Let’s say you’ve found a path to spirituality, hoping it will provide solace for your bustling mind. However, over time, you realize that instead of facing your personal issues head-on, you’re actually using your spiritual practices to sidestep them.
This is known as spiritual bypassing. And you’re entering it without even knowing it.
“Only when you know what you are, you are capable of moving towards what you want to become,” shares Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, the author of best-selling Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life and trainer of Mindvalley’s From Awesome to Flawesome Quest.
And when you understand the ins and outs of it, you’re facing, not fleeing from, your inner turmoil for a more authentic spiritual experience.
What Is Spiritual Bypassing?
The “spiritual bypassing” meaning describes when you use spirituality to sidestep life’s challenges or emotional wounds. Coined by clinical psychologist John Welwood, this behavior blocks the path to authentic healing and, instead, offers a sugar-coated escape rather than a solid solution.
“It’s the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with relationship hassles, emotional challenges, [and] developmental tasks,” explains Robert Augustus Masters, a psychotherapist and author of Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us From What Really Matters. Simply put, it’s a defense mechanism.
And it might seem like a comforting alternative at first. However, as the research suggests, it only leads to a road filled with more complexities and unresolved issues.
Spiritual Bypassing Examples
Spiritual bypassing can manifest in various ways. It often wears a mask of enlightenment or positivity. And this makes it a tricky habit to identify and untangle.We resort to spiritual bypassing when we can’t process our own unpleasant emotions or process certain traumas. — @KristinaMandLak Click To Tweet
Here are some typical examples of how spiritual bypassing might show up in your day-to-day scenarios:
- Dodging emotional reality. You ignore emotional pain after a challenging event, like a breakup, by reciting phrases such as “the Universe knows best.”
- Toxic positivity. You keep a positive facade during tough times and deny the presence of any negative emotions or problems.
- Over-spiritualizing. You turn every minor setback into a “spiritual test” or a “karmic lesson.”
- Avoidance of responsibility. You assign blame to karma or destiny for personal mistakes or life situations.
- Neglecting personal boundaries. You let others overstep your boundaries under the guise of love and forgiveness.
This avoidance can, unfortunately, stunt growth across different levels of consciousness. It might trap you in a pseudo-enlightened state, dodging the raw realities you need for genuine self-evolution.
What does it sound like?
Spiritual bypassing has a unique language. It often uses spiritual or positive phrases to mask avoidance or denial.
Here are some common phrases associated with spiritual bypassing:
- “I only have love for you.” You use words of love to mask the reality of neglect or disregard.
- “Don’t be so negative.” This expression can invalidate real emotions, making it difficult to have authentic discussions and process feelings.
- “It’s all in divine order.” This is used to overlook personal responsibility or real-world issues.
- “Just let it go.” This can be a way to avoid dealing with emotions or conflicts, skirting around the real issues at hand.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” While it can be comforting, this phrase can discourage exploring feelings or addressing problems.
- “Sending you good vibes.” These words may be used superficially to offer support without engaging in the practical or emotional aspects of a situation.
- “We’re all one.” While promoting unity, this phrase can be used to gloss over genuine conflicts or differences in a dismissive manner.
- “Just trust the Universe.” This might be used to dodge personal responsibility or effort in a given situation.
- “Focus on the present.” While mindfulness is valuable, this phrase can sometimes be used to avoid addressing past traumas or future concerns.
- “Negativity doesn’t serve you.” This statement might deter individuals from expressing valid concerns or frustrations, potentially stifling authentic communication.
Recognizing these phrases and understanding their impact helps cultivate spiritual intelligence. And as a result, it steers you away from using spirituality as a mere veil for avoidance or denial.
Signs of Spiritual Bypassing
Stepping onto the path of self-discovery, whether through religion and spirituality or other means, can feel fulfilling. However, it’s easy to stray into a spiritual bypass, leading you round and round in circles.What we do is that we hide behind the spiritual concepts because that makes us feel better. — @KristinaMandLak Click To Tweet
Here are 10 signs that might hint that you’re meandering:
- Forced optimism. You habitually wrap yourself in an almost forceful positivity, like “Always look on the bright side!” even when the situation begs for a serious, sober outlook.
- Spiritual superiority. You look down upon others and avoid personal accountability with this spiritual bypassing narcissist trait.
- Victim of your gifts. Your spiritual or extrasensory gifts feel like a curse.
- Psychedelic escape. You use substances to explore other realms, but it’s also your escape hatch from facing the gritty realities of your daily life or emotional world.
