Scary Shit and Shadow Comforts

On the days that scary shit gets the better of me, I notice myself holding my breath a lot. My body feels braced against life itself.

Fearful, stuck and paralyzed.

These take hold of me whenever I am about to really commit to moving in the direction of something that I really want, but am terrified to actually implement.

All of a sudden, my self-doubt feels almost overwhelming.

  • You know those moments when you are wanting to embark upon something you've always said you wanted to do, but the fear grips you? (Like, you really want the freedom of being self-employed, but then find yourself searching for contract jobs online?)
  • You start thinking that so-and-so can have this thing you want, but not you.
  • Or you tell yourself that you really want such-and-such but then find yourself actually doing something else. (Like, I really want to write that book chapter, but instead I spend 5 hours clearing out my email inbox?)

Yup. Scary shit is coming up.

My habitual defensive reactions to life at times like these look like this:

Solve: Find the problem, solve it! (As if that works.)

Judge: There is something wrong with me, and also you, of course. (I am lazy, for example. But you? You are too demanding.)

Numb: Crunchy veggie sticks let me chomp angrily away while I zone out from myself. (It's horrifying how quickly I can make my way through an entire bag. And not even feel full.)

Distract: Couch. Netflix. (Enough said.)

Jennifer Louden calls these Shadow Comforts.

We THINK they are going to make us feel better, but they don’t really. They actually lead us to feeling increasingly disconnected, discouraged and constricted. They actually increase our fear and paralysis.

If you want to instead relax and expand into life, here are a few new practices I’ve found helpful:

1. Welcome Everything: As a dear friend of mine has asked me multiple times over the last year, I’ve learned to gently say: “So, this is what is here right now. Can this be OK?” Watch it all neutrally, compassionately. Allow what wants to emerge, to emerge. And hug it.

2. Get Present: What am I doing, why and I doing it and how is it making me feel? Again: How is it making me feel? As the old recovery adage goes, you have to feel it to heal it. Once we start caring about how we actually feel, we will start making new choices …

3. Follow Your Desires: What are you needing? What is your heart longing for more of? What desires are wanting to get animated inside you? What inklings and knowings are pulling you forwards? Connect to that life-force within you. Reach out for the support, information and learning that will move you in the direction that your heart is prodding you. Our power to take action lies in connecting with our inner desires, our inner energy, our inner inklings: let’s practice turning towards what energizes and inspires us. Let’s follow that.

Everything in us is lovable. Embrace yourself.

Most of us have not had relationships rich with this experience. We are used to being fixed and improved, but not simply loved. Practice simple love.

So the next time that Scary Shit comes up for you, and you want to turn to Shadow Comforts that solve, judge, numb and distract you from your inner desires, remember this:

Wake up and gently reorient to what you want. Wake up and gently reorient. Turn towards love, inspiration, desire, energy. Wake up and reorient. Over and over and over.

Relationships are the foundation of well-being. Join me in bringing more empathy, acceptance, and service into the world. What one step can you take this week, that moves you closer to living the life you are truly longing for? What one step?