Spiritual bypassing (quotes)

Spiritual bypassing uses spiritual beliefs and practices to avoid dealing with emotional issues

  • 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. John Welwood
  • Spiritual bypassing is the act of using spiritual beliefs to avoid facing or healing one’s painful feelings, unresolved wounds and unmet needs. It is a state of avoidance. Because it is a state of avoidance, it is a state of resistance. I personally, consider Spiritual bypassing to be the shadow side of spirituality. Teal Swan
  • To spiritually bypass is to use spirituality to avoid, suppress, or escape from uncomfortable issues in life. Aletheia Luna
  • Why does spiritual bypassing occur? The answer is that it helps us to avoid facing painful emotions such as grief, shame, rage, hatred, and terror. Everyone wants to enjoy a sparkly spiritual high (that is ultimately short-lived) but no one wants to do the hard work of facing inner pain (that leads to longlasting joy, fulfillment, and peace). Aletheia Luna
  • In some ways, we are now spiritually distracting ourselves from our feelings. Ingrid Clayton
  • John Welwood defined spiritual bypassing as 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.” The goal of such practices, he claimed, was enlightenment. Diana Raab
  • Spiritual bypassing is a way of hiding behind spirituality or spiritual practices. It prevents people from acknowledging what they are feeling and distances them from both themselves and others. Kendra Cherry

Spiritual bypassing is used to cover up and avoid problems

  • When spiritual practice is used to compensate for challenging traits such as low self-esteem, social isolation, or other emotional issues, Welwood said, they corrupt the actual use of spiritual practice. In other words, using these practices to cover up problems seems like an easy way out, as opposed to working on the actual issues and etiology of the challenges. Diana Raab
  • Many of us know individuals who run away from problems by going on spiritual retreats. However, when these people return home, although they may feel enlightened for a short time, they are eventually triggered by the issues that sent them on their spiritual journeys in the first place. All the fear, confusion, and drama are still where they left them, and nothing has really been accomplished. Diana Raab
  • Spiritual bypassing is a superficial way of glossing over problems in a way that might make us feel better in the short term, but ultimately solves nothing and just leaves the problem to linger on. Kendra Cherry

Spiritual bypassing is a detour or cul-de-sac

  • As much as spiritual bypassing is presented as a shortcut, it is just a detour, a wandering away from what truly matters, a hanging out in metaphysical cul-de-sacs, providing not much more than empty calories and a seat in the uppermost bleachers, exploiting the fast-food, get-it-now mentality that pervades contemporary culture. Robert Augustus Masters
  • Spiritual bypassing frequently presents itself as an opportunity to fast-track spiritual progress, a shortcut through delusion to enlightenment. The real delusion here, of course, is the very idea that one can actually cut corners in spiritual practice. Robert Augustus Masters
  • The greater our hurry to arrive where we want to be spiritually, the longer it will take. Robert Augustus Masters

Spiritual bypassing is premature transcendence

  • When we are spiritually 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 then we tend to use absolute truth to disparage or dismiss relative human needs, feelings, psychological problems, relational difficulties, and developmental deficits. I see this as an “occupational hazard” of the spiritual path, in that spirituality does involve a vision of going beyond our current karmic situation. John Welwood

Spiritual bypassing often results from seeing the ego as an enemy

  • Spiritual bypassing is especially common in spiritual paths that treat ego as something to eradicate, something in the way of spiritual realization, rather than an activity to illuminate and integrate with the rest of our being. Robert Augustus Masters

Spiritual bypassing is a defence mechanism

  • Spiritual bypass is a defense mechanism. Although the defense looks a lot prettier than other defenses, it serves the same purpose. Spiritual bypass shields us from the truth, it disconnects us from our feelings, and helps us avoid the big picture. It is more about checking out than checking in—and the difference is so subtle that we usually don’t even know we are doing it. Ingrid Clayton
  • Spiritual bypassing acts as a form of defense mechanism. It protects us from things that seem too painful to deal with, but this protection comes at a cost. Ignoring or avoiding the issue can make stress worse in the long-term and make the problem more difficult to solve later on. While avoidance is a primary motivator behind this type of behavior, there are other factors that play a role in shaping it. Kendra Cherry
  • Being a good spiritual practitioner can become what I call a compensatory identity that covers up and defends against an underlying deficient identity, where we feel badly about ourselves, not good enough, or basically lacking. Then, although we may be practicing diligently, our spiritual practice can be used in the service of denial and defense. And when spiritual practice is used to bypass our real-life human issues, it becomes compartmentalized in a separate zone of our life, and remains unintegrated with our overall functioning. John Welwood

Spiritual bypassing is the shadow side of spirituality

  • Spiritual bypassing is a very persistent shadow of spirituality, manifesting in many forms, often without being acknowledged. Robert Augustus Masters
  • I personally, consider Spiritual bypassing to be the shadow side of spirituality. Teal Swan

