In the spiritual world, there is a phenomenon known as spiritual bypassing - a tendency to use spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid facing and dealing with painful emotions and unresolved issues. While the pursuit of spiritual growth and enlightenment is often seen as a positive and transformative journey, there is a darker side to it that is often overlooked.
As a spiritual guide and healer, I have encountered numerous cases in my practice spanning over 20 years of individuals who have entered this state of being without realizing it.
In this article, I delve deep into the shadows of spiritual bypassing and explore its implications. I unravel the damaging effects of suppressing emotions in the name of spiritual progress and examine how it can hinder true healing and growth.
The aim is to unveil the shadow side of spiritual bypassing and gain a deeper understanding of the potential pitfalls and misconceptions that can arise on the path to spiritual enlightenment.
What is spiritual bypassing?
Spiritual bypassing refers to the use of spiritual practices or beliefs to bypass or avoid the emotional and psychological work necessary for true healing and growth. The term was first coined during the early 1980s by a transpersonal psychotherapist named John Welwood in his book Toward a Psychology of Awakening.
Spiritual bypassing, excessive positivity
Spiritual bypassing is a defense mechanism that allows individuals to escape from the discomfort of facing their inner demons and unresolved traumas. Instead of addressing these issues, they use spirituality as a means to transcend or “rise above” them, believing that they can reach a state of enlightenment or inner peace without acknowledging and processing their pain.
The core challenges in life revolve around identifying, recognizing, and relinquishing our inner demons (traumas) and limiting beliefs. All spiritual practices known such as meditation, journaling, sacred music, and praying, are simply instruments that allow us to achieve this goal. Therefore, engaging in Spiritual Bypassing contradicts the fundamental goal for which our souls entered this life.
While spiritual bypassing can manifest in different ways, the underlying essence remains the same - the avoidance of difficult emotions and the desire to maintain a positive or spiritual facade.
The dark side of spiritual bypassing
While spiritual bypassing may provide temporary relief or a sense of spiritual superiority, it can have long-term detrimental effects on an individual's well-being. By suppressing or bypassing their emotions, individuals deny themselves the opportunity for true healing and growth. Unresolved pain and trauma continue to linger beneath the surface, leading to a buildup of emotional baggage and potential psychological issues.
Moreover, spiritual bypassing can create a sense of disconnection from oneself and others. By avoiding the messy and uncomfortable aspects of life, individuals miss out on the richness of human experience and the opportunity to develop authentic connections. The pursuit of spiritual enlightenment becomes a solitary and isolating journey, detached from the complexities and nuances of the real world.
We all know spirituals who seem isolated in their “ivory tower” of spirituality, and preach things like “Be detached from everything!” “Don’t care about what happens in the world, care only about your spiritual progress!” and the like. These are typical examples of spiritual bypassing.
Causes of Signs of Spiritual Bypassing
People often engage in spiritual bypassing when they think that they should not be feeling what they are feeling. Feelings of annoyance, disgust, jealousy, anger, rage, and so on can be distressing, and people may find themselves feeling ashamed or guilty for feeling or thinking such things. They feel they don’t fit the expectations of people around them and of society at large.
Spiritual bypassing can also be a tool to dismiss what others are feeling. This gives them a sense of superiority over other people and inflates their egos even more.
At times, there is a tendency to employ spiritual bypassing as a means to coerce people into keeping quiet about things that have been harmful to them. Instead of permitting individuals to express their pain, they're frequently told that they're being negative and not appreciating the "good" brought upon them. As a result, people experience feelings of guilt, shame, and humiliation about their emotions.
Signs of Spiritual Bypassing
Recognizing spiritual bypassing in oneself can be challenging, as it often disguises itself as Spiritual Progress. It can take the form of excessive positivity, denial of negative emotions, detachment from reality, or an obsession with spiritual practices without integrating the lessons into daily life.
However, there are certain signs that can indicate the presence of spiritual bypassing:
Excessive positivity: Focusing solely on the positive aspects of life and disregarding negative emotions and experiences is a common practice among many individuals who consider themselves spiritual. I have encountered numerous individuals who willfully overlook what they do not prefer and attempt to reframe it into a "positive experience." However, they fail to comprehend that this is a fruitless effort without fully comprehending the underlying life lessons that come with each experience.
Intellectualizing emotions: Relying on intellectual understanding rather than truly feeling and processing emotions. This is a typical strong emotional avoidance that gives some relief but solves nothing. This kind of person is generally very afraid of strong negative emotions without realizing their transcendent effect ultimately.
