Image Image

S2 EP124 – When the Lights Go Out

Episode Summary

Discover how to manage the major challenges of life when it seems like the lights go out, rather than get stuck in the dark night of the soul. Learn about the underlying causes of the dark night of the soul and how to move back into the light.


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today I will be talking about when the lights go out. Dr. Erika Chopich, co-creator of Inner Bonding, suggested this title, so I asked her what she was thinking about when she suggested this topic, and here is what she said:

“It’s when something happens and your whole world darkens, and you can’t see the light. You can’t feel the light. It’s just being enveloped in darkness. It’s when we fall into the pit, and in life at least once you’re going to fall into the pit and all the lights go out.”

“It’s the dark night of the soul,” I said.

“Exactly,” Erika said, “and sometimes people just helplessly sit there and wallow in it, hoping something will bring them back or someone will bring them back. But that’s not how to handle it. There’s a better way for me, and the first thing I do is envision gathering my inner child up into my lap and holding her close and saying, ‘It’s OK. Nothing’s going to hurt you, not while I’m here. It’s all going to be OK. The light will return.’ That’s what faith is – knowing absolutely that the light will return, so you’re showing up as an adult to make your inner child feel safe and not alone, because when the lights go out and you’re in the darkness, the child is terrified, absolutely terrified, so the first order of business is to tend to that little cute one that’s inside so that she doesn’t feel completely alone. It’s the aloneness of the darkness that’s so hard for people, so they’ll turn to food or to alcohol or to a drug to try to feel OK again, but that won’t work. The light returns because it originates from within and the way you make that light brighter to light your way again, is through the love you have inside. it’s your God connection that you then pass to your inner child and pretty soon the day is dawning again and it’s all beautiful again you don’t need another person for this.”

“Lots of times,” I said, “when people ask me who the adult is, I say imagine one hand holding the hand of God and the other hand holding the hand of your child and you’re the emissary.”

“That’s right, and that’s what brings illumination, and with illumination there can be no darkness. So you can, in fact, tend to that yourself.”

“Sometimes the losses in life are staggering. They can knock you off your feet if you let them, but you don’t have to. It’s always good to express the loss, to express your grief, and reach out for help. You don’t have to deal with it all yourself. Sometimes the losses in life are too much for us to manage alone. But sometimes it’s our wounded self, sneaking in there. The wounded self is capable of convincing you that you’ve lost everything, and of course, that’s always a lie and the lie is always dark. If the wounded self is in charge, you can internally have an existential crisis about who you are and where you are and what you’re doing and why are you here, and what’s the point. The point is at that very moment in time, when you take God’s hand and your child’s hand at the same moment in time, and you bring in the light, the blazing loving light to yourself, you grow, and you extend yourself beyond what you believe your limits are. Sometimes, you do need to reach out for help, because sometimes you either can’t find the child’s hand or you can’t find God’s hand, so you need someone to help guide you to that and help you make that connection. That’s what healing is all about. It doesn’t come from anything outside yourself. It always comes from within.”

“I think people sometimes get confused,” I said, “between somebody supporting you while you are doing it for yourself, and you expecting somebody to do it for you, which they can’t do.”

“Right,” said Erika. Sometimes people think if only someone would come in here and save me. come in here and love me, come in here and show me the way, then I’ll be OK again. But that’s the false belief of the wounded self. You can do this yourself and somebody can do it with you, but not for you. It’s always an act of love to walk the dark journey with somebody, and at that moment in time you’re being asked to be God’s little pencil, to be the conduit to help that person back and find the hand of God, find the light.  That’s a beautiful thing, but if you try and do it for them, then you’re trying to control them, and you will fail. In fact, it would probably bring you down into the darkness too. Darkness is very contagious. People tend to weigh each other down when they try to fix someone, even if they think they are well-meaning and well-intentioned.

“In my experience, it means more and it’s brighter and it’s more uplifting and leads to more learning when you’re able to do that for yourself, for your own inner child, with your higher guidance. That’s an extraordinary moment and it all starts with intention. I’ve seen people sitting and wasting away in a chair, drowning in self-pity, or blaming God as though God authored the darkness that they find themselves in. God does not author darkness ever. God loves you back to the light, but the wounded self wants to blame God or others or go to self-pity, and that’s when you’ll be in that darkness a long, long time, until your intention shifts, and that is a choice. We always have that choice, always always.

