I’m not sure what prompted me to google the title of this thread, but I hit on this interesting article. The site allows a couple of “free” articles" a month, but I quoted it extensively. It references the Christian poem, as the name of the thing that we are familiar with, but then expands into the other terms that refer to the same thing. In a short article, it offers a lot of insight.
Near the end, it talks about some “wrong” ways to deal with the feelings of being disconnected, one of them is “conspiracy fanaticism”. Something we all see here often. This can last a lifetime, not just a night or a few months. When something happens, like someone near you dies suddenly, a reaction to that can be to start blaming the doctors, then the entire medical industry, then the laws that support it, then the people who don’t see it your way who are voting for the wrong people, and then Q Anon.
To a person who has bought into the regular motions of modern society, life can seem like it is on autopilot; guided by the ego and habit based on arbitrary and subjective conditioning from the surrounding culture.
However, for many, there is a rude awakening. It could be a tragedy, an experience of a non-ordinary state of consciousness, a person’s “faith flickers” as Ram Dass puts it, a loss of a sense of objectivity, distrust in authority, an accident, career change, illness or realization that you don’t know who you really are or what you want to do in your life — or maybe you have everything you ever wanted and you are still unhappy. Ultimately something shakes you out of your day-to-day limited perception of life.
“The only way we can really approach this is to realize that when we have received the full conditioning of our society and have attained physical maturity that perhaps we will be able to pause for a moment and try to find out a little more about ourselves. Usually however, this moment of pause only comes when physical or emotional reverses break down the structure of the so-called physical-material-industrial plan for living.
Nearly always a crisis, a great disappointment, a heartache, a desperate illness. These are the kinds of pressures that perhaps have been placed here to remind us that we have an individual existence and that this existence must be given expression or the life we are living will remain incomplete.”
― Manly Hall
It is quite easy to reluctantly succumb to a despondent nihilism as one floats in liminal space, a kind of purgatory. The allure of victimhood, comfort, and avoidance of responsibility dwell in this place but it comes with the cost of misery… but at least it’s familiar.
It’s no wonder people choose this option because unfortunately there is not much refuge for this in the fast-paced modern world, which can cause the pressure to outweigh a person’s capacity — a threshold where the dark night of the soul can go from emergence to emergency, with accompanying suicidal thoughts or apocalyptic hallucinations of death and destruction in extreme cases.
There are usually intense feelings of sadness, frustration, hopelessness, meaninglessness, and hiraeth — a homesickness for a place that never was.
“We rarely find people who achieve great things without first going astray.”
― Meister Eckhart
You can put off the dark night of the soul in a world that can cater to your every sense with addictive pleasure, or engage in over-analysis, but the beginning of a way out of this dreary underworld is to be conscious where you were once naïve, as well as letting go of the old parts of you that were conditioned, assumed, or habitual that really isn’t in alignment with who you are. This usually must be accompanied by personal realization that can only come through contemplation, meditation, and relaxation.
Proper contemplation must occur in the context of radical honesty. You can no longer lie to yourself about how you feel or tell yourself how you should feel; meditation helps with the distractions and illusions of the mind; relaxation is required because tension will not reveal how you feel, only that you are refusing to feel.
Relaxation will allow openness and surrender — without these things the pressure of trying to figure everything out simply with tireless thought can easily burn you out, make you feel even more hopeless and fill you up with a sense of dread and overwhelm.
One thing to remember here is that for now, you don’t need to ‘be more’, you need to ‘be’ more. You need to be able to switch off from everything external and come back to the basic experience of you being alive in the present moment.
The hardest part of the dark night of the soul is to face your shadow which contains the repressed parts of yourself such as your fears, desires, traumas, and beliefs. Behind the dark night of the soul is the treasure of the underworld.
Because this is very difficult, there is a risk. One of the greater risks is to adopt an extreme ideology or another pathological complex. Instead of breaking boundaries within yourself, you strengthen them and try to tear down boundaries in the physical world.
There are many enticing pre-packaged ideologies for sale. From religious dogma, conspiracy fanaticism or extreme activism, these are propelled forward by perverting the course of suffering.
It is only natural for someone to seek wisdom in this time of suffering and it is helpful in breaking down previous ideas, but these groups allure people with their half-truths and lead down a path of misguided agenda. The same trap that is a common cause of the dark night of the soul — a misplaced identity.
Understanding the process you are going through and that you are not alone is a great first step in finding some fragments of meaning to hold onto again. Once a small amount of meaning returns it will then give hope, in turn affecting the frustration and sadness, introducing a sense of feeling more at ease in the process.
Whatever a person’s natural temperament, there is an interpretation that can allow them to start to draw meaning from this experience to see the light at the end of the tunnel, from the ‘darkest before the dawn’.