Shadow comforts and feeding our spirits

So continuing on from yesterday’s post talking about Brene Brown‘s awesome book Daring Greatly we now turn to how we take care of ourselves when we realise we are numbing whether with booze or any other substance or behaviour.


Brene cites Jennifer Louden who has named our numbing devices ‘shadow comforts’.  In her book, The Life Organizer, Louden writes “Shadow comforts can take any form.  It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that makes the difference.”  Brene argues that when we’re struggling with anxiety, disconnection, vulnerability, feeling alone and  helpless, the substances and behaviours – be it booze or food or work or endless hours online, feel like comfort but the reality is they cast long shadows over our lives.

She extends the invitation to think about the intention behind our choices and this really resonates with me and the work I’ve been doing during meditation on Headspace.  Andy asks us to reflect and focus on our intentions before each daily meditation and as I’ve been doing this for over 6 months now it is becoming part of my daily awareness.

Brene continues:

“There aren’t any checklists or norms to help you identify shadow comforts or other destructive numbing behaviour.  This requires self-examination and reflection.  But ultimately these are questions that transcend what we know and how we feel – they’re about our spirit.  Are my choices comforting and nourishing my spirit, or are they temporary reprieves from vulnerability and difficult emotions ultimately diminishing my spirit?  Are my choices leading to my Wholeheartedness, or do they leave me feeling empty and searching?

And that’s where I am.  I don’t drink anymore and the recent exercise in sugar free has been instructive.  Anything we do can be used to nourish or deplete we just need to be aware of the underlying driver.

I don’t struggle with the shame of drinking now but I do still struggle with the shame of hiding the fact that I’m in recovery.  I’m proud that I stopped but our culture stigmatises those who are daring greatly in recovery.  This is the next change that is needed and I have my intentions firmly focused on that 😉

12 thoughts on “Shadow comforts and feeding our spirits

  1. Beautiful post Louise, thank you. And I am interested in hearing how you continue to dare greatly.
    xx, Feeling

    1. Hey feeling Thank you 🙂 Will share any further daring greatly with you gladly and I hope you are ok? xx

  2. as ever Lou we are very much on the same page here 🙂 thank you for a cracking post! have one brewing myself on the shadow behaviours…. rather than taking over your post entirely by a blog post length comment!

    thanks as well for the link to Jennifer Louden’s site xx

  3. Dear Lousie,
    Thank you for reading my post!
    I don’t hide the fact that I am in recovery, but I don’t work anymore.
    I think it would be harder if I were still teaching.
    Then I’d be embarrassed for the parents of my students to find out.
    My therapist has been working on helping me choose good comforting ways to cope!
    I do wish we didn’t feel shame about being in recovery.
    I still feel like a weirdo at times!

    1. I found the subscribe button too so will be reading them all from here on in 🙂 I feel the same too xx

  4. Wow. This really spoke to me as I recognise my own shadow comforts from reading this. Your post has come at a freakishly appropriate time for me! Things really do happen for a reason. I’ve linked this post to a wordpress blog of mine, I hope this is ok x

    1. Hey claire 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog and feel free to share on your blog – thank you for that from me!

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