Dark Night of the Soul: the Ultimate Identity Crisis

Hey Soul Family,

So, while I have been revamping my inner child and shadow working book, I realized that I didn’t properly take the time and space to properly explain dark nights of the soul. In order to explain a dark night of the soul though, I needed to break down psychological theory that is VERY important to know if you want to really know why we experience this dark night. After doing a little bit of research, I wasn’t satisfied with what I found because no one has realized what a dark night of the soul actually is- it is an identity crisis. This identity crisis is one that is unresolved from our teen years and since we resolve that crisis so much later from when we first faced it- this can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride to navigate. Yes, it can very much feel like a dark night.

Why is it important to know about Erik Erikson? Because this is the man was the FIRST to recognize that identity was a major personality achievement that occurred during our adolescence years. He wrote that we experience these emotions and feelings during teen years in the “identity vs. role confusion” stage. All of the accounts I read about dark nights spoke about feeling depressed, yet this it isn’t just depression or intense sadness. What happens during a dark night of the soul is that your cognitive dissonance shatters- your sense of reality. Everything that you knew to be true, comes crashing down. Your entire world feels like it has been a lie, fake, false. This is a very delicate stage because people also tend to dissociate at this time as well. It is also VERY normal to experience these emotions.

If you’ve been dissociating, please check out my dissociation blog!

What is self-actualization? Psychologists say that this is the highest level of psychological development, the place where personal potential is fully realized after basic bodily and ego needs have been fulfilled. Sound familiar? How is that any different from becoming one with your highest most authentic self? For as long as society has existed, people have had a hard time with self-actualization. This is due to the fact that people in this world are egotistical and live deeply rooted in wanting to control everything around them. Is EVERYONE in this world this way? No. But most of us are ego driven until we do our shadow work and inner child healing, this is for sure. This is an issue because when we don’t mind our business, we people please, we don’t know how to rest or receive, we don’t ask for help, when we constantly try to save everyone else, and pour of ourselves until we’re empty- we end up with nothing left for ourselves. It is important to know the aspects that shape our personality, and this is a big part of why I do the work that I do.

These 8 stages aren’t really spoken about by anyone outside of a psychology class, and yet they are SUCH an important part of what shapes our personality and yes, our sense of identity. If you look over and down this list you will see that we are given a chance to self-actualize at various stages in life. This is in an effort to get us towards our joy, happiness, and fulfillment, yet those who choose to never go down that path tend to feel both stagnation and then despair. A person who leans on the side of stagnation and despair would be someone who did not self-actualize. This would be someone who did not find themselves or a sense of identity that is fulfilling to them.

Now we have various stages that help us with this identity crisis if we fail to explore properly and find ourselves as a teen. We have our quarterlife crisis that happens around the age of 25 and then we have our Saturn Return between 27-30. These two stages in young adulthood are supposed to be used to cultivate our sense of identity, for those of us who missed the boat earlier. Yet, many of us are emotionally avoidant and as a result many people will suppress and repress the triggers and the emotions being brought up at this time. Many people tend to feel inadequate during this time because they feel that pull towards purpose. They feel as though they aren’t living within their joy or happiness yet. They feel like what the fuck am I doing with my life? What have I done with my life?

We will continue to ask ourselves those questions at various ages until the issue of identity is resolved. People who wake up at 45 and don’t know who the fuck they are- we say they are having a mid-life crisis. Yet again, what people FAIL to see is that all of these crises have in common- identity. Those of us who fail to self-actualize and find a purposeful identity will likely find ourselves feeling stagnant and then despair as we grow into old age. THIS is a big part of the reason why I teach this, so that none of you will have to enter these stages of life in a sense of stagnation or despair. I want everyone to understand how this works, because the more you know, the easier it becomes to break down the wounds. My wish for all of you though is self-actualization because there is no greater place to be in this world, than to be exactly where you were meant to be all along. Look over this list of Erikson’s 8 stages so that you can understand how personality is formed from birth on.


What are Erikson’s 8 psychosocial stages?


