The Dark Night of the Soul

Dark periods are an inevitable part of life that can happen at any moment and in any number of ways:

  • The death of a loved one
  • A terminal diagnosis
  • Job loss
  • Relationship breakdown

But what is the spiritual and psychological significance of this pain?

In this episode of Gay Men Going Deeper, Michael is joined by LGBTQ+ affirmative psychotherapist Justin Oberste to discuss the concept of the Dark Night of the Soul, including:

  • The 4 phases of a dark night of the soul
  • Sharing personal, real-life examples
  • The spiritual significance of dark periods
  • Tips for finding hope within the darkness

The 4 Phases of a Dark Night of the Soul – blog post referenced in today’s episode

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Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of gay men going deeper. This is a podcast about personal development, mental health, and sexuality. Today I’m your host. My name is Michael DiIorio. I am a life and wellness coach and I specialize in helping people build genuine self confidence from the inside out. I work mainly with gay men in the areas of sexuality,

dating and relationships. But today I’m very excited to welcome back to the show. LGBTQ plus affirmative psychotherapist, Justin overstate. Hi Justin. Thank you for coming back to the show. Hi, thanks for having me. It’s so good to be back. And today we are talking about this concept of a dark night of the soul. This is a term that is often used to describe a time of deep spiritual and personal crisis.

Think of a dark night of the soul as a symbolic death, a painful ending of something in your life that perhaps you’ve become very attached to maybe a loved one, a relationship, a career, or even your identity, or a deeply held belief system. And it hurts a lot, but this darkness of the soul is also a very powerful catalyst to transformation.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. So on today’s episode, Justin, I will be going through the four phases of a dark night of the soul. We’re going to share some real life examples. We’re going to discuss the spiritual significance of a dark night of the soul. And then we’re going to leave you with some tips for finding hope in the darkness.

So Justin, before we jump into the good stuff, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience? Yes. As Michael said, my name is Justin oversea. I’m a psychotherapist in Los Angeles and I work a lot within the LGBTQ community. And I love jumping on here and talking to you guys. So can’t stress it enough. I love doing this work with you.

So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me And thank you, Justin. So for if you guys are new and this is your first time hearing, just a nice speak. We do have two other episodes that we’ve done together. The first one was queer and Christian. It was a panel actually adjusted myself into other lovely gentlemen and that’s episode number 56.

And then the most recent one we did together was called a mirroring in the gay community, which is episode 80. So definitely go check those out as well after you’re done with us here today. Okay. So to set up the conversation for today on a dark night of the soul, I’m going to share with you guys how I like to teach this concept to my clients.

And then we can use this as a framework for our conversation today. All right. So conventional wisdom says that there is generally three ways to embark on a spiritual path. One would be learning from a spiritual teacher or Sage two would be just having an intrinsic desire to seek out spiritual knowledge. We call these people spiritual seekers, they just have it within them.

They want to, they want to learn this stuff. And then the third is through what is called a dark night of the soul. So while the first two, maybe the preferred path, the latter is probably the most effective, but the least, the least enjoyable because in the first two you get the lesson first and then you can apply these lessons in your real life experience to put it into practice.

However, with a dark night of the soul, it actually starts with a final exam that you didn’t even ask for and then forces you to learn lessons you don’t want to learn. So how do you know if you’re experiencing a dark night of the soul? Now it may be ushered in by a traumatic event or a tragedy, but not necessarily. Sometimes it’s an internal deep,

deep internal struggle. And sometimes it’s both. So some common examples would be the death of a loved one, a terminal diagnosis, the end of a relationship getting laid off, or simply coming to terms with your sexuality and coming out. Oftentimes people will report feeling lost alone, hopeless despair, lonely, a lot of the really tough emotions that we, that we deal with.

But regardless of the circumstance, regardless of what the situation is that ushers in a dark night of the soul, I want to share with you four phases that I think define a dark night. And by the way, guys, this is all available on my website. This actually comes from a blog post. I wrote maybe three years ago. That is probably one of my most popular posts on my website.

So you don’t have to worry about writing this all down. I’ll put the link in the show notes. Okay. So the first hallmark or the first phase of a dark night of the soul would be an identity crisis. A dark night forces you to really question your identity right down to the very core. It’s almost like a painful realization that you’re not who you think you are and your life is maybe not what you thought it was.

A dark night can reveal truths about yourself that you don’t necessarily like nor want to see it cracks you wide open and forces you to question the very nature of who you are. Think of it as an uncomfortable shedding of the skin, but not in a way that feels good right away. It’s usually feels pretty terrible. The second phase is shattered belief systems.

So when you experienced a dark night of the soul, it really changes you at a fundamental level. So the strongly held beliefs that you’ve identified with your whole life crumble and leave you feeling disoriented and confused about who you are, but also about the world around you, even your definition of the world and life itself can change. And this can make people feel very vulnerable,

very strange, having a crisis of consciousness, a crisis of faith, the third phase. And I just want to point out, actually, these don’t all happen like 1, 2, 3, 4. I’m just saying these are four kind of hallmarks that generally tend to happen. They could all happen at once or not necessarily in this order. Okay. The third part would be withdrawing.