Detachment from reality, escapism: Using spiritual practices as a means to escape or dissociate from the challenges and responsibilities of everyday life. They believe that if destiny is cast in stone as some spiritual traditions claim, then hooray! they have no responsibility anymore for their lives.
Judgment and criticism: Believing that spiritual superiority entitles one to judge and criticize others who are not on the same spiritual path. They typically despise ordinary souls uninterested in spirituality. When I tell them they are actually judging other people and they have a very low score on releasing the judgement belief, they think I have something against them… 😊
Masking pain with spirituality: Using spiritual practices as a mask to hide or suppress deep-seated pain and trauma. I saw this many times in many spirituals. For them, the ugly things around them should not exist, and are kind of a mistake of God or Creation, a hiccup in God’s design. They typically ask things like “How could God allow this person to die?” or “How could God allow this bloody war?” and the like.
Being self-righteous about the concept of Spiritual Enlightenment. Being certain you are the owner of the ultimate truth about spiritual progress and spiritual enlightenment.
Being overly compassionate. These individuals are entirely focused on external matters, with the intention of serving others. While this is admirable, the issue is that they neglect to dedicate time to self-reflection and to release anything that may be hindering their personal growth. It is worth remembering that we are all part of Creation, and as such require a balance between fulfilling our own needs and those of others.
Pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. These individuals appear to reside in a self-created mental realm that disregards fundamental aspects of life. For instance, through spiritual teachings, they have learned that we shape our own reality. However, without fully understanding the intricacies of this complex process, they indiscriminately accept it as a verbatim truth and turn a blind eye to the aspects of reality that do not align with their preference.
General factors that facilitate Spiritual Bypassing
Spiritual bypassing is a defensive mechanism protecting us from uncomfortable thoughts. Nevertheless, this safeguarding has negative consequences. By avoiding or ignoring issues, stress exacerbates and resolutions become more challenging in the future.
Besides these, there are also some general factors that act as worldwide accepted behaviors and habits that actually amplify Spiritual Bypassing.
The Wellness culture is a long-established trend in the collective subconscious, perpetuating notions of sustained positivity and toxic optimism. It is a significant driver behind spiritual bypassing and seemingly requires that an individual cannot be healthy or well without being able to 'rise above' any negativity. However, negative feelings are completely normal and should be seen as an indication that adjustments may be necessary. Disregarding such cues could result in severe consequences in the long run.
An Individualistic culture that advocates for the pursuit of self-actualization in order to attain “genuine” happiness can result in an inclination to avoid challenging or distressing emotions. Instead of attempting to address the issues in the surroundings causing anguish, individualism instills the notion that people are solely accountable for their own fate.
This type of culture is commonplace in the Western world, particularly among Anglo-Saxon societies and those influenced by them. In individualistic cultures, people are viewed as "good" if they embody traits such as strength, self-reliance, assertiveness, and independence.
This is in contrast to Collectivist cultures, where qualities such as self-sacrifice, dependability, generosity, and helpfulness to others are highly valued.
The impact of spiritual bypassing on personal growth
While spiritual bypassing may provide temporary relief, it ultimately hinders personal growth and evolution. By avoiding the necessary inner work, individuals remain stuck in patterns of pain and dysfunction.
True healing requires a willingness to confront and process difficult emotions, allowing for the integration of all aspects of oneself - light and dark, positive and negative.
Without addressing the shadow side, personal growth becomes superficial and incomplete. The unresolved issues continue to exert their influence, manifesting as repetitive patterns (limiting beliefs), relationship difficulties, and a lack of fulfillment. True transformation requires embracing the full spectrum of our humanity and the willingness to embark on an authentic and transformative spiritual journey.
I’ve met in my spiritual teaching and healing practice innumerable spirituals who avoided facing their limiting belief and traumas and just wanted access to higher spirituality. I explained to them in vain that their progress would be very limited, if any, without them releasing their limiting beliefs and past traumas in their subconscious.
Spiritual bypassing can have a number of negative effects. It can affect individual well-being as well as relationships with others. Some of the typical negative consequences include:
Superficiality in dealing with life issues
Disregard for personal responsibility
Disregard to other people
Excessive tolerance of unacceptable or inappropriate behavior
Feelings of shame and guilt
Overcoming spiritual bypassing
Overcoming spiritual bypassing requires willingness and honesty to face the shadows and do the inner work necessary for healing and growth. In other words, it requires Humbleness in all aspects of spiritual progress. In a world that is much Ego-based like ours including in spirituality, Humbleness is unfortunately a Cinderella who nobody likes to approach and embrace. Unfortunately for these people, Humbleness is the cornerstone of true spiritual progress, the only path to spiritual enlightenment!