  • Basic Trust vs. Mistrust: (birth-1 year) When an infant receives warm and responsive care, they will develop a sense of trust or confidence that the world is good. Yet a sense of mistrust will develop when an infant has to wait too long for care, or if they are handled harshly. This can be positively resolved through quality caregiving and promptly relieving the infants discomfort. Also, through sensitively holding the infant through feedings, patiently waiting until they have had enough milk, and then weaning when the infant shows less interest in the breast or bottle. When the balance of care is sympathetic and loving, the psychological conflict of the first year can be resolved on the positive side. A trusting infant will expect the world to be good and gratifying, which will make them feel confident about exploring and venturing out. A mistrustful infant will have learned that they cannot count on others kindness or compassion, they cannot trust others. The mistrustful baby will withdraw from people and things around them.
  • Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt: (1-3 years) Children at this stage want to explore with their new mental and motor skills. They want to choose and decide for themselves. Autonomy is developed when parents permit the child reasonable free choice and do not shame or force the child. At this age toddlers have a sense of budding selfhood, and they want to decide for themselves. This stage is resolved positively when parents provide their children with suitable guidance and reasonable choices. A self-confident toddler is one who has been encouraged to potty train, eat with a spoon, and pick up their toys. Their parents do not criticize them or attack them when they make mistakes or fail at properly performing new skills. Their parents also allow the child to assert themselves with tolerance and understanding. Parents who are over or under controlling tend to leave their children feeling forced or shamed, which can lead a child to doubt their ability to control their impulses or act competently on their own. Basic trust and autonomy grow from warm and sensitive parenting and reasonable expectations for impulse control. If a child emerges from its first few years without developing trust in their caregivers and without a healthy sense of individuality, the seeds will be sown for adjustment problems. This can lead to someone who in adulthood will have difficulty establishing intimate bonds, can become overly dependent on loved ones, or who continues to doubt their own ability to meet new challenges.
  • Initiative vs. Guilt: (3-6 years) Once a child builds a sense of autonomy they will become less difficult. Their energies are freed to tackle this next stage of initiative, where the child finds a sense of purposefulness. They are eager to learn new tasks, join in activities with peers, and discover what they can do. They now make strides in conscience and moralistic development. Children at this stage explore the kind of person they could become through make believe play which allows them to try new skills with little risk of failure or criticism. Parents can help a child develop initiative, which is a sense of responsibility and ambition, by supporting their child’s new sense of purpose. Parents who demand too much self-control at this stage, can lead a child to feel guilt due to their over control. This guilt develops due to the child feeling as though they do not meet their parents expectations. The best way to foster initiative is by allowing the child to lead where they would like to go and support as best as you can. The negative outcome of this will become an overly strict superego, one that will cause the child to feel too much guilt due to being threatened, criticized, or excessively punished by adults. When this happens, their ability to participate in exuberant play and their bold efforts to master new tasks breaks down.
  • Industry vs. Inferiority: (6-11 years) Children who’s experiences have been positive enter this stage of middle childhood, prepared to redirect their energy from make believe play into real accomplishments. At this age a combination of adult expectations and the child’s own ambitions for mastery will drive the conflict of industry. This conflict is positively resolved when the child develops a sense of competence and useful skills and tasks. Children at this stage are often in school, which helps the child develop the capacity to work and cooperate with others. Inferiority develops when a child experiences negative events at home, at school, or with peers. This can develop into feelings of incompetence, which can be dangerous. Children can develop pessimism and have little confidence in their ability to do anything well. This sense of inadequacy can develop either when a family life has not prepared the child for school life or when the child has negative experiences with teachers or peers that destroy their feelings of competence or mastery. When industry is developed this leads to a positive but realistic concept of self, pride in accomplishment, moral responsibility, and cooperative participation with peers.   
  • Identity vs. Role Confusion: (adolescence) At this stage, the adolescent will try to answer the questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? What is my place in society? Identity is a MAJOR personality achievement and will be a crucial step towards becoming a happy and productive adult. Constructing an identity involves defining who you are, what you value, and the directions you choose to explore in life. By exploring values and vocational goals, the young person can form a personal identity. The search for what is real and truth about the self will begin to drive many choices- morals, religious values, political ideals, interpersonal relationships, vocational, community involvement, and expression of sexual orientation. Successful outcomes of earlier stages will ensure a smooth transition into identity. If the child has a weak sense of trust, have trouble finding things to believe in. Those with little autonomy or initiative tend to not engage in active exploration. Those who lack a sense of industry fail to choose vocations that reflects their interests and skills. At this age children will experience an identity crisis which is defined as a temporary period of confusion and distress as they experiment with alternatives before settling on goals and values. Those who go through this process will end up with a mature identity. If they are not allowed to form a personal identity due to pressure from parents or society, this will lead to confusion about future adult roles. If the earlier conflicts were unresolved negatively or if society limits their choices, they may be unprepared for adulthood and find it difficult in the next stage to establish deeper bonds of intimacy.
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation: (emerging adulthood) As the journey through identity continues, a young person will continue to work on establishing intimate ties with other people. The major task of these years will revolve around establishing deep and intimate bonds with others. The increasing closeness of relationships will extend well into the next stage of adulthood. Relationships with other will now become deeper and last longer, and involve greater levels of trust, emotional closeness, support, and commitment. Their concept of relationships will grow and become more complex. These relationships will express a larger range of desired qualities and responses from others and the self. Some individuals will not be able to form these deep and intimate bonds though, this is typically due to earlier disappointments. This will often lead them to remain in a state of isolation.
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation: (adulthood) At this part of the journey, we are giving back to the world and the next generation. This can be through a various means of ways such as child rearing, caring for other people, or through productive work. If we fail to meet this generativity, we feel an absence of meaning or a sense of accomplishment.
  • Integrity vs. Despair: (old age) At this final stage, individuals will reflect on the kind of person they have been and the life they have led. Integrity will develop if the person feels as though they have led a life that was worth living. Despair will develop if they are dissatisfied with their lives, which will often cause them to also fear dying


Well Soul Fam, I hope that this information has helped you with connecting some dots. Until next time… Sending mucho luz + amor always!

Luna Estrellas

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