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A Spiritual Awakening: Symptoms, Signs, Stages, & Side Effects

spirituality Jan 27, 2023



What does spiritual awakening mean?


A spiritual awakening is your soul's refusal to live without freedom and truth. During a spiritual awakening, you will experience a shift in consciousness and become aware of yourself not only as your personality or role in society but as a divine being full of purpose. The concept of spiritual awakening has been around since the earliest people but was re-popularized in the western world by psychiatrist Carl Jung (who described the process as coming back to the original Self.)

A spiritual awakening is a deep shift and consciousness; it’s more than questioning your choices. Many people can define a before and after in their life based on when they experience this type of shift in awareness. Not everyone will experience a spiritual awakening, which can make it a lonely process for some. We are all physically born, and we will all physically die, but not everyone will feel the call to awaken spiritually and search for a deeper meaning. 




Is physical pain normal during a spiritual awakening?


The feelings associated with spiritual growth are often portrayed as serene and calm: picture yourself meditating on a beach during sunrise next to a pile of rocks. A spiritual awakening by itself is not physically painful; however, it may cause emotional pain.  A true awakening is often painful and born from trauma, loss, or grief. Pain and trauma have a way of pushing us out of our comfort zone in search of answers, but it is not until we fully process that pain or trauma that we can begin to heal. It’s normal to experience a certain amount of emotional pain if you suddenly feel as though you’ve been living a life untrue for you and questioning your identity and the roles you play in your life.

Because depression and physical pain share biological pathways and neurotransmitters and depression may be experienced at various times including a spiritual awakening, it's healthy to be aware and seek support for extreme symptoms if you feel that is right for you. Anxiety can also have physical symptoms, and this can be helpful to identify as well since many people experience various degrees of anxiety during a spiritual awakening. 


*For informational or educational purposes only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.




15 Key Symptoms & Signs of a Spiritual Awakening (Physical & Mental)


1. You feel as though you weren't truly living before.

Your life before awakening may feel false or meaningless without the knowledge you currently have. This is likely because your values may have changed. You might not relate to previous versions of yourself as well or struggle to understand choices you made. Remember that every experience you’ve had has shaped who you are and brought you to where you are now. 


2. Your values are starting to shift.

Now that you are aware of the deeper meaning of life, what once held meaning for you may now seem superficial. You might find that your interests have changed or that you longer have things in common with others that you once did. A spiritual awakening can bring to the forefront what is most important to you. If, for example, you had previously devoted a lot of time to your image or burned yourself out with work you no longer enjoy, you might find that you no longer care what others think of you. You may devote time to what is most meaningful to you now. 


3. You find it impossible to make small talk.

You may feel consumed by spiritual ideas and topics and an urgent quest to pursue knowledge. This makes it difficult to have superficial or meaningless conversations. Seeking a deeper understanding of life can take up a lot of space in your mind. It can feel extremely challenging when people around you are focused on gossiping or making small talk. A spiritual awakening can feel like an emergency of the soul, and so it makes sense that when there is an emergency, you don’t feel like making small talk.


4. You are craving real connection.

You may look at the relationships in your life through a new lens. Authentic relationships where both people feel comfortable expressing their truth are one of the best teachers you will have. You might feel like you need to talk about your spiritual awakening to feel a connection with others. Over time you gravitate towards people who are having a similar experience to you to feel a connection. 


5. You are accepting your true self.

You begin to feel your true nature and know that you are connected to the divine, and you are loved at your core. This realization can allow you to embrace the idea of radical self-acceptance. Rather than try to change who you are and judge yourself, you begin to meet yourself with compassion and grace as you grow and heal. Practicing self-compassion will allow you to show up fully for others as well. 


6. You feel you’ve been wearing a mask and want to take it off.

If you were making decisions based on others' judgements and perceptions of you, that may have kept you from connecting to who you truly are. It can feel so freeing to take off that mask and be yourself. Authenticity will radiate a purer energy than trying to be an ideal version of yourself. Try to extend yourself grace and compassion through each stage of your journey.   


7. You don't enjoy things you used to enjoy.

Many people are not present. Some so many opportunities and distractions allow us to leave the moment and miss the experience of our life. When you are in the midst of spiritual growth, you may not enjoy these distractions like you once did. Being present and aware of the moment you are in can be both painful and joyful. Over time you’ll find new meanings and activities that you might enjoy. You might even find yourself drawn back to childhood interests. 