“People get lost in the darkness and can’t find their way back out, but there’s always is a way out, and it’s generally the same for every person every time, which is deciding that your child needs you and that you’re going to reconnect him or her to God. You will be the conduit. You will bring the healing with God’s love and help.

“Our suicide rate in this country is sky high because people reach a place where they feel helpless and hopeless and it’s sad, because neither one of those is true. It’s the wounded self that might say that you are too far down to even reach for the help that is here for you. It’s the wounded self who might give up. You’re never helpless, not spiritually, and that means you can never be hopeless either. There’s always hope if you just reach for it.”                    

Some of you know that Erika had a very abusive childhood, yet with all she has had to go through, she is a master at pulling herself out of darkness and back into the light.

Many of us go through at least one, if not more, dark nights of the soul, and I want to talk more about this.

A major challenge on the spiritual path is to let go of the lower mind, wounded self control, and to allow our higher self, our spiritual guidance, to guide our thoughts, choices, and behavior. My experience is that when we come up against a really entrenched aspect of the wounded self, we may go into the dark night of the soul.

In the dark night, you are in a struggle between your wounded self and your higher self.

In this state, which may last hours, days, weeks or even months, you feel profoundly alone and without hope. You feel totally cut off from yourself, others, and your spiritual guidance, because your wounded self has eclipsed all connection. While this is very hard to go through, it is helpful to understand that it may be necessary for the wounded self to let go of another layer of lies and protection.

A strange thing may be happening during the dark night. While you might have believed it was your loving adult seeking spiritual connection, it might be that it was your wounded self seeking spiritual connection as a way to have more power and control over others and circumstances. Our wounded self often becomes motivated to seek spiritual connection as another way to control. But as long as the seeking is ego-driven and fear-driven, you are on a collision course, since true spiritual connection is about surrender—the opposite of control.

So, the dark night can be seen as your wounded self rising up and blocking you from connection with self, others, and spirit, becoming a formidable obstacle to connection and joy.

I have had numerous dark nights in my life. It’s a scary, life-sucking place to be. I’ve also learned that it is a time of transformation – of transcending my wounded self on an ever-deeper level. I’ve learned to hang in with it when it happens, rather than trying to get out of it or get rid of it. Instead, I do Inner Bonding and open to whatever I need to learn. I’ve learned to embrace the dark night as an important learning time for my spiritual development.

I’ve discovered that, since the wounded self is all about control, the dark night is often triggered by coming face-to-face with a new level of helplessness. Helplessness over others, outcomes, and events is perhaps the most difficult of the core painful feelings. Helplessness over a loved one dying or getting killed, especially a partner or child, is EXTREMELY challenging. We want to shut down, get angry, blame someone or something, tell ourselves, “If only I had….” – anything to not feel the complete helplessness over the situation.

On a less extreme level, when a person important to us is harming themselves, or is cruel, attacking and raging at us, we might suddenly be hit with the realization of our helplessness over them. This might be a shock, as our wounded self might have believed that we were succeeding in getting them to change. It’s very hard to come face-to-face with our helplessness over others and outcomes. 

Yet it’s this understanding that is the way out of the dark night.

For me, once I get that this is what’s happening—that my wounded self is having to let go of yet another level in her beliefs about control—I can more quickly move through the dark night. While my wounded self hates having to accept her helplessness, her lack of control over others – once I accept it and surrender, I move into a new level of connection, peace, and joy. 

Part of managing our feelings when the lights go out, is not only accepting and learning to lovingly manage our helplessness over others and outcomes, it’s also about lovingly managing all our deeper existential painful feelings of life, such as heartbreak and grief.

Take a moment right now to remember times growing up that were very painful. Very painful situations might have been:

  • The loss of a parent, sibling, good friend, grandparent, or someone else very close to you
  • Emotional abuse – yelling, name-calling, criticism, and judgment
  • Physical abuse – being hit with a hand, fist, belt, coat hanger, switch, paddle, wooden spoon, or something else equally hurtful
  • Sexual abuse – fondling, grabbing or other inappropriate touching, leering looks or lewd comments about your body, rape, or oral sex
  • Neglect – having to take care of yourself or younger siblings, being a latch key child, having emotionally unavailable parents or other caregivers, being locked in a closet
  • Living in an orphanage or foster homes
  • Living in poverty, not having enough to eat or a place to sleep
  • Being bullied or humiliated at school
  • Being rejected by parents, siblings, teachers, or peers

Now take a moment to remember how you handled the heartbreak and grief of being so hurt and unloved.

