We are living in a toxic positivity culture as surface level, new age spirituality is on the rise. More and more yoga loving, green juice drinking, highly sensitive empaths are emerging without a deeper understanding of spirituality. And with the rise of toxic positivity has come the importance of the term spiritual bypassing. In order to self heal, it’s important to be able to take accountability for your issues, but it’s impossible to do so if you are unconsciously spiritually bypassing. Keep reading for what spiritually bypassing is, and how to stop it so that you can focus on getting back to the deep healing needed to become your authentic self.
I’ve been practicing spirituality on and off for 10(ish) years after learning about manifestation and how the universe works to support us, but it wasn’t until the last 2 years that I started to really dive in to the different realms of spirituality.
Even when I had my “off” times when I wasn’t focusing on strengthening my spirituality, the one thing that always repeated in my mind was to “think positive”. A lot of surface level spirituality teachings focus on the ~*think positive*~ and HigH vIbRaTiOnS rhetoric and because I was so off and on with my spirituality, I was staying on the surface level and kept receiving these messages.
Over time it permanently imprinted in my mind to the point that I was terrified of being anything but positive, fearing that any negative thought or emotion would bring negativity into my life.
I blamed anything “bad” that happened to me on not thinking positive enough and focusing on the bad that could happen, scaring me further into the toxic positivity shame spiral.
I didn’t know I was in this spiral. Even after diving deeper into spirituality and learning about shadow work, I still saw myself as an optimistic and positive person.
It wasn’t until I was in a new relationship with someone who’s emotions triggered me greatly that I realized that I was spiritually bypassing. Heeellllloooooo to my mirror 👋🏼
I had spent over a year intentionally working on my relationship with my emotions to become more emotionally available after realizing how much I avoided them. I was in a place where I knew logically that emotions were okay, and I was allowing myself to feel (or so I thought), but I had no idea that my belief that certain emotions were “bad” was still running the show.
When I entered into a new romantic relationship, I was forced to face the reality that I didn’t want to acknowledge “bad emotions”. Not only that, but I didn’t know HOW to handle “bad emotions” or “negative things”. And because of this, I was incredibly triggered and judgmental (I still am - ugh I’m working on it 🥴)
I quickly realized that I wasn’t just a “positive person”, I was someone who couldn’t handle any “negativity” so I avoided it in every way to maintain my safe, comfortable, non-triggered life. I had been avoiding my triggers by using spiritual terms, thinking that I was “healed” because I was only feeling and experience positive things.
I wasn’t healed. I had been spiritually bypassing for years and had no idea.
What is spiritual bypassing
Spiritual bypassing is when we use spiritual ideas/practices as a way to bypass challenges, real life occurrences, healing trauma, or avoiding how someone feels.
In Shefali Tsabary’s book A Radical Awakening she says, “this term implies the avoidance of painful emotions in order to give ourselves the appearance of spiritual superiority. The truth is that we cannot “out spiritualize” ourselves by forcing ourselves to feel good. This is actually the opposite of the goal of spirituality.”
Spiritual bypassing usually sounds like:
“I’m an empath so I can’t deal with their negative energy” or
“Don’t worry about it, the universe has your back” or
“Don’t think that way, just be positive"
Spiritual bypassing is a form of escapism, rejection, not wanting to see or deal with the things you need to heal within yourself. It’s a way to avoid dealing with or facing unresolved emotional pain.
When these things are said, we are using absolute truths (eg, we are all one, the universe has your back, high vibrations attract high vibrations) to invalidate relative truths.
Relative truths are that we are here on this earth to live a life of duality, to experience positive and negative. We are human and that means that we all have different experiences, and are here to live with the good and the bad, the yin and yang. There is no right or wrong path, and there is no right or wrong way to think or act. It’s not one or the other, we are here to experience the totality of it all.
