – so my apologies that I am only just acknowledging it now. And what a transformational journey you have shared. I’ve seen so often that it takes ‘multiple hits from all angles’ to really start the Dark Night process that ultimately brings you to the re-emergence of yourself in a truer form. Thank you again for sharing x

  8. I found all of your info very interesting and am wondering if this is what I have been experiencing. Just a deep sense of loss and pain,following a string of trials and deep disappointments. I feel that what once defined me, and gave me a sense of courage and self-confidence, is gone. Among all of the other losses, I’ve lost me! There is no one that I can talk to who would understand. I have tried. As I move forward, day by day, I am hoping that my prayers will be heard. I pray for deliverance, and if not deliverance, I ask God to allow me to meet another soul on this journey who understands what I am experiencing.

  9. Hi Dianna. Thank you for your comment, and yes it may well be that you are experiencing a ‘dark night’. It is often the case that so many things that have defined us fall away and our very identity is challenged. And I hear you, that others around you very well not understand what you are experiencing inside, if they have not been through something similar… and even then, we can all experience it uniquely. I trust that your prayers will be answered, and in the process from here to there. Remember that God is Good, and though it can seem that some of life’s experiences are near-unbearable trials and truly, on the other side of this time you will feel renewed and an even more amazing expression of your self. Sending you love and blessings Dianna, and remember there’s always support directly from me available in the for of my 1:1 sessions, if that’s something you feel called to ( <3

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