Despite the uniqueness of each individual’s life unfolding, I have learned there is a similar transformational process to these Dark Night journeys, what I have called a “duomyth” after mythologist Joseph Campbell’s idea of a “monomyth”. Campbell has been criticized for the masculine bias in his “hero’s journey” and since a Dark Night passage is a journey to wholeness, I have privileged the feminine to create a balanced picture, weaving together not only the more comfortable masculine-oriented perspective but also the less developed feminine side. Because the feminine has been diminished in our culture, it represents our shadow side, the unknown part of our personalities held in darkness, out of consciousness. It is this dark feminine that we must reclaim through the Dark Night, whether we are male or female.
The model below outlines the three-part process through the Dark Night, indicating the major phases encountered along the way. However, it should not be taken as a sequential step-wise process. There may be many cycles within this overall journey, wheels within wheels of descent and ascent as the exploration continues.
A Dark Night begins when we feel out of place, uneasy in our own skin, called to something we can’t identify. There is an invitation, a persistent call drawing us forward. At first, we try to ignore the call or answer it with a whisper but it doesn’t go away. Eventually, we enter into the darkness, committing to a path of change. We step into the journey not knowing where we are headed or even why.
We descend down into the earth, the underworld, as we are stripped of our attachments, surrendering our most precious beliefs, self-images, behaviour or defenses, anything we cling to that prevents us from completing the descent. Our identities crumble and we don’t recognize ourselves. Nothing may seem to work anymore. We come apart and can’t be put back together again.
It is through this process of dissolution that we are able to see clearly, perhaps for the first time, the Discarded Other at the core of our psyche, the previously unconscious part of ourselves we have abandoned or rejected. There in the darkness, we die to our current selves. At the lowest point, the darkness can be all-consuming as we become passive and reflective. We grieve. We wait.
We can get stuck in mourning in the depths, caught in the between-space without the energy or direction to begin the ascent. This sense of powerlessness is a languor that may look like depression but may instead be a kind of absence of presence, a dead zone where we are barely inhabiting our days, watching them from a place apart. Things do not go on as before but are left untended.
After a time in the dark earth, there is a sense of expectancy, of pregnancy, of birthing something new. We feel new life growing and begin the ascent, accumulating our new personality and worldview in reverse of the shedding of the descent. There may be additional setbacks and challenges requiring patience and compassion as we rebuild and embody our new lives, integrating our learning from the journey.
After a period of rest, we return to our familiar places and see them as if for the first time. The dawn has come. We slowly begin to take our new energy and identity out into the world and share the gifts of light we have been given.
Have you experienced a Dark Night journey? How is it similar and different to what you see here? How would you describe it?
For a precis of my Dark Night journey, click here…