8. You start questioning your purpose.

A spiritual awakening often sends us on a quest to find our purpose. Your purpose is not to be or do one thing but to feel your aliveness and be your true self while you are here. Finding out what and who allows this version of you to exist will be part of your journey.  Your curiosity and desires are roadmaps to finding your purpose. Look towards what brings you joy to find purpose. Pay attention to what is painful to you; there can be purpose found there as well. 


9. You're feeling the presence of magic.

Everything is made up of energetic vibrations. You feel, see and know the presence of magic in the world around you and the interconnectedness of each living thing. You feel a curiosity about intuition, spirit, and the unseen world. We are all connected through the fabric of this electric curtain, and you are a part of that!


10. You're craving to be in nature.

Being in nature can restore your energy and allow you to feel the natural vibration of the earth, elements, and your connectedness to all life. You may crave being in nature as a way to rest and recharge. When you are in nature, you might feel it’s easier to receive signs from the spirit world or the universe itself. 


11. You're noticing signs and synchronicities.

When you become aware that nothing is random and we are all connected, you start recognizing signs and synchronicities from the Universe to encourage you on your journey. Synchronicities are how the unseen world can let you know that you are on the right path. Pay attention to how signs and synchronicities show up for you. None of us are alone; we are all guided.


12. You feel more loving.

You may have moments when you see the people around you in a new and different way. When you are connecting to your Spirit, it is easier to see others as they truly are without judgment. It may be easier to see and feel their humanity for what it is and expand your tolerance of others. That doesn’t mean you need to tolerate abuse or poor behavior; you simply may not take it personally. 


13. Your senses feel heightened.

One of the side effects of awakening is that your physical senses, as well as your intuitive senses, may awaken as well. As you become more present and aware of the world around you, you may become more sensitive to everything from lights, loud noises, crowds, and the energetic presence of other people. Listening to the wisdom of your body can bring you peace. This might mean taking time to rest, eating when you are hungry or taking a walk to clear your head. 


14. You have an intolerance for injustice.

Growth means seeing and searching for the truth. It is impossible to be awake in this world and unaware of injustices and oppression such as systemic racism, poverty, homophobia, ableism, and misogyny. Even if you have been a victim or internalized these injustices, it may be painful to realize we all have a place in these structures as they are ingrained in our society. You might feel like shouting at everyone you know about these injustices at first, but try learning and looking inward. Understanding injustices and how we all play a role in this world is a long process that doesn't need to be rushed.  


15. You feel lonely or disconnected. 

A spiritual awakening can cause you to need time alone to connect to yourself and discover who you truly are. Some people may be uncomfortable with the new version of you. As you grow and change, this threatens their perception of you and who they need you to be. You may experience loneliness during this period of growth as your relationships change. Try to trust the process and journey that you are on. Trust that you have not yet met all of the people who will love you for who you truly are.


Side Effects of a Spiritual Awakening


1. Questioning yourself

 It’s common for people experiencing a spiritual awakening to question their identity and have a realization of their ego. When you feel drawn to spiritual spaces and other folks who are in various stages of awakening, you might find yourself questioning further. You’ll likely meet gurus and toxic spiritual bypassers and be offered expensive courses or healings to help you reach enlightenment faster. It’s healthy to hold on to a bit of skepticism and remember, above all, to trust your own wisdom. You don’t need to completely shed your ego or trade your personality for a spiritual disguise. 


2. Feeling more sensitive

You might begin to pay attention to energy more. What you point your awareness towards will grow, so you may become more sensitive to the energy around you. You might also begin paying attention to your body and how different foods or environments make you feel. It’s not that you weren’t sensitive before; it may just be that now you have slowed down a bit and can notice a food allergy or preference. Honoring your body's needs is a good thing, and it’s okay to be sensitive!


3. Greater sense of peace  

Acting in alignment with your soul and truest desires will bring you peace. A spiritual awakening may feel like an upheaval at first, but over time you will find a way toward truth and once you do that will bring a sense of well-being. It can take some time for the intensity and excitement of a spiritual awakening to subside. Once you settle into your new understanding of yourself and the world you’ll like feel more grounded and relaxed. 


4. Authenticity 

It might feel like your authenticity is everything to you at first. Especially if you previously suppressed your personality or didn’t devote much time to yourself or your hobbies. Releasing the need to be understood by other people is freeing, and being able to show up as your true self becomes something you can do most times. By being authentic to yourself, you allow others to be authentic as well. You might start expressing yourself in new ways, and this can feel awkward at first. Over time you’ll realize that expressing yourself authentically becomes easier with practice. 


