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.
Despite the uniqueness of each individual’s life, there is a similar transformational process to these Dark Night journeys. 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. 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. 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. We grieve. We wait.
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. 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?
If you would like to explore offerings on Dark Nights, visit Dark Night Offerings.