by Jennifer Louden
Here is an brief exploration of shadow comfort from my new book, The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life.
Shadow comforts are encumbrances like eating too many sweets, watching too much TV, shopping for things we don't need, surfing the Internet for hours, reading too much -- numbing out. Another word for these behaviors is soft addictions or buffers.
As CQ says, "Shadow comfort doesn't nourish you, it diminishes you. It's what many people think of when they think of comfort. They are actually punishing themselves instead of nourishing their souls."
The problem with shadow comforts is they seem so satisfying and so familiar. And they are endorsed by our culture - think about the Virginia Slim ads of women relaxing, taking time for themselves -to have a cigarette!
With shadow comforts, we believe we'll have to rely on sheer willpower to overcome them - the model of "just say no." Yet willpower never seems to work, at least for me. After a few weeks of "being good," I go off the deep end then, oh boy, does my critical voice have a field day. "See what happens when you take care of yourself? You can't be trusted. Stick with work and routine, and you'll be safe."
The key to taking care of ourselves in healthy ways is not willpower but the ability to listen to and trust ourselves. As CQ says, "Overdoing it, indulgences that don't satisfy, narcissism, and selfishness are related to emptiness, boredom, and self-hatred. Shadow comforts are fed by the inability to trust yourself. But when you value yourself enough to savor the life bubbling through your veins, and when you continually listen, then the potential for destructive indulgences shrinks dramatically. Bye-bye."
Of course, all of this is a VERY slow process with lots of stumbling and also lots of discerning because sometimes what seems like a healthy comfort is really a shadow comfort and sometimes it isn't.
Excerpted with permission from The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life, Copyright 2000 by Jennifer Louden
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of The Woman's Comfort Book, The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life and three other titles. You can visit her popular website at ComfortQueen.com where over 600 articles about self-care, an interactive Inner Organizer, and a wonderful CQ store await you. Jennifer also works with a few clients at a time as a life coach.