A dark night of the soul is the spiritual equivalent of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. And part of that transformation is kind of into a protective, emotional cocoon. So if you’re in a dark night, you might find yourself wanting to withdraw from life, perhaps distracting yourself with things that numb the pain. And, and by the way, this withdrawal I think is,

is, could be a good thing. We could talk a bit more about this later, but you know, going through this phase does require a lot of honest introspection, contemplation, and quiet time to really define or not define, but process what’s happening. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to withdraw, but we’ll talk more about that later. And then the final phase is probably the most important,

which is be the transformation. So again, if we’re for a caterpillar emerging from the cocoon, as you emerge, you begin to see life from the perspective of the butterfly, not the caterpillar. So everything’s very new. You’ll see things that you were blind to before. You might make connections and see patterns in your life that will help illuminate the path forward.

And then things start to really make sense. New people might show up in your life and your experiences will show up to help guide you along this journey. And then you see yourself and the world around you in a whole new light. So if you remember, the beginning was a kind of destruction coming like a moment where everything is shattered by the transformation.

It creates a space where you can rebuild in a new way. So those are the four phases. Again, they don’t all happen at once or not in that order, but now I’d like to hear from Justin. So how would you describe a dark night of the soul? And if you have any examples, Justin, I think that’d be super helpful for the audience to,

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I love what you just shared too, because I think people tend to think of life kind of linear. And I like the analogy of the cocoon, the butterfly kind of like incubator and you know, or like a lot of people think of, it’s like a building. It just, you know, you’re growing, you’re going to soar high,

just always these straight lines, when really it’s kind of more of like a spiral or a labyrinth. And so I love, I love that idea, but to get back on topic, I would say, especially since we’re now in September and fall is on horizons, the seasons are changing and it’s, fall’s my favorite time of year. So many memories attached to it.

But I, I think of it a lot, like seasons of the season, like fall of great beauty, but also of decline and the paradox of dying and seeding because fall’s a time when seeds are scattered that bring about new growth in the spring, but you don’t really see that it’s hidden. So kind of having these meanings that are, that you can’t see,

you know, same thing like losing a job, how the job you lost, helped you find work that you needed to do, how the road closed sign in term one towards a terrain that you need to go down it’s less traveled or how you lose a loved one and you felt kind of a irredeemable, but it forced you to S to discern more of a meaning for your life.

So autumn in particular is kind of this helpful notion that living is hidden in the dying. So, yeah, I really it’s, you know, we live in a culture, of course, we’ve talked about this before, where it’s a, we prefer the ease of either or thinking. So we have a hard time holding these paradoxes, these opposites together.

We want to live more in life than we do with the darkness. We want the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter. So I kind of love to define the dark night as kind of like season a season, because we will have multiples, you know, it is a common thing within the human existence to have these periods to have these times.

Yeah. So that’s why I think it’s so important to even bring it up now in this time of year, as we feel it and see it around us, decay, dying through, remind us to kind of go inward to incubate. I like that. I love the symbolism there and there’s someone who’s really connected to nature. And in fact, I find a lot of my special path has been witnessed through nature.

Like I see it in nature. And then I kind of apply that to myself. So this, this is right up my alley, the way you’ve described it for us here. What are some examples you think of other like, I, I gave some at the beginning of what could potentially be a dark night, what might be some other ones? Oh gosh,

it can be a period of sadness, trial loss, frustration, failure. And they can last, who knows how many times and frequency, I think it, for me in my life, it’s coming various forms with, you know, who’s seeing a job or changing a job, a direction within a career death of a loved ones. It could be even like a death of an animal.

I mean, you just never know what it can, how that kind of dark gift will arrive. And for some people there is no catalyst to just, they wake up and something’s different. They don’t know what’s going on. Yeah. Yeah. It’s just interesting. You call it a dark gift because I can see, well, I can see how we can see that on this side of it,

but in the moment I’m, I, I don’t think anyone would describe it as a gift at all. It’s terrible. And it takes for some people can take a very long time to get out of it. I mean, I, I think the first time I would call what I went through, it was my first dark night of the soul, perhaps second,

but probably first probably lasted like over a year. And it was just, I could not, I could not get out of it. You know, some people might call it depression and I was never clinically diagnosed with that. But like, it sounds a lot like that. If I describe it, like I was just very down. I like my support systems didn’t work.

I wasn’t participating in life as nearly at the level that I was before my coping mechanisms just didn’t work. I tried getting support from my friends and family that didn’t work. And so for me, it was really, I think hopelessness and, and alone would probably be the two words that I would describe from my own personal one. Gosh, what, what age were you when you,

when you would say you experienced your first? That was a 20 if seen. So I was with 30 there early, just turned 30, 32 31 32. Wow. Yeah, yeah, Yeah. Early thirties. Yeah. Yeah. And I think actually now that, now that you’ve made me think about that, like, it was kind of now that I’m looking back,

I’m much older than that now, but other than looking back, Justin, I see the ending of that. So, so if I use the dark Knight as a symbol to describe the symbolic ending of a phase, that was the ending of that phase of my life. Like things really started to change after that point for me, like I changed, I should say I changed,

therefore things changed, but things can change. I changed. And then the things around me changed as well. So yeah, I think that, that for me was my journey is shedding that skin of the twenties and early thirties version of me to become this, this person. I know like, I mean that there put me on the trajectory to where I am today.

