The Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul - may be an universal phenomenon?

The first well-known description of this phenomenon, which today often is equated with depression, goes back to the 16th century Spanish Carmelite monk "John of the Cross" (Juan de la Cruz; born Juan de Yepes y Álvare), who documented his very personal experience as a poem with explanatory comments. Today there are translations available in most contemporary languages and it has also been widely used as a reference in contemporary literature.

What we today call "depression" is, to my understanding, a multi-factorial challenge with biological and chemical, i.e. body-related, psychological (thought and behaviour patterns), i.e. mind and personality-related, and also soul-spiritual components. While the neurobiological and behavioural components are widely addressed by pharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic treatments, there remains a segment that is often referred to as "therapy-resistant", sometimes possibly also as "endogenous".

What if these terms are accurate to some extent, but rather indicate that both the existing view of depression - and thus the "classical" methods of therapy addressing it - are not comprehensive? Whereas each and every one of us is whole in a sense, that we may have "the means on board" to be able to successfully cope with precisely this section, which quite often still lies "in the dark" for ourselves, if we only knew how to do so?

So, in other words, if the cause of some types of depression actually does lie within ourselves, i.e. is "endogenous" and thus cannot be treated with all conventional therapeutic approaches to date?

John of the Cross found his own answer in a very different time and under very different circumstances from today. Still, his answer continues to be valid for me in the here and now, as my own experience has been quite similar. Just like the Carmelite monk in the 16th century, I too had to find my answer by and within myself.
Admittedly, a number of people had already preceded me on this path and thus I was able to relate my own experience to theirs, which I found very helpful. For in this way I knew that I was not alone in this experience and that "nothing was wrong" with myself, but that I was “simply” on a path that was still unknown to me.

Our modern science also has its own image of this, it is called the "overview effect". It embraces the awareness of being part of a greater whole, which was first described in the context of the corresponding experiences of astronauts in space travel.

This awareness also includes the knowing that we are not just "some tolerated" part, but a part of a greater whole with a very specific purpose, a very specific reason for our own existence. Which then needs to be discovered by each one of us ourselves and cannot be found on the outside, in our outer world, but only deep inside within ourselves.

In a place within ourselves which connects us with all other life and where there is no competition, but only peaceful co-existence. And in full awareness of the whole being much more than the sum of its parts. It is the place we usually call our soul.

And so the "dark night of the soul" seems to be throw us back on ourselves to find our very own answers to the deepest questions of our existence.

Although only we alone can find these answers within ourselves, another good news is that we don't have to do this all by ourselves. For the number of therapists, coaches and other counsellors who have already walked this path for themselves and/or are on their own path is constantly growing and ready to be a loving mentor to anyone who is ready and willing to receive their support.

Let's grant each other the opportunities to mutually grow in realms we have never known before!