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“Spiritual bypassing is a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds and unfinished development tasks” – John Welwood.

Spirituality is a personal experience that creates a system of personal beliefs when searching for the meaning of life. It’s a way of dealing with everyday challenges in life and connecting with something bigger than us. Being spiritual can mean different things to different people.

But when we use these practices and beliefs to ward off personal, emotional or to belittle our basic needs, feelings and development tasks then this is spiritual bypassing at its finest because we are avoiding dealing with painful ‘unfinished business’ and living in denial as if everything is dandy!

Believe it or not, we all do it! So, let’s normalise it. Spiritual bypassing is a normal process of suppressing, denying, abolishing and the elimination of the shadow self or that dark side that resides within us … and masking it with sparkly feel-good glitter star bandages. Although we know all too well that by repressing the inevitable – the very thing that we must work with will only increase its power for it to explode and knock us off our feet because what we ‘resist will only persist’.

When we are tuned in, tapped in and aware of our body’s defence mechanism then we are awake, conscious and mindful of its very presence. Once we are cognizant of its very existence then we know we are seeking to use spiritual ideas to turn away from any unresolved grief, pain, trauma and issues.

We all use spiritual bypassing to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds and developmental needs. Since it is an unconscious act it’s so pervasive that it goes largely unnoticed.

With the avoidance of pain, we lose the healing too…

Yep. It’s a state of avoidance and thus a state of resistance. “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality” says Ayn Rand. Avoidance doesn’t solve anything; it merely serves as a temporary pacifier. R. D. Laing said, “pain in this life is not avoidable but the pain we create avoiding pain is avoidable”.

When we are sidestepping, meaning avoiding dealing with our problems, worries, issues and concerns – our spiritual bypassing language kicks in to avoid dealing with what we may have labelled as deep psychological issues. When we do such acts, we are masking and overlooking any emotionally unfinished business! In other words, we are covering up what we need to heal and instead of allowing lower vibrational frequencies such as shame, guilt, grief, fear, sadness and anger to envelope the very core of our being – we do the opposite. We approach life with ‘positivity’ on steroids and instead of dealing with what is really going on within us, we turn our focus externally of us to avoid the healing to take place.

If you can relate to any of the below statements, you know you are spiritual bypassing by avoiding action to justify the agony, adversity and anguish you are feeling.

  • Everything happens for a reason
  • It is what it is
  • It was a blessing in disguise
  • It was for the best anyway

In reality what we are doing is making it easier for us to digest what is taking place. Making it easier for us to accept things as if there was some divine intervention occurring as part of our spiritual growth. Almost as if it was inevitable that these events were meant to take place for our learning, our growth and evolution. But what if we were to sit with our pain in order to process it and not repress it, to work through it for once and for all … what then?

Spiritual bypassing is a form of escapism…

What stops us from being our authentic self is the ‘judging’ of others for expressing how they truly feel about what is taking place. When we are judging others for standing in their truth, we are invertedly suppressing our own valid emotions because they feel uncomfortable. We then judge others for being negative or weak in nature and in doing so it may give us a quick fix to our ego by thinking they are not mature enough or evolved as we are only to avoid the adversity that we need to heal.

Napoleon Hill shares with us that every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. Then why in the hell would we go out of our way to avoid dealing with adversity head-on? When we approach life with a high ‘good vibes’ only attitude we are denying our truth, our genuine self, our loyal feelings as if they don’t matter. That my friend is damaging, harmful and debilitating beyond any possible physical glitch of evolution!

Spiritual bypassing will keep us in an emotional loop, a pattern of avoidance, repudiation and denial – in my experience all that has done is left me seeking external of myself and going off on a weekend retreat with some enlightened Guru only to make me feel better for a very short time to only have to face my triggers eventually and prolong the anguish once I return home.

Spiritual bypassing acts as a cover-up…

Most individuals pretend that everything is okay when really it’s not … and not being present in the here and now, overstating the positive and avoiding the negative aspects of life.

Although spiritual bypassing can be seen as a coping mechanism, it can stifle our growth and innovation, stunt our emotional development and get in our way of unleashing our true authentic self!

Psychologist Ingrid Clayton says, “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.”

Spiritual bypassing brings more pain and damage than anything else because when we repress our “sh!t”, we are only increasing the magnitude and depth of our wounds. When we are suppressing negative emotions and avoiding their very existence – bottling up feelings of lower vibrational frequencies, that will only accumulate over time can affect our physical, emotional and mental health. The thing is this, we can only cure our wounds if we attend to them. Imagine not attending to a real wound, what do you think will happen then? Your wound would get infected or worse!

When we feel any negative emotions that is them screaming out for our attention, they want to be seen and heard. If we are going to walk through life with our rose-coloured glasses as if this was meant to happen for us and not to us then eventually, we may just find ourselves in a situation where we are not happy, but we don’t know why. When these negative emotions arise, they are telling us that something is not right, maybe our needs are not being met or we have compromised our values or boundaries.

Use your spiritual bypassing as your GPS…

Instead of ignoring and numbing how we are truly feeling which adversely also anesthetises and desensitises our higher vibrational frequencies such as love, joy, peace and enlightenment. Why not use our spiritual bypassing as our guiding system? I know it all sounds very counterproductive and maybe a tad unsuccessful, but I promise it works!!

Whenever you catch yourself not focusing on the here and now, investing too much time external of yourself, whether that is comparing your life to others, getting too involved in other people’s lives and overemphasising the positive and avoiding the negative. This is where you can re-write your unconscious programmes by doing the opposite of these deep-seated programmes.

Rather than being self-righteous be more humble – you can move from being overly detached to immensely connected, from being exceedingly idealistic to extremely realistic. You know you can ‘fake it until you make it’! Your mind can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is not real. If you want to manifest a success mindset, just be that very thing. A great analogy I like to use – imagine rolling out of bed and feeling very average, maybe a little bit down. Right in that very second – jump up and down or skip around your room. Then see how long you will feel down or miserable. It’s impossible for your mind to stay in that mindset if your physiology is telling your brain something else.

The only pain in pleasure is the pleasure of the pain…

To normalise this concept is to ‘accept’ that we all have parts of ourselves that we would rather not look at – from doubts and fears to guilt and shame but when we bury these aspects in our unconscious mind rather than resolve and integrate them, they often take on dysfunctional roles and behaviours that prevent healing and cause harm to ourselves and our relationships! So how do we stop spiritual bypassing for good?

The first step is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Yes! We are conditioned to stay in our safe zone. But how are we meant to grow, expand and succeed if we continue to do what we have always done? If we continue to do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always gotten.

Learning to be a little uncomfortable and be okay with ‘not knowing’ is actually very powerful, because from this vantage point, anything is possible! There are so many benefits to becoming comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. We must exalt ourselves forward and normalise the uncomfortable zone to be able to find our place of productive discomfort.

You must be in it to feel it and step through it as this is where our greatest potential lies. I promise you that you will be extremely surprised, astonished and dazzled that you will accomplish more than you ever thought was achievable. First of all, see uncomfortable feelings as a sign there is something wrong and something needs to change. Uncomfortable emotions need to be recognised – rather than avoided or masked with superficial positive escapism.

Then, avoid labelling your emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Accept all emotions, recognising that they are temporary – and don’t make you a ‘bad’ person for having them. Lastly, use negative thoughts and feelings to propel you into positive action. Instead of ignoring them or masking them with an “it is what it is” mindset, use them as a catalyst for real change. Ignoring a problem, or sidestepping it, doesn’t solve it.

Take the quiz below to see what and where you invest your time and energy avoiding what you need to deal with.