Many of us (myself included) have often said these well-meaning phrases. Things like “Let go and Let God,” “They’re (your loved ones who have died) are in a better place now,” “God doesn’t give you anymore than you can handle” are intended to “make people feel better,” but when they are in place of acknowledging someone is in pain or in grief, they can be experienced as being extremely invalidating, minimizing and dismissive.
Our “negative” emotions and experiences can indeed be our teachers. When we are having “negative” emotions, we tend to avoid, cut-off or numb out from them. However, bypassing these only leaves them unprocessed and ready to come flooding in at inopportune moments if we ignore them for long enough.
I use quotations around “negative” emotions because our emotions are not good or bad, but they just are. We do negative things with emotions like anger or fear. Perhaps we were conditioned to believe that certain emotions were negative and we pushed them down. We are called to move towards these negative experiences and move through them.
True spirituality is not an escape.
Spiritual bypassing is a special kind of gaslighting. They use the Divine/God/Universe as a way of ignoring or trying to skirt around difficult experiences or feelings.
This is NOT a spiritual path.
Moving through our human stories and our human pain- that is a true spiritual path. Owning our darkness AND our light is the way to wholeness and a more robust spiritual relationship.
We are here to learn how truly powerful and how loved we really are. We don’t get to really learn that when we “only focus on the positive” or “Let Go and Let God” without acknowledging our own mistakes, our impact or holding ourselves and others accountable.
At it’s worst, spiritual bypassing can be downright religious abuse. Abusive actions of clergy that are hidden, covered up or toxic communities rooted in shame, blame and pain are not only engaged in spiritual bypassing, but religious abusive behavior. Wounded and vulnerable people are drawn to these types of communities and form traumatic bonds that manipulate their need for attunement and connection and only make their wounds worse. But the draw towards the spiritual bypass allows the pain to be-at least for a while- numbed.
If someone comes up and hits your child, should you simply say, “Oh- that is what they are doing with their pain.” NO! We are right to have “negative” feelings towards that person, to say no, to stand up to them, to hold them accountable for the assault.
Avoiding, transcending, denying or bypassing our past, our struggles, our grief, our mistakes leaves the pain unintegrated and ultimately will cause illness, dysfunction and disease AND/OR it will negatively affect your ability to truly connect with others or will downright HARM OTHERS.
As tempting as it is to want to “rise above” our struggles, it is going deeply into these wounds that is actually the path towards the divine (whatever that means to you- even if it is simply the innerconnectivity of all living things ) and towards our whole selves.
Here’s the thing- we have all engaged in some kind of spiritual bypassing. We have all tried to go around uncomfortable emotions, or rescue someone/fix someone or try to take them (or ourselves) out of pain or convince them that their pain isn’t real or warranted. AND if we can become curious about how we have engaged in spiritual bypassing, that may be a flashlight as to what it is that we were avoiding.
Once we have awareness, perhaps then we can intentionally move towards unprocessed memories from our past, move towards compassion for unprocessed anger, fear, shame or regret, move towards what we fear the most and open up to a more joyful, whole, authentic relationship with ourselves, others and whatever the Divine means to you.
Let’s examine hatred. Hatred is something that we do when we are angry and hurt and we want a little bit of power. If we own it, if we move towards it, if we move through and into it, we will find grief. And when we move through grief, we inevitably grow in our capacity to love ourselves AND others more fully and deeply.
When our hearts break- they break open.
When we outgrow spiritual bypassing, we embrace that life requires bravery, it requires a willingness to enter into conflict, it requires healthy boundaries and a willingness to move towards our pain and our uncomfortable feelings and experiences.
There is such a thing as a “positivity junkie.” Blind compassion without healthy boundaries is another form of spiritual bypassing. Forgiveness without accountability is spiritual bypassing. Avoiding conflict at the expense of our own needs or making others feel comfortable is spiritual bypassing.
Cutting off from our so-called “negative” experiences and spiritually bypassing them is another form of dissociation and anesthesia. It might change the state and tranquilize us for a brief moment, but it will not solve the real root of the problem. What is important to know is you are not alone in thinking that outgrowing spiritual bypassing is hard. There are others who are in the game, on your team and wanting to walk the authentic path that requires accountability, bravery, curiosity, empathy, acceptance and the owning of our whole story.