Have you ever held back tears, and tried to talk yourself out of how you felt? Have you ever denied the pain of a break up by smothering yourself in self improvement? Or maybe you’ve come across the Instagram spirituality guru who promises they can help you feel like cupcakes and rainbows all the time for a one time payment of $999? You might be experiencing or witnessing spiritual bypassing!
I’m a big fan of self development, positive thinking, and spirituality. These things add to my life and help me keep the and remain hopeful through life’s ups and downs.
Spiritual Bypassing, however, is when we cling so tightly to positivity, optimism, and other sparkly tools that we essentially use them as band aids for pain, and an excuse to not feel our feelings.
So if you’re wondering what spiritual bypassing is and how to avoid it, look no further.
Where it Comes From
Somewhere along the way, self help and positivity promised non stop feeling good in exchange for dollars, but sweeping your emotions under the rug is short lived no matter how many affirmations you tape to your mirror.
We have a full range of emotions for a reason. There is no cheat code to bypass them. We grow in our experience of them.
Many people who are drawn to spirituality have been deep in shit. Spirituality helps people cope with trauma and loss and feel new. Many people who have been in deep shit also are very tempted to ignore negative emotions, and spiritual bypass allows them a really shiny excuse to seemingly skip ahead.
The trouble is, it’s not enlightened to skip ahead and try to hop over the muck. Think of it like a video game. You need to wade through that muck to find the key that unlocks the door to the next level. If you skip over it, you can sit and meditate on the grass outside the door to the next level, but you’re not getting to the next level without the key and the key is in the goddamn muck!
It’s tempting to want to think our way out of painful emotions, but that’s the thing about emotions- they are feelings, not thoughts. We can understand them with our thoughts, but there’s no (healthy) way to skip out on feeling them.
Let Your Pain Be Your Growth
Our greatest growth happens when we are challenged. We realize how strong we are when we overcome.
Spiritual bypassing is like cutting a weed at the surface. You can throw some dirt on it and not look at it for a while, but it’s going to keep coming back up until you do the dirty work of digging it up and getting it from the roots.
In getting at the roots, we learn about ourselves more deeply, and are better equipped to navigate the world because we know our triggers, our traumas, our history and our subconscious. When actually look at these things in the eye and acknowledge them, they lose their power.
How can we expect to heal the deepest parts of us without looking at our emotions?
Unresolved emotions are going to bubble up later, in another relationship, in the form of trust issues, paranoia, jealousy, road rage and fear of inadequacy. Take it from me, I’ve experienced all of these unfortunate side effects, and I would have moved on a lot quicker had I addressed my “stuff” head on. Instead, I found new “weeds” popping up all the time for years. It’s exhausting weeding that often.
I tried to sweep difficult emotions under the rug for years, and they just created a bigger and bigger lump I kept tripping over. Don’t trip. Clean your shit up.
Don’t be afraid of the shadows of life. Or rather, be afraid, but also allow yourself to sit in the shadows. Don’t let yourself get deficient in Vitamin D or anything, but make it a priority to sit with uncomfortable feelings or pain.
Facing Pain vs Addiction to Pain
Facing our pain is different from attaching to our pain, identifying with it, and becoming victims. This is moreso about allowing ourselves to feel something, process it, and move on, instead of forcing positivity to ignore our pain.
The dance is in processing your pain, and letting it go before you identify as your pain and let it take over. You can cry your eyes out and take hours to get out of bed and appreciate birds chirping and a rainbow in the same day.
Pain is the bodies way of signaling to us that something is wrong, and the same is true for emotional pain. We have to tend to our wounds so they can heal, whether they are physical or emotional. It is not recommended that you continue to exercise with an injury, so treat your emotional pain with the same attention.
Even when you’re in pain, and every step feels like effort, spirituality and a positive attitude will keep you hopeful. You will know it will pass, even as you are going through it. You will know, in the deepest part of yourself, that others are and have gone through this and come out the other side. And you will trust that you will come out the other side stronger, wiser, and with a renewed appreciation for the light.
So eat up all the self help you desire. Meditate and take baths with your crystals and put positive affirmations all over your house. See the bright side. Be present. Practice gratitude. Make self care your religion. Love the shit out of yourself. Visualize your dreams. Fart rainbows. Do it all, just don’t ignore your pain or think you can cover it up with spirituality, and be discerning when others tell you you can.
Spirituality holds our hands in navigating the complexities of life, it doesn’t give us the ability to levitate over the muck. We still need to get our hands dirty and find the key to unlock our next upleveling.