Is a spiritual awakening a traumatic experience?

There aren’t many YouTubers I follow, but I’ve discovered a few authentic, beautiful souls on there in the past couple years whose messages have been comforting to me whenever I have felt lost or confused on the path of awakening. One of these lovely people is Kelli In The Raw. I came across one of her videos that I found especially helpful where she discussed the challenges that people face in the awakening process. She described the awakening process in a way that fit with the 5 stages of grief. She said awakening is “traumatic,” which I imagine might sound a little melodramatic to people who haven’t been through all the ups and downs and uncertainties that are usually part of the awakening process. It’s easy for others to trivialize our struggles as they remain in their comfort zone.

What I have noticed is that a lot of people like to talk about the bliss of awakening and keep their focus on the positive aspects of it, which is great, but that doesn’t help validate the many struggles that some of us go through during the awakening process. If your awakening experience has caused you to feel disoriented, confused, or overwhelmed, I encourage you to hear Kelli’s thoughts about waking up. Here is her video about the trauma of awakening:

As we try to embrace this shift, there is much to let go of, which can certainly lead to a sense of mourning for what used to be. We may decide it’s time to pursue new goals, to switch careers, to move to a new location, to end relationships that are no longer fulfilling, to experience existing relationships with family and old friends in a new way, to shed old beliefs, to drop your old identity, to step foot on an entirely different path, and to abandon practically everything that was familiar in order to embrace something entirely new, unexpected, and different. For some people, change is exciting. For others, it creates feelings of anxiety and/or sadness. It feels like we’re being forced to learn lessons about change and attachment since everything is getting yanked up by the roots.

For some people who are waking up, there is a strong sense of loneliness and isolation. As we are gaining a new perspective on life, it’s sometimes really difficult to be around people who can’t understand us anymore. We don’t want to talk about the same old things anymore, and yet the people we have known for so long are not going through an awakening yet, so they can’t relate to us and the thoughts we share. Even if you’re not resisting these inevitable changes that are occurring in your relationships, it’s normal to be sad that everything is changing so quickly and that you are losing these connections with people that used to be so important and enjoyable to you. You may know on an intellectual level that the ending of old relationships can create space for the beginning of new ones that are a better match for you, but I know firsthand how difficult it is to stay excited in that transition phase where the new connections have not been found yet.

There can also be pain and disappointment from feeling misunderstood. Maybe you’ve started behaving differently, thinking differently, or relating to people differently, and the people around you don’t really get it. You could be going through some difficult things internally, yet everyone around you assumes you are perfectly ok. While you’re struggling to cope and adapt, you might be blamed for not meeting whatever expectations certain people hold of you. I have been hurt by those who can only point out what I am doing wrong instead of taking a moment to ask me, “How are you doing lately? Is everything going ok?” There is already enough whirlwind of change going on inside that having the added stress of conflict in relationships just compounds these issues.

And perhaps some of you have tried to reach out to a friend or family member to tell them more about what you are experiencing because you feel quite alone and overwhelmed, yet they appear completely clueless about everything you just said. It’s painful when you were just hoping for a little validation or some level of understanding from someone. I experienced that a lot during the peak of a strange ego death phase I went through last year. I could have explained my thoughts and feelings in a million different ways, but if people have never been in such a place, they’re simply not going to understand it. There is a painful realization in the beginning that maybe you can’t really talk about these things with anyone you know. Sometimes opening up to people who can’t understand creates more loneliness than just keeping your thoughts and experiences to yourself.

The sense of isolation can increase when you’re going through a big transformation, and it appears that everyone around you remains unchanged and unconcerned with anything beyond their personal needs and desires. Maybe you are beginning to see beyond illusions and want to live a happier, more meaningful life that is focused on helping others in some way, yet your friends continue living their old lives and seem content with same old meaningless distractions that no longer satisfy you. You don’t want to focus anymore on fashion, sports, celebrity gossip, tv shows, video games, etc. Sometimes you might try to get others excited about your new interests that you find more meaningful, but they’ll act indifferent or critically to what you say. You don’t want to feel superior to these old friends, but you realize you’ve evolved to a new level and have lost the ability to relate with them.

It can sometimes be upsetting to see how people, in general, act indifferent to issues that you passionately feel are important to healing ourselves and the world. It can be discouraging when your message is continually ignored because many people prefer to remain in ignorance and not take action. Sometimes, you might have exciting goals or ideas to share but no one in your life to share them with. That’s when you realize how much you’ve outgrown old relationships and need to connect with new people who understand and support the new path you’ve chosen. Of course, you don’t have to drop all your old friendships, but you’ll probably notice a stagnant feeling arise if you keep attempting to live the same life you experienced prior to awakening.

You’ve probably noticed how the pain of stagnancy is often much more intense than the pain of growth and change. The last pain of awakening I want to mention here is that pain many of us feel inside when we hear our soul calling for us to do something different, something that is more aligned with our mission or true calling in life, but that old ego talk keeps us paralyzed by the fear that we will fail or that everything will fall apart if we travel on a new path. In the past, maybe you could successfully talk yourself out of following your dreams and passions because you could always justify it with excuses like, “That’s just not realistic for me” or “Maybe I’ll be able to get around to that someday, but I just don’t have enough time/money/resources to do such a thing right now.” After you’ve begun to awaken, it can start to feel like a part of you is dying when you turn your back on the powerful messages that your soul keeps trying to tell you. The excuses you’ve told yourself for so long no longer ease the pain of ignoring or avoiding what you know you need to do for your soul’s growth and expansion.

I think it’s helpful to remember that it’s a normal part of the awakening process to feel pain, sadness, anxiety, and confusion, especially in the beginning. Seeing yourself or the world in an entirely different light can be shocking. When you finally move past the shock and realize you need to let go of everything that’s no longer meant for you, there’s a chance you will experience depression at some point. If you stay patient and let things unfold naturally, you will eventually adjust, gain more clarity, and get closer to accepting the dramatic changes you’ve experienced. It’s a lot like the painful rebirthing process of the phoenix who dies by bursting into flames, and then it is reborn from the ashes. We need to burn away any of the old parts that don’t fit anymore so we can finally rise into our authentic selves.

There is the risk of dropping your former life and your old identity, which could finally lead to more happiness, success, inner peace, and fulfillment. Or you could stay comfortable and keep settling for the safety and security of your old life where there will likely be an underlying hint of dissatisfaction, regret, and a longing for something more. You know when your soul is calling for change. Will you listen?