When I was writing my first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, way back in late 1980’s, I knew that comfort wasn’t always healthy, that we use often comfort to check out, to numb out, to hide. I coined that use of comfort “shadow comforts.”
I refined the idea over the years, writing about it in almost all my books. Here’s a video of Brene Brown and I talking about shadow comfort’s link to shame (it’s an hour long video and it’s fantastic).
By the by, it’s not what you do, it’s why. You can eat pie to run away from yourself, your feelings, your truth or you can eat pie as a savoring sacrament. Are you using the pie (the shopping, the TV, the gossip, even reading!) to hide or to soothe or to celebrate? Are you using the pie to prove you don’t deserve downtime, you can’t be trusted to take care of yourself, or are you connecting with the divine berry glory and letting it nourish and inspire you?
Feel the difference?
We all need downtime and we want to choose that downtime consciously and loving.
So that’s all cool but fast forward 20 years to last week, when thanks to a conversation with Shawna, I connected fear with shadow comforts, namely:
We often choose to do things that numb us or distract us because we are afraid.
I know, cue smoting of forehead! How obvious but still, like many obvious ideas, huge when you get it.
We eat sugar or check email for the 1000000000000 time because we are afraid.
Afraid of our feelings, our power, our desires, our longings.
Afraid of intimacy, change, beauty, joy, the sweetness of life.
Afraid of anger, disappointment, judgment, shame.
Afraid of being afraid!
Sure, we choose shadow comforts for other reasons too (being tired, not knowing what we really want, being revved up, lack of self-permission, not thinking). And yet, behind even these, often lurks fear.
What if you don’t lack will power or focus or determination but you are simply trying to comfort yourself because you are afraid?
What if, just for today, you decided to inquire: do I want to check email or eat this cookie or pick this fight because I am afraid?
And then – What might I be afraid of?
Don’t change anything! Do not start any self-improvement plan. Simply ask.