The term “Spiritual Bypassing” was coined in the 1960s by John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist who stated that many of us use light principles to avoid the truth. This means that we use spiritual ideas and practices to avoid facing unresolved traumas and emotional or psychological wounds. I, like John Welwood, think that spirituality can become addictive. It can work as a curtain or a mask to pretend that we are doing just fine when we genuinely are not.
As a therapist for over 20 years, I often meet with people in pain from all walks of life, I see this phenomenon close up, and I am witness to the harm it brings. Many people remain in their pain because they think that they can rely on a spiritual practice to get a magic fix. They believe that solely following rituals, saying prayers, and chanting mantras will help them heal their problems. The truth is, however, that if you want to become healed, the best road to get there is to confront your deep traumas and wounds.
The goal of true healing and inner peace must be an authentic path. Those who are seeking to heal must make their end goal to figure out their real self. It is not an easy road, and there are no shortcuts. We are a nation of people who like fast answers to our problems and a quick pill for our pain. One of the biggest “tricks” that we engage in is a process called Spiritual Bypassing.
Spiritual bypassing is a form of escapism and can even be a kind of addiction as it feels good to stop the pain, but it is only temporary.
Spirituality can help us in a lot of ways. It can give us rituals, laws, and wonderful ideas of what to do and what to not do. Spirituality can teach us to forgive, to love, to be grateful, and to live as many spiritual guides before we did. However, it is general and not personal to each individual’s soul.
Many of my clients have spiritual practices that they feel good about, and yet, they have not fully healed their relationship with their own self. They have problems addressing their inner child and the lost parts of their soul, overcoming the people who took their energy in the past, and oftentimes, they suffer because of belief systems and hidden (societal) rules they live by.
For instance, I had a client who came to my office once for a drinking problem. She was at a low point. She expressed to me that her husband had left her for her best friend. Her husband had also put a restraining order on her because his new partner (her friend) moved into the house she once called a home…because of her mind-set, she was drinking about 3 bottles of wine a day. She chalked her fate up to “God’s will” and told me that she must forgive her ex-husband and her friend… But she couldn’t. Her real healing began when she got in touch with her anger without all the “thou shalts and thou shalt nots.”
Real-life is tough. Real-life brings us to our knees and breaks our hearts. The body and soul, without proper healing, will be left with unprocessed trauma and grief. Eventually, the sleeping dragon that lives within you will want to scream and be heard.
People need to be called out on their spiritual bypassing. You don’t fully heal just by singing songs of nirvana. You have to walk through fire and crack your own heart to let the light in. I always say, “it is on our knees that we begin to look up.” Pain is the fuel, the great awakener for change, the opportunity for salvation, and an invitation to ascend. Pain and trauma inspire us to do the work to become whole again. This means going through the fire of purification and healing what you must.
Life acts as a mirror to show you that what hurts can’t be glossed over with spirituality, but only through real hard work. It is up to you to address the negative patterns, issues, and wounds – these will only repeat over and over until you deal with it.
We never got the manual on how to play the game of life, the spiritual journey, and what to expect. So, it is time to know that, to evolve, one needs a commitment, a vow to do whatever it takes to become your best self.
Sri Ramakrishna, a wonderful healer, and prophet, once said that “you must want enlightenment like a man/woman whose hair is on fire wants a pond.” It is the way of the true path, but it is not an easy one.