Gosh. Yeah. I think that’s beautifully said. And Richard authors, like Richard Rohr written the twenties going through the twenties, I think he calls it the, the loyal soldier phase. And then when you get to your thirties kind of, and even early forties, you know, you have kind of that shift those tools and drive and stamina and energy is very different and things kind of change naturally.

And you’re like, oh fuck, I wasn’t prepared for this. What do I do? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I can’t imagine what would have, I mean, we, we, we never know what would have happened. Right. That’s one of the things about life, but I’m very happy for that. Now, if you had asked me,

then I would be like, this is the worst moment of my life. Get me the hell out of here. But now I’m like, oh my gosh, I see now what that was about. I see what path that put me on. And for me, my personal story with the dark night was that it introduced me to spirituality in general. Okay.

So that dark night actually. Wow. So spirituality was what pulled you out of it? You would say, Yeah, it was my introduction to it. And it was the very thing that pulled me out. So for me, I was used to looking for solutions to my problems intellectually or physically the solution wasn’t there. And I think that was the whole point.

I think the universe squeezed me to the point where I had nowhere else to look, but inside, not in my mind, but like my soul and I didn’t even, I was like, what’s this head? Like if you sit the rest of your shoulders to me, it back then I’d be like, yeah, whatever. Like, I don’t have that next.

Like, let’s go to something else. But, but I think it just pushed me to the point where it forced me to look within. And that was then that’s what happened. It just, and I did. And then what I found was, oh, this is it. This is where the answer is. The answer is not, you know,

in my mind or in my body, it’s actually something spiritual. And then I, that was the, the door, the door opened. And then I was like, okay, this is something I need to start exploring. And then I did, I developed spiritual practices and the rest is history. Yeah. I love you’re bringing up the word against soul and you weren’t able to solve it in your head.

And so, you know, it’s so good to bring that in here. Cause I think a lot of people who are going through certain experiences, dark night type stuff, they go to therapy understandably, or they, you know, go get coaching or go to their spiritual leaders in their church or whatever. And within my role as a therapist, I try not to get in the way of someone who’s having a dark night of the soul,

because I feel like within psychology, we can easily diagnose or send them to somewhere to get medications, to help it or numb it or something. When really there’s probably some sort of transformation happening and I don’t want to pathologize it. I want to see it kind of unfold and see what happens for them and so easily when you feel those negative emotions like depression or sadness or anxiety,

we want a quick fix. We want to solve it. We want to be happy. And happiness is, it really is more of a fleeting sensation. So many people spend their time and their life avoiding things to try to find happiness. And that’s where we kind of bring in the juxtaposition of the darkness because half of life is that to most of life,

probably if we were to narrow it down to percentage is Monday is heavy. And so we have to find ways to live in it, to embrace it and learn from it instead of, of winning it. But the, the dark night for me, I would say, gosh, my very first experience, I was young. I was probably 13, 12 or 13.

My father was diagnosed with cancer when I was nine or 10. And that journey of seeing him slowly deteriorate. And then when he finally passed, when, when I was 13 was incredibly hard and at 13 I didn’t have tools. I didn’t, you know, internal journey I did. I had no clue. All I know is I had these horrible,

heavy emotions. And even before my father died, a close friend of mine was my age. He was actually, he was probably a little younger kid diagnosed early with cancer and died a month before my father died. So it was just like loss after loss. And I didn’t know what to do. And my whole family structure and system changed. I didn’t know who to rely on.

I didn’t have tools to rely on myself. So I had to kind of turn to like outer influences. I would say like music, art books, you know, maybe certain family members that could be there for me, but it was hard. And it, it definitely changed the course of my life. You know, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now is in this healing profession,

if it wasn’t for those early deep dark experiences. So it transitioned me through some, I had some dark nights in my twenties, you know, coming out and, and I would even say, gosh, I’ve had a really dark one in my early thirties, too, with transitioning from a different career into grad school, into what I would call more meaningful work.

And there was probably a two year period before I made that transition that I was deeply depressed. And I did not know why and why it was just sitting on my shoulders. I was carrying it everywhere. I tried everything for just to go away and fix it, went to therapy and it would not release me. And so I had to kind of incubate,

I I’m also an artist. So I wanted to, I had to prepare for an art show at the time. So I just closed myself off. And one of the guestrooms where I was living and just painted and painted and created, and I was hoping that would unleash something, but it, it did, but it also didn’t. And that’s what made it so frustrating for me is like,

I am relying on my art and it’s still not showing any results in a sense, but looking back, it actually did because I had an art show. And after that art show, that’s when I knew this I’m gonna, I’m going to put in my month’s notice at this job, like I’m done, I’ve got to transition to something else it’s killing me.

Yeah. And when I transitioned from that job, I made a big risk of moving across country by myself and a friends. You know, nothing. I was, it was, it ended, it ended a long-term relationship to a 10 year relationship. I got in a horrible car accident in LA totaled my car. The ambulance drivers were shocked. I was still alive and able to walk.

And I remember walking out of the wreckage into the ambulance car and I was walking on glass. And a lot of my items and books and stuff were just all over the interstate and it was dark out and the flashes of lights. And I was like, this is rock bottom. I have, I’ve lost everything. I have nothing. This is, this is dark.

