The Sha-Doe Self



There are times when we all suffer from agoraphobia of the self.

We can feel safe in certain environments, those we know well… and yet we never feel safe enough to drop our guard completely and let all of ourselves come out of the shadow.

A part of us is always on the lookout for danger.

We’re always ready to bolt.

Back into the safety of the shadow. The dark woods within.

Like this doe.

She delicately emerged from the shadow of the woods, tread lightly across my lawn, crossed the lane. Stopped. Look around. Moved on to the place where I captured an image of her.

But something kept pricking her ears. She couldn’t relax. She nibbled a tree. But something kept nagging at her.

She finally stopped. Motionless. Staring. Her ears forward. Listening.

Seconds after this shot was taken, she bolted towards me. She couldn’t see me and I stayed very still so as not to spook her further – that’s why there are no photos of her bolting. She dashed passed me, through my garden and back into the woods from which she had only just emerged.

What had spooked her, and been bothering her?

A yappy little dog.With bitey little teeth.

It’s a cute dog as far as humans are concerned. Tiny but fierce, yet not a threat. The kind that climbs up your leg for a pat on the head and leaves muddy footprints on you.

An excitable little thing which is oblivious to the effect it has on others.

Happy to see you… but are you happy to see it.

It was very excited to see the deer.

The deer was not excited to see it. Not excited in the same way as the dog.

The same dynamic can apply to our interactions with others.

We don’t all see each other or experience each other the same way.

One person can be excited to see us, while we feel a very different kind of excitement when we see or hear them.

Sometimes we react to others in a way which… would astound them, perhaps even hurt them, if they knew about it. If they bothered to pay attention and notice.

Their desire to interact… talk to us… is the sound of a yappy dog to our sensitive ears. A yappy dog with sharp little bitey teeth.

We were just about to relax, let all of ourselves come out of the shadow, enjoy some sun, maybe nibble a leaf…

Then they come along.

Is it them or is it us.

I watched a documentary about Charles Bukowski the other night – Bukowski: Born into This (2003).

He said one thing which stood out amongst all the rest of his words.

He spoke of having a bluebird inside of him which he kept caged inside…

“There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going to let anybody see you.” ― Charles Bukowski

…unless he was alone, and sure that he was alone, then he let it out for a bit of fresh air and song. He hoped the bluebird could live with the fact that he knew it was there even if no one else did.

“I don’t hate people. I just feel better when they aren’t around.” ― Charles Bukowski

Why not share this bluebird within with others…

Sometimes we just… don’t. Whether we can or not… we’re always a bit doubtful, on the lookout, ready to bolt, hide, keep it all inside.

What would happen if we let it all out for all to see and hear…

The Tallest Man on Earth – Where Do My Bluebird Fly


Maybe we do let it all out for others to see and hear… just like the deer do at night, calling to each other, but only a deer knows what those sounds mean.

Only another person with a bluebird in their heart can know what the call of another person with a bluebird within them is saying.

We all have different sounds within ourselves, different natures… only someone with a similar nature knows what our sound is saying when it calls out from the shadow.

A shadow which isn’t a shadow to those who see in that kind of light.

Our agoraphobic self is simply aware that it isn’t safe everywhere with everyone… but in certain places and with certain people it can run freely, stop, relax and nibble a leaf.

Perhaps even share that leaf with another leaf nibbler.

Share our dark with another who sees the light in it…

Amy FriendI Dream of that Day by Amy Friend


    • Thank you 🙂

      It’s intriguing, isn’t it. The responsive side of interactions.

      There was an interesting clip in the documentary I mentioned in the post, where Charles Bukowski’s wife told a story about an interaction which she had with him, one which was caught on film, and her reaction at the time, and the impact which it had on her and her subsequent decision to create a conditioned response to his behaviour. She was very proud of herself because she learned how to deal with him. And yet… the main reason he did what he did with her was to try and get a more natural response from her, one which was real rather than designed to deal with him or be seen by others.

