Tag Archives: jen louden

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 😉