Picture: Getty Images

Find your purpose Part 2: Your dark nights will lead to new dawns

How the dark night of the soul can help you find your path

Sheila V on NoonWhen I decided to start my journey to becoming the woman I wanted to be, rather than the one thought I should be, I had to accept that there would be dark moments along the way – dark night of the soul. You are only cheating yourself to cherrypick the lighter, safer and more comfortable choices as they are presented to you. Because the uncomfortable truth is the way we find our way home to our true authentic self is through the darkness. 

Catch up with Part 1: How to find your courageous path

How to weather the dark night of the soul

If you have decided you need to begin that journey, and I urge you to, you will almost certainly experience the dark night of the soul, or what I call a Dark Night of Courage. Perhaps more than once.  But what is it?  A dark night is a spiritual, emotional and mental initiation that takes you from one stage in your life to another.  It doesn’t necessarily occur at night.  

It is more than a depression; it is a transformational experience. It will appear in your life as a crisis. The tears of sadness, sleepless nights, scary days, bright red embarrassment and nervous endings are perhaps the most important stages of your journey. We feel we are not productive when we are in the grip of a dark night. We feel alone, singled out and punished. The days are sluggish, productivity is low, there is a lethargy in our ambition. This is OK, this is the way it is meant to be. 

We label relationship breakdowns, bankrupt businesses or job losses as failures and there is a direct correlation between how attached we are to our old life and the depth of the darkness. We experience it as a slide into failure but is during this time of perceived inertia that a great transformation is occurring internally.

The dark night of the soul can be good

The challenge with the dark night in our Western culture is that it doesn’t have a sense of value or importance in our modern busy lives. Those around us can yank us out of this state too early as the symptoms of a dark night can be inconvenient and uncomfortable for them. Dark nights are antisocial. Goal’s dissolve. Energy levels are low. We can become too weak to resist and too tired to fight with our thoughts. Our emotions are ready to come to the surface to be released.  

Dark nights are messy, unglamorous and they rarely appear on social media. The first sign for me was when I broke my toe walking – can you believe it! The pain was excruciating. I was not willing to take the next step forward in my life so my body showed me this daily as I looked down at my bandaged, swollen foot. Not being able to move quickly anywhere, I was forced to slow down and be with my uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. The discomfort of these emotions was encouraging me to change. 

‘Am I good enough?’

Weeks later my apartment flooded. With a broken toe, I needed to pack everything up and move out. New foundations needed to be laid in my property, mirroring a new foundation in my life. I was a woman who never asked for help and now with an injury, I needed to grasp the hands of help extended to me. I was forced to consider that I couldn’t do life alone. Then my romantic relationship ended suddenly. I had felt very insecure and it was a distraction from my greater purpose. I was leaking energy into it. “Am I good enough?” was a daily mantra and it was not serving me at all. I was shown that I needed to address my self-worth issues.

The moment of truth

Finally, two weeks later, my employer marched me into their office and fired me. I slowly walked the green mile back to my desk. The sounds of the office silenced and I could only hear a shamanic thumping drumbeat emanating from my heart. I knew I was about to sink into a journey towards darkness and depression. How much more could I take? My resistance was ending. I still had not let the dark night completely envelop me. But I had opened a door to it. I picked up my crystals from my work desk – black obsidian, clear quartz and rose quartz. I no longer needed protection, clarity and love to get me through my work day. I put these precious rocks carefully into my Michael Kors handbag and walked out. 

I was 40 years old and single. My big career goals and aspirations appeared to have been carelessly swept aside by forces beyond my control. The traditional path I was on crumbled and I was cast adrift with no compass, map or light. The days were dark. The weekends were darker. On a summer’s day it was a winter wind that followed me around. In hindsight, even though my life was falling apart, it was coming together. Sometimes our life needs to be simplified so we can rebuild it differently.

How to think of different paths

My dark night forced me to stop still and consider alternatives, even when I believed there were none. I started remember the thrill I had felt as a 21-year-old picking up some tarot cards in a second-hand bookstore, and how I had always felt drawn to the bridge between the spiritual and physical. Instead of looking for a new corporate job, I paused. I started to walk towards my new self with absolute conviction. While internally struggling, I was starting to design and reshape my life. There was nothing more to lose as the universe had cleared my life slate clean.  

The process required the death of my old beliefs that no longer supported me, the death of my old identity and the acceptance of my new visions of success and external accomplishments. The dark nights took me onwards to become who I was meant to become. I was transformed from not living to authentically living. I had finally allowed myself to turn down the noise and be guided towards my new dawn.  

Go to Part 3: Use your intuition to find your path


View All

4 steps to making real change in your life

You have the courage to change your life in long-lasting ways. Here’s how to start.

Reignite your career: Take the Noon Masterclass!

Lisa Unwin, Noon’s Career Expert, gives you a roadmap to returning to the workplace with our Reignite Your Career Masterclass

Picture: Getty Images

Why it’s important to think about ageing well

The women behind the Age-Well Project share their enlightening Manifesto

Focus more on Purpose