And I didn’t know what to do, but just to, I guess, a good way to just kind of ride the wave. Like I, I had something in the back of my mind that was hopeful saying just once to one foot in, from the other, just move forward, this feels like shit, just move forward. And I had to rely on that and it was still really heavy and uncomfortable and horrible,

but there were also little signs, little glimpses of, I would say maybe some relief, a little bit of light, just knowing like, okay, I’m going to stick on this path. Grad school is incredible. And I was learning so much. So I knew that was something of value and it helped give me some sort of a vision as to what I’m working towards,

which I think also include those into tools for when you’re in a dark night vision and values, but it helped me kind of, it was kind of like a compass stay in a certain direction, but then after that, Michael COVID hit. Oh, wow. Okay. And so after this car accident and I moved in with my then who was my boyfriend at the time and he was a new relationship and the world’s shut down and I was having to start more of my clinical trials and training.

And my first ever client, I haven’t really talked about this with anyone was on, was on zoom. So I started, you know, working with people via zoom was it was a child, 10 year old child and the community clinic I was working for, I was like, are you comfortable working with kids? I was like, yeah, I would love that.

So my first client ever was a 10 year old child and I w great, great kids, smart, intuitive empathic was there for some depression, some anxiety around COVID and not being able to see their school friends and worked with them for about a month. And all of a sudden like this, I get a text from the child’s mother and the child’s father shot himself.

And the kid had walked in and found the father’s pie. And so the mother’s like, I need the, you know, her, her child is asking for you because we had developed this relationship. And I lost my shit. When I saw that text, I was in the middle of the class too. And I had to leave class and I called some friends,

call my supervisors and stuff, and was like, this journey has brought nothing but pain for me. I mean, there’s, there’s hope, but it has been so hard financially, physically, emotionally, all the things. And then I’m so excited to do this healing work, this healing journey. And that’s what happens with my first client. I was,

I, yeah, I didn’t know what to do. I was completely lost, confused, and like what in the world guide? Right. But, you know, it’s, it deepened to me, it brought in the seriousness of this work, right from the start and, you know, looking back at it, which this was probably two, two and a half years ago now it’s made me a better,

I think, a better therapist, a better healer, a better person, but it was, it was really difficult. That sounds very heavy. Well, Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing that with us. Yeah. I think it speaks to the, you know, the, the, the lesson or the significance, right? Like why,

why is it that we have to in so many, so many cases have to go through so much pain to, to learn these things. Like I just, that’s the question that I get all the time, you know, why do I have to learn this lesson this way? Why can’t I just learn it, you know, another way or through a book or in a way that feels good.

But you know, to the point you made earlier that half of our life is not as mundane, as boring, as dark as not the good stuff, the negative stuff. That’s not necessarily something that we have to run away from. And I think we’ve created a culture where we focus very heavy on the good, positive, good vibes, only kind of stuff.

But there is a lot to be learned in the dark. There are some lessons, I think Barbara, Barbara Brown Taylor, I believe is an author. And she wrote a book called, oh, she’s learning to walk in the dark. And one of the, one of the things I took from that was there are some lessons you only learn in the dark.

And I think, I think your example is one of those. Yeah. It’s I love the, the walking in the dark because you need some sort of illumination, like the moon, you know, that’s a lot of symbolism there At faith and faith, right? Like if you’re walking in the dark, you take for granted the light in you, your,

your eyes eventually adjust, but like having faith to navigate your way around there and just have faith that there will be Dawn after the, after the night, as they say, yeah, Yeah. Walking through the dark night is always, is also kind of a way of returning back to the living, you know, our rebirth. What do you think would be the spiritual significance of these dark nights in,

in our lives? Like, you know, for me, I explained that mine was, I think putting, going within and finding my spirituality for you, it sounded like, at least with the first example was more of going out and finding ways to cope in the external world. So everyone is different, right? There’s no right. There’s no one way,

but what are some other ways that this could be a significant turning point for people? Yeah. I think by going through something like this, it can stimulate your imagination, meaning there’s things you wouldn’t notice, maybe in your ordinary day-to-day life. I mean, there’s so many examples of this with an art literature and poetry, and, and also finding a deeper sense of self in the sense of you’re put in situations that make you more of a person,

it textures your life, you know, men Jessamine. Yeah. Yeah. And Nelson Mandela, I think is a great example just to throw someone out there of having an incubation time being imprisoned and tortured. And they came out to be an incredible leader, like needed to go through this unexplainable trauma and horrors, but look what he did. Yeah. And you discover,

I think, new resources in those phases. So it’s kind of like, you don’t see external signs of progress, which we always want. And like, so you kind of have to learn to wait and trust. And I have found those to be the most difficult in my life. Yeah. And faith. Yeah. Same patience, faith trust. Very hard because it’s easy to have faith and trust when things are going well,

and the world is mirroring back. Good things about men’s health loved ones. Everything’s great. It’s a lot harder to have that faith when you know, and the examples that you showed, where everything seems to be going wrong. And there’s just like one painful thing after another, after another it’s I think very easy for people to question and doubt that faith.

