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Getting Real with Spiritual Bypass

Getting Real with Spiritual Bypass

Spiritual bypassing is a superficial way of glossing over problems in a way that might make us feel better in the short term, but ultimately solves nothing and just leaves the problem to linger on. We can take opportunities to begin to understand the concept of spiritual bypass (as coined by John Welwood in his book “Toward a Psychology of Awakening“) and how to practice with it. 

Take some time to notice possible moments of spiritual bypass.  Perhaps using a journal – write and reflect on how your mind responds when faced with some of our difficult emotions such as anger, grief, loneliness, etc. See if you can notice without judgement, just awareness of your mind operating in this very human way. What is the nature of this experience, more than the particularities.

Some things you might notice:

  • Avoiding feelings of anger
  • Believing that traumatic events must serve as “learning experiences” or that there is a silver lining behind every negative experience
  • Believing that spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer are always positive
  • Extremely high, often unattainable, idealism
  • Focusing only on spirituality and ignoring the present
  • Only focusing on the positive or being overly optimistic
  • Projecting your own negative feelings onto others
  • Pretending that things are fine when they are clearly not
  • Thinking that people can overcome their problems through positive thinking
  • Thinking that you must “rise above” your emotions