5. Insatiable Curiosity  

Spiritual awakenings bring questions of all kinds. You might find yourself wanting to sign up for classes and explore your intuitive gifs. You might feel like filling your bookshelf with hundreds of books on seemingly random curiosities. Trust that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on courses or following a guru; rather take things as they come. Your curiosity will lead you in the direction your soul wants to go. 




Stages of Awakening


A spiritual awakening will not be experienced the same way by everyone. Awakening is a journey and not a destination. You may move through some of these stages of growth several times or not much at all. There is no finish line in healing, and no one will arrive at a place of being fully healed. 


1. The Spark

Something happens to begin your journey, typically a trauma or painful loss. The loss of a loved one, a job, illness, burnout or breakdown is some of the circumstances that spark a spiritual awakening. Because as humans, we crave comfort and naturally resist change, it typically takes dramatic circumstances for us to grow and awaken. Things take on a new meaning for you, and it’s impossible to experience the world as you once did. 


2. Discovery Stage

You begin to notice signs and synchronicities, crave new connections with like-minded people, and share your newfound knowledge with others. You may feel excited at times about what you’re learning and experiencing. You may find yourself seeking teachers and mentors, consuming a lot of information, or signing up for workshops and classes. People in this stage of awakening that have not yet dealt with unhealed trauma or wounding can be particularly vulnerable to spiritual teachers and gurus who are not trauma-informed. Be discerning of spiritual teachers who make you feel like you are not good enough, humble enough, or highly vibrational enough. The wellness industry is full of practitioners who engage in spiritual bypassing, victim blaming, and dissociative practices. Some red flags are telling trauma survivors that “everything happens for a reason” or “your soul chose this”. You are the ultimate authority over your life, don’t give your power away. 


3. Judgment  

Once you consume lots of life-changing information, it’s natural to want to share it with others. You may also judge yourself or others for how you used to be and reject those who remind you of your “old self.” You may try to intellectually implement spiritual concepts into your life before fully discovering who you are or healing the wounds that caused you to awaken. Give yourself some grace during this process. 


4. Shifting into Alignment

Once we have begun to know ourselves and identified our values, we can recognize what living in a state of alignment feels like. You may naturally move away from people and situations that no longer support earlier versions of yourself. You can’t grow and change into the person you’re meant to be without upsetting some people around you. Sometimes you will not be able to make sense of other people. Their behavior and feelings towards you will be impossible to figure out. Let that be okay. If people want you to know how they feel, they would tell you, take mixed signals as a no and begin to let go.  


5. Surrendering 

Please remember that there is no final stage of awakening or magical arrival at the finish line of healing. We are meant to grow and evolve eternally. Surrendering to life means arriving at a place of knowing yourself on a deeper level. Taking time to work through your pain, connect to your emotions and embody your true nature. This is not the end to questioning yourself all together, but the beginning of trusting yourself more. You may no longer need to manage other people's perceptions of you because the feeling in alignment with your purpose is enough validation for you. You may be able to observe the events of your life with curiosity and wonder as they unfold rather than obsess over, question and resist each step of your journey. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be pain, loss, or discomfort, only that you more easily embrace your circumstances and trust the journey knowing you are not alone. 




Discovering Your Purpose 

Your purpose is not to be or do one thing but to discover who you are and feel your own aliveness. Sometimes this feels like being bored, angry, sad, joyful, or envious. Your purpose cannot be chased or quantified by the amount of happiness you feel or do not feel. To connect to the feeling of your purpose within you, try to remember a time that you felt fully alive. What were you doing? What was that like? Then ask yourself what breaks your heart in the world. What do you turn away from because it is too painful to see? Your purpose can be uncovered there as well. Remember that nothing about you is a mistake, and your purpose is already within you. Don’t let anyone sell you the idea that you must go out and find your purpose or that they can do the work for you. We can not outsource the job of finding ourselves. 




Shadow Work

For anyone working through trauma, I recommend working with a qualified psychotherapist and using discernment when seeking out holistic practitioners. Shadow work means working with the parts of yourself that may be unhealed, disconnected or addressing behaviors and patterns that have been created in response to conditioning, wounding or trauma. As humans we develop ways to protect ourselves and function in the world and this often means closing off parts of yourself to feel connected, safe or to simply survive. Getting to know all of the parts of you, holding them with compassion, and working through your feelings is how we can heal individually and as a collective. Realizing that your presence here is evidence enough that you are worthy and loved as you are.



Going Forward

Dive deeper by exploring what might turn out to be your next favorite book: 10 Best Spiritual Books for Enlightened Beginners.


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