We all have our avoidance mechanisms. Maybe it’s a Netflix binge to avoid dealing with something uncomfortable in your life, or perhaps it’s constantly checking your phone, so you don’t have to address the awkward silence with a friend.
Whether we know it or not, most of us put up roadblocks that keep us from having to really look at something uncomfortable going on in our lives and deal with it. Such avoidance mechanisms are referred to as “spiritual bypassing,” which is a term coined by psychologist and author John C. Calloway in his book, “Unitive Thinking: New Visions of Self, Community, and Society.”
In his article “Spiritual Bypassing: What It Is and Why it Matters,” Dr. Neela Samant explains that spiritual bypassing refers to “a tendency among enlightened individuals to use their spirituality as a means of evading rather than addressing problematical aspects of themselves — what they see as negative or unworthy parts of themselves — as well as challenging social issues such as oppression, injustice, and inequality.”
The following will explain what spiritual-bypassing is, why you might be doing it, how it might hurt you (and others), and how you can stop doing it once and for all.
What Is Spiritual Bypassing?
Spiritual bypassing is when you use your spiritual practice or beliefs to avoid addressing issues that are uncomfortable to you. You use your spiritual or growth practice as an “out” clause to avoid addressing something you don’t want to deal with. This might be an issue related to your psychological health, some unresolved trauma, or something that challenges your identity.
Why Do People Spiritual Bypass?
People use spiritual bypassing because it’s easier than facing what’s really going on. Whenever something challenges your identity or you have some unresolved trauma that you haven’t dealt with, it can be painful and uncomfortable to confront that. It can feel like you’re being pulled into a black hole of self-doubt.
There are also issues of scarcity that can come up when you’re faced with your own struggles. You might feel like you’re not “good enough”, or that there isn’t enough “success” or “perfection” to go around. In this way, confronting your issues can feel like a threat to your own sense of security and identity.
How Can Spiritual Bypassing Harm You?
When you use spiritual bypassing, you don’t really get to confront your issues and work through them. This means they stay stuck in your system and continue to manifest in your life as unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns.
What often happens is that you might see some initial success using your spiritual practice to avoid dealing with your issues, but then your issues catch up with you. When this happens, you may feel like you have to turn to your spiritual practice even more, which can cause spiritual bypassing to become a chronic pattern in your life.
How To Stop Spiritually Bypassing?
First, you need to be aware that you’re doing it. To do this, you can keep a journal where you write down your feelings and thoughts. You can also talk to a trusted friend about what you’re dealing with and notice what you’re turning to as an “out” clause.
When you become aware of what you’re doing, you can start to challenge the thought patterns that lead you to use your spirituality as a crutch. Start to notice what you’re telling yourself and whether it’s actually true or not. You can also try to apply the same rules to yourself that you would apply to a friend.
Confront Yourself Head-On
When we look at ourselves honestly, we can connect with and release stored and suppressed emotions, and we can identify and release the personalities we create that do not truly honor who we are. If we continuously paint everything pretty and purple, we will have no pathway to deconstruct our false Selves.
Look at yourself, honestly. Admit your faults and seek to improve upon them. Release the aspects that do not serve you. Own your nature and life so that you can advance mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
What The Masters Say
While I cannot provide direct quotes from Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) or Mother Meera on spiritual bypassing, I can offer insights aligned with their teachings and general spiritual wisdom.
Spiritual bypassing is a term used to describe the tendency to use spiritual beliefs and practices to avoid facing and addressing emotional or psychological challenges. It involves using spirituality as a way to escape or deny aspects of our human experience. Both Amma and Mother Meera, known for their compassionate and practical spiritual teachings, would likely offer guidance on how to navigate this phenomenon.
- Amma’s Perspective: Amma, often emphasizing the importance of selfless service and genuine compassion, might say:
“True spirituality is not an escape from life’s challenges but a deep engagement with them. When we use spirituality to bypass our emotions or challenges, we miss the opportunity for real growth. Instead, let your spiritual practices be a means of cultivating inner strength and resilience to face life’s ups and downs with an open heart.”
- Mother Meera’s Perspective: Mother Meera, who emphasizes the transformative power of silent presence, might share:
“Silence and stillness are powerful tools for self-discovery, but they should not become a means of avoiding the complexities of life. Spiritual growth involves facing our innermost truths, acknowledging our emotions, and integrating them into our spiritual journey. In stillness, find the courage to confront and embrace all aspects of yourself.”
How to Avoid Spiritual Bypassing:
Cultivate Self-Awareness: Both spiritual teachers would likely advocate for cultivating self-awareness. Recognize when spiritual practices are being used to avoid difficult emotions or challenges. Honest self-reflection is a crucial step in spiritual growth.
Integrate Spiritual Practices: Amma and Mother Meera might suggest integrating spiritual practices into daily life in a holistic way. Rather than compartmentalizing spirituality as an escape, make it an integral part of facing life’s challenges with equanimity and compassion.
Embrace Shadow Work: Shadow work involves exploring and integrating aspects of ourselves that we may have pushed into the shadows. Both spiritual leaders might encourage individuals to embrace shadow work as a vital part of the spiritual journey, acknowledging and transforming those aspects we may prefer to avoid.
Seek Genuine Connection: Spiritual bypassing can sometimes result from a desire to transcend human experiences. Amma and Mother Meera might emphasize the importance of genuine connection—with oneself and others. Authentic relationships and community support can provide a grounding foundation for spiritual growth.
Practice Compassion: Compassion is a central theme in the teachings of Amma and Mother Meera. They might encourage individuals to extend compassion not only to others but also to themselves. Embracing our vulnerabilities and imperfections with love and understanding is an essential aspect of the spiritual journey.
In essence, Amma and Mother Meera would likely emphasize that authentic spirituality involves facing life’s challenges with courage, compassion, and a genuine willingness to grow. Spiritual practices should be a means of deepening our connection with ourselves and others, rather than a way to avoid the inherent complexities of the human experience.
The point of spirituality is to help you be the best version of yourself you can be. It’s not there to be a crutch to get you out of dealing with things that challenge your identity. The more you confront your issues with spiritual bypassing, the more you’ll be able to use your spirituality for good.
You’ll also be a better friend to those who are dealing with their own issues by not using your spirituality as an “out” clause. There will always be challenges in life, and they are what make life exciting and meaningful.
By confronting your issues and using your spirituality to support yourself, you’ll be a happier, healthier, and more empowered person.
Meet Paul Wagner
Paul Wagner (Shri Krishna Kalesh) is an intuitive mystic, clairvoyant reader, and a loving life & business coach. He created “The Personality Cards,” a powerful Oracle-Tarot deck that’s helpful in life, love, and relationships.
He created The Shankara Oracle, a profound divination tool that includes 18 gemstones, a lavishly designed divination board, and over 300 penetrative oracle cards – all to help you heal to your core and illuminate your Being.
Paul studied with Lakota elders in the Pecos Wilderness, who nurtured his empathic abilities and taught him the sacred rituals. He has lived at ashrams with enlightened masters, including Amma, the Hugging Saint, for whom he’s delivered keynotes at Her worldwide events.
Paul tours the world lecturing on spiritual liberation. He lovingly offers intuitive readings, inspirational coaching, and illuminating courses to help others with self-discovery, decision-making, healing, and forgiveness. Book a session with Paul: HERE