Have you heard of the term Spiritual Bypassing? Being spiritual and trying things that help you to feel better and lighten your load… these are all wonderful concepts. Being good-hearted with pure intentions for increased wellness feels “right.” However, do not use “spirituality” as an excuse or reason you blame something or someone, or creatively avoid parts of “you” that you’re being called to address right now.
It can easily affect many people on their path before they understand the negative impacts that can happen. It took place in my life, probably in more ways than the first examples that pop to mind concerning my physical health and my perceived limits. We each have personal issues we would rather not deal with and as a community or society at large, there are a multitude of growing concerns.
What is Spiritual Bypassing?
Let’s start with the term Spiritual. It was first referenced between the time of 1375 - 1425. The word Spiritual goes beyond earlier definitions of religious doctrines. The current definition is much more about an open and expansive lifestyle and mindset of seeking wisdom from the beyond in a way that most resonates deeply with you.
The word Bypass has synonyms such as:
or h) choose a secondary path.
Using any of these terms and practices mentioned are all about evading unresolved emotional issues, deep shadow psychological wounds, and/or unfinished business in your life that is intimidating to you.
The Spiritual Bypassing Definition is not particularly common in everyday language. But this is a true concern among spiritually devout communities. Most importantly, we need to raise awareness so that we can continue on our path of raising the bar in our own life, instead of spinning in circles and not understanding why.
John Welwood: Spiritual Bypassing
John Welwood, a well-known psychotherapist, author, and teacher, was a trailblazer with incorporating spiritual work with psychological concerns over the past three decades. His work is recognized by many in his industries. John Welwood died on January 17th, 2019. He is acknowledged for coining the term Spiritual Bypassing in the 1980s. He witnessed the tendencies firsthand as a participant in a Buddhist community as a teacher and therapist. John also witnessed deeply spiritual people avoiding, neglecting, and even retreating from important concerns in their lives through “spiritual excuses.” Doctors, scientists, and counselors have all admitted to helpful and damaging tendencies with manifestation behavior that is also a complex intertwined tangle with behaviors and actions now recognized as spiritual bypassing. Yes, that was a mouthful, ha ha. Read that again if that heavy information is struggling to sink in!
Spiritual Bypassing Examples
One way to distill the meaning of Spiritual Bypassing is to think of it as simply choosing to rise above and removing yourself from awkward and uncomfortable issues in your life - to relieve stress. To me, this is another form of denial, with some spiritual sprinkles on top. The catch here is that avoiding the truth, even through enlightened eyes, does not remove the underlying issues.
• Avoiding intense feelings of Anger, Fear, Overwhelm, Not Good Enough, I Don't Fit In, Why Am I Here, etc. will indeed backfire on you. Or you could choose the Victim mode, “poor me,” and get stuck there. This is just another hiding method. One of the keys is to decern why those feelings are there. This has some particularly important roots with your emotional wellbeing that need to be addressed in a safe and productive way.
• Feeling that you have risen beyond and are above many, because of all you have gone though. You have managed an awful lot, yes. I have such immense compassion for you. However, everyone is going through a lot of their own unique dramas. This can lead to a sense of ‘false’ superiority to mask and hide from your inner insecurities.
• Defining trauma and extreme stress as simply a learning opportunity, and nothing else. The true feelings around trauma and abuse need to be acknowledged and dealt with in a healthy way by trained professionals and compassionate beings. Yes, after the event and time for processing, there is always a hidden blessing. But it is not wise to throw that in another's face when they are suffering.
•Deep meditation and spiritual practices to remove yourself from the human reality of the here and now are not as effective as they may seem while you are attempting it. We want a better solution than to feel deep emotional pain and stress that seems beyond our control, or not feeling worthy in life. Short-term support is always suggested. Find what you need to conjure a temporary sense of balance, for that brief time. Hiding from the truth long-term will not help you reach your ambitions.
