Posted by: Donna Cunningham | October 19, 2009

Hope for Those in the Dark Night of the Soul

©2006, 2009 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

The telephone woke me early one morning recently — a woman was calling from abroad who had no idea what time it was here. She was in what has been called the Dark Night of the Soul. Like so many people lately, she was in the depths of despair. Life had never seemed bleaker or more devoid of hope. Painful issues she’d struggled with throughout life without improvement now seemed too much to bear any longer.

angelstatblulightsm-a2dWhat moves me about these individuals is that they’re not drama queens, and they’re not indulging in self-pity or bitterness. They’re earnest, honest souls who have done all they can to contend with crushing, seemingly irresolvable circumstances and patterns, and now they’re at what feels like a breaking point.

How do I approach them? WITH HUMILITY, for I’m old enough now and have worked with enough different healing tools long enough to know there are no magic bullets to resolve such complex, seemingly-immutable, and deep-seated wounds.

WITHOUT JUDGMENT, and WITHOUT BLAMING THEM for their mistakes, for I’m clear enough now to know that, despite all my own struggles for healing, I have not walked in their shoes and cannot know the karmic and spiritual truths behind the choices they have made.

And, most importantly, WITHOUT EGO, for the answers they seek and the healing they need are well and truly beyond me — beyond any of us who are honest enough with ourselves to no longer be grandiose. Only God and the higher realms hold the Grace that can uplift this world out of the hopelessness that so many are feeling.

What Light Can Astrology Shed on the Situation?

In terms of who is most prone to a Dark Night of the soul, I imagine we all get there at least once in our lives, when all we’ve believed in and worked for turns out not to be true or what we hoped it would be. Astrologically, both Plutonians and Neptunians might be especially prone to these intervals, for both  feel intensely, though they handle it differently. However so might anyone under a Pluto or Neptune transit to some key planet or feature of our charts like the Sun, Moon, Ascendant or Midheaven.

Most often, I would venture to say, it is in one of those periods of time when a transiting outer planet aspects several natal planets in a row…or more than one outer planet transits the same rather sensitive area of a chart, producing a series of losses. Whether the person reaches the end of their rope also can have to do with the phase of life the losses or hard times occur. Those of us who have been through decades of struggle and of hard Saturn aspects might be less resilient than a young person who is still full of hope and idealism.

Sudden upsurges of despair do seem related to current astrological conditions. As an astrologer who has studied planetary patterns for over 40 years, I’m sensitive to the prevailing cosmic winds, especially those shown by the major connections between various planets in our solar system. Transiting positions, some lasting as much as two years, affect and shape our collective experience, and through the changes in the collective, have a profound impact on individuals whose birth charts are affected as well.

Sweet Chestnut — THE Remedy for the Dark Night of the Soul

Since the woman who called me in such desperate straits  lived in Europe , a full long-distance consultation was impractical for her.  I advised her to seek help in her own city but to go to a health food store that very day and pick up a bottle of the Bach Flower Remedy Sweet Chestnut.  (If you’re not familiar with the essences, download the introductory chapter from my essence book  at flower essence information-ch1 and read the instructions for how to use them. )

I began using essences in my astrology and healing practice in 1981. Over the years, I’ve found that this balm in a bottle has helped to uplift so many of the people who call me in the depths of anguish. (For those who aren’t familiar with flower remedies/aka essences, it’s a frequent topisignofhope-a2dc on this blog. See a list of articles and a link to the FAQ about how to use them at end the of this post.)

Dr. Bach described it as the remedy for The Dark Night of the Soul, but cautioned strongly that it was not for suicidal people because those individuals need immediate medical attention. If you’ve ever experienced the Dark Night of the Soul, you know exactly what that term means, and you can empathize with those who are there. If not, take your bleakest hour and raise it to a power of ten to get a glimmering of what it’s like.

Even knowing its description, I’ve been amazed at the immediate difference this remedy makes for those who need it. Within a matter of days, the despondency begins to shift, and they start to see that something can be done with their situation. They still need the support of an experienced counselor/healer to work through the issues and situations that brought them to the brink, but the light of hope has begun to penetrate their hearts and souls. I, myself, have taken it from time to time, and it provides such a sweet solace.  (See an additional article on this blog here: Sweet Chestnut-a Remedy for our Darkest Hours–Guest Blogger Connie Barrett.)