Spiritual bypassing undermines our deeper growth…

  • At its core, spiritual bypassing is like any other form of avoidance that rewards us with a false feeling of security and happiness, while undermining our deeper path of self-growth and transformation. Aletheia Luna

…and has a number of other drawbacks

  • Spiritual bypass shields us from the truth, it disconnects us from our feelings, and helps us avoid the big picture. It is more about checking out than checking in—and the difference is so subtle that we usually don’t even know we are doing it. Ingrid Clayton
  • Spiritual bypassing hurts us because it’s based on avoidance and repression. It’s like band-aiding a wound that needs to be stitched, or holding up a gushing arm, teeth gritted, and saying “Cut? What cut?” Hannah Braime
  • The shorthand for spiritual bypass is grasping rather than gratitude, arriving rather than being, avoiding rather than accepting. It is spiritual practice in the service of repression, usually because we can not tolerate what we are feeling, or think that we shouldn’t be experiencing what we are feeling. Ingrid Clayton
  • While spirituality can be a force that helps enhance an individual’s well-being, engaging in spiritual bypassing as a way to avoid complicated feelings or issues can ultimately stifle growth. Kendra Cherry
  • Spiritual bypassing can have a number of negative effects. It can affect individual well-being as well as relationships with others. Some of the potential negative consequences include: Blind allegiance to leaders. Codependency. Control problems. Disregard for personal responsibility. Emotional confusion. Excessive tolerance of unacceptable or inappropriate behavior. Feelings of shame. Spiritual narcissism.  Kendra Cherry
  • Trying to move beyond our psychological and emotional issues by sidestepping them is dangerous. It sets up a debilitating split between the buddha and the human within us. And it leads to a conceptual, one-sided kind of spirituality where one pole of life is elevated at the expense of its opposite: Absolute truth is favored over relative truth, the impersonal over the personal, emptiness over form, transcendence over embodiment, and detachment over feeling. One might, for example, try to practice nonattachment by dismissing one’s need for love, but this only drives the need underground, so that it often becomes unconsciously acted out in covert and possibly harmful ways instead. John Welwood
  • When we’re entrenched in spiritual bypassing, we tend to like our relationships sunnyside-up: No confrontation, no anger, no messy feelings, nothing that leaves any egg on our face. Smiles and relentless gentleness often dominate the relational menu, with everyone doing their best to make nice. There is not just denial here; there is also considerable dissociation, perhaps masquerading as spiritualized detachment and equanimity. Robert Augustus Masters

Even meditation can be a form of spiritual bypassing

  • Meditation is also frequently used to avoid uncomfortable feelings and unresolved life situations. For those in denial about their personal feelings or wounds, meditation practice can reinforce a tendency toward coldness, disengagement, or interpersonal distance. They are at a loss when it comes to relating directly to their feelings or to expressing themselves personally in a transparent way. It can be quite threatening when those of us on a spiritual path have to face our woundedness, or emotional dependency, or primal need for love. John Welwood

Examples and signs of spiritual bypassing

  • Some examples of spiritual bypassing include: Avoiding feelings of anger. Believing in your own spiritual superiority as a way to hide from insecurities. Extremely high, often unattainable, idealism. Feelings of detachment. Focusing only on spirituality and ignoring the present. Only focusing on the positive or being overly optimistic. Projecting your own negative feelings onto others. Pretending that things are fine when they are clearly not. Thinking that people can overcome their problems through positive thinking. Thinking that you must “rise above” your emotions. Using defense mechanisms such as denial and repression. Kendra Cherry
  • Some signs of emotional bypassing: Not focusing on the here and now; living in a spiritual realm much of the time. Overemphasizing the positive and avoiding the negative. Being overly detached. Being overly idealistic. Being overly compassionate. Pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. Diana Raab
  • Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow side, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being. Robert Augustus Masters

The healthy alternative to spiritual bypassing is to really feel our emotions

  • The alternative to spiritual bypassing is to feel our feelings across the spectrum. To live as though every emotion were acceptable, with none being better or worse than the other. To accept all feelings are temporary, this too shall pass, and none of our emotional experiences are wrong or forbidden, they are what they are. It also involves acknowledging what Walt Whitman writes about in Leaves of Grass: “We are large, we contain multitudes.” We’re allowed to have conflicting feelings about ourselves, our experiences and the world. Feelings matter and every emotion is acceptable (even those that are usually seen as not). Hannah Braime
  • What spiritual bypassing would have us rise above is precisely what we need to enter, and enter deeply, with as little self-numbing as possible. To this end, it is crucial that we see through whatever practices we have, spiritual or otherwise, that tranquilize rather than illuminate and awaken us. Robert Augustus Masters

Authentic spirituality is non-avoidant

  • Authentic spirituality is radically non-avoidant, recognizing that if we flee anything in ourselves, it will multiply and fester, enlarging itself to seize our attention, seeding its outcast will throughout us, eventually exposing and deflating our spiritual ambition. Robert Augustus Masters
  • Real redemption or enlightenment, as much as it can be achieved in this world, comes through hard work that does not skirt tough personal issues. Elaine N. Aron