Spirit has been nudging me to write about this topic. What is spiritual bypassing? Am I doing it? What does it even mean?
You are reading this, so chances are you are a spiritual seeker. As a spiritual seeker, you have probably used spirituality to bypass pain at times. That is okay, no judgment. We have all used food to comfort ourselves at times, and it is only a problem when we don't become aware of doing so. The same goes for spiritual bypassing. The suffering results when do not become conscious of doing so.
I share my perspective on spiritual bypassing based on my connection with Spirit and my own personal experiences. Spiritual bypassing refers to using spirituality to bypass pain, fear, or other uncomfortable emotions. I am not a huge fan of the term because I don't believe we can truly bypass pain; I use the concept to imply our attempt to do so. We bypass to avoid confronting our negative emotions or human aspects we do not like.
Spiritual bypassing is the shadow side of spirituality that exists in all religious and spiritual communities. Growing up in a church, I remember certain congregants going through hard times and calling my dad, the pastor, multiple times a week to request prayer. The church doors couldn't open early enough and they couldn't close too late for these folks when they were struggling. They couldn't get enough relevant Bible passages, and my dad's hours of availability weren't long enough. They needed constant reminders that God had a higher plan and to trust that their unfortunate circumstances were in alignment with God's will. When grieving a death, they needed constant reassurance that their loved ones were with Jesus.
They were seeking a mental solution to an emotional crisis, which doesn't work long-term.
I am no longer in a religious community, yet I have witnessed similar behavior within spiritual communities I have been involved with over the past five years. I include myself. Hurting people can't get enough of learning about spiritual practices and the afterlife. We immerse ourselves in communities with other like-minded believers so that we get constant reminders that our loved ones aren't missing out and they are still with us.
I am 1000% in support of these behaviors when they are in balance with reflection, inner examination, emotional confrontation, and expression. I absolutely believe that spiritual seeking and connection is an integral part of true healing. (I am a medium, after all!) I have witnessed the opposite end of the spectrum: I have been in support groups that placed a taboo on spiritual discussion and my (limited) experience was that they were dark places.
As a medium and a bereaved mom, I am absolutely in favor of spiritually balanced support groups, and I provide this type of support and community for those who are grieving the death of loved ones. I even believe that spiritual bypassing can commonly be the first step to a new spiritual path, as it is often pain and avoidance of pain that causes us to seek a spiritual community with like-minded people.
Yet, I have also witnessed the darker side when spiritual bypassing continues and others support it. I know people who have fully embraced spiritual connection yet abandon their human relationships and justify doing so with holier-than-thou, or more-enlightened-than-you, spiritual rhetoric. I have also seen people hit dangerously low and exhausted rock-bottoms, with their unhealed wounds facing them squarely in the eye, while they feel abandoned by their loved ones in spirit. This is devastating for the griever, yet I understand that Spirit will be silent when it is for our highest good.
I have seen unhealed wounds manifest as physical or emotional illness, just as I have witnessed with grievers who attempt to numb or escape their pain, long-term. Some folks will allow their rock-bottom to point them in the direction of their truth, which they will discover was on the other side of their pain, all along. Others will go into a frenzy, seeking yet another healer or reader, or medium who will certainly bring their loved one through and give them what they want.
How do we gauge if we are spiritually bypassing? We can start by asking ourselves this question: Are the ideas/beliefs/philosophies I am immersing myself in interfering with me becoming comfortable with uncomfortable emotions?
Spiritual bypassing occurs when the ideas/beliefs/philosophies we take in interfere with us becoming comfortable with uncomfortable emotions, which is necessary for healing.
Spiritual bypassing goes beyond frequent attempts to connect with our loved ones through meditation or mediums. Truly, what I see as more prevalent spiritual bypassing is certain philosophy or beliefs we obsessively feed our minds in an attempt to avoid dealing with our feelings. I see this as being the most dangerous aspect of spiritual bypassing because we tend to do this unconsciously.
What am I talking about and why is it dangerous? If others tell us, "You shouldn't be sad," or "It's okay, your loved one is still with you," (at Christmas, the birthday party, etc) in an attempt to comfort us, then we will unconsciously begin to tell ourselves we shouldn't feel sad. Even worse is when others, in an attempt to make us feel better, tell us, "Your son/wife/husband/mad doesn't want you to be sad," in a moment that we are needing to mourn. Really, the person/people who tell us this are not comfortable with pain themselves, so they project this onto us. We may feel guilty for feeling sad or even apologize to our loved ones in spirit for feeling sad... I have witnessed this. I have seen people create such mantras to tell themselves over and over, which to me feels like an emotional avoidance tactic.
We begin to unconsciously tell ourselves what others tell us.
I once presented to a group of bereaved parents. The person who introduced me said these words just before I came on to deliver messages from their children in spirit, "We don't have to be sad because our children are here with us." I heard this repeatedly and I wish this was the only harmful advice I have heard from well-meaning spiritual people, but it isn't. Statements like this, especially when proclaimed by healers and leaders, can interfere with what is already a griever's most challenging yet most productive healing work: mourning.
Mourning is by far the most grueling, and most important, aspect of healing. We do not need to make this more difficult for ourselves or others. If we consciously or unconsciously believe we shouldn't feel sorrow or anger or guilt or regret, we will consciously or unconsciously berate ourselves when these emotions come to the surface that we are ready to release. This opposes true spirituality, which is about becoming who we authentically are, freely allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is we need to feel and heal.
True spirituality turns us inward and aids us in confronting our emotions, so that we may heal our wounds. It is by getting to know our inner self that we begin to forgive ourselves and others. And it is by turning inward that we connect with our intuition, the voice of our own soul. We meet our soul not by going around our pain, but through it. It is from this space, from our soul, that our clearest and most fulfilling relationship with Spirit exists. Spirit is waiting patiently for us and walking with us... not around our pain, but through it.