First coined by clinical psychologist John Welwood, spiritual bypassing is the pattern of using “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.”
At the root of it, spiritual bypassing is essentially avoidance of what is actually going on, and sweeping it under the rug so to speak. Carl Jung said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls,” and it’s actually incredible the stories people will create in order to avoid looking at particular life situations or emotions within. It’s so common to hear “love and light” these days, and it can actually fool people into thinking they are being spiritual or “woke” when in realty they are living in delusion.
Another common sentence people love to say is “it happened for a reason” and blame karma for everything. Keep reading for more on spiritual bypassing from Frank Elaridi — journalist, biohacker, and emotional healer of Modern Nirvana.
Are You Spiritually Bypassing? Here’s How to Fix It
The truth, according to many ancient sages, including my personal teacher the Sage Vasistha is that self-effort trumps karma. The actions of past lives creates the karma we are currently experiencing, but the power of self-effort in the current moment is infinitely greater. Signs of emotional bypassing include the following:
Being self-righteous about the concept of enlightenment: The power of an enlightened person is that they do not go around preaching or insisting everyone follow them. They teach the world simply by their way of life and their existence. In my own life, I have seen that when I tried to preach something to my family, they didn’t get on board. However when I simply existed and they witnessed certain changes, they would ask questions and I was happy to answer and even bring them along on some of my spiritual adventures.
Being overly detached: These are the people who pretending that everything is okay when it’s not.
Having feelings of entitlement: this is when a person on the spiritual path belittles others who do not agree with them or their practice. Or when they feel their way is the only real truth. Exhibiting frequent anger: With the repression of feelings and emotions, while denying what’s actually being experienced, anger is a natural side effect.
Being overly compassionate: compassionate in order to compensate for the internal anger, or to prove to oneself that everything is okay.
There are those who run away from their problems by going on spiritual retreats or following certain popular teachers from state to state, and country to country. Sometimes the reason they are seeking that experience constantly is because when they return home, the feeling of enlightenment and peace fades away slowly along with their vacation-tan.
The best recommendation I could offer someone interested in rising above the trap of spiritual bypassing is to do the work. Often called “shadow work” in the spiritual work, this is the idea of unearthing all of the suppressed feelings and experiences we have swept under the rug, and face them.
When I am working with my private clients I focus on healing trapped emotions from past traumas and life experiences on an energetic level. It is incredible and borderline miraculous to witness the change they experience just from clearing the energetic blocks keeping them from having the work, money and relationships they say they want. I’ve even seen clients send me testimonials that their chronic symptoms disappeared when they addressed their emotional trauma.
One thing you could also try to practice on your own is radical acceptance. I always remind people that you don’t have to be ready to do it, just be willing to try. Today my friend texted me saying that years ago someone told him that he always dates girls that are not right for him. He resented it at the time, but through the mindful practice of acceptance, he realized the person was right and that he was dating attractive women who were emotionally and intellectually unavailable because he was repressing the high school trauma of feeling unworthy of the pretty girls.
Learning to accept who we have been in the past and who we are in the right now, can help us to become willing to make mistakes. We can laugh at the cosmic joke, the predicament, that we find ourselves in: being human and navigating life! You got this! Be gentle with yourself and know that you are doing the best you can.