130- Spiritual Bypass

Following is from When Spirituality Disconnects Us From What Really Matters

Have you ever:

  • Used spirituality as a sort of escape from reality, or as a way to avoid some painful aspect of your life?
  • Let yourself get taken advantage of or walked all over in the name of blind compassion?
  • Allowed your understanding of ultimate reality to help you avoid or push away your anger, believing such negative emotions to be “lower” or “less spiritual” than your enlightened ideals?
  • Used spiritual (or integral) terminology to relabel your own shadows, using spiritual ideas to pave over the potholes in your own personality?

Recently, the term Spiritual Bypass came up in therapy. It has come up before, and I have acknowledged it’s presence in our society over many discussions over the years, but not quite in the context presented HERE.

Spiritual bypass is when we use “spirituality”, or the acts representing said state, in lieu of actually dealing with our “stuff.” When I was in middle school, I saw organized religion as a crutch. I found people using confession as their way of feeling okay about doing things that they knew were wrong and hurtful. Did they deal with the trauma at the root of their actions? Did they acknowledge their anger, their bigotry, their judgement? Hell, no! I found people saying they were religious because they went to church regularly and volunteered at the church, and did bible study, and blah, blah, blah. Really? Really? (I admit I have some judgement around this, but I also have compassion, since I am not immune)

I find that when people have to talk about how spiritual or religious they are, it’s because they want that affirmation. People say what they want to hear. If you know you are spiritual, you don’t need outside affirmation. You don’t do it for the recognition, so you have no need to brag to the world what a great person you are. Bragging about said spirituality is narcissism at its finest, and the world of spiritual dogma is full of narcissists. Also, sacrificing your needs in the name of compassion (martyrdom) is a symptom of Spiritual Bypass. When you step into that realm, whether it’s New Age practices or hardcore Christianity, be(a)ware. Spiritual Materialism is a by-product/sign of Spiritual Bypass.

So, what’s my point? Well, I find that many people (and I am not immune from being  human. I, too, have done this and try always to be aware of when I am doing this) will go immediately to yoga, meditation, kirtan, church, confession, etc in an effort to “deal” with their anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. They will deny their own needs to appear (to themselves as well as others) compassionate, when in actuality, they are bitter, and understandably so! But, they have themselves to blame.

What they are often really doing is turning their back on these feelings. Unless we turn around and face our fears, our sadness, our anger, and all of those “shadow” parts of our selves, they will haunt us.

We can not let go of what we do not embrace.

I am learning to embrace my shadows and have compassion for myself. In the midst, I find myself feeling resentful, childish, mostly confused, gloriously free and happy, at ease, anxious, angry, ….and did I mention confused?

Discernment is the next step, I feel. Am I upset and rightly so, or is this my “stuff” coming up? People in my life will make me doubt. The judge within me will make me doubt. By speaking to those parts of me that hurt, that judge, are angry, and to those parts that have unconditional love, I can come to some clarity. If I turn my back on all of these parts of my self, I am denying my Self, my wholeness. They will, like spoiled and needy children, continue to create chaos in my head and heart.

As I learn to look at and love the parts of myself unconditionally, I can respect and love those parts in others.

Empathy comes naturally when we love ourselves first.