Episode 42:

Spiritual Bypassing

What Is Spiritual Bypassing?

This time on Pretty Spiritual Podcast, we’re digging into a topic close to our hearts: spiritual bypassing. First off, what is a spiritual bypass? John Welwood coined this term to talk about a trend in spiritual communities. Spiritual bypassing is when we “use spiritual ideas and concepts to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.”

Often, we fall into the trap of spiritual bypassing when we are in the thick of our messy, human process. Usually, we don’t love how it’s looking to others or to ourselves. Maybe we think it’s too much or not allowed or taking too long. So we discard the messiness of the human process in favor of something that we think will look better to us or others. 

We turn to this because we don’t accept the person who is here today or the experience we’re having. Why? Because it’s not okay for some reason. Spiritual bypassing is actually a valid tool to pick up when we don’t can’t be with the feelings underneath. Often, we use spiritual bypassing as a shield. It’s a way to protect ourselves from stressful stuff, like our true self and vulnerable work that needs our attention. But when we avoid the shadow work that needs our attention, we also avoid growing.

Letting Go of Judgment

It makes sense that we pick this up as a tool. Spiritual bypassing is actually a necessary stage of spiritual development. If you’re seeing signs of this tendency in yourself, you’re definitely on the spiritual path! Way to go, fellow travelers. 

So what are some common forms of spiritual bypassing? Some manifestations we have noticed are things like an overly positive focus. Everything is great and complaining is bad and I’m happy and grateful all the time! Or maybe you fall into a different trap like self-deprecation. When we make ourselves bad or wrong, that’s its own kind of bypass. It keeps us from looking at what’s really here when we appraise ourselves accurately. Another popular side step happens around anger, especially for women since so many of us are caught in the trap of believing that anger isn’t spiritual. Or that if we were perfect or spiritual enough, then we’d never get angry. 

John Welwood goes on to say: “When we are spiritual bypassing, we often use the goal of awakening or liberation to rationalize what I call premature transcendence: trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it.” And it’s only when we go through the real and messy stuff that we find healing and relief.

It turns out that life is messy and being a human is hard. So what can we do to love ourselves through this phase of our spiritual growth and development and be true to self? Moreover, how can we let go of how we think it should look and get on board with what’s actually happening?

Get the Tools You Need 

Are you stuck in bypass mode and wondering how to find yourself? Where is the authentic person who is struggling with the unavoidable messiness of human life? Of course, we need those spiritual tools.

Yes, spiritual bypassing is a tool in itself. But what spiritual tools help when this one no longer serves us? We can turn toward authenticity. Be who you are, messiness and all! We can learn to be authentic in the moment, whatever that looks like. Plus, we can trust that we’re supported to feel our feelings and be honest about what’s going on for us. 

But maybe you want even more tools that help with finding yourself? We love meditation as a grounding tool. When we’re grounded and feeling emotionally safe, there’s naturally more room for all the emotions to arise and be felt. Meditation helps us create space to experience all of what’s right here right now.

We also like spiritual inquiry. Ask yourself questions like, what action requires the most faith right now? We can invite the shadow self into this exercise, fears and all. Ask your whole being, what would I do if I weren’t afraid? Ask the questions and listen for the whisper of the universe. 

Please get in touch and let us know what your experience is with spiritual bypassing and what works for you. Please share your experiences and tools with on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Insight Timer, Google Play, Spotify, Soundcloud, Podbean, and Stitcher (or our Contact page) and share your feelings, thoughts, and anything else! Thanks for listening to our spiritual podcasts. We love ya!