  • Did you shut down, go up into your head, dissociate?
  • Did you become angry and try to hurt others?
  • Did you turn to various addictions to numb the pain – food, alcohol, drugs, nicotine?
  • Did you judge, shame, and blame yourself, telling yourself that you were being hurt because you were not good enough?
  • Did you become a ‘good’ child, trying to be ‘perfect’, complying, caretaking and people-pleasing in order to try to have control over getting approval and avoiding more pain?

As children, we needed to find ways of avoiding the pain that we were too little to manage, and that we didn’t know how to manage. So we disconnected from our feelings, judged ourselves, and turned to various addictions and other forms of control to survive.

Most people continue the survival strategies they learned as children, because they never learned how to lovingly manage the pain of life. But by continuing to avoid your pain with these self-abandoning behaviors, you are creating other forms of pain – such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, aloneness, and emptiness.

Which of these survival strategies are you still doing? Today, what do you do to avoid feeling the deep pain of helplessness, heartbreak, and grief? Be aware that the things you do to avoid pain are what can trigger you into the darkness of the dark night of the soul.

Moving out of the dark night of the soul may involve learning how to love yourself through the painful feelings of helplessness, heartbreak, loneliness, and grief. You can take these steps to love yourself and manage pain with both past and current pain.

  1. Put your hands on your chest, breathing into your heart and inviting the spiritual presence of love and compassion into your heart.
  1. Let your inner child – your feeling self – know that you understand that he or she is feeling the deep pain of helplessness, heartbreak,  loneliness, or grief, that you are here with him or her and you are not going to leave him or her alone with the pain. You are going to love yourself through it rather than continue to abandon yourself and keep yourself in darkness.
  1. Stay lovingly and compassionately fully present with the pain until you feel it start to release. Once it subsides, then give it to spirit and ask for inner peace.
  1. Open to learning with your higher self about any information you need about the situation causing the pain, and about what action would be loving to yourself.
  1. Take whatever loving action you are guided to take.
  1. Go back inside to see how you are feeling now. Hopefully, you are feeling some relief.

Do this each time the same pain or pain from a different situation comes up. With big losses and other very painful situations, the pain might come up over and over, and to not continue to abandon yourself, you need to lovingly manage the pain each time.

It’s not healthy to store old or present pain in your body, so learning to lovingly manage and release pain is very important. You will find your old protective behavior, including addictions, naturally falling away as you learn to love yourself through your pain, and then these feelings will no longer trigger you into the dark night of the soul.

When we lose someone we love, we feel grief. Grief is a natural feeling in response to loss. However, grief from the wounded self is entirely different than grief from our soul self. This is because what we feel we have lost is different in the different states.

When our wounded self has predominated in an important relationship, the sense of loss might be terrifying. If you handed a part of yourself over to the other person to love, define, take care of, and validate, then you will feel deeply abandoned when that person ends the relationship or dies. The feeling of inner emptiness might be extreme. Fear, anger, despair, and grief become intertwined, and it feels as if the lights have gone out and you are stuck in darkness.

The grief of the wounded self is primarily for what you are no longer getting. The wounded self might be saying to the departed person, “How could you leave me? How could you do this to me?” Even if the loved one died rather than left the relationship, the remaining person might be angry at being left.

If it is a parent who died, the adult child might have secretly hoped to finally get the love he or she never got from the parent as a child. The person might feel furious at the parent for dying without finally coming through with the desired love. This often occurs when people have not been a loving adult for their inner child and have not given themselves the love that they always hoped someone else would give to them.

If your wounded self spent much time withholding love, you might feel deep regret when you no longer have the opportunity to show your love. Regret is a difficult feeling. What is done is done, and you cannot go back and fix it. Regret might lead to the despair of the dark night of the soul, when you realize you have forever lost the opportunity to express your love.

When you haven’t done the inner work to develop a loving adult, it is the resulting inner abandonment that creates the fear and anger that may accompany the grief and lead to being stuck in darkness. Your inner child is terrified at feeling so alone and is angry at the adult for not being there. You feel alone in the loneliness, which may lead to despair. While loneliness is a natural feeling to feel when we have lost someone we love, you will feel alone in the loneliness when you have no loving adult to nurture you through the loneliness.