- Horoscope dependency. You find yourself perpetually seeking guidance from horoscopes or psychics.
- Saintly disguise. You shun your dark side because acknowledging it feels like a threat to your spiritual persona.
- Over-reliance on spirit guides. You wait for signs or messages before making any moves.
- Prayer passivity. Prayer is your go-to for all solutions. While it can be powerful, solely relying on it can tip into passivity.
- Guru glorification. You hang onto every word of a spiritual teacher, sidelining your own intuition or reasoning. The essence of teaching is to assimilate, not idolize.
- Finger-pointing. You find endless faults with the world outside, diverting the gaze from your own inner world that might need attention.
These signs are like the weeds in your garden of self-growth. Plucking them out clears the way for an authentic, rooted, and ego-transcending spirituality.
The journey within is about embracing the full spectrum—not just the light but the shadow, too.
How to Stop Spiritual Bypassing
“Your feelings are valid,” says Kristina in her Mindvalley Quest. “Never let anyone dismiss your feelings. If you have them, you have them for a reason.”
When you allow yourself to sit with your emotions, no matter how uncomfortable, you take the reins back from avoidance and make way for authentic spiritual growth. But, as you might guess, recognizing the issue is only half the battle.
The next part involves rolling up your sleeves and diving into some soul work. And here are three ways you can take action on how to stop spiritual bypassing.
The cornerstone of it all is cultivating a keen sense of self-awareness. This isn’t a one-off event but a continuous process. And it involves tuning into your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with an objective lens, especially when faced with life’s adversities.
A study on self-awareness highlighted in the Harvard Business Review found that most people believe they are self-aware. But, as the researchers found, self-awareness is a truly rare quality.
Those who “seek honest feedback from loving critics and who ask what instead of why” can learn to see themselves more clearly. And, in turn, they can reap the many rewards of self-awareness.
Learning from Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani: “We put on those masks so that people accept us, so that people like us. Because somewhere deep inside, we are afraid that if they see what we truly are, they might not like us.”
2. Embrace your emotions
Emotions are not your foes, but signals. Each feeling, be it a gentle ripple of joy or a storm of anger, carries a message.
It’s a nuanced journey of self-love vs. narcissism, really. Embracing emotions leads to self-love; brushing them under a spiritual rug leans toward narcissism.I believe that the biggest problem of contemporary society is emotional analgesia. We learn to ignore emotional pain, focusing on the positive and demanding good vibes only. — @KristinaMandLak Click To Tweet
So however unsettling they might be, embrace your feelings. They’re the stepping stones towards authentic healing.
Learning from Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani: “The art of learning to be happy is not to ignore or not notice the negative or be okay with the negative. It is actually to learn to work with it.”
3. Engage in open discussions
Spiritual clichés can be comforting blankets, but too often they muffle the genuine dialogues crucial for growth.
An example Kristina gives is of a friend who would do or say things that would hurt her. She confronted the person with the intention of airing out any differences, only to have been met with the line: “Oh Kristina, I love you.”
“When rather than facing the conflict, the person is escaping into a spiritual concept,” Kristina explains.
And the reality is, there’s research that shows holding back thoughts and emotions can be stressful. That’s why it’s important to engage in open discussions, even when they stir the pot.
Learning from Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani: “While spiritual bypassing might seem so righteous, and so mature, and so above everything, it is actually incredibly destructive to you because you are not dealing with your own traumas and with your own hard feelings, but it is also destructive to your environment. And if you have ever been on the receiving end of such spiritual blasting and love bombing, then you might know how painful it may be.”
Greatness Starts With You
The fact of the matter is, spiritual bypassing is not your shortcut to becoming “flawesome.” Yes, the road may have thorns, but facing your shadows is what paves the way for authentic spiritual growth.
That’s where Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani’s Mindvalley Quest, From Awesome to Flawesome, can help. It’s where you can kickstart a journey toward better self-awareness, greater self-love, and the great potential for self-healing and growth.
And hey, if curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back—snag a free chapter from Kristina’s book, Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life, and get a taste of the enlightenment awaiting you.
It’s more than a sneak peek, no doubt. Rather, it’s a glimpse into the awesomeness (pun intended) that’s packed into her Mindvalley Quest.
“You will do this world a great favor if you allow yourself to prioritize your own happiness,” says Kristina. And it all starts with acknowledging your flawesomeness.
Images generated on Midjourney.