By Kelli Foulkrod, MS, LPA, RYT
“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” Joseph Campbell
I believe that finding meaning in suffering is one of the keys to transformation. Over the years in my work as a perinatal psychotherapist, I have sat with countless postpartum women describing they symptoms of a “dark night of the soul” experience. My training as a yoga teacher, and practicing meditation for over 14 years, gives me a unique perspective into the cultural suffering so many women experience as new moms.
While the term “dark night of the soul” is used broadly, its general meaning is a lengthy and profound absence of light and hope. In the dark night you feel profoundly alone.
We tend to doubt everything we’ve known to be true. In worst-case scenarios, one tends to fall into an existential crisis. But, if we are able to make it through this dark time, and shed that which has shaken us to the core, we reemerge even more expansive and whole than before.
The suffering comes from being caught between the old way of life and the new possibilities, and a sense of alienation intensifies. A profound sense of deep longing for the woman you once were settles in; missing the woman who was spontaneous, free to come and go as she pleased, and independent and strong without needing to be vulnerable and rely on others.
There is also a feeling that you would do anything to get out of this state, yet it is only your ego, which is keeping you in it. However, this insight is impossible for you to grasp while going through a dark night. And it feels so uncomfortably alone. Sure, you have friends and you appreciate them, but you are keenly aware they are not capable of feeling what you are feeling or knowing what you are going through. The old version of this woman (who was focused on her own self-interests) in essence has died. And there is a period of grief in letting go of the woman she used to be.
When a woman can awaken into her new identity, which is no longer based on concepts of the mind, a deeper sense of purpose and connectedness emerges. It’s a kind of re-birth. What dies is the egoic sense of self; your crusty, old ego requires you go through the dark night in order to be transformed into this new woman that the world and your baby need. Of course, ego death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there…only an illusory identity. This new woman, a different version of the old self, now integrates the nature of the feminine, and steps into the warrior spirit of a mother. Dark nights really do require a guide; you cannot navigate the trappings of your own ego with your ego. The power of receiving support from a strong woman who has made it through her own dark night, makes the process of transformation more bearable and less threatening. Reach out for support, as you are being reborn into your new identity of mother.