The Dark Night of the Soul — How Psychotherapy Can Help You Through

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash

I know about the Dark Night. I’ve been through my own. More than once. Now I join my counseling clients in their Dark Nights. I go with them because I know the territory. I have flashlights and provisions. It doesn’t scare me like it used to. And I know what comes after the Dark Night that makes it worth the journey.

There could be all sorts of reasons for your Dark Night(s). But chances are, there’s a connection to your early years. Your experiences in your family of origin. It’s often painful to discover and understand the roots of your distress. And yet, that process can be the key to your healing.

Let me explain.

We’re totally helpless when we’re born. You know this. But you might not consider the implications. We’re dependent. Open. Vulnerable. Learning, growing, and experiencing. Our brains are being wired. We’re forming our sense of who we are.

So, of course, our parents influence us. Their words, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, anxieties, dreams, loves, hates, insecurities, and shame are absorbed by us. We can’t help it. Even though we have our own personalities, temperaments, and spiritual paths, we spend many years drenched in the crazy soup of our original families.

Drenched in the crazy soup.

Some soup is crazier than others.

Granted, all parents make mistakes and have insecurities. And yet, kids will be resilient if parents are mostly loving and kind. If they apologize for their blunders. If they have healthy boundaries. If they are striving for awareness and insight into their own patterns. Rainforest-minded children who tend toward perfectionism will benefit from parents who openly admit errors and make amends. Kids will learn that no one is perfect. And they will learn what to do when they inevitably make their own mistakes.

But if there’s abuse, neglect, abandonment, alcoholism, or shame, then, it gets tricky. There will be a huge impact including: anxiety, self-hatred, depression, poor choices in relationships and career paths, boundary issues, addictions, and more. And, if you were a highly sensitive gifted kid, you may become the family caretaker, sacrificing your own needs for everyone else. Learning that your needs and desires don’t matter. That you must be fine because you’re so smart. You’re seen as the one who made it out unscathed.

You aren’t unscathed.

Psychotherapy can be the answer. Not the only answer. Not for everyone. But an essential step for many toward healing and creating a fulfilling life. It’s the depth approach that your multidimensional rainforest-y self needs.

By taking the courageous step into psychotherapy, you can find your way through the Dark Night and back to Love.

In good psychotherapy, you– Gently unravel and understand your past. Experience trustworthy, compassionate companionship for the journey.  Rebuild a sense of safety and trust. Acknowledge and mourn your losses. Stop the legacy of trauma in your ancestral line. Heal, grow, and, ultimately blossom. Find self-acceptance and your authentic voice.

And, wouldn’t ya know, all of that takes time. But, hey. You’ve spent years learning and embodying your family’s legacy, right? Years. Shouldn’t it take some years to recover? And just for the record, a year of therapy, at most, is 52 hours, if you go weekly. Basically a long weekend. So, in reality, if you’ve been in therapy for 2 years, that’s actually 2 long weekends. Not all that much time if your crazy soup was terrifying and traumatizing.

Don’t just take my word for it. The School of Life, based in London, has a lot to say about therapy and is a fascinating resource for rainforest minds. They produce lots of articles and videos on self-awareness, growth, and relationships. They even have a global community that might help you find other RFMs. And they have therapists who work online. (I haven’t met them personally so, as always, you’ll need to evaluate them for yourself.)

“Psychotherapy is one of the most valuable inventions of the last hundred years, with an exceptional power to raise our levels of emotional well-being, improve our relationships, redeem the atmosphere in our families and assist us in mining our professional potential.

But it is also profoundly misunderstood and the subject of a host of unhelpful fantasies, hopes and suspicions. Its logic is rarely explained and its voice seldom heard with sufficient directness.” The Book of Life from The School of Life

And so, my courageous ones, if you’re in a Dark Night, have faith. You can do this. It might take several long weekends of therapy but you will survive. You will thrive. You will come back to Love.

And on those darkest nights, remember to look up at the stars. They’ll be at their brightest. Shining for you.

____________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: You’ll need to select your therapist very carefully. Give yourself time to find the right fit. This post will help. And this one. Even though I would like to be therapist to each and every one of you, I’m only licensed to practice in Oregon. And, for dark-night-of-the-soul therapy, it’s best to find someone you can work with face-to-face. You can contact me for a consultation, though, about your rainforest mind and the non-family-of-origin concerns you might have, particularly about being a wizard in a muggle world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, concerns, feelings, and questions here. They add so much.

And if you’re wondering about my book, it’s going to stay on sale with GHF Press. If you read it, a review on Amazon would be lovely. Thank you!

