Message Boards Message Boards

Dealing with the Dark Night

How to tell dark night apart from depression?

I've slipped into a very ****ed up place in my mind. I feel so irreversibly messed up so far beyond the point of no return and its entirely my fault, I did this to myself, I brought it all on myself. What disturbs me most is that I'm emotionally numbed to a large extent so my mind be telling me that purification is impossible for me since I'm cut off from my soul in this numbed state. How can you tell the difference between a dark night and being in deep depression?

RE: How to tell dark night apart from depression?
8/13/18 7:15 AM as a reply to Donal Flannery.
Hi Donal,

Sorry to hear you're going through a rough time. If you can give some specific details about your meditation practice, it would probably help people trying to answer your question.

Best wishes,


RE: How to tell dark night apart from depression?
8/13/18 9:11 AM as a reply to Donal Flannery.
I have a vague memory that Daniel answered this point before. IIRC:

  • Dark night is ALWAYS preceded by A&P. Depression may or may not be preceded by A&P.
  • The two need not be mutually exclusive. You can have depression and dark night at the same time.
Link to explanation of A&P:

RE: How to tell dark night apart from depression?
8/13/18 11:26 AM as a reply to Donal Flannery.
I’ve had both, and yes, they can happen together. It varies according to the individual and that person’s experience, but in my case, the insight stages unfolded in order, and then moved into reobservation, which was not a fun place, but I kind of held on tight for the ride. Depression has tended to get me in its clutches and just sit there. Others will have different experiences, I’m sure, landing in one or another place on the insight map for longer. 

How long have you been experiencing depression, and what is it like for you? Are there specific triggers that are familiar? I get triggered by my chronic condition, which flares and brings depression with it. In the past my thoughts triggered me. The alternation between thoughts and sensations of depression and the way these can send you into a spiral are particularly dangerous. Don’t get pulled into your thoughts, whatever else is going on. 

RE: How to tell dark night apart from depression?
8/14/18 10:40 AM as a reply to Donal Flannery.
Yes, details would be helpful. How did you "bring this on yourself"? Do you have any depression, anxiety, or mental health history before? How long has this been going on? Any trauma history of significance? Access to psychiatric or psychological resources? Other health factors? Practice history? Recent experiences of note? Familiarity with the stages of insight? Resonances that occur when you read about insight maps? Previous level of psychological and life function? Current level of safety? Level of social support? Drugs or alcohol a part of the picture? Retreats? Teachers? Meditation community support? So many factors to be considered when trying to figure out how to proceed and what is going on.  Care to share any of these here or do you have someone trained in mental health (and, if you are lucky, meditation) that you might share these details with?

Best wishes!


RE: How to tell dark night apart from depression?
8/14/18 10:56 AM as a reply to Donal Flannery.
Dear Donal,

Im a therapist. I feel my primary purpose is to be pragmatic, ie solution focuced, that means resolving whatever caused depression, and getting you outa there. From that basic attitude, I do not think why questions are a good way to go.

Have you ever noticed that lottery ticket winners never ask why?

Im not much of an archeologist, that is not my job. I see myself much more as a garbage man, get rid of the shit now, so you can feel better.

That all being said...
Even if something is your fault, the result of beating yourself up, is to increase your suffering. Meditate on forgiving yourself, littterally, 30 minutes to an hour a day AND parrallel to that, picking up on your responsibility on a practical level.

If you need to know, the information will come to you.

Good luck.

Announcements Announcements