      Relationships and interactions are so complicated in the human sphere of life 🙂


  1. I am an introvert – really don’t like crowds, big parties, the “social swirl”. I like interacting with three or four people or better yet, just one or two. Crowds don’t scare me, they just exhaust me, and then I need to be by myself to recuperate. Most people have difficulty understanding how debilitating it can be and why it is that we so desperately need to be by ourselves. So, a sort of self-agoraphobia, I guess. Good post, as always. 🙂


    • Thank you 🙂

      I’m a happy hermit. I do love the idea of socialising, but actually doing it is indeed exhausting. I think it’s a sensory overload thing. Because each person is constantly emitting signals and information, what they need, want, feel, think, etc, and if you’re the sort of person who picks up on subtle signals, then you’re flooded with data… and need time to get away and absorb and process it. You also need time to reconnect with yourself, ground yourself, as the sensory overload can make you forget yourself and lose touch with your needs, feelings, thoughts, etc.

      Most of those with whom I am really close are hermits like me, which is kind of weird because we’re hermits, but we’re socialising 🙂


  2. I have a lot of catching up to do here…haven’t been feeling the greatest but I see your blog is still a wonderland! Hope to catch up soon…


      • Well, since you asked and May 12th is an Awareness Day for those of us with my condition…I struggle with CFS/ME and Fibro and a few other pesky things and it seems I’ve been knocked for a loop…on the mend from a flare I hope but it’s been a lil rough around the edges ❤ Nonetheless, I am thankful for the interwebs and work such as yours because I'm not much of a tv junkie. Many of us find connection, meaning and purpose in the blogsphere – so thank you for the work you do – not just on the NPD front but your gift of writing in general…


        • It’s interesting that conditions such as CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia are ones which have for a long time been considered to be ‘all in the mind’, and have finally come to be acknowledged as being very real and physical. It in some ways parallels the experience of being in a relationship with a narcissist. At least from the outside looking in, and other people’s way of dismissing things which they have not experienced for themselves, things which cause cognitive dissonance with their concept of reality. Some of the symptoms also parallel the symptoms of being in a relationship with a narcissist.

          I have IBS, which those who don’t have it think it’s either a stress-related psychosomatic thing, or just a dodgy digestive system. There are times when it lays me flat out on my back, unable to move because of the pain. When it flares up, it lasts for weeks no matter what you do.

          Conditions like these tend to make us grab those moments when they are dormant. It’s the shadow which augments and contrasts the light. Makes the beauty in life come into sharp focus because we see the dark sharply too. And our pain is a way that we turn our attention to the person who is most precious to us even if we don’t always show how much we care or tell ourselves those those three little words. It’s how we remember how real we are.

          I’ve been feeling rather bleak in my outlook at the moment, waiting for it to pass. I wrote a draft post the other day trying to express what’s going on and just gave up on it and decided to focus my attention elsewhere. Usually I find expressing what’s going on seems to have a way of releasing the situation, but this one… just when you think you’re out, you get dragged back in. One more turn on the unmerry-go-round. Yet each time we go around, go through a cycle of something which tests our mettle, we discover that we’ve learned something from the last time, that we’ve progressed in some way. Something old has passed and something new has arrived, even if it is small. Small things eventually add up 🙂

          Take good care of yourself, beautiful soul 🙂


          • Thank you so much for what you just shared, you articulated it so eloquently, I am sorry to hear of your IBS, I have a slight case, I can only imagine…if you haven’t yet…get your hands on Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write…you could have written that book with all you just shared. I think you will find great pleasure and comfort in it…xoxo I hope you feel better. Short on words because of the fog. Please know even if I don’t respond, I gain much from your words and they are a part of my respite when I need an escape…


            • Thank you 🙂

              I think I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron a long time ago. I shall check out The Right to Write. I used to read voraciously, and often spent my food money on books because to me the books were nourishment of a far more useful and important kind than food. Unfortunately I can only recall some of the books which I’ve read, which is rather embarrassing as many of the ones I’ve forgotten got me through some tough times. All that information I absorbed is now part of my mind soup.