• Non-Attachment is an excuse by removing material things, connections and more. We are living the human life, and we need relationships and objects such as a place to live, clothes, and more. Be careful not to compare, shame, or blame yourself or others on this journey. This is not to say that ‘less is more’ is a bad idea either. The key is to let each person make those choices when they are ready.
• We Are All One. In an ideal world, with all people, animals, and plants, it could be said that we are all living together in unison on this planet. I want to believe that is true. Unfortunately, the reality of today's world does not treat each and every one of us as equal. Be mindful of that, in an effort to be supportive and not be making assumptions or disrespectful words or actions.
• Positive Only. I absolutely love positive energy and high vibrations. This vibe can be very healing and uplifting for most. Yet, if you or others are dealing with grief, trauma, depression, uncontrolled stress, mental health concerns or others deeply gripping issues, there can be significant harm in jumping straight to the highest positive level. These people need to have the fundamental core issues of injustice and disrespect addressed at the earliest stages.
• Strong emotions are almost always judged as wrong, bad, and negative. Fear and anger, for example, also have qualities that can protect you and help you to stand up for yourself - which is always especially important. This behavior contains empowering energy! Just because something looks or feels ‘messy,’ does not mean it is a mistake or a poor choice. Be mindful of the situation and the individuals before jumping to any rapid conclusions.
Raising Your Awareness for Your Highest and Best
1) Take some time to ponder these ideas. Have you practiced Spiritual Bypassing in your life? What can you learn now from this? Are you a victim of it with others in your world? How can you approach this moving forward in life?
2) What was the original intention? What are the repercussions now? Many people approach this arena with the best and most positive viewpoints. But we need to see it from a broader perspective, so we can understand the more powerful ramifications this may have on ourselves and others.
3) Practice self-love and compassion. If you have inadvertently been part of this wave of wanting to be a better person, just forgive yourself and cut yourself some slack. The “game of life” is much more of a series of adventures and opportunities to gain experience, grow and change. Try again. You are not out of time, choices, or dreams.
How to Overcome Spiritual Bypassing
Remember, that Spiritual Bypassing is an unhealthy coping mechanism. You are a wonderful person on a deeper path of intuitive guidance and discovery. All of this is beautiful. However, we are living in a wonky world. The stress and overwhelm on so many topics has been out of control. This is in your life, maybe in a variety of areas, and it is also a view of the world at large. Massive transformations. So, this is not the time to beat yourself up. It is time for new choices, increased quiet me time for reflection followed by action.
- Reflect on your “shadow side” and what you have been afraid to look at.
- Do not label emotions as good or bad.
- Negative thoughts and feelings can serve a useful purpose.
- Uncomfortable feelings indicate that something is off or wrong and something needs to change.
- Hit the Pause button.
- Take some deep cleansing breaths.
- Have a mindful approach and be open for increased faith and trust.
- Let go of control mentality.
- Accept newer possibilities.
- Ask yourself: Are you listening to your inner wisdom?
Deep breaths, you can handle this. Start with baby steps to being a better you. Consider Journaling, collaborating with a mentor, talking to one of our amazing psychic advisors or finding your own path of discovery that supports your growth. Pause and make sure you are not continuing to hide from your scary, self-protection and survival tendencies. You cannot successfully navigate life with an emotional blindfold on and your exhausted hands tied behind your back in denial and defeat. There are much healthier and joyful ways to learn and grow.
Support Your Path Via Your Spiritual Gifts
We are all looking for quicker ways to be happy, safe, and fulfilled. This is not a race. Take your time, and be mindful, it matters. Consider adding additional meditation, body movement, or connecting with nature at times that honor you. What tools, people and experiences truly help you on this path? Do you have enough quiet and reflective “me” time? Create more. Generate quality time and space for you to figure out where you are in life right now, and where you want to be. Dream. But also acknowledge where and how you have been holding back. Choose just one thing that you can do better. Keep it up and build momentum. Ask for support and guidance with your dreams and aspirations. Use your spiritual gifts and activities to support your path.