Yeah. Understandably. And you need to, you need to, you got to doubt it, you know, the same with kind of what’s happening within different religions, Mormonism, fundamental Christian, this deconstruction part. And I have a lot of clients that are deconstructing certain faiths and, and I I’m so happy for them. And I welcome it because you need to,

you need to question, it helps you think critically, it expands you. Yeah. And it adds that texture or dimension. Right. I think that’s, I think that’s a good thing. And maybe it actually deepens that faith, if that’s, if that’s what is called for, maybe it’s not, maybe it puts you into a different journey again, no one’s journey is the same,

but I think that’s such an important aspect of it is to actually let yourself go into the doubt, let yourself be into that dark period of a faith crisis. Yeah. I think if it’s, if it’s, if spirituality doesn’t speak to someone or that’s, you know, not a part of their journey, I think it can also help you get rid of superficial values and 95 ideas about yourself.

So also it kind of can bring in this deepening, just a deepening of you as an individual person and what you value about your life and what you want your life to represent. If it doesn’t involve any kind of faith or spirituality. Now I tend to think that is spirituality and faith, but it’s different for everyone. So it can really affect you in all those various trails.

Yeah. And you know, it’s great is it shows you who you are, right. Like it, hopefully it’s rare that we go through these dark nights, but when you do, you really get to know who you are. Again, it’s easy to go through life when things are going well, but who you are in a challenge who you are when you’re going through these really dark periods,

we’ll show you, but it’ll, it’ll show you. Where is your faith? How, how, how much do you believe in yourself? Who do you go to, where do you turn to for support? Where do your coping mechanisms, do you try to resist and eliminate and make it go away? Or do you numb that pain with take your pick anything,

alcohol, drugs, sex, whatever that may be. But yeah, you definitely get to know yourself on a, on a, in a much deeper level. And then on the other side of that, I think that’s what breeds confidence, right? As a confidence coach, like there is nothing that’ll make you more confident than having to go through this dark period of your life.

Come out on the other side of it and say, shit, that was terrible. And I did it and I am now capable. And I have proven evidence that I can, I can do hard things. I can make it through this stuff. Yes. Yeah. You take your life more seriously. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Justin, let’s talk a little bit about advice for someone who might be listening to this.

And maybe they’re like, oh, I think I’m, I think I’m going through a dark night of the soul, or maybe I know someone who might be going through that right now. What would you tell someone who’s in the, in the thick of it? Gosh, I guess I could break it down to certain things, but it’s, it’s give voice to it.

So speak, I would say, speak concretely to your, from your own experience. So what I mean by that is don’t let outside influences necessarily like television, social media, the news, describe your problem. Let it show itself for what it is and not from what I would say. Even the therapy industry wants it to be these industries in particular,

won’t really determine your fate or your meaning of life, right? So they have the danger of just kind of restoring you to a good functioning citizen. So develop your own vocabulary around it, which the only way you can do that is to somewhat incubator, which we were talking about earlier to Michael it’s to be alone, it’s to go inward, to meditate,

to sit in the quiet and the silence. Another way I would say is to surrender control. So it’s a tough, yes. Given to the unknown stop and listen to whatever signals of wisdom might kind of come along your way along your journey. Yeah. That’s those, and then care. I always say care rather than cure. So anchor yourself in,

I mentioned earlier your vision and in your values. And I think every individual should write out their values. I do that with clients and client people I coach to which values are more or less they’re statements that reflect how you want to behave under life on an ongoing basis. So for example, I want to be a loving partner, a want to be conscious of how I affect the environment.

You know, those would be some values and their actions. So they reflect what you truly care about, but they’re ongoing actions rather than goals. So loving, helping, listening, learning. So take time to maybe write out your values. Like I have them on my phone. I review them sometimes while I’m at the gym or doing cardio or something,

I go through my list of values just to really make them more concrete, make them mine and to have some sort of a vision to, for your life where you want to go on, that that can values can feed into that vision can help create it, organize your life around it, to support the process of what this is. So tone it down.

Usually I’m like, calm the fuck down, get things that comfort you, you know, while you go through this, but don’t move against the process. Don’t distract yourself. You know, a lot of people want to lean more into fun and fun has a place. And that’s great, but it’s also a distraction. It’s also a way to not be vulnerable.

So many clients that are going through some really dark things right now that are in our culture, the gay culture, you know, they love going out. They love partying and there is totally a place for that. We talked about that in our mirroring episode, but when you’re partying and when you’re at these clubs, it’s loud, it’s dark, you’re hiding.

So organize your life to support the process. Concentrate, reflect, think, talk to people, reach out to friends, turn to literature, turn to poetry, read about other people who have gone through maybe more substantial, dark nights, Nelson Mandela. I mentioned three biographies of these people. And that’s a way to kind of find mirroring of your experiences.

Many, I feel like many truths can be expressed aesthetically. So like in stories, picture films, dance music, only when ideas are poetic, it seems like they really reach a depth and express the reality of what we’re going through. So turn to those things. Even Now, those are some great tips, Cultivate, yeah. Cultivates deeper sense of self.

When it comes to values. I love that exercise. I do a personal core values exercise as well. But what I find is I don’t wanna go too off topic here, but when it comes to values, there’s, there’s people who like I have my list of values as well. That’s fine. But then the question is, are you living those values in your day to day?

