7 Signs That You May Be Spiritually Bypassing
The road to a spiritual life is different for everyone, but spiritual bypassing is a potential hazard for all. Sometimes our spiritual journey can feel so slow-going that to think that we go too fast seems a far-fetched idea. Some spiritual awakenings can feel like a blissful catapult into a new mind-blowing paradigm where nothing feels the same anymore. Regardless of the route your journey takes, the skipping of important turns happens far more often than you might think.
Spiritual bypassing is the fitting term for the phenomenon of "premature transcendence". The term was first coined by American psychologist John Welwood in the 1980s after observing these patterns in himself and in the Buddhist community he was surrounded by.
At the start of a spiritual awakening, the new wave of inspiration helps us to grow and expand positively towards enlightenment. It can feel amazing, and so it's completely understandable why one would want to skip over the hard, raw and messy parts of human life to arrive at something more pleasant. We naturally seek solace in our spirituality BUT in our seeking our Egos can start to cling to the spiritual lens to try to keep itself safe, to have all the answers, or to attempt to control our thoughts and behaviors - and possibly those of others! Ego's white knuckling of the spiritual can stunt our growth and actually dim the light that we were beginning to radiate into the world.
[hand holding puppet strings]
We can see examples of spiritual bypassing in a great deal of the world's religious systems, most especially noticeable in extremist beliefs and cults. These forms of spiritual bypassing often result in devastating emotional and even physical wounds.
But spiritual bypassing doesn't have to be this extreme.
Have you ever met someone who filters everything they say through the scriptures in the Bible or through those of a spiritual leader they follow? Or have you ever found yourself using your spiritual system to find the answer to every problem, to the point that you stopped thinking for yourself?
[Compass with arrow pointing to "control"]
The "ultimate truth" can be found in all sorts of prescriptions for the right way to live, be it vegetarianism, metaphysics or any other spiritual system you can think of. Our Egos can become so attached to Absolute Truths that we stop hearing the needs and perspectives of our loved ones, forgo our own gut sense or intuition and lose touch with our own feelings. And the struggle that ensues can only ensnare the bypass-er deeper into their Absolute Truth as they get desperate for a way to ease their suffering.
But truth is that THE truth isn't always neat and tidy (nor is there necessarily just one!). In fact, most of our greatest lessons in life happen when we are knee deep in the muck, feeling all the feelings and emotions. When we quickly brush aside our difficulties, we can deny ourselves some of these rich opportunities for growth.
Have you ever spiritually bypassed? Probably! We all have.
Here are 7 signs that it’s time to reroute your spiritual path, according to Welwood.
1. It’s only good in theory. You speak convincingly of your trust in the Universe, but then have difficulty trusting it when your own wounds have been triggered.
2. Detached acts of service. Serving others turns into a guilt-driven obligation, or a way of trying to reverse negative self-perceptions.
3. Getting high and mighty. When sharing your spiritual intelligence begins to feed your Ego in a way that sets you apart from and above others. Sadly this has been a harmful symptom of the Patriarchy.
4. Unhealthy attachments to our leaders. When we project the image of the parent onto our teachers or gurus, and then a younger part of us unconsciously yearns to seek their love and approval, or even rebel strongly against them.
5. A meditation overload. When you go to meditation or like practices in order to escape from unpleasant emotions and situations and avoid confronting life’s difficulties. You know, like by interacting with people?
6. Keeping an arm’s distance. Rather than show up in relationship with your human and emotional vulnerabilities you incorrectly use the concept of non-attachment to hide them away from others and yourself.
7. Failure to self-advocate. Too concerned with coming off as needy, you don’t speak up for yourself. You fear that your needs mean you are too attached and you are trying to practice non-attachment.
Which of these bypass roads does your spiritual car tend to drift onto?
Again, we all can get overwhelmed by life and hop ourselves over the fence to greener pastures. But remember (or perhaps you won't!) that you signed up for the whole package of the human experience: not just the joy and the pleasure but also the ache and the grit. You'll get to go back to your eternal bliss when you cross over into the Beyond, but only in your lifetime do you get to explore the meaningful connections that can take place in the face of a crisis, or the heart-opening gratitude that exists at the inverse of our deepest sorrows.
If you find that your spiritual journey keeps bypassing, check out these strategies getting yourself back on a healthy spiritual path. And in the meantime, you might also benefit from individual support, either via email or a 1:1 private coaching session.