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  • helizabethcaney8

Spiritual Bypassing

Updated: Mar 7







Another topic that I have been thinking alot about recently, and something that has assisted in helping me fall into this dismal pit of questioning and doubt about yoga and the wellness industry, is spiritual bypassing or also known as a load of old bollocks that is frighteningly common.


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. (1)


This is a term introduced in the mid 1980s by John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist:


It’s a route frequently found in this Western world of yoga, where “enlightenment” and yogic practices are often sold as a way to escape or alleviate our suffering. It’s a phenomenon influencing much of what’s being shared and sold today. Scroll though social media for a minute, and, chances are, you’ll see it. (4)



For example have you ever seen a social media post that says something like Pain is avoidable, Everything happens for a reason, You create your own happiness, to avoid feelings of anger, to rise above your emotions, or how much yoga can help you become emotionally free?


Or has someone (a yoga instructor or otherwise) advise you to drop the negativity and attract the positivity into your life. Then my friend I'm sorry to say you have been the victim of spiritual bypassing.




Spiritual bypassing is requiring niceness over truth, positivity over authenticity. (3)




So Why Spiritual Bypass Happens in Spiritual Communities?


Melissa Renzi perfectly describes why spiritual bypassing is such a common occurence in spiritual communities, 


First, spiritual bypassing is not only a spiritual community phenomenon. Even in the world of therapy, there are methods overly focused on behavioral change and challenging “irrational” emotions that can be bypassing and dismissive in effect. I’ll also note that many people drawn to spirituality and wellness are often seeking answers and cures for deep-seated pain and feelings of unworthiness. If we find a healing practice, it’s easy to cling to those teachings as the answer to all problems. (2)


Considering the availability, ease and encouragement (as it is an £895 million industry and financial gain for the companies within this field is pretty limitless), individuals who come to yoga as a supportive measure (which is great, yoga can be wonderful at relaxing some people and allowing them a bit of space to move freely and rest) however it is not an antidote to anything and any teacher/ instructor/ influencer/ company that claims yoga will heal you or fix you or transform you or remove the bad things in your life is spiritually bypassing.


I saw an instagram post recently from a yoga instructor who said 'FEEL THE FEAR AND THE MAGIC WILL APPEAR' it got me thinking, would you tell a refugee that if they could fully embrace the horror that they have experienced and fully give into the fear, terror and unimaginable trauma that 'the magic will appear' and they can start enjoying life again?


So, what makes those with more privileged, fortunate lives so much more able to work with the mystical force of law of attraction?

ABSOLUTELY FUCK ALL, just the privilege of thinking that.


If you’re experiencing difficulty in any aspect of your life that does not mean you're 'less spiritual', that you need guidance from a spiritual individual (of course if you want to then go for it- I just want to point out we are humans we are biologically wired to experience emotions. it takes a huge amount of privilege to think and declare to others that one person has the ability-divine right to guide another and they know how to make everything change into a positive - a perfect example of toxic positivity and supremacy right there).


So to summarise here is a detailed break down of the main types of spiritual bypassing you may come across:


MAIN TYPES OF SPIRITUAL BYPASSING:


Aletheia Luna of the 'lonerwolf' blog perfectly describes how subtle differences can surface within this type of behavior:


  1. The aggrandizement bypass is adopted by those who seek to feel enlightened, superior, or somehow “more awakened” in their spiritual development than others. Claiming to have reached a certain spiritual coveted milestone is a type of self-delusion that some spiritual seekers use as a way of masking their perceived deficiencies and insecurities (learn more about ‘Makyo‘). More commonly, this bypass is typically used by self-proclaimed masters, spiritual leaders, “kundalini awakened” yogis, and gurus to solicit a following (and make some good money!)

  2.  The Finger-Pointing Bypass - At some point we begin to see through the lies, delusions, and crazy behaviours committed by our fellow human beings and this can make us angry, downhearted, and frustrated. Finger-pointing instils us with a false sense of righteousness, taking away the responsibility of looking inside and working on ourselves. At its roots, the Finger-Pointing bypass is sourced in egocentric separation and fearful avoidance of our own shadows.

  3. The Guru Bypass-Often it is beneficial to follow a guru, shaman, or spiritual teacher or yoga or meditation teacher to learn and grow. However, becoming too attached to such people can rapidly turn into another form of spiritual bypassing. By treating the words of a guru or master as the irrefutable truth and failing to think for ourselves, we fall into cult-like group think and see them as all knowing and always right.

  4. The Saint Bypass As children, many of us were conditioned to believe that a “spiritual person” is always kind, compassionate, and saintly. In adulthood, many of us continue to repeat this story to ourselves, and sadly, it can create tremendous suffering. The Saint Bypass is a reflection of extreme “black or white” thinking, promoting the underlying belief that spiritual people can’t have dark sides because that would make them “unspiritual.” This type of spiritual bypass is essentially avoidance of one’s Shadow Self (dark side) by overcompensating with the guise of a sweet and heavenly exterior. The martyr complex is a major symptom of this type of bypassing. (6)



I hope that with this awareness you can pick out the suggestions/influences that may have been questionable to you.


There is no room for this manipulation and misguidance in the yoga and wellness industry (along with many other issues I will be writing about), please know you have every right to call it out.


I realise I will probably be called out for being 'unyogic' for my judgement and how critical I have described my views being,  I just needed a space to voice mine as after many conversations with other practitioners and constant reading I think not saying anything and siting back and watching this culture breed more injustice and arrogance is more harmful than me thinking and researching and writing about such topics.



Yours,



Hannah x





REFERENCES:




(3)

Bear Herbert, 2017.


(4)


(5)

Susanna Barkataki, instagram


(6)

Aletheia Luna, 'What Is Spiritual Bypassing? (Beware of These 10 Types)',

Aug 2023. Melissa Noel Renzi | Jul 2020

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