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“Spiritual Bypassing”

When I wrote about the guy in the social media post that apparently, hypothetically wasn’t paying his fair share for his daughter (So… Is This A “Guy Thing?”), I mentioned the term “spiritual bypass.” Let’s talk a bit more about that, because it’s really common these days in the spiritual world (and because I’ve done it a ton!). So what is this all about? Basically, it just means using your spirituality, practices, and beliefs to avoid life, to avoid the real, messy, painful world.

Note that we do all kinds of things to avoid life. And before we proceed, let’s keep in mind that this is innocent! I. N. N. O. C-E. N. T. Not to go all Aretha Franklin on you, but this is really important, and central to your long-term peace. My space is always a guilt-free zone, whether it’s my office home, website, car, or whatever. So please take a nice, deep, loving breath if you’re triggered even slightly by the words that follow, and keep that in mind throughout. I am incapable of judging you. That’s because I I know how tough earth can be, and honestly I think everyone is always doing their best, literally, whether their best at that time seems okay or not. And I’m always trying to help you to judge yourself less. Now, I might have to slap a restraining order on your ass, but there won’t be any judgment. Let that sink in (remember that there’s the inner and there’s the outer – how we see things versus what we do).

Look, we’re all in whatever stage we’re in, and that’s just how it is. And if we’re bypassing certain aspects of messy earth because we just don’t feel ready to deal with them, then that’s just what is happening. But let’s not pretend that’s not what is happening. Own it first, and with innocence; be totally honest about what’s going on, and without judging yourself for it. “Wow, I really suck at this! It sure must be a huge growth area for me… How cool is that?” In a super loving and matter of fact tone. I’m totally serious, try it out sometime. That’s a HUGE step toward moving beyond it. Back to the story…

So we do all kinds of things to avoid life, to avoid messy earth. Numbing out daily (or almost daily) with alcohol, weed, pills, or other substances is super common. But what about playing on your phone? Or gaming? What about working long hours (unless you absolutely need to in order to make ends meet)? What about compulsive exercise, meditation, or yoga?? Pretty interesting when you think about it… It can be anything. It’s all about why you do it, and the quality with which you do it. If I’m exercising to be healthy and/or because I enjoy it, that’s a lot different than doing it to escape life. Same with over-working, keeping busy, and anything else. In this case, that “anything else” is a person’s spirituality. So let’s get into some.

I said above that “spiritual bypassing” refers to using one’s spirituality to avoid life. I looked it up to be more official, and I learned that the term was actually coined in the 1980’s by a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist named John Welwood. He defined it thusly: “the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” Well said, brother! That is amazing. And how about the word “thusly,” folks, how cool is that?? Talk about amazing… But is it really a word? I think it is, but let’s check. Remember that I’m a math major… BOOM! Totally nailed it. So happy about this. Okay, so back to the story…

So what might this look like? Imagine the person that always tends to run to their meditation room (or prayer – it doesn’t have to be super woowoo) when there’s an argument or a conflict. And note that we say “always tends to,” because that’s important here. We’re not talking about someone that wants to drop in and get clear to see if they’re missing something in a given situation; that’s fantastic! Do that, please do that. But don’t run and do that; don’t do that first. The person that “always tends to” do that is avoiding the conflict, avoiding life, avoiding reality. And they might not even consciously know this is what they’re doing. But I’ll bet if they drop in and ask honestly, they’ll get a “yes.”

Note that it’s a really huge leap for a bypasser to be able to do that, though – to even ask themselves if they’re avoiding something, much less to listen for an answer (note that answering a question and listening for an answer are very different). It’s a blind spot. I know, because it’s been me so much! And I’m sure there are plenty of things that I’m still bypassing, but it’s all good. Remember our innocence from above, that’s SO huge. Sometimes we just aren’t able to face certain things because the universe wants us to learn to love ourselves anyway, as a first step. That way, all the guilt and shame around it can be healed and cleared – and then the real shifts begins to happen. Definitely more on this later, because it’s big, really big. And it’s definitely big with people that can’t stop numbing with alcohol and substances, too. It’s so interesting how that works. This is real, legit healing from the inside-out. So yes, much more on this later. Back to the story…

So what else might spiritual bypassing look like? I’ve seen this a lot… Say a person chooses to end a relationship, and for a perfectly good reason, but it still devastates the other person. That person is heartbroken and crushed, as well as feeling helpless, since there’s nothing he or she can do. Remember that it takes two to enter a relationship, but it only takes one to end it. So there’s nothing wrong with ending a relationship, nothing at all. But we do want to acknowledge the effect that it has on the other person and try to be as respectful as possible. We want to do it the right way and not be a wrecking ball. You get the idea. And the first time I ended a relationship in wrecking ball fashion was in fifth grade, actually. I’m serious! It was so terrible, and I definitely didn’t know any better. I still feel bad about that… So I’ve been there and done that. Also please know that we’re not talking about leaving someone that’s legitimately abusive. In that case, get the hell out and don’t look back! And as I said in the post prior to this, get mean. That’s all common sense, so that’s not what we’re talking about here.

So how does spiritual bypassing come in? Let’s say the one that ended the relationship is into spirituality. They might say the other person is putting out “bad” or “negative” energy. But can’t it just be that they’re actually heartbroken, crushed, and devastated? And that they’re having a normal reaction under these really painful circumstances? It might not feel good, but lots of things that are normal on earth, like painful situations, don’t feel good. This is something I’ve actually heard before – and most likely done before! – and it fits so well here as an example. It’s also not a “low vibration” – it’s pain and sadness and hopelessness. And it’s normal when earth gets messy. Not fun but normal.

Another super common one (that I know from personal experience) is sending “love and light” from afar to someone with whom I have an unresolved conflict, rather than facing that person and the situation. Rather than dealing with the situation the right way. Rather than acknowledging what’s going on, and all the pain that’s present. Rather than asking if there’s anything that can be done to help. In the breakup situation above (which is a great example here), obviously the person can’t come back to the relationship, but maybe there’s something they can do. Like meet and talk. Listen. Communicate. Acknowledge. That type of thing. That’s what we do on earth when we’re handling our business. Then after you’ve done that, you can bless the person all day long, that’s awesome and very kind. But that’s not primary, it’s secondary at best. You get the idea.

There are plenty of other ways of bypassing, and you can always take a look around for yourself; there’s plenty of material out there. But what it’s all about is honestly trying to handle things and deal with things, or not. And I’m not saying this is easy. But it is important. When awful things happen, people might say things like, “Focus on the good! Stay positive!” Thanks for not helping (even though you mean well!). Or spiritual people might not even engage with real issues, including relationships, because they think they’re more advanced than someone else or “above it all.” Or because they’re too sensitive. Or because it’s all a dream, an illusion (I totally did that… sorry…). Or because they have to consult their spiritual teacher or their horoscope first. Or because negativity is a low vibration. This stuff happens, people! All the time. And it’s innocent. But we’re ready to move beyond it, too. It’s 2020, and this is what we’re doing now! Boom.

So there you go, I wanted to say a bit more about this topic since I just touched on it in the “Guy Thing” post. I’m here as a change agent to help bring us into the brand new, heart-centered spiritual paradigm (definitely more on that later), and this is a great example of the kind of thing that’s being seen more and more, and being cleared away. So yay! Now let me get back to my video game and my cell phone and Netflix and Reddit and some ice cream and a scotch some pills and… Just kidding 🙂