Other Flower Essences to Counteract Despair and Inertiasunrisepurplav-hemdsk

If the situation accompanied by despair is complicated by the tendency to do things that are harmful to oneself, read detailed descriptions of Bach’s Cherry Plum to see if it applies to the urgency of the situation. Understand, no astrologer or other practitioner should EVER claim that flower essences alone will stop someone who is suicidal. Know when you are in over your head and insist that the individual seek medical help. (Bach Flower Essences: Cherry Plum)

You might read also an article on Bach’s Wild Rose, as it’s amazingly helpful in off-setting the despair and apathy that has grown out of long-standing obstacles. This, like Sweet Chestnut, is an essence you might consider taking on a longer-term basis and perhaps as a single essence, rather than in combination. Essences  taken singly can prove surprisingly potent.

 What Other Essences and Healing Tools Have to Add

While flower essences can help lift someone out of that Dark Night of the Soul, what comes next? That’s the point when essences by more modern companies and lightwork become important. In my experience, lightwork plays an essential part in clearing out the dark and toxic emotional residues most of us have accumulated in our lifetimes. Additional forms of vibrational healing like essences and energy work like EFT, Reiki, MariEL, or The Reconnection help move any residues out of our energy fields and bodies more quickly and gently. Many practitioners combine  these modalities with essences in order to boost the healing powers of these tools.

WANT PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF THAT THE ESSENCES WORK?  See   by Deborah Bier, PhD These photos of an experiment conducted by Deborah and her students were lost for several years. They show clearly the positive effect an essence mixture has on germinating and growing plants. These photos have never been published anywhere before!

essencebkcvrsmNote:  As regular readers know, I’m co-editor for Vibration, the free educational journal and blog for flower essences/aka remedies. For a wealth of articles and information about flower essences, visit Vibration Magazine’s blog at

This article is an excerpt from Flower Remedies–How Plant’s Energies Can Heal Us, my ebook about the essences.  It’s available at Sampler for flower remedy book: Sampler 2014– Flower Remedies–Cunningham.

More articles on Essences and other healing tools on this blog:

Note: The Bach Centre has a free ebook to download at:

FREE EBOOKLET FOR SKYWRITER SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Mothers, Daughters, and the Moon, a 50-page excerpt from The Moon in your Life. Read more about it here: NEW: FREE BOOKLET FOR SKYWRITER SUBSCRIBERS!  If you’re already a subscriber and want a copy, forward the most recent email post to me at To sign up for a subscription, go to the top right hand corner of the blog and click on “Subscribe.”  Then send me an email with your subscription confirmation or an email post with a request for the booklet in the subject line


  1. Wow, thank you Donna! Talk about timing…I was in the midst of a dark night of the soul, intensified perhaps by today’s Scorpio moon, when I opened your email. Would you say that Plutonians are especially prone to deep dark nights of the soul? I have natal Sun and Mercury conjunct Pluto – karmic events in my life are the source of my yearning for solace. Will definitely give Sweet Chestnut a try and get back to you!
    Thanks again for sharing your insights.

    • I hope you find it helpful, Catherine. Read the full text of both articles linked before making up your mind.

      Your question about whether Plutonians are more prone to the dark night of the soul was a good one, and it prompted me to add another paragraph to the section on astrological indications. Check it out there. Donna

  2. Those are especially nice counselling tips, Donna, and we’d do well to use them with everyone we meet and already know.

  3. Hi Donna,
    My dark night of the soul has been an ongoing process in my life since the end of July of 2012. At that time, I was struck with a brain virus, something like the West Nile Virus. I was in the hospital for eight days and have been slowly recovering for nearly two years now. I have been preparing myself for the 12-21-2012 spiritual shift for many years, but especially since early 2010 when I began a major de-cluttering project. For a while now, I keep thinking that I am almost at the very end of my huge de-cluttering project but there is always a random box of personal papers that I still need to sort through to recycle papers that are no longer needed. Actually, this project of sorting through my lifelong collection of things has been a very spiritual process for me and many times has boosted my spirits into a happier state than it was before. As a Cancer, I am very attached to my past and my past has guided me into my coming future. Also, last summer of 2013, with the trine of water planets, my dad in the heavenly realms, began to talk with me through mental telepathy. Once, after waking me up from an afternoon dream, he told me that I was slowly awakening. I know that I am slowly awakening but I am still very closely involved with an older sister that still represents my karma (which is very slowly ending). His communication with me then explained my dream to me. I feel that I am here on earth in this lifetime to help awaken my sister and that certainly seems to be my toughest project. Maybe, she represents the huge number of humanity, the masses of the population, that I was born to awaken during this ongoing shift in spiritual consciousness. Realizing that fact and writing about it is very helpful to me right now. Her personality has been so very difficult for me to understand. In many ways, I think that her most beneficial planets are her Moon and her Jupiter (she is Sagittarius Rising) both in Aquarius, the Sign of this New Age. Her Moon in Aquarius is sextile her Sag. Asc. and also Sxt. her Saturn in Aires in her 4th House. Her Moon is also Sxt. her Sun in Aires which is conjunct her Saturn, within only 2 degrees. Gosh, Donna! This strong insight that I have just received by writing you this comment about the dark night of the soul has been so very helpful to me! My very last spiritual awakening happened to me on March 15, 1985. It seemed to happen so fast in my life but I have to really admit that that I had already been going through the dark night of the soul for over two years prior to March 15, 1985! Just realizing that fact gives me great comfort now and great, renewed faith in my future! Thank you, Donna, for being the very good astrologer that you are! You have been such great help to humanity! My Dark Night of the Soul has been training me and preparing me for my coming and at times, difficult Saturn conjunct Pluto Career!!! Now, I feel so much happier!!!

