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Spiritual Bypassing

Do you find yourself dreaming of a pain-free happy life? Are you avoiding facing your challenges? Are you living the ideal lifestyle but feeling anxious or even ill?

In his book Spiritual Bypassing, Robert Augustus Masters describes spiritual bypassing as "the use of spiritual beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. The spiritual ideals of any tradition, whether Christian commandments or Buddhist precepts, can provide easy justification for practitioners [believers] to duck uncomfortable feelings in favor of more seemingly enlightened activity. When split off from fundamental psychological needs, such actions often do much more harm than good."

Looking through this book made me question whether I engaged in spiritual bypassing by thinking that "this is all maya [illusion]" and "life is bliss." I've asked myself repeatedly if I "ducked" emotional issues by painting them over with a belief that I should be blissful and content.

I saw a fine example of spiritual bypassing — with a twist — recently in a client. My client had faced the existential challenge of the diagnosis of cancer with great dignity and earnest reflection on what it meant to die. The pronouncement by the doctors that my client was cancer-free brought huge relief and delight. But a couple days later, a crisis unfolded. Numerous unexplained physical symptoms appeared and anxiety replaced the happy mood. My client felt miserable.

Hearing my client's story of transformation from happiness to suffering, I asked, "What did you lose when you lost the story of having cancer?" I anticipated that it would be something like the loss of people's sympathy and support. However, the answer revealed a special twist on spiritual bypassing. He said: "I lost my dream of being with the spiritual masters and others who have passed over before me." My client had become so enamored with the heavenly idea of sitting in the company of great spiritual masters that the possibility of enjoying THIS life in bliss had been forgotten. I reminded my client that this was not only possible, even with life's inevitable physical and emotional challenges, but that it was one of the lessons of living in human form. What a shock!

When life presents challenges — illness, financial misfortune, social problems — we tend to dream of something better or of getting away. When the place we dream of going to is spiritual — nirvana, heaven, we call the process spiritual bypassing. It's bypassing because we dismiss the value of the life we have in favor of a fantasy. This differs from the usual pattern of spiritual bypassing, which typically involves adopting some teaching's or tradition's rules for rapid spiritual progress — eating the "perfect" diet, avoiding all "stressful" situations, following an ideal daily routine, speaking softly and sweetly in all situations, etc.

Spiritual bypassing mimics the behavior of a small child who runs to its mother, finding comfort in being held and sucking its thumb. That child dwells within all of us, even if we don't recognize it. That child is not always apparent and is stronger in some than in others. In spiritual bypassing, we run to a dream or fantasy of a blissful, heavenly situation wherein we don't suffer and no demands are placed on us. We may even structure our lives that way. What we are bypassing when we adopt a spiritual lifestyle or live in a fantasy of spiritual delight is learning the lessons presented to us by life's challenges. This retards our personal growth and spiritual progress.

Working together, we can transform your spiritual bypassing or avoidance quickly and painlessly. Send me a message and we'll make a plan for transforming misery into WellBEING. New clients can request a 15-minute "get acquainted" session.

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