Sideways Into CrazySideways Into Crazy

Shadow Boxing


I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15

One of the great things about a hero’s journey is the wonder of stepping out, exploring new territory, watching the landscape change and feeling yourself grow as you meet new challenges.

Ah… challenges. They are what make us strong, give us purpose and definition, help us grow.

… Right?

What about when the challenge comes from within?

I have a routine – I get up early, practice writing, acting, do my workouts; then off to work I go. In the evening, either do another workout, or rehearse a play. This schedule is what has allowed me to get this blog online, get my trip to London organized, and squeeze in the training that I do have.

But last month it all came to a screeching halt.

I couldn’t get out of bed anymore, I just wanted to hide, turn inside, and disappear. I have a great ability to disappear into my internal fantasies; after all, that’s what made me realize I might be a writer in the first place. And what better skill for an actor to have? I have an uncanny ability to replace the world around me with an imaginary one, and be IN it.

When I don’t like my real world (and let’s face it, right now I don’t), it becomes a Hurculean task to get out of bed and FACE it. SO much easier to hide, and burrow into my world in my head. And sleep. Oh yes. Sleep.

For years I called it “the nothing” because that’s what I’m afraid I will become; I will dissolve into nothingness. Like a lethal parasite, there is an endless downward spiral waiting to consume me; my days disappear into adventure novels and sugar. My body ceases to exist, and, eventually, I do.

And to make matters worse, people are so willing to hand you excuses: “You’ve been pushing so hard, you’ve earned a rest.” Or “You can’t burn the candle at both ends forever.” Or “It’s good to take some time for yourself once in awhile.”…

Why don’t they understand, this is not restful, and it goes AGAINST my ‘self’. At it’s best, I get a few moments’ peace when my fantasy world is solidly surrounding me. At worst, I hate myself for letting go, for avoiding the one thing that would bring me happiness.

From what Paul says in Romans, this struggle is not unique to me. Statistics and studies abound on substance abuse and fantasy addiction. How many times have you (or someone you know) stopped just short of success? I’ve heard it couched in many terms: self-sabotage, addiction, over-driving, fear of failure, fear of success, pushing too hard, not pushing enough, slipping into old habits… what is it?

As I’ve wrestled with it, I’ve come up with my own term: shadow-boxing. As someone trained in martial arts, there is nothing more frustrating than a non-physical threat. If I could punch it, grab it or dodge it, I could beat it.

But this opponent is much more insubstantial. There’s nothing to land a jab on, and nothing to see, but like a sadistic game of Calvin Ball, the rules are all in its favor. Your opponent can grab you, whisper in your ear, slap you or seduce you.

I am doing what Brene Brown calls “Rumbling” with my shadow. I’ve decided to share this process; after all, that’s what the Sideways Into Crazy is about, a place to share the journey.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be pursuing this as a series. So far I have Four Ways to Box Your Shadow, or in other words, to understand and maybe stop your self-sabotage. They are:

  • Understand what you are facing
  • Practice Presence
  • Don’t judge; instead, understand
  • Balance – making your journey sustainable

This series is evolving, and these items may change. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you on these items, or any way you are struggling with a similar issue. I would love to include other’s experiences in this series – either specific stories (with permission) or just knowing what to address to help fellow travelers.

So please, drop me a line, let me know what’s on your mind, and in the meantime, check out these resources:

Martha Beck, the Power of Change

The Shadow Effect

Rising Strong


  1. Self sabotage? I being am good at it. There are layers. Sometimes I think that it is what is keeping me from success in doing what I do, but the next layer down is that self sabotage keeps me from being who I want to be. This is different from not being the best of “what I can do.” and being who I think I can be. What I am really good at distracts me from being being who I desire to be. I have changed so much, even at a basic personality level. Once an absolute extrovert on the Meyers Briggs (off the scale) I am feeling now like an introvert. I want to be inside, figuring out who/what I am. So, who do I desire to be? good question.

    I want to be a person that is driven from within rather from external influences. Hmm. I have never said that quite like that before. To be driven by what is inside rather than by what is outside. Let me work with that. Thank you, Diana. This helps.

    • Hi Sandy –
      I love this differentiation between doing and being. It seems to be that is the juncture I get stuck at. It’s so easy to go inside I’m afraid I’ll never come out. Then when you’re out, it can seem like you’re avoiding going in. Caught between a rock and a hard place!


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