    • Good to hear your story, Elisabeth. It surely sounds like The Hero’s Journey, life changing, and catalyzing so much growth. You face it with consciousness and willingness to do all it takes, great integrity. Hoping for your recovery from the brain virus. I myself have had two big head injuries in the past 30 years, and I know how much it takes from you and how much harder it is to keep focused and strong on all levels. Donna

  4. My own Dark Night I think began when Neptune entered Cap in 1984, though I had no inkling of what was to come. My marriage “dissolved” that year, but career seemed to be on track and for most of the next 5 years everything seemed ‘hunky-dory’. I guess I was leaving some issues unaddressed. I sought some counseling but mainly for “growth” and what I took for self-actualization. Then Saturn and Uranus came roaring into Cap (actually it turned out every planet was aspecting the T-Square, my Sun or ASC, even the so called benefics). (I should add that I have Moon at 0-54 Cap, Mars at 5-2 Cap, Asc at 13-47 Cap, Sun at 21-59 Cap and SN at 18-26 Cap. Merc is at 28-23Sag; the Mars is part of a T-sqr to Neptune opposed by Saturn). First I went into business for myself (influenced by over confidence from Neptune), then my then current live-in realtionship ended very suddenly, my business failed of course, my therapist told me he didn’t handle people in crisis, I found out “our” friends were “her” friends, my family’s only contribution was that I “get right with the Lord”. Physically, I could not sleep, I grayed out twice, once while driving (gray out to me is being mentally aware of what is going on but temporary loss of vision), had muscular contractions that forced me into a fetal position and pains that docs could not explain. At least twice I felt like I was falling even though had something solid underneath me both times. I felt I had no one, horrible desperate loneliness. I tried exercising to exhaustion, meds, reading (including John of the Cross’s book), listening to “happy” music, trying to find a therapist, trying to find a spritual group/church, trying all sorts of meditation, massage therapy, accupuncture, trying to get new friends, etc. Eventually I went to a 12-step group (not AA or drugs) which helped a lot as some were in similar states and had some recovery. I ended up in a hospital for a month in 1990. So I can attest to those outer “heavy” planets transiting personal or significant configurations being contributors to a Dark Night experience. I also had my first natal astrology reading. Though I had been reading about astrology for almost 20 years, I was not open enough for her to help me psychologically or spiritually (again a trust issue). It took me more than 5 years to get back to some state approaching normalcy and I still feel “God” has abandoned me and have difficulty in allowing spiritual growth (trust issue). I also have not been in a long-term relationship since, though I really want one. I know my own ‘Dark Night’ was totally internal, though triggered by outside events. I was fortunate not to have had serious health problems at the time. But my current therapist and I both believe that experience contribed to my heart attack about 3 years ago. I had no family history, BP was normal, cholest normal, never smoked. She thinks the constant infusion of adrenalin and cortisol from that experience contributed. I wish I had known about Essences back then.

    • As evidenced by your comments on a couple of other posts today, you have been through a great deal, Bob. It sounds like you’ve withstood them with courage and are continually gaining in wisdom. If you were open to taking a flower remedy, I’d suggest Oak, for those who have been through a long, difficult struggle and are worm down. It’s a Bach remedy, available in most health food or new age bookstores. Stir a dropperful of the liquid into a glass of water and then just sip on it through the day, and continue until you feel it’s done its work. Donna

      • Thanks I’ll try it and let you know.

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