It’s not just the absolute truth of “we are one” it’s recognizing that “yes we are one, but we have different desires, different experiences, different goals and I can see your differences and still honor you”. It’s not telling someone to just be positive or judging how they’re reacting, it’s recognizing that everyone is valid in what they are going through and honoring their emotions and experience.
When you are only focusing on the good or the positive, you are avoiding the uncomfortable feelings that come up when you are faced with what you perceive as negativity, whether that’s negative events, perspectives, or emotions. And by doing this, you negate other people’s experiences. It’s not better to pretend you don’t see it or it’s not there, instead it belittles what the other person is going through.
Spiritual bypassing is deceiving to identify because it uses spiritual terms so we don’t notice that it’s a cover up!
But we need to catch our bypassing when it happens because it’s a problem - every time we spiritually bypass, we feed our inner shadow. Our shadow is every part of ourselves that we are not willing to see, acknowledge, and accept. So when we bypass, we are avoiding parts of ourselves and feeding them to our shadow. That increases our shadow, and the bigger our shadow, the bigger the issues in our life. Because of this, bypassing actually can lead to more pain and trauma.
S I D E N O T E: We should not use spiritual bypassing as a way to judge others, call people out on their spirituality and further spread toxicity. If you are still in a place of judging, you have more work to do 🙂
Why we bypass
We all bypass! Especially when we are new to healing and spirituality, it’s so easy to be blinded to our own wounds, think we are healed, and then use spiritual terms to cover up those wounds. It’s also easy for us to bypass when the people around us are bypassing as well!
Spiritual bypassing is essentially a faulty defense mechanism. It’s our brains attempt at protecting us from pain, meaning we bypass as a form of defense.
Essentially what happens when we bypass is that our wounds are triggered in some way, and because it’s either uncomfortable to feel or we are blinded to our wounds, we spiritually bypass as a way of avoiding those uncomfortable feelings.
When we are triggered, our shadows are coming forward and they are too uncomfortable for us to face, so we use spiritual terms to bypass the uncomfortable rather than doing the work within.
Personally, when someone is going through challenging emotions or is feeling anger or frustration, I am triggered hard core. My defensive mechanism tells me that what I’m experiencing is unsafe, and I can feel myself start to panic and judge. I then react by saying things like “it’s not that big of a deal”, “can’t you think of the positives in the situation”, I’ll throw in some sort of fix like they need to do inner child work, and I’ll even be silent with judgment written all over my face. This is all spiritually bypassing. How I would prefer to respond without spiritually bypassing is to communicate with compassion and validate their experience.
Usually when we are spiritual bypassing, there are 2 unconscious beliefs at play:
I can’t face it
Somewhere within us, we don’t think we have the capacity to handle what is coming our way, whether that’s pain, past trauma, or uncomfortable emotions. When we are faced with something uncomfortable, an alarm goes off within us that tells us we don’t have the tools to face the emotional pain that’s coming up for us, so we choose a spiritual bypassing action that avoids that pain and makes it go away.
- Some emotions are bad
When we have this internal belief that some emotions are good, and other emotions are bad, it sets us up for spiritual bypassing. When we experience emotions we believe are “negative”, whether it’s ourselves or someone we are around, we get uncomfortable and turn to false positivity. This false positivity focuses only on the good and negates all of the negative things going on just so we don’t feel uncomfortable handling the “negative” emotions.
This may appear when someone is going through something serious, and you continuously tell them that it’s not that big of a deal because the universe always has their back, or not to worry because then they’ll attract negativity. You may think that by doing so you are helping them see the positives, but by doing this without validating their emotions, you’re negating their experience.
There is no such thing as good or bad emotions. No emotions are superior than the other. We are human, and part of being human is experiencing ALL emotions. We are meant to experience the duality of life - the good with the bad, the happy and the sad, the positive and the negative. Having a black and white mentality that we should only feel good emotions disconnects us from ourselves, disconnects us from others, and directly sets us up for spiritual bypassing.
