The Ascent of Mount Carmel by John of the Cross is about the active stages of prayer.
The Dark Night is mostly about the passive. If you have not read St. John, read the Ascent first and then the Dark Night.
Also, God has His plan as to how He wants these processes to be played out in one's life.
One can see the "symptoms" of these stages simply by looking at one's state of prayer.
And, as I have stressed before, negation, nada, and darkness, that is a lack of comprehension, are marks of the Dark Night. One cannot, as I have noted many, many times, skip stages, as we are made up of human aspects of memory, understanding and will, as well as being body and soul. We cannot ignore who we are. Too many people read the great saints and imagine they are in stages which they are not. That is a danger of reading the texts without a guide.
A real sign of one's state is attachment to sensual things, like food, money, clothes, holidays and so on. It is very hard for the very rich to not be attached. I have met a few, however, who have done this...
Too many young people think they can skip to the Dark Night of the Spirit without enduring the Dark Night of the Senses. When one knows one's predominant fault, one knows one is in the Dark Night of the Senses moving into the Dark Night of the Spirit.
One can be way off....imagining things which are not real. For example, too many beginners think they are in the Dark Night when they have not mastered certain types of the lower stages of prayer. St. John of the Cross is a great psychologist, as it were, by understanding the process of holiness. So, too, is Garrigou-Lagrange.
They are very clear and easy to read in comparison to other commentators. But, of course, reading spiritual books is somewhat subjective according to taste and experience.
Just a little reminder....