 

 

 


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

21 responses to “The Dark Night of the Soul — How Psychotherapy Can Help You Through”

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  1. You Are Not Broken – A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are – YOUR RAINFOREST MIND

    […] YOU can no longer be afraid of yourself. YOU can no longer reject who you are. YOU need to recognize you are a perfect cup of tea, even if some refuse to drink. (If that sounds impossible, read my posts on therapy!) […]


  2. Three Essential Books For Empathetic Introspective Activists | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] off, I have been harping on you for a long time to accept you have a rainforest mind, to heal any family legacy burdens you might still be carrying, and to find how best to use your particular creative, smart, sensitive […]


  3. You Are Not Broken — A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] YOU can no longer be afraid of yourself. YOU can no longer reject who you are. YOU need to recognize you are a perfect cup of tea, even if some refuse to drink. (If that sounds impossible, read my posts on therapy!) […]


  4. No Better Time To Share Your Complicated Colorful Self With The World | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] supporting important causes. Running for office. Supporting BIPOC businesses, writers, and artists. Getting therapy. Paying it forward. Examining your own biases. Following Van Jones on Instagram. Raising […]


  5. Why Do We Need A Blog For Super Smart, Sensitive, Creative, and Empathetic (Gifted!) People? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] have been in therapy for years working through serious trauma in your family of origin. If you were really gifted, would […]


  6. Young, Male, Gifted, And Black In Canada | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Social Responsibility, Psychotherapy […]


  7. petersironwood Avatar
    petersironwood

    Among other things, I worry that our culture has become very superficial and simplistic. Fiction sets expectations of quick and violent solutions. I was a licensed psychologist in New York State. Now, I am writing fiction that I hope is immersive but models “adult” ways of thinking and being; e.g., empathy, alternatives thinking, consequences thinking, and self-reflection. In these “legends” the people of the tribe – parents, siblings, and the elders – provide what is essentially psychotherapy to those growing up — and to each other.
    Here’s an example. https://petersironwood.com/2019/04/16/trees-die-at-the-edges/


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sounds interesting. I’ll check it out. Thanks for sharing.


  8. Resources for Building a Better World and Finding Your Purpose(s) | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] and a gift to the planet for you to face your fear, shame, and despair, and walk through your dark night of the soul. You can use psychotherapy, spiritual practices, personal growth groups, energy healing, scientific […]


  9. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    Why is it so difficult for people to learn to listen? At this particular moment in my life I don’t know a single person that is skilled at listening, but every one I know is desperate to be heard. Having experienced a few instances of individuals that are skilled at listening, occasionally through my life, the differences between those that can and those that cannot becomes wildly apparent.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Imagine how things would change if we just listened to each other. Thank you for sharing, M.J.


      1. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
        M. J. Cuthbertson

        Exactly. I should add, I am genuinely curious. If anyone reading has any information about why this seems to be a difficult skill to master, I’d really enjoy knowing. We have the joke clichés of brain surgery or rocket science as being those things that are complex and difficult to accomplish. I’d say by the scarcity of people who have the skill of listening it far exceeds the typical things we consider a rare skill.


  10. Arachne Avatar
    Arachne

    I have tried therapy a couple of times and found it to be unhelpful and patronizing.

    But I’d try you if you were in my state. I think. I trust you, maybe. So instead I just enjoy your posts from afar. And hmm once in awhile. And keep up the facade of being “the one who made it out unscathed.”


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I know it’s not easy to find the right therapist. It can take a few tries. Maybe several tries. So sorry it’s been so hard, Arachne. I’m glad that my posts are helpful. <3


  11. Christine A Law Avatar
    Christine A Law

    Great article. I’ve just begun reading your book and clearly have a ‘Rainforest Mind’. I’m also a Meyers Briggs INTJ and HSP, which I find to be a very challenging combination of traits to live with. My struggles came to a head in January of this year and, as a result, at the age of 51 years, I’ll soon be going to counselling for the first time in my life. Your title for this blog post reminded me of a wonderful book I’ve read a couple of times: Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals
    by Thomas Moore


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s never too late to start counseling, Christine! And, I’ve loved Thomas Moore’s writing. Thanks for the recommendation.


  12. renovatio06 Avatar
    renovatio06

    From the bottom and well of my heart: Thank you, Paula!


  13. Cecile Avatar
    Cecile

    Paula, thank you. Nicely said. Quick question: what difference exactly do you make between neglect and abandonment?


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Good question, Cecile. One way I think about it is that abandonment comes in so many forms. Neglect is a type of abandonment. Abuse is abandonment. Someone who wasn’t abused or traumatized can still experience abandonment when parents are well-meaning but fearful or shame-based. (a form of emotional abandonment) There are many degrees of all of these things. Make sense?


  14. Michelle Parent Avatar
    Michelle Parent

    I was sexually abused by my biological father starting when I was 13 and until I refused as much as I could in participating (but getting verbally and emotionally abused after that). I have been in and out of psychotherapy since age 17 when forced into it by being a ward of the state. Then I was in it voluntarily for many years and still have a counselor now. I cannot stress how important this has been for me. I believe the combination of therapy with meditation and spiritual practices has brought me to a place in life now where the Dark Nights are very far apart now, if not maybe gone (one can never be sure about that). I even have good, healthy boundaries and a relationship with my father as an adult and not a terrified child (the child we all are inside still).


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, Michelle, thank you for sharing this. Sexual abuse is such an enormous trauma. Thank you for your courage. And, yes, combining therapy with other practices is often a very effective way to go. I continue to be in some sort of therapy even now. As a therapist, I need to stay aware of my own issues and also to have my own support people.

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