SPIRITUAL TERMINOLOGY AND MEANINGS

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Spiritual Bypassing

What is spiritual bypassing?

The phrase spiritual bypassing refers to the use spiritual concepts to avoid: 

  • facing unresolved emotional issues, unhealed psychological wounds, or stunted psychological development
  • social responsibility for one’s destructive and harmful beliefs, attitudes, and actions

The phrase was coined by psychoterapist and Buddhist teacher John Welwood.

Spiritual bypassing behavior often occurs as the result of a lack of depth of understanding and integration of spiritual concepts. When one has not fully experienced and integrated a spiritual teaching, their understanding of those concepts remains overly-simplified and as such, open to a great deal of misinterpretation.

The misinterpretation of these concepts is harmful both to the bypasser and to society at large.

When someone engages in spiritual bypassing, it stunts their spiritual development and prohibits them from engaging in the necessary shadow work to move forward in their process of ascension/enlightenment. It may also lead them to engage in harmful attitudes and behaviors that dismiss the pain and trauma of others, or even retraumatize them.

Spiritual bypassing looks like:

  • an overestimation of one’s spiritual mastery
  • an overinflated sense of spiritual identity, using spiritual labels and concepts to elevate one’s spiritual status
  • consistently ignoring negative emotions, conflict, or issues in one’s personal life
  • avoiding personal and social accountability justified by spiritual platitudes
  • focusing only on love and light and ignoring shadow work or the integration of one’s own shadow elements
  • using spiritual concepts to excuse a lack of integrity

When people who engage in spiritual bypassing have an overinflated sense of spiritual identity and an overestimation of their own spiritual mastery, they may bypass the important stages of shadow work and integration and skip straight to spiritual teaching and coaching, placing themselves in positions of power and authority.

This is problematic, as they are likely to project their own bypassing onto others in the form of spiritual gaslighting which is emotionally harmful to their clients and followers, who often are not aware of what a fully integrated spiritual teacher looks like. Additionally, they amplify concepts that lead to spiritual bypassing through their messaging, teaching others to engage in the same behaviors.

Commonly over-simplified New Age concepts used in spiritual bypassing:

  • You manifest fearful thoughts (so don’t think fearful thoughts)
  • Energy flows where attention goes (so don’t give your attention to negative things)
  • What you pay attention to becomes real (so don’t pay attention to what you don’t like)
  • You are responsible for all of your negative experiences (because you created it with your thoughts)
  • Surround yourself with people who are living the lifestyle you want to have (and ignore/remove those who do not)

What is spiritual gaslighting?

Spiritual gaslighting is similar to spiritual bypassing, but instead of only dismissing and ignoring one’s own emotions, someone engaging in spiritual gaslighting will also use simplistic spiritual concepts to justify dismissing, ignoring, and shaming the emotions and behaviors of others.

Spiritual gaslighting looks like:

  • dismissing negative emotions, conflict, issues, or other personal experiences in the lives of others based on spiritual concepts
  • telling people they’ve manifested their own abuse, racism, homophobia, or rape
  • telling someone that the reason they were raped was because they have poor boundaries and that they need to take responsibility for their poor decisions. I.e. regret isn’t rape (when the real reason is because the rapist had no respect for boundaries)
  • silencing the voices of minorities speaking out about their suffering and lived experiences because “we are one” and “all lives matter”
  • sharing memes that promote spiritual bypassing or otherwise condone and exacerbate spiritual gaslighting

Spiritual gaslighting is indicative of low emotional intelligence and a low capacity for empathy, and contributes to the perpetuation of these lower states of consciousness as well as systemic oppression and cultural trauma.

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