Signs of Spiritual bypassing & Spiritual bypassing examples
There are many spiritual bypassing examples, but here are some of the most common:
- False positivity - clinging to the positivity, no negative vibes, ignore “bad, dark, negative”
- Using sensitivities as an excuse to not face the things we need to face (“I’m an empath, I can’t deal with those harsh energies”)
- Avoiding reality and what’s happening in the world
- Avoiding conversations that make you feel uncomfortable or doesn’t fit YOUR spiritual ideals
- Pretending to be happy when you’re not
- Only looking at the love and light, even when it’s not
- Believing that certain experiences are superior while others are inferior
- Using the term “empath” to make yourself a victim and blame others for how you feel
- Turning to astrology or human design to make decisions
- Looking for signs instead of taking ownership that you create your reality
- Blaming other people instead of taking responsibility
- Projecting your triggers onto other people
How to stop spiritual bypassing
Build your self awareness
Self awareness is always the first step in all healing because it’s the most crucial! Learning what spiritual bypassing is and the signs of it is important if you want to stop it- you can’t heal what you can’t see. With this awareness, you can then start to catch yourself when you are doing it and use those moment to guide your healing.
Work with your triggers
Triggers are there to help you. It sounds counterintuitive because society tends to avoid being triggered, but you can use those triggers as roadmaps as to what needs to be healed within you. You are being triggered for a reason- your triggers are pointing you to the parts of yourself that need to be healed.
We cannot expect the world to operate in a way so that we are never triggered! We cannot control other people, and we certainly cannot control the world. If we are triggered, it’s our responsibility to look at that and explore how to heal that part of ourselves.
When we expect the world around us to change, we are giving our power away. We are living outside of ourselves and playing victim, thinking that everything needs to change to fit within our world view. When you take your power back, you realize that you can heal yourself so that your triggers don’t control you, not needing anyone else to change or be a certain way for you to be happy. How empowering is that!
Do shadow work
The most important way to stop spiritual bypassing, you have to do shadow work. You have to be willing to bring your shadow into the light and face it. You have to have the courage to heal the parts of you that you desperately want to avoid - both consciously and unconsciously. Doing the shadow work will allow you to integrate all parts of yourself so that you are whole, which will allow you to be present when previously triggering events occur. You will no longer need to bypass because you will start accepting the parts of yourself that cause you to spiritually bypass in the first place.
Reset your beliefs
You have to reset those two core beliefs mentioned earlier - “I can’t face it” and “some emotions are bad”. Without rewriting these beliefs, you are going to keep bypassing over and over again. Realize that you can face everything. If you are feeling like you can’t face whatever is in front of you, it’s probably your inner child, or your emotionally immature self, that’s convincing you otherwise. Choose to give that part of you love, and pivot to believing that you can face anything that comes up to be healed.
All emotions are honorable. There is no good and bad, or superior and inferior emotions. We are humans and we are meant to feel all emotions and to experience all things. So, reset your belief that you should only be focusing on the positive.
Spiritual bypassing is so tricky because it allows us to avoid the uncomfortable and anything that makes us avoid looking at ourselves is going to feel better! So, naturally, we’re going to pick the actions that make us feel good.
But spiritual bypassing may feel good temporarily, but it will continue to feed your shadow and overtime, your shadow will be begging to be brought to the light. You will notice this when your issues keep repeating and you feel like you can’t catch a break.
If you feel like you have been spiritually bypassing, it’s okay! You’re not alone. It felt like a rude awakening when I realized that I was causing my own suffering by spiritually bypassing and pointing fingers at other people that were triggering me instead of looking within myself.
I have a lot of work to do to embrace my humanness so that I can be more empathetic and compassionate towards other people and their experiences. But I’m committed to peeling back my layers and allowing my healing to occur so I can show up as my authentic self.
What ways do you spiritually bypass? And what things were causing you to spiritually bypass in the past? DM me on instagram and let me know!