And I find there’s a lot and I’m myself included again, that I have my list of values with them. When I look at how I spend my time, how I spend my money, where my energy goes, I’m like, well, wait a minute. What happened to these values? Like it’s, it’s one thing to write them down, but I love the idea of a,

check-in kind like an audit. Like I’m going to audit myself. Am I living into this? Or are they just aspirational words I’ve put on, on a paper or on a vision board? Where is that, that beautiful space where you actually dedicate time to demonstrating those values? Cause there’s lived values and then aspirational values. I love that. And you actually brought up something that I think it’s really important.

I kind of skipped over which you’re alluding to is before you can really get to values and vision. You have to ask yourself those basic questions. So, and I would even say for in prep of a dark night, cause they will happen. They’re inevitable is who are you like these basic questions? What is this world? What kind of family do you come from?

What are your origins? What are your early experiences deep down? What do you want? What do you fear? I think that knowing and asking those basic questions and having somewhat of some answers or knowing that the answers needed to be discovered is what you’re really kind of alluding to before you can even get into values that can help perpetuate and follow through with them when you actually know those basic questions.

So many people don’t, they do not take time to ask that That is exactly. I feel like this conversation would have saved me an entire dark night of the soul, but that’s, that’s what my experience led me to question. Whereas if you had asked me that before, I’d be like, yeah, who cares? Doesn’t matter. Like my, my thought was like,

how can I make more money and how can I have more sex? Or how can I more fun? Or how am I going to afford to go on this trip or whatever it was before before that, before that dark night period. But that period of my life is when I asked myself those very questions that you’ve asked and you know, including how did I become this way?

Do I want to, is this how I want to live my life? Who do I want to be in 5, 10, 50 years, all of these great questions, right? Including the ones you said, but I had to go through, I had to go through a very hard process to ask those questions and answer them in a very honest way. But the good news is I am so much more intentional.

I’m so much more aligned. And in of course, when I do kind of go off, when I do veer off track in my life, I can sense it. And I’m like, oh, I know what’s happening. I’m veering off because something will feel not right with him and I can bring myself back. Yeah. I’m curious too, with that,

if you like I’ve found for me, deep conversations are incredibly, are, are in a, a valuable way to cultivate. I feel like an intelligence about life. So meaning going, having just deep conversations with close friends, family, I have noticed has really enriched my life and helped me kind of discover our answer some of those questions. And I said,

even friends now, it’s so funny. When I try to have a deep conversation, even this would make a lot of people uncomfortable talking about some serious stuff. Like I’ll see friends, they just, they flee or throw in a joke to change topic, which I can appreciate. And like, but it is hard for people. And I’ve, it’s hard to find a highly functioning adult period.

Like I went to a brunch yesterday with some wonderful friends who asked great questions and I haven’t been around them for a few weeks. And they’re asking questions about this podcast, about my practice and stuff. And then I was asking them about their career and it led down different rabbit trails. But after I left, I felt so nourished and I felt like I learned something from it.

And I realized I don’t get that a lot. Yeah. A lot of us don’t. And I’m curious for you with your experience when you’re going through the dark night and you’re asking those basic questions. Were you able to have those outlets? No, no, no. And that was it. So I, you know, I had, I had friends and family bothering friends and family,

but none of them, like, as I said earlier, like that, that the things that I normally went to for help or not working, which is why I knew there was the solution to the problem was not in my usual day-to-day that was the whole point. The whole point was I need to find that thing that I could not see to get the relief that I was looking for,

that transformation. And part of that was a new community where we could have these deeper conversations about these things. And I found that eventually, right. You know, the saying when the student is ready, the teacher appears, I found, you know, all my, I have a whole bookshelf full of books, which if you’re watching us, you can see right there.

Most of them are about spirituality and personal development. I’d say 90% of them are. And I immersed myself in that world. And as I did that, then I started meeting people and, and again, it just, it put me on a path it’s kinda like I was going down this road and the universe was like, Nope, we’re gonna, it’s gonna hurt.

We’re going to shift you. It’s going to be a painful shift. But if you can just keep taking one step in front of the other one foot in front of the other, you will get to places you really want to be. Yeah. I love what you just said too, because I can really relate to what I’ve gone through the dark nights.

It’s pointed me towards material or even people that have enriched my life even more because I could meet them in a deeper level. yes. And that’s a good point too. The relationships that I did have, the friendships that I did have it, they didn’t go away. I’m not saying like I threw, ever went away, but it, the ones that were meant to stay on my journey,

we’re in, like, we have a much deeper relationship now because we talk about the things that you were just talking about. Right. We can, I can hold space for them. I can be there for them. It’s not all just surface level stuff. We can really be there for each other. And the same goes with my family. I think what happened with me and not phase of my life.

So it was about my early thirties is I stopped becoming a child. I mean, yes, I was an adult, but like I stopped becoming my parents’ child. And I started becoming an adult with my family. I was like, okay, listen, this is like, I, I am of an age now where I’m not the child anymore. And I need to start really seeing my parents as people who are getting older.

And I just start thinking about, what does that look like? Right. How am I going to honor my time with them while I have them? And all of these things that before, I just don’t want to think about that. Yeah. Gosh. Yeah. I’m curious what, what event happened in your life that, that shifted you into that dark night?

Did we talk about that? No, we had, we’ve talked about it, but I’ve wrote, I’ve wrote about it on the, on the, on my blog post. But for me it was a breakup sounds very innocent, but yeah, it was, it was a breakup and it was, it wasn’t even, it wasn’t even the guy. It was more about Who I became without him.