Spiritual in "ivory tower"
Here are some techniques that can help address spiritual bypassing:
Cultivating self-awareness: Developing an honest and compassionate awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, and patterns of behavior is essential in recognizing when spiritual bypassing is occurring. Self-awareness is a fundamental aspect of avoiding spiritual bypassing. What is Self-Awareness? By developing a deep understanding of our patterns, triggers, and defense mechanisms, we can recognize when we are using spirituality as a means to bypass uncomfortable emotions or unresolved issues. Cultivating self-awareness involves regularly checking in with ourselves, reflecting on our motivations and intentions, and being open to feedback from others. It requires a willingness to be honest with ourselves and a commitment to personal growth and authenticity. At the base of Self-Awareness stays nevertheless Humbleness.
Embracing discomfort: Instead of avoiding or suppressing uncomfortable emotions, allow yourself to fully experience them but with awareness i.e. looking at and understanding them fully. This requires sitting with the discomfort, exploring its underlying causes, and seeking support if needed.
Integrating spirituality and psychology: Recognize that spirituality and psychology are not mutually exclusive. Combining spiritual practices with therapeutic techniques can provide a holistic approach to healing and growth.
Shadow work: Engage in shadow work, which involves exploring and integrating the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected or denied, like releasing limiting beliefs and traumas. This can be done through journaling, therapy, or engaging in practices that bring awareness to our shadow qualities.
Cultivating self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and compassion as you navigate the complexities of your spiritual journey. Recognize that growth takes time and that setbacks are a natural part of the process.
Healing techniques for addressing spiritual bypassing
Healing from spiritual bypassing requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of one's being. Here are some healing techniques that can support this process:
Therapy and counseling: Seeking the guidance of a trained therapist, or spiritual guide or master can provide a safe space to explore and process unresolved emotions and traumas.
Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help cultivate present-moment awareness and develop a deeper connection with oneself.
Energy healing modalities: Engaging in energy healing modalities such as energy transfers, acupuncture, breathwork, and others can support the release and integration of stagnant energy and emotions.
Body-based practices: Engaging in practices such as a spiritual tradition like yoga, qigong, grounding, some niche spiritual traditions, or somatic experiencing can help reconnect with the body and release stored emotional tension.
Supportive community: Surrounding oneself with a supportive community of like-minded individuals can provide a sense of belonging and encouragement on the path of healing and growth.
Seeking support for navigating the shadow side of spiritual bypassing
Navigating the shadow side of spiritual bypassing can be a challenging and transformative journey. Seeking support from trusted spiritual teachers, guides and masters, therapists, or support groups can provide guidance, feedback, and validation along the way. These individuals can offer valuable insights and tools for navigating the complexities of integrating spirituality and personal growth.
Remember that you are not alone in this journey. Many others have walked this path before you, and their wisdom and support can be invaluable as you navigate the shadows and embrace the fullness of your being.
Unveiling the shadow side of spiritual bypassing is an essential step on the path to true spiritual growth and evolution. By acknowledging and addressing the tendency to bypass difficult emotions and unresolved issues, we open ourselves up to profound healing and transformation.
Embracing the full spectrum of our humanity - light and dark, positive and negative - allows us to embark on a more authentic and transformative spiritual journey. It is through the integration of all aspects of ourselves that we can experience true spiritual enlightenment and live more fulfilling and purposeful lives.
I advise every spiritual to commit to doing the inner work, confronting his shadows, and cultivating self-awareness as he navigates the complexities of the spiritual journeys. Search for a true spiritual guide or master who can give you feedback about how you stand now as a soul and body.
By unveiling the shadow, we can embrace the light and embark on a path of true healing, growth, and evolution. And don’t remember Humbleness!
You can learn more by reading other posts on this spiritual site Body&Soul Ascension Mastery which is coming from a very different and fresh angle than the spiritual mainstream, and based on a very long personal experience and hands-on research, and not from books.
You might also consider a service like Spiritual Readings in the Services section of this site from the ones listed there and get a full spiritual diagnosis, or go through an Exorcism process to cleanse you out of lower entities that are stuck to you.
You can also attend my spiritual School of Body and Soul Ascension Mastery to raise your body and soul awareness and reach into higher dimensions of vibration, improve your health, your life path, your understanding of your role in this world, and understand the real causes of what is happening around you.