Teaching your Teen (and yourself) to Navigate the Dark Night of the Soul by Tracy Gromen
My middle son is going through a transition period in his life right now. He’s leaving middle school and getting ready for high school.
And that’s really exciting.
And it’s also scary as hell.
I’m watching him interact with his classmates like he’s holding onto dear life. As if they are his life raft. As if he’s just not sure what life will look like and he can’t imagine not ever seeing these people again on a daily basis.
Because he has no clue as to how his life will look in a few months. And for someone who likes to control situations, transition can be scary and cause massive resistance.
This resistance left unchecked can cause a great disturbance in the energy field of the person bringing on feelings of isolation and sadness.
I allowed my mind to drift back to that time period in my life to when I was 13-14 years old and I remembered how alone I felt. How misunderstood I felt. And then I remembered the real reason that I could not articulate my feelings.
Because there wasn’t anything detectably there.
I was empty.
Totally and utterly empty. While I was trudging through the emptiness that I was feeling during this transition in my life, my parents were dealing with emotions around three of my grandparents dying at the same time. Needless to say, it was a difficult transition having no one to talk openly to about this emptiness. In my parent’s eyes, my emotional burdens paled in comparison to what they were experiencing because they had already been through the teenage years and they knew that everything would turn out “okay”, but that didn’t make me feel any better or empowered in any way. Only emptier since it felt like my feelings (or lack there of) were being diminished.
My parents did the best that they could with the resources that they had. They could not give what they did not have themselves.
When I had kids - I promised myself that their teenage experience was going to be nothing like mine.
As my boys approached their own teenage transition years, I found that their experience was mimicking my own and the whispers of my promise from so long ago began to ring.
I asked myself, what did I really want? 1) For certain, a calm household - one where we can openly and respectfully communicate so that we can understand each other. 2) A solid relationship as they entered adulthood. I wanted them to WANT to come and visit me – and not out of the obligation of “gotta go visit the parents”. 3) Most of all I wanted to help them grow and learn how to empower themselves, not just take my word for it. I wanted to be their guide in this life, not their ruler. I wanted them to get to know me beyond being mom. I wanted them to ask questions, respectfully disagree, learn, grow and to teach me along the way. I wanted depth to our every part of our interaction.
The goal of a calm teenage household required that I heal the energy and memories around my teenage years and take a look at what negative behaviors that I was perpetuating, stop that negative behavior and always be on the lookout to heal/improve myself.
And it has worked.
So, one afternoon when my teen was particularly feeling off, I sat down next to him and sent him love energetically. He took a big breath and sat back covering his eyes with his arm.
I asked him a simple question - “What’s up?” to which he answered “I don’t know”.
I didn’t stop there.
I then said “I know that you know how to feel and communicate, you are a conscious person who can identify feelings, what are you feeling right now?” He said “That’s the problem, I am not feeling anything. I’m empty”.
Bingo. The light bulb triggered, I looked at him and said “I remember this feeling, would you like to know about my experience with emptiness and what’s going beyond that feeling of emptiness?”
He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no (which is a great sign), so I kept on talking.
So, what does that empty feeling mean?
Energetically that empty feeling is new space being created within your being for the next chapter of who you are. It’s a dismantling process, an uncoupling of the meaning that you give aspects of your life. The reason that the emptiness feels like you’re trudging through sludge is because the ego is being stripped away in preparation for the next chapter of life and it’s afraid. The immature ego loves staying in the comfort zone, so it’ll create fear and resistance to prevent you from moving forward effortlessly - even if you are excited about the change coming.
In the spiritual world, this emptiness is referred to as the “Dark Night of the Soul”. All meanings of people, places, activities that you once loved has lost its meaning, passion and purpose - because you will be building a new foundation of meanings. You will some of it behind and what remains will be re-structured - into a healthier meaning. The rest is room created for expansion.
This part of the teenage chapter is closing, it’s change, it’s death. And that closing brings the immature ego to its knees, but then the ego starts to rattle the cages of fear within and that’s when we freeze.
We stop. We get stuck. Because the ego has no positive reference point for this transition.
And here’s where the inner work comes in. If you are wondering if my son stayed to listen, he did. I shared a few steps with him to help him shift his perception around the emptiness, and that simple shift allowed him to move through the energy (and now he has tools to move through them when the dark night rises in the future.)
Here are the steps that I gave my son to help move through the dark night of the soul energy, anyone can use these steps to navigate the Dark Night of the Soul (DNOTS) energy that they are experiencing since any change is death, which can bring on the DNOTS:
Stop fighting the energy. Allow it.
This energy is rising for a purpose, to reveal fear underneath that needs to be healed and to make room for expansion. The more that we focus upon the emptiness, the more that we attached to the fear of the immature ego. Allow that energy to be there, and still move through the day. You might not feel bouncy (the ego speaks in absolutes – either you are happy or sad and to the ego, sad is bad), but you will be allowing that part of you to experience the emptiness without getting stuck in it.
Get back into your body.
Do an activity that will bring presence back to you. My son chose to drum. We tend to flee our body and disconnect when the dark night of the soul rises. Do an activity that brings you back to your body.
Sit with your thoughts and journal them- become aware of the duality of your thoughts, write them down.
That emptiness is covering up fear. And that fear deserves to be heard. We have many aspects of our self and we tend to ignore the fear, which leads to us attaching to it. Listen to the fear - take the necessary steps to understand and heal it. What we ignore will persist until we give it the attention that it deserves so that it can be healed.
Hold space for that part of you that’s in fear.
Gosh, this one is huge because we spend a lot of time in self judgment and expectation. You probably have the voice that is cheering you on AS WELL AS that negative voice full of fear. Listen to the negative voice ONLY as a guide on what to heal, not as the voice that runs the ship overall. Then access your tools to heal that negative voice so that it can no longer sabotage you.
As I said to my son, fearlessness is a myth. We all have fear and each new transition that we experience will have new levels of fear. So, we have to listen to and hold space for that fear, and keep moving forward. Refusing to let that fear dictate your actions, that’s courage.
Admit when you need outside help.
I have gone through therapy, I adore it. I have had my boys do EMDR and EFT to help them move energy and allow healing. Perception is everything and when you can get a new perspective on a situation that you are struggling with, you can move mountains of energy instead of carrying the burden. Note: we aren’t meant to carry the burden, we are meant to heal and release the burden.
This even goes for teens. When you gain new perspectives, you create a new energy bank of thoughts/feelings to access. Which means when you are triggered with something - you can refer to your new tools to take yourself off of the ledge. These new tools help you move through energy even quicker than you would otherwise.
Every life transition (both planned and unplanned) can trigger the dark night of the soul. Use it for the purpose that it was meant for - to rise. This way you can honor the past with grace, move through residual fear without getting stuck in it and embrace the new level of you with ease and flow! What activities will you recommend the next time the dark night comes into your life or the life of someone that you love?