And I typically was this very confident, happy go, lucky guy, having a good time, just live in the life. And then once for whatever reason, I don’t know what it was about him. Once he broke up with me that just left, it just left me in this place of, I was extremely hurt and I realized I was codependent and needy.

And I saw the side of me that I just did not, like, I was like, who is this guy who just cannot seem to get over this? And, and I just didn’t like it. I was insecure. Like it showed me all of the things I didn’t want to see. And again, it’s not even about him, I’m, you know,

it’s not, it’s not him. It’s about, it’s about what that mirrored into me and that inability to get over it. So before I would just go have sex with somebody else and just go be with other people and distract myself from the pain, from the loneliness, but that wasn’t working, it wasn’t working. I still, I still missed him.

And I still felt all of the ways I felt about it and nothing really worked until I went within. Yeah, I’m the outside stuff worked. You know, I, I kind of want to throw in a little bit the concept behind like circuit stuff and even burning man, which is artistic and beautiful people love it, but I’ll also want to throw in this kind of warning with some of that within the kind of the drug culture too,

that it can really, with what you’re saying, it can help you stay outside of yourself. Not really internally with these distractions and these experiences, like, are you really deepening yourself? Because I know I have clients that go to these things and it wrecks their life Really. Yeah. And never been in relationships, you know? And that could be a good thing.

Like you have to be open to that too, but it also is it’s harming them and then they get stuck into this culture of fun. Yeah. We’ve talked a lot about that for sure. I mean, I love my fun still. Do I have a great time? I love all that good stuff, but like everything, right. It kind of goes with the theme of the,

of the light and the dark there’s time for fun. And that’s great, but there’s also time there’s things to be learned. Not in the fun. It’s not all about fun and light all the time. It has an expiration date. And that only gives you one dimension, like who wants that one or two dimensional view of life? Like there’s no depth,

there’s no texture. There’s no like, like your soul, I think expands in, in these, in these moments where it’s, it’s tough, it’s challenging. It, it opens up parts of you that you didn’t know were there, but you need kind of go through that darkness and you need to kind of be battered around a bit by the universe just to see it.

Yeah. Yeah. Like I have a, I have a client right now I’m working with and their life is crumbling all around them. They’re married. The marriage is having issues, families. I mean, everything are problems. And this person has gone to therapy for probably 10 years and is on six different antidepressants. And the verb, their verbiage is very therapy.

DSM-V, I’ve got this diagnosis, this diagnosis, this diagnosis. And I’m like, so intrigued by this person, like they’re very educated in the field, but the more I would listen and sit with them and they would go to all these parties and do things. They work all the time and, and it’s a very strenuous job. So they, they try to include that time for fun.

And when they have fun, they go hardcore. And, but the work, I was really curious about the work and leading to that, like they have zero time for their husband. They have zero time for friends and that has never been seen as a problem instead, it’s, it’s like it’s worked itself out in these different pathologies and somehow it’s been overlooked or neglected somehow.

And they haven’t concluded that actually, maybe I’m working too much and my job is draining my soul. And so many people just aren’t really alert or awake to it yet. It does sometimes take a friend, family member, maybe a good therapist to kind of lean in inspect what’s going on here. Cause this is this, you know, big red flag that is just completely ignored or overlooked because we do in America,

live in a culture. That’s very success driven and you gotta stay busy, you gotta be productive. And we tend to completely forget our personal, emotional and our souls. One of the questions I love Justin is, you know, what do you, what do you, what are you avoiding feeling? What do you not want to feel? Loneliness, failure,

shame, right? Those are, those are going on, but it wasn’t when that kind of compulsive, I guess, or that behaviors out there, then there’s a reason for it right there. You’re distracting yourself from something. What is that? Something that you don’t want to feel when you’re left alone with yourself? What are you left with? That is a great way to ask that question.

Cause we, we all have things within us that we don’t really want to acknowledge or accept, or that’s fine. But I think it takes a lot of courage to look at that and say, listen, you know what, there’s this, there’s these things about me about my life that I don’t love. But I think when you uncover that, when you can reveal that it can be the catalyst for change,

sometimes you can do it ahead of time and pretty much all the time, the universe is just going to give you a dark night of this onsite. Now’s your return. Yes. And it’s going to drop in on you too. It’s there’s no predicting it. It’s going to happen. Yeah. And I think what you talked about at the beginning about fall,

I think I want to go back to that for a little bit too, you know, as we go into this new season, for those of us here in the Northern hemisphere, you know, going back to the tips, what are some ways we can kind of lean into this changing of the seasons and you know, what did you call it a time for introspection?

What are some good things we can do? Yeah. Well, especially where you live. It’s so beautiful. And I would want to be outside as often as possible and go visit the lakes north of there if it’s not too cold, but I think embrace the season, be in it, develop, make I would, okay, sorry. Get my thoughts together.

