Spiritual Bypass

If you have been around the New Thought spiritual community, you may have heard the term Spiritual bypass.

So what is spiritual bypass?

 Spiritual bypassing involves using spiritual explanations to dismiss or avoid complicated emotions or psychological issues.Spiritual Bypass
~ Very Well Mind

Spiritual bypass or spiritual bypassing is a “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks”. The term was introduced in the mid-1980s by John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist.  ~Wikipedia

When situations get tough, we may use spiritual bypass to mask the problem or our feeling about it.

When you or others are using spiritual bypass, you may hear some of the following phrases:

  • It’s all Good! No worries
  • Relax, God is just teaching you something
  • Out of this, good will come
  • It is all God’s will

If you are hurting, these phrases don’t help and often cause more damage — whether you are hearing them inside your head or if someone is telling you this or something similar.

I often tell myself to bypass phrases because I fear looking vulnerable. And because I am a licensed Spiritual Practitioner, I should have it all together – right?!

During a workshop on the subject, we discussed some of the ways we use bypass:

  1. To avoid thoughts, feelings, and emotions during challenging times
  2. To deal with the fear of not being in control or creating negative feelings
  3. To fit in with others

So how do we avoid spiritual bypass?

  • First and foremost, be compassionate with yourself and with others in need.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable and authentic
  • Practice belonging and connectedness
  • Show empathy with yourself and others.

A conversation I had with a friend after my house burned down was one of the best examples I experienced to help me through spiritual bypass. He first listened attentively as I whined about what had happened. And when it was appropriate, he repeatedly told me that he was sorry this happened to me. No empty cliches, no bypass statements, no judgment! His listening and response helped me get over those first traumatic moments.

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