              Now I write more than I read, strange how things change and shift. Sometimes it’s like we’re playing on a seesaw with our past selves.

              Look after yourself, retreat, regenerate, recuperate and be gentle with yourself 🙂


              • Reading and writing go together – that explains why your writing is so good. Indeed I shall retreat, regenerate, recuperate and be gentle with myself…and I hope you too will be loving with self…have a lovely weekend and if you’re a Mom, Happy Mother’s Day…


    • Thank you… the legend in my own time bit made me chuckle 🙂

      I love observing the rhythms of nature… those rhythms are within us too, it’s just easier to see them when they are outside of us, in a separate and sort of metaphorical form.


      • All chuckles aside :), I consider you a modern-day Socrates of sorts. I’ve considered printing out your writings and making a makeshift title page called, The Examined Life by Ursula 🙂


        • Hi Kim,
          you have to change the title as a psychoanalyst has already used for his own book ( it’s quite good actually) but I doagree with you, I have always thought Ursula’s book would be a wonderful one!
          cheers, s


          • Ha ha! Thanks, Seashell…the book would only be for my own personal use. I’ve already nudged Ursula a couple of times about a book, but no luck yet 😉


            • She’s just such a great writer with exceptional insight…a real book published and available for anybody who is still hanging out there in the darkness without understanding what happened in their life…


            • You are both very lovely, and perhaps I should listen and take the hint and write a book… but I know myself well and writing a book would be similar to me doing my homework when I was a child – it would be more about me imagining myself doing it than actually doing it (and there’d be pirates involved – don’t ask) 😉

              I love blogging because it captures a moment, lets it loose, sets it free in a free style way… and it has a life of its own. My life and perspectives then mingle and intertwine with that of others and it creates something else, something more alive and inspiring. Something like that.

              We’re all philosophers, each and every one of us… studying life and how we perceive it, how we experience it, what we learn from it and then sharing ourselves and our experiences. I see this sharing as a symposium of sorts which to me is immensely valuable. We share our ideas and see where it leads, what it inspires.

              And to be completely honest (hmmmm)… I do tend to think I’m full of… you know… never sure. Blogging grounds me and so do you 🙂 for that I am immensely grateful!


              • I do understand, BUT.
                this is not a compliment, this is acknowledge facts: i have been reading an ocean of books and I see my psychoanalyst twice a week-sure all this it has helped me to examine, ponder and understanding why I am, the person i am, the choices I make consciously and unconsciously, although I am not even halfway; but none of these had the same impact on myself compared to the way of analysing and describing feelings and sensations you have, it’s a felt understanding which make everything clerer and REAL. it’s a unique approach.
                I stumbled on you blog by sheer chance and i still Wonder where I would be if I hadn’t.
                Not to speak of the personal exchange i do cherish as I consider you one of my closest friends. And you have been so generous, you taught me with your words about me and with your experience you chose to share, to open the door of my writing, which has been close for so long; you helped me with my creativity, it is an incommensurable gift.
                But if you collect all your writing and you publish it as a book, can you imagine how many people will have access to their own selves and healing, instead of being ripped off by all this business on N, which makes it easy as a five steps recipe quick and easy and sometimes even tolerable-yes, i have also read you have to live with it, if you happen to have a N parent.
                and i know you might think it’s narcissistic to wish to see your own name everywhere, but it is just right, you are what you are; a writer, a thinker an artist and you are yourself, accept your gift.


                • Mille grazie 🙂 I really appreciate it.

                  My blog is my book, and it has so much more than a book could have, it has all the writing and voices of everyone who shares their stories, experiences and perspectives, which makes this a living book of many. I love that 🙂


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