This might be a really good season to develop what I would call like rituals and passages are really important to going through various passages in our life. And I will say as a gay community, we are very much neglected rites of passage like, wow, what an impact it would be if we had like a ceremony for young gay guys to have with them to be like,

this is your Rite of passage. You are going to have a difficult time with your life because it’s different. It’s not the norm. You’re probably going to have various partners to learn who you are and what you love. And like, man, if I had that when I was 13, 14, 15, gosh. So we have had to kind of arrive at a path to just probably been in some way,

are coming out since for some people, but I would say create different rituals and rites of passage for yourself. So for me, I’m getting married next month and this is kind of coming to an end of a phase. I would say for me, because I think marriages funerals, birthdays can be really beautiful types of passages of rituals. And so it’s coming to it’s it’s in a sense,

my Rite of passage is how I’m seeing it, the intention behind it into being with a man, married to a man and creating our own life, creating our own values, creating what makes us happy and what creates beauty for other people. So this marriage ceremony is that passage for me. And so for, for other people, I think if they could develop some type of ritual and it could be going for a walk,

it could be connecting with a friend like with rituals. I like to think of it as setting an intention attention and then repeat so repetitive that could be reading a certain book that inspires you going on some sort of a, a journey, a solo journey, a pilgrimage, and setting an intention on it. And the pilgrimage could be a walk. It could be a road trip.

It could be so many different things. It could be connecting to a community to people which we’ve kind of seen with research, connecting with people is best over food gatherings. Yeah. Yeah. Also some form of exertion or exercise. That’s why I’m a big part of CrossFit. The CrossFit community has really taken off because it’s kind of, in some ways they’ve said it’s kind of like a new church.

It’s really building a community and people are exerting themselves with each other, which releases different chemicals in the brain that actually softens you and helps you lean into deeper parts of yourself. So some sort of exercise I would say, or food, and if you can, and nature, of course, going in nature can connect, connect you to things. So if you can incorporate all those going hikes with friends,

like some sort of a pilgrimage good conversation, I think those can be some really beneficial things and finding authors and books and stuff, but, and basing and just creating your own rituals and rites of passage for yourself, I think can really be beneficial, beneficial for your mental health, but also spirit spirituality. Yeah. I like that because it touches on all of them,

mind, body, and soul, right? So stimulating your mind with books and conversation, your body, of course, with physical exertion, even just breathing in fresh air on a walk. And then of course the spiritual side of, of it as well. These, I think these things all work together. And I think that for me, when I’m,

when I’m living in my most aligned has maybe the word when I’m feeling the most satisfied and fulfilled with my life, all three of them are, are kind of going in tandem. Like it’s like they’re rowing at the same time and things are working out really nicely. Now of course, that doesn’t always happen. In fact, it goes off in theaters now,

and then, but I think your point about the ritual is a good one. And now is the time to do that. Fall is the time of change, transition, transformation, everything that we’re talking about with the star night of the soul, I think he could, especially the season. You can really develop some rich, beautiful practices that can help you go deeper than they make,

make your life more meaningful and richer. I go for walks every morning that I talked about here. And, and for me it has been whether it’s a five minute walk or like two hours fan the day it’s going to be different. But either way it has been some of the most fulfilling and yet easiest. When I say easy does I don’t have to do anything.

I just put on my shoes and we’ll go through door sometimes with my coffee, sometimes I don’t, but, and just that time to connect with myself and set my intentions and just check in with myself, like that has been so helpful and it has, it grounds me. And now, now my walks are sacred to me. It is like, I will not,

I will go on them, come hell or high water that I’m going on. My walk, even if I’m just going around the building. Gosh. Yeah, mine are too. When I walk my dog in the morning or even in the evenings, I usually try to go when the sun is low and the colors are vibrant and beautiful and it is,

it’s a time to just, I don’t look at my phone. I put it down. I’m just present with my dog and then the scenery around wildly beneficial. So Justin, before I wrap up today, do you have any other last words on, on the dark night of the soul? I guess it would be that which seems very twisted in your life or seems to be the worst as the very thing that will heal you and give you meaning.

Yeah. And I think that the patients is, is the hardest patients, but you just say patients and surrender. Yeah, those are three or two of my hardest lessons and faith trust. Those would be the three hardest lessons I’ve learned. And I still still struggle to the state because I’m, I love to control and Michael’s way is the best way.

And I know how to do it. And I’m very intellectual in my mind and I have plans and all the things, but I think the universe jumps in and it’s just kind of wipes my plans away. It’s like, Nope, I’m gonna keep you humble. Here’s you have to learn to surrender. We’re going to grow in this way. Not the way you think we’re going to go.

So I would add that, you know, the, the trust surrender faith, let those moments be a time to practice those very useful, powerful skills. Let it go. Yeah. And get support. Right? So I’ll put Justin’s information in the show notes. Please reach out to him. I’ll put my information in the show notes as well. And at the very beginning,

I talked about the four phases. I’ll put the link to that blog post here. There’s lots of guides, teachers, mentors out there who I think would be very happy to guide someone, help them navigate their way through a dark night. For me, it was a lot of books. I ended up going into YouTube and finding amazing teachers just on YouTube and blogs alone.

Yeah. That’s a great resource. Okay, Justin. Well, I wanted to thank you again for this amazing conversation. I think this is a great time. It is now September. So I think as people are embracing the fall weather and seeing the transition happen and seeing the letting go of the seasons now is a good time to also look at that symbolism within.

Yes. Thank you for having me. And I hope everyone has a very rich and beautiful fall And we’ll definitely see you again here soon. Justin Sounds great. Thank you, Michael. Bye-bye.

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