Spiritual Bypassing: Exploring If It Is A Form Of Escapism
Spirituality is lovely in many ways, but too much of it can become intoxicating, distractive, and used as a form of escapism from reality.
As most of us know, mental health is a real crisis. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed buttons in many of us, triggering unwanted feelings and negative emotions.
With the rise of the new age movement, especially during the pandemic, we've seen a massive trend around social media and other channels like YouTube touching all things about spirituality.
Even though this topic should and must be highlighted to the general public, when tools such as positive affirmations and mindfulness are applied coherently, they positively impact one's mental health.
But the thing is, some people might take spirituality to its extreme and use it as a way to ignore some things as they are.
You can be positive and avoid some things to a certain extend. However, if focusing only on the positive hinders one's ability to process emotions, the positivity may have an inverse effect. This happens when someone crosses the thin line between finding genuine happiness or forcing it.
The term spiritual bypassing was first coined by the psychologist John Welwood in the '80s. In his book Toward a Psychology of Awakening, he talks about spiritual bypassing: "It's a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks."
In a nutshell, someone can use spirituality to avoid or repress the very basic human need to feel emotions, whether positive or negative. In this case, avoid the so-called "negative emotions."
Another term used to refer to spiritual bypassing is toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is part of the mainstream culture for decades, which gives the general public the idea of happiness at all costs and as the answer to a fulfilled life.
Toxic positivity sneaked into the New Age movement and found its way into spirituality.
However, as I mentioned above, we can't simply ignore what we're feeling, trying to force some state of happiness. This can do more harm than good.
Disregarding a feeling or try to bypass them isn't the way to find true happiness. Instead, the best way to deal with any emotion is to face them, feel them at their core, process them, and most important of all, validate them.
I'm not saying the Law of Attraction is bad or positive affirmation doesn't work. On the contrary, I'm a huge fan of those, and I learned how to use them according to how I truly feel inside.
Another disclaimer I'd like to make is that happiness shouldn't be seen as the end goal. No one, not a single person, can be happy 24/7. It's absolutely normal to have ups and downs, and it's part of the essence of being human.
So, before you try and use any spiritual tool, check within if your mood, emotions, and feelings aligned with your expectations or if you're just trying to avoid something you don't want to feel.
If you woke up feeling bad, honor that. If something sad happened to you or someone you love, honor that too. That's the only path towards healing.