The term Spiritual Bypassing was first coined in 1984 by psychologist John Welwood. Spiritual bypassing involves various spiritual beliefs and practices to protect oneself from deep wounds or painful feelings. The English term „to bypass“ translates into German as „to bridge“ or „to bypass.“ In Spiritual Bypassing, then, one has internalized a strategy not only to avoid suffering, but also to recognize it as legitimate. This is done in a very obvious way.
Most people, however, don’t use this avoidance strategy too often, or sometimes don’t even know they are using it. How often Spiritual Bypassing is used today, however, can be seen by looking at some phrases related to spiritual teachings. These include phrases such as, „We are all one,“ „You must always think positively,“ „It’s all an illusion,“ „Good vibes only,“ or „Don’t take it personally.“ Accordingly, these sentences or similar ones can have an inspiring effect. However, if you look at them on a deeper level, you realize that these sentences are much too far away from the multifaceted layers of „being human“.
Spirituality becomes an avoidance strategy
Most people among us assume that esoteric people have nothing but love, light and lightness in mind. In the meantime, however, spirituality has become suitable for everyday life and can thus also be used as a tool to withstand the daily roller coasters.
Everyone, however, feels less than great at some point in their lives. This can be caused by either disappointment, pain, or shame. These are all feelings that humans do not like. Therefore, it is easy to understand why one would want to avoid these feelings and thus take refuge in spirituality.
There is no doubt that spirituality in a certain way actually opens up possibilities to avoid such unpleasant moments. That is why psychologist John Welwood gave the name „spiritual bypassing“ to this phenomenon. It means – to put it simply – a spiritual avoidance.
How do you know if you are affected by Spiritual Bypassing?
- The same issues come up again and again, even though you have solved them many times before.
- One blindly trusts one’s own role models.
- Good friends contact you less and less.
- One is downright addicted to methods or practices to ground oneself or to find one’s inner peace again.
- One feels clearly superior to those people who, in one’s own opinion, are still at a different stage of development.
How does one live in Spiritual Bypassing?
A situation in which one takes refuge in an ideal world when unpleasant issues arise is certainly familiar to everyone among us. Often, this drift into the spiritual world may actually help. Nevertheless, it should remain only a short-term solution. In Spiritual Bypassing, many people comfort themselves with the thought that it is just the way it is and everything also happens for a good reason. They practically avoid dealing with the unpleasant issues or the negative. People comfort themselves by avoiding the unpleasant and pushing it aside. For some people, the tendency to Spiritual Bypassing is so strong that they elevate their complete negative experiences to the spiritual level, thus becoming happier. But this is exactly the wrong way of thinking. Not „not dealing“ with problems strengthens the inner „I“, but the direct confrontation with the difficulties including the search for solutions. Only those who allow this approach can grow from it.
It can also be observed that many people who drift into Spiritual Bypassing also perform practices such as yoga. While this does not harm people at all, it can be seen as the wrong solution in some circumstances. Yoga is meant to open the spiritual path and strengthen one’s inner „self“ to deal with future problem situations. Those who have realized this can still do a meditation following yoga practices for additional self-awareness strengthening to holistically complete the spiritual journey.
The first step to getting out of Spiritual Bypassing is that of first recognizing that one is trapped in this spiritual „hamster wheel.“ To get out of Spiritual Bypassing, compassion and acceptance of negativity are inevitable. Of course, this is not an easy path, which is why many people seek help on a psychological level.