Book Reviews · Dark Night of the Soul

In Case of Spiritual Emergency: Review

In case of Spiritual EmergencyA spiritual emergency is what happens when the natural process of awakening becomes too much to handle and you are plunged into crisis. Sometimes called a Dark Night of the Soul, a spiritual emergency can be triggered by spiritual practice, loss of faith, overwhelming daily struggles, the death of a loved one, and even childbirth.  Unfortunately, spiritual emergencies are often misdiagnosed as straightforward cases of psychosis, depression or mental breakdown. The spiritual part of the experience is totally ignored which cuts the sufferer off from learning the deeper lessons of the process they are going through.

If spiritual emergencies are understood and seen for what they are, they can provide great potential for growth and spiritual illumination. This book aims to provide information on what is really going on in a spiritual emergency and works as a guide for mental health professionals as well as people going through a crisis.

It may be the case that there are more people going through some form of spiritual awakening at this time due to the challenges we are facing. When the awakening process speeds up like this, it becomes more likely that it will tip over into an emergency or crisis. An experience like this can be hard to deal with even if you have already developed a spiritual practice, but if you haven’t and you suddenly find yourself in crisis, it can be truly terrifying. Whatever your circumstances, this book can help.

In Case of Spiritual Emergency provides a map to help you through the crisis using first-hand accounts from individuals who have lived through it. These are ordinary people who have found their way through terror and bliss, and their stories reveal what they have learned, as well as what can trigger a crisis in the first place. There are also chapters on the medical and scientific background of awakening, and a summary of research into altered states of consciousness.

In Part 2, Lucas explores the history of spiritual emergency with a look at well-known mystics and creative people, from St John of the Cross and Ramana Maharshi, to Jung, Van Gogh, and Eckhart Tolle.

She then provides tools for coping with the crisis, divided into three phases. This is the most helpful part of the book, with excellent tips on practising mindfulness and grounding techniques, and guidance on dealing with the various aspects of the process. She reframes the spiritual emergency using the archetypal pattern of the Hero’s Journey, then ends with a discussion of options for returning to the world after the crisis is over. The back of the book contains a wealth of resources, websites, books, and supportive communities that can be used to help you into recovery.

This is a great book for anyone going through a spiritual emergency, written from personal experience and with great depth of understanding and compassion. I wish I could make every mental health worker and GP read this book so we can end the blight of misdiagnosis and the misery it causes.

If you are going through a spiritual crisis now, here are some resources you might like to try:

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