A Dark Night is the process of finding a new equilibrium through an inner journey of discovery about who we really are, retrieving the abandoned parts of our psyche we have discarded because our culture has told us they are unacceptable. By bringing them into consciousness, we regain our sense of being at home in ourselves and our world. These shadow aspects are seen as “Others”, that is other than who we are, and these strangers must be reclaimed to restore the balance of opposites in our personality—the shadow as well as ego, the feminine as well as masculine, the unconscious as well as conscious, in each of us.
Through negotiating the harrowing Dark Night journey, we are reborn in a larger container, an expanded Self in which the opposing elements of our psyche reside more harmoniously. Wholeness is the quest of the Dark Night.
Over the last ten years, I have experienced a deep, Dark Night. One of the gifts of this transformational journey is a book called Dark Night: Reclaiming the Discarded Other on the Journey to Wholeness. The book is based on a personal story of my five-year deep dive into my shadows, and the realization that, as a woman of my era, I had discarded my feminine qualities in order to be successful in a man’s world. I needed to re-integrate them to be whole.
The book also includes six stories of other brave souls, who have agreed to share their journeys with me. Out of these tales, I have drawn a process, common themes, and guidance for others experiencing this harrowing passage of discovery. The book is written for women like me, although it is just as relevant to men who may be even more in need of reclaiming the feminine in our masculine-dominated, patriarchal culture. Indeed, two of the six stories are from men.
The transitional experiences described in the book will also be helpful to friends, family, partners and colleagues of those going through a Dark Night. They may recognize the signs before the affected individual, who may appear to have colloquially “left the building.” Dark Nights implicate not only the individuals involved but everyone around them. In fact, it is not unusual in the case of sudden illness or accident for loved ones of those in the darkness to be thrown into a Dark Night of their own.
Might you or someone close to you be experiencing a Dark Night? What signs do you see that indicate this might be the case?