Very rapidly, your shadows move from something consciously chosen into the automatic realm of the unconscious. Now we’re beyond the realm of creating the shadow, and into the realm of polishing and honing them.

Both the under-expression and over-expression of your light are a product of your fear, and a function of having learned that some part of yourself is either too much, or not enough.

The issue with these shadows is they are incongruous with who you truly are, and so it requires work and energy to maintain these states. When you are in situations for which you feel the need to express a shadow, you are left feeling tired, depleted and, over time, burnt out.

Because this now happens below your level of consciousness, you are left concluding that the problem is the situations, people and circumstances in which you feel unconsciously compelled to run your shadows. Because you are unable to see the choice actively being made into a shadow-based way of showing up, you have no ability but to conclude that the issue is something external, rather than internal. As life travels on, you make decisions that allow you to avoid, leave or suffer through these circumstances that drive up your shadows.

You will also tend to thrive in situations where your shadows are particularly well-suited. For example, if you learned that, contrary to your natural state of Peace, there were times when being extremely belligerent (an under-expression of Peace) got you what you wanted, you will naturally find yourself gravitating towards careers and situations where this shadow aspect of yourself is rewarded.

As time goes on all of this becomes part of who you relate to yourself as. You no longer think “In these situations, I’ve got fear, and from my fear, I tend to show up a certain way that is not quite who I really am” — you simply think “This is just the way I am”.

Because your shadows become a part of who you relate to yourself as, you naturally structure your life around them. You avoid the people that drive up the aspects of your shadow you don’t like. And, you choose into careers where your shadows are especially rewarded. Think of this like a series of drills you’ve been practising all of your life. If you had been practising kicking objects off of your foot, into a rectangular net, since you were about four years old, you would naturally find your way into the sport of soccer. You’ve been practising for it all your life!

Your shadows and your careers are the same way. You’ve been practising these aspects of your shadow since the early days of consciousness. They’re a natural fit for certain careers, and as a result, you tend to move towards those careers, excelling in them through the use of your shadow. Further, because our shadows are a function of the essence we truly are, these careers are often a pretty good fit for the person we really are, underneath all of this mechanism we’ve put together.

This tendency to avoid the people, situations and circumstances in life that drive up our shadows, and lean further into the aspects of life that reward our shadows, is what we would call polishing and honing your shadow. This is the act of navigating around some part of yourself you’ve learned to relate to as “who you are”. Rather than lean into whatever life puts in front of you, and distinguish your shadow as something created, instead you find better and better ways to avoid the parts of life that you find challenging to simply be with.

On this last note, running your shadow is ultimately about an inability to be with some part of what is showing up in life. Your shadow is a collection of strategies and fixed ways of being in the world, designed to get some predictable result. Being with life is releasing predictability and control. It’s the act of letting yourself simply be with what is showing up, being fully present throughout it all, and seeing where you end up.

Excerpt from the Spectrums of Being