The fear, anger, despair, and grief from the wounded self can feel like a bottomless pit. Because the inner abandonment is ongoing when there is no loving inner adult, the sense of loss is ongoing. To the wounded self, it feels as if you can never recover from this loss. Until you decide to learn to be a loving adult and learn to take care of yourself, the feeling of loss and emptiness will continue, keeping you stuck in the dark night of the soul.

On the other hand, grief from your soul self does not include anger and fear. It is a deep sadness about no longer being able to give love and share love with the departed loved one. You miss this person, not just because of what he or she gave to you, but also because you can no longer share your love in person. While you can certainly continue to send love to the departed loved one, it is not the same as sharing love in person, and so there is deep sadness.

When you are showing up for yourself as a loving adult in the face of loss, you will not feel abandoned, and therefore you will not feel the fear, despair, and anger that comes from inner abandonment. Anger at the departed person is a projection of one’s own inner abandonment, and the fear is also a result of this inner abandonment. When you are taking care of yourself as a loving adult, there is no inner abandonment, so you do not feel as if the lights have gone out. When you operated in the relationship as a loving adult, openly sharing your love, you have no regrets and no despair that comes from not having loved, leading to no dark night of the soul.

While loss is always challenging, when your loving adult is in charge you will not feel alone in your loneliness. You will be there for your own feelings with kindness and compassion, allowing yourself to grieve when the grief comes up. While you may always feel sad when you think of your departed loved one, you will not feel empty, alone, angry, or fearful when you are being a loving adult, compassionately embracing all of your feelings.

The difference between those who feel their grief and move on and those who get stuck in it lies in what they believe they have lost. When people believe they have lost their source of love, their grief will feel unending.

Gary had been in a three-year relationship with Samantha when Samantha decided to end the relationship. Gary was devastated. In this relationship, like in his past relationships, Gary was a taker – always trying to get love but unable to give love or share love. Samantha gave him a lot of love, but she often felt very lonely with him. Gary was devastated when she left because his source of love was gone. He was not grieving the loss of Samantha as a person he loved. He was grieving the loss of her love for him. He was grieving as a lost wounded child rather than as a loving adult.

As a result, Gary became stuck in his grief. He was stuck in feeling like a victim – stuck in “poor me.” He was stuck in the dark night of the soul. Gary had never done the Inner Bonding work to develop an adult part of himself that could bring love to himself and share it with others. He felt lost, abandoned, and hurt. No matter how much he cried, no healing occurred. Because he was abandoning himself, he just continued to feel alone and despairing. Sometimes he was angry at Samantha for abandoning him and other times he was angry at himself for not being a better partner. He had many regrets that plagued him, and a constant inner refrain was, “If only I had…” “If only I had listened to her more, maybe she wouldn’t have left.” “If only I had told her how beautiful she is, maybe she wouldn’t have left.”

Frank was also in deep grief over the death of his beloved wife, Beth. He had loved Beth with his whole heart and he missed her terribly. Yet Frank’s grief was totally different than Gary’s grief. Frank missed Beth’s laugh. He missed her joy, her caring for people, her sense of wonder. He missed her as a person, and he missed being able to share his love with her. Frank had no regrets because he had not been a taker. He had loved Beth totally and was deeply grateful for the time he had with her. Frank was actually fine. His grief came in waves, and he cried when it came. Then it washed through, and he was fine again.

Frank was fine because Beth had not been the source of his sense of self. Frank had a strong loving inner adult who was connected with a spiritual source of love and wisdom. This was his Source, not Beth. Frank was a person who took full responsibility for his own pain and joy. He had never made Beth responsible for his feelings or his wellbeing. Because he had never abandoned himself, he could miss Beth and grieve for her without feeling abandoned, lost, victimized. and alone.

Gary was not fine. He was stuck with the lights out, stuck in the dark night of the soul. No matter how much sadness he released, because Samantha had been his Source of love, his Higher Power, he was left feeling empty and alone. He had handed to her the job of defining his sense of self, so when she left, all he could feel was abandoned.

Gary found another relationship within six months of losing Samantha, and six months after that was again alone. Until Gary decides to practice Inner Bonding and learn to take responsibility for his own feelings and needs, he will likely continue to lose relationship after relationship, and continue to be stuck with the lights out.

Because Frank knew how to love himself and connect with his spiritual source of love, he knew how to love others. Within a couple of years, Frank was in another loving relationship.

I hope you join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

Learn to connect with your spiritual Guidance with my course, Unlocking Your Inner Wisdom, A 30-Day at-home Experience.

You can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have much to offer you at our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *