Getting to Know Yourself Again after a “Dark Night of the Soul”

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Join me and my friend / fellow coach, Jessica “Jess” Condy, as she and I venture into a conversation on how we’ve waded through the darkest moment of our lives.

Listen in to hear about how our relationship with our bodies, with our support system, and our childhood selves shapes our experiences and emotions TODAY.

 

Doctor Neha Sangwan: I want to introduce all of you who may not know Jess — she’s a friend and colleague that I met in Bali several years ago while we were vacationing. Since then, we’ve had some intermittent contact, but always a deep connection. It’s like whenever I reconnect to you, it just feels like oh yeah, we’re touching down again on different parts of a journey, and I just can’t wait to hear your adventure. 

The last few years have been a little more challenging for the world, certainly for me, and I would love to hear a little bit about how things have been going for you. 

Jess is also a coach. So what’s what’s been on your mind? What’s been on the people who you’ve been coaching minds’? What would you like to talk about?

Jessica “Jess” Condy: I definitely think we’ve had a lot of challenges. The world as we knew it came to an abrupt end, and everyone has been navigating these challenging times being stuck at home, work. Changes in the workspace, changes the family dynamic, changing the relationship spaces, changing how you feed yourself, your relationship with food, your relationship with movement. 

I think now, more than ever, people have gone through some version of what we call the “dark night of the soul.” Where the old way they used to do life, or part of the old parts of themselves are starting to die. Who they are, who they’re becoming is completely new and it’s completely different. It’s uncharted territory. 

For a lot of people, it’s been hugely uncomfortable and very scary. I think, myself included, it’s like navigating something I’ve never navigated before. And sometimes you don’t feel like you’re well-equipped, like you don’t have the right tools, thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

Now more than ever, it’s like we’re honing in on the things that work for you. Because everyone has a different formula. I’ve always said, if you have the right ingredients and the right recipe, you can kind of get through anything, but we didn’t know what we even needed before this time. Stress, anxiety, and depression have been huge through the pandemic, as  the aftermath of everything. 

People are just getting to know themselves — no one expected to be shut down, locked inside for the amount of time they were. Everything has really been driven by a lot of fear and panic, so I think our nervous systems are kind of having to re-regulate ourselves and regulate our nervous systems, how we live in this world that exists today. 

So for me, the way I’ve been helping a lot of people is to slow down, ground down, and put your feet on the ground and reconnect with who you are. So it’s like in this slowing down and reconnecting, I feel like people have started to get to know who they are. So I actually thought as much of a “dark night” as it’s been, it’s also been a beautiful blessing and a gift. Some people can’t see that yet, but I think like as we start to step into these new unknown places, we get to discover more about who we are as people. That is such a gift. 

As we lean into our own edges, it’s like we don’t like to be uncomfortable. Human beings like to stay really safe, but we got to know that we are made for more, we are stronger than we think we are. We’re more adventurous than we think we are. There’s so much more to us that we never, ever notice unless we’re challenged, and as we’re forced to grow. So I think it’s been it’s definitely been hard and challenging for us all. But we’ve learned more about ourselves than we would have had this never happened.

Neha: I think there’s something really beautiful about after a real contraction, like a breakup or a huge change, how at first it’s really scary and then it moves into this space of expansion. I think that’s really what you’re you’re speaking about. At the time, not knowing that can just feel really scary. 

I think this whole fear around not only how we relate to ourselves, but how we relate to our job, how we relate to whether we believe that what we do every day is more than a paycheck, especially if I’m not getting a paycheck. Maybe I’m someone at home, and I’m taking care of the kids. I’m raising kids. I’m doing this whole duty. If I have lost my connection to why it matters — it doesn’t even really matter what we’re doing, because then our energy just gets drained. 

This idea of new possibilities when things are crumbling, what they’re actually doing — everything isn’t falling apart so much as it’s making way and making room for what is new, what is possible, what you say you dreamed of and may not have created yet. 

If I think about this, there’s a few times that come to mind for me in my dark nights of the soul. I wish I could tell you there was only one, but there’s definitely been a few. If I can tie it to my pain as a child, something that I had to navigate as an adult, it really helps me make sense of it. 

So when I was young I was sent away, it’s a bit of Indian culture, where they kind of hand the kids around to everybody. I had the great fortune of being with very loving grandparents but from three years old to two years old, I actually lived in Africa. I lived in Nairobi, and my grandfather was there doing work with the United Nations. I had a really lovely loving home. I was safe, I was taken care of, I was loved, I was adored when I came back into my main family at two years old. I had a three and a half year old sister who really wasn’t so excited that she no longer was the only child. She didn’t have some baby or a doll that she could control, she actually had a two year old who thought she was an only child. 

So those dynamics have been very difficult to navigate, and I’m not sure my parents at the tender age of 20-something had any idea how to navigate that or even that it was such a thing. But abandonment for me, leaving my grandparents, being left, anytime I part from someone — it sends me into a very difficult fear space. 

I remember a time a few years ago where my assistant left and moved on to another job, as one should do and grow into. My editor of six years, her family member was sick, and she wasn’t able to work with me anymore. My mother came down with cancer. I got sick and started experiencing a breakdown of my own body, and my romantic relationship broke up. That all happened in a span of two months, and it was just a little too much abandonment for me. That’s why it cracked me open into my dark night of the soul. I only understand that now. Of course, I didn’t understand it then. But I’m curious, have you had any of those moments? Have you experienced something like that?

Jess: As you’re talking I’m just nodding my head, because I it’s a different story, but I’ve definitely gone through something similar. I’ve also gone through more than one dark night. I think as coaches and healers and teachers like part of our journey is that we better go through the stuff first, so we have the tools to help other people through the journey. 

Just before COVID hit, I packed up my entire life in America. I was living in Florida. I ended a two and a half year relationship with someone I thought I was gonna do life with. I resigned from my job at the time, left the country, left my person, left a whole life that I had created there. 

I came back to South Africa after 12 years of traveling the world, and two weeks later COVID head and on top of it I had a financial investment that went sour, so it was like all the pegs that were in the ground were ripped out. I felt really lost, and and as a coach and an environment coach and someone that does this work, it was really scary because you feel like you’re spinning around yourself. But it was in the falling apart and everything falling away that I had the space to really sit in it. 

What you were speaking about in the beginning, I think one of the most important things in this time has been to re-parent our inner child. It’s some of the most powerful work we can do because that feeling of being completely lost and abandoned is so real. I don’t think our adult minds really understand it, and it’s only when we do the inner child work that we start to feel that connection within ourselves. No one else can do that work for us. 

That’s the hardest part, because when you’re in that dark night, I know there were definitely times when I was like, “Where’s the prince on a white horse? Did you not get the memo? Is someone coming to get me?” And then realizing, learning first that I was the only person that was going to save me. It was the journey of that. 

That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through, but the most powerful by far. That journey shook me to my core. It made me see my strengths and my weaknesses, learn about grace and compassion and a lot of gratitude, like being grateful for the things that were really hard, but understanding their place in my life and how this journey took me to the next place.

Neha: That is so beautiful. So it sounds like you resonate with the abandonment piece, as well. Other people may have different experiences growing up. For some people, it’s feeling like you’re not good enough. For other people, there’s a whole range of what it might be that triggers them as an adult. 

The way that I figured that out was actually reflecting both on something I call a life “map,” where I just draw like a spiral on a white blank page and write all my peak moments. Really anything that I remember, and they’re usually the highs and lows, and I draw a little picture of it. So if we moved houses, I just draw a little square some windows and a triangle on top and I write moved to Grand Wherever and the year. 

Once I do the highs and lows of what I remember, I then look at the life map and I look for patterns. Is there anything that’s similar that I see moving across this life map and the highs and lows? Then I pay attention to how I coped with those challenges and how long they lasted. 

One of the most amazing things that I’ve learned is — when I look at how self-awareness entered the scene, the length of time it took it took me to recover from tragedy, from disappointment, from devastation or change, became inversely proportional to my age. All of a sudden, as I got older, and self-awareness entered, the amount of time to recover from change or disappointment went down to six months a year — versus the pains from when I was young that lasted decades. 

Do you have anything that you would share around how you help yourself through these periods of time?

Jess: One of my most favorite tool tools and something I share a lot with my clients is embodiment practices. I think getting out of our heads and into our bodies is one of the most powerful things we can do. Breath work, dance, just expression — we are meant to express ourselves, and I think humans have become very sedentary but also we don’t use our voice and we don’t use our bodies enough to express ourselves. So for me, these embodiment practices of getting really into your body and moving your body — tribal movements, stomping, music, using your voice, even if you’re shouting or you’re screaming into a pillow — it’s something so basic, but it releases so much stress and tension. 

Stress just becomes a stagnant energy, and it needs to be released. Once we release it, we have this free new space within us. So for me embodiment practices do all the things we need — move that beautiful body, use your voice and just get into it. Just release it. It’s fantastic.

Neha: That requires a letting go, to get that freedom that you were speaking about. 

I love chanting. So in the morning I just put chanting music on, I put it on loud, and I sing to my heart’s content. Any form, whether it’s yelling or screaming into a pillow or even laughter, laughter to me is like inner massage. So however you want to, move vibration through you. Sound and dancing. 

Have you ever done Qoya?

Jess: I actually have done Qoya Now that it comes to mind, didn’t I come and see you in Costa Rica at your Koya resort?

Neha: That’s right! Qoya is a beautiful form. 

If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s spelled Q-O-Y-A, it’s a form of dance, movement, and expression that a wonderful teacher, Rochelle Sheik put together as a mix of central practice, yoga, and free dance. That might be something you’d like to check out as well. 

Thank you so much, Jess. I think this was an incredible exchange of two coaches going through their own “dark night of the souls,” and using that to share so that other people know that they’re not alone. So we look forward to seeing you again next time.