Avoid Spiritual Bypassing!!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Good Morning Friends,

I am Thankful this Thursday for a new term I learned this past week, Spiritual Bypassing.  

John Wellwood said, “Spiritual bypassing is a term I coined to describe a process I saw happening in the Buddhist community I was in, and also in myself.  Although most of us were sincerely trying to work on ourselves, I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds , and unfinished developmental tasks.”  Spiritual bypassing is using spiritual tools like meditation, gratitude, head hygiene, focusing on the positive, affirmations, belief work, praying, scripture reading, serving etc. to avoid feeling and processing strong and heavy emotions.  It happens when we ignore the problem and use spiritual tools to distract ourself into feeling better, before we have actually dealt with the issue.

A universal truth is that there is an order to all things.  There are natural laws that govern everything. When I started coaching, I noticed the natural order in growth and progression.  There is a pattern in the way people up-level.  I call it the “Trifecta Transformation System”.  1- Gain awareness; 2- Accept and Process; 3- Make a plan; 4- Take massive action; 5- Analyze results which leads back to —> 1. Gain awareness.  We grow in an upward spiral as we move through these 5 steps over and over again.  

With spiritual bypassing, we skip step 2, the part where we accept and process.  By skipping this step, we halt our progress and stunt our growth.  Step 2 is where the lamenting that I wrote about last week happens.  It is where we brain dump, throw a fit, cry, scream, yell, process (through any variety of ways) to fully allow and feel our every emotions.  We absolutely MUST allow ourselves to experience the full spectrum and intensity of all human emotions, including the heavy ones.

It is easy and common in our society to label some emotions as “bad”. Our culture often looks down upon anger, hate, disgust, envy etc.  When, in our human-ness we feel a “bad” emotion, the conditioned thing is to hurry and think differently, to quickly change our attitude, and to stop feeling this way.  Although I don’t recommend acting on these feelings, it is critically important we actually allow ourselves to feel them in a safe way.  We don’t need to live here for long, but we do need to give credence to what we are feeling and allow the emotion to run its course until we can make peace with it.  Emotions are not good or bad, they are messengers telling us there is something going on in our mind, body and/or spirit.  Our emotions carry with them powerful wisdom that is vital for our growth.  Experiencing our every emotion fully is absolutely necessary to progression and ultimately to becoming more like Christ.  

When we try to pre-maturely rise above the raw, messy stuff incumbent with the 50/50 of life, we end up burying our emotions.  If we stuff them under the rug, we inadvertently create dis-ease in our bodies.  If we ignore the feelings we are experiencing, then we will ignore the message and bypass the wisdom they offer us.

In a podcast by Brook Snow, she pointed out that in the scriptures it says, “Mourn with those who mourn” and then it says, “comfort those who stand in need of comfort”.  We must first hold space and mourn.  Feel all the feels. Allow, accept and process. Once that step is complete we can move into comforting and using the spiritual tools that are so effective for healing and growth.  

It is so important we get good at “holding space” for ourselves and others to go through step 2.  It is critical we validate each others heavy feelings.  Have you ever had someone try to push spiritual bypassing on you- telling you beautiful things like “Everything happens for a reason”; “Just tell a different story”; “find the silver lining”… before you are ready to hear any of that?  This makes one feel unseen, unheard, and isolated.  Instead “mourn with those who mourn” (including yourself) by holding space and allowing all the messy, ugly, uncomfortable feelings to surface without judgment.  

My challenge to you this week is to watch out for spiritual bypassing.  Follow the natural order to all things by allowing, accepting and processing all of the heavy in order to keep growing…



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