In the wake of the recent tragedies, I've found the buzzword of spiritual bypassing coming up again and again. I see it, I feel it and I want to understand it more.
What is Spiritual Bypassing?
Overtime, I've come to understand spiritual bypassing as a way of attempting to achieve higher consciousness, by jumping OVER the process of experiencing and processing lower level emotions. Using current events as an example, this would look like someone hearing about the devastating news of the mass shooting in El Paso and immediately respond by
saying 'it is what it is' or an out of my control mindset. Going straight to divinity or gratefulness without traveling the course of what that information really means for self and others.
Choosing to not engage with the experience that that information would pull up in your feelings (head in the sand). This is serving as an attempt to not disrupt emotional states and stay 'zen.' This could also show up as an individual having extreme tolerance or accommodating inappropriate behavior from another person, sometimes referred to as 'blind compassion.' A few additional presentations of spiritual bypassing (SB) include, but are not limited to, overemphasizing the positive, emotional numbing/repression, treating ego as something to get rid of, anger phobia etc. One last aspect where SB can show up is someone faking nice out of fear of being perceived as 'not spiritual,' meaning that the niceness is coming from a place of fear, not love. (For more musings on my thought about 'being nice' click here.)
Basically, spiritual bypassing is a variation of avoidance with some fancy, holier than thou, righteous type of language. If you haven't caught wind yet... avoidance doesn't work, not in the long term anyways.
What we resist, persists.
The problem with this is that it prevents true embodiment of the full human experience. It'll also contribute to big, dark dense shadow self that will leak out and project a bunch of crap all over the people around you. I know I've done this more often than l'd like to admit... but I feel it's all grist for the mill and part of the spiritual journey. It's SO tempting to ignore or leap over those dis-regulating, uncomfortable emotions. If you want to live life fully and with your whole heart and soul, you can't consciously participate in SB.
How to decrease your spiritual bypassing?
Maybe you too recognized some of those behaviors in yourself and want to attend to it. The first step to shifting SB is awareness. Spotlighting in yourself when you notice your attempts to avoid or leap over hard feelings to maintain or attain peace. It's scientifically proven that any behavior observed will shift. Observing this behavior in yourself will change the way it shows up.
After you've drawn attention to your own SB, the next step could be to recognize and understand how it's serving you. Actively involve yourself in self-inquiry. Whhhhy, why do we do this? Everything you do, even the most destructive behaviors, are all in an attempt to serve you. There's a need that's being met, and until we identify the need, any behavioral change will be short lived. Can we accept and have compassion for ourselves when we notice SB?
Maybe SB is protecting you from feelings of overwhelm or powerlessness, feelings of fear. What if I indulge these heavy feelings and that leads to more heavy feelings? (think If You Give a Mouse a Cookie... type mentality) Those are all valid feelings and it makes sense why we latch on to spiritual bypassing as a form of avoidance. But what if we did the counter-intuitive thing and turned towards those feelings? Made space for the heartbreak we feel for ourselves and maybe others who've experienced tragedy. Consciously chose to invite the feelings in. When we accept and invite in our feelings then our emotional body gets to work. It'll process, store and express. I tend to do this with guided visualization, and locating feelings in my body. Noticing that powerlessness lives right below my ribs (solar plexus for my energy peoples). Looking at it, and offering love and compassion just as I do for my children when they become upset and need support.
An important part of this process is to notice when we start to identify with these heavy (or light) emotions. You're not your feelings. They might try to trick you and take you for a ride, a bumpy one, but that is an illusion.
You are the watcher of your feelings.
Embodying an openness and willingness to learn more about our relationships to our selves, others and the divine will always serve in leading you towards wholehearted living.
You are doing great.