Have you ever felt sometimes it’s easier to portray happiness than how you really feel about something because you fear being judged and seen as unspiritual? Do you stand guarded at expressing your emotions, for fear of being thought of as negative, not living a spiritual life, or failing in your spiritual path? Have you ever bared witness to a friend, family member, colleague, or partner masking their deepest and innermost pains with spiritual ideas and practices? Have you noticed others comparing ‘wholesome’ spiritual journeys with yours, but something doesn't feel right?
What is spiritual bypassing?
There has been an upsurge over the years, in people wanting to experience a spiritual life and learn what it means to connect with that innate power and Divinity within. We desire feelings of peace and love and happiness. So many of us have lived in pain and suffering, to know love is healing. There is a danger in pursuing superficial happiness rather than working through situations and in the process expressing our deepest emotions and feelings.
John Welwood, a transpersonal psychologist defined spiritual bypassing in the 80s as using, “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.” People engage in spiritual bypassing, to portray a sense of enlightenment, while avoiding or minimising deep seated emotional pain.
Over the years, it has been wrongly assumed and perpetuated that ‘negative’ emotions are ‘bad’ and not ‘spiritual.’ This idea has infiltrated modern concepts of spirituality thus, creating practices and a widely held belief that spirituality is a perpetual state of constant bliss. As a result, people repress and hide pain and emotions when they feel down or sad. In the suppression and non-acknowledgment of our many emotions, we miss an important process. Spirituality is healing. The journey with our innate spirit requires us to dig deep within our hearts, minds and souls, acknowledge our wounds and work to heal them. Spiritual bypassing misses the whole aspect of true spirituality which is living from a place of authenticity.
Honouring and Serving,
Simran K. Rattan MD