Spiritual Bypassing

Cino

Big Love! (Atheist mystic)
Admin
Messages
3,785
Reaction score
2,031
Points
108
Location
Germany
Are you familiar with the phrase "Spiritual Bypassing"? My understanding is that it refers to using spiritual or religious concepts to justify to oneself and others why one does not acknowledge and confront one's own shadow side in behavior.

An example from Buddhist circles: Using the concept of the "Emptiness of Phenomena" to justify unethical behavior.

I think it happens to a majority of people. I myself am certainly no exception.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it useful to engage the spiritual fallacies involved, to talk sense into people? In the Buddhist example above, one could point out that to the Emptiness used for spiritual bypassing is not empty at all, but rather, full of self-justification. What are your experiences with arguing along such lines, in whichever tradition? Do you know other ways to approach this?
 

Leveller

Well-Known Member
Messages
196
Reaction score
148
Points
43
Location
London
I had not come across the term before, googling it got me to the verywellmind website. They have a list of thirteen signs, none of which seem to describe me. Am I perhaps too much the other way? I certainly agree with the comment below the list that it is superficial and solves nothing.

I also found this https://www.learnreligions.com/spiritual-bypassing-449505 I like Barbara O'Briens articles. I have always found them to be worth reading.
 
Last edited:

Tone Bristow-Stagg

Well-Known Member
Messages
914
Reaction score
241
Points
43
Location
Normanton
Are you familiar with the phrase "Spiritual Bypassing"? My understanding is that it refers to using spiritual or religious concepts to justify to oneself and others why one does not acknowledge and confront one's own shadow side in behavior.

An example from Buddhist circles: Using the concept of the "Emptiness of Phenomena" to justify unethical behavior.

I think it happens to a majority of people. I myself am certainly no exception.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it useful to engage the spiritual fallacies involved, to talk sense into people? In the Buddhist example above, one could point out that to the Emptiness used for spiritual bypassing is not empty at all, but rather, full of self-justification. What are your experiences with arguing along such lines, in whichever tradition? Do you know other ways to approach this?
I had not heard of the term and I see some concepts are shallow without further explanation. Some concepts I see are not bypassing spirituality, but trying to embrace it on a deeper level.

Here is a list.
  • Avoiding feelings of anger
  • Believing in your own spiritual superiority as a way to hide from insecurities
  • Believing that traumatic events must serve as “learning experiences” or that there is a silver lining behind every negative experience
  • Believing that spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer are always positive
  • Extremely high, often unattainable, idealism
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Focusing only on spirituality and ignoring the present
  • Only focusing on the positive or being overly optimistic
Example. Avoiding anger is a worthy spiritual goal, as anger eats our spiritual capacity, it is alao the cause of many sicknesses. So the trick of avoiding anger is to embrace Love, it is not a spiritual bypass, but a worthy spiritual attaining.

Some of the list requires further explanation, as it is about finding a balance.

Regards Tony
 
Last edited:

Cino

Big Love! (Atheist mystic)
Admin
Messages
3,785
Reaction score
2,031
Points
108
Location
Germany
Example. Avoiding anger is a worthy spiritual goal, as anger eats our spiritual capacity, it is alao the cause of many sicknesses. So the trick of avoiding anger is to embrace Love, it is not a spiritual bypass, but a worthy spiritual attaining.
Great example!

My belief is that anger is a feeling that is all right for people to experience. However, most of us have trouble expressing it constructively - destructive anger is really bad, whether turned towards others or inward towards ourselves. Repeating loops of anger can turn into resentment, which is even worse.

I think turning to love, to benevolent thoughts towards a person one is resentful of, is a great strategy.

Where it can turn into spiritual bypassing is when one does not permit oneself to be angry, and pretend to be loving instead. Rather than seeking a resolution for the anger, the bypassing jumps straight to the "goal" of not being angry, without doing the work to address the causes of the anger. I've seen this blow up in people's lives around me, it is not a good long term strategy.
 
Last edited:

Leveller

Well-Known Member
Messages
196
Reaction score
148
Points
43
Location
London
I feel that this is a subject that could become very complex due to our choice of words. From Tony's post - From the list "Avoiding feelings of anger". From the example "Avoiding anger". Two different things in my opinion.
Some concepts I see are not bypassing spirituality, but trying to embrace it on a deeper level.
Fair enough but from the list in your post we have three activities beginning with the word "Believing". Does a believer have to try to embrace an aspect of faith?
Tony, I think this confirms your mention of "further explanation". Balance is most certainly required and I think, a high degree of specificity.
 

Tone Bristow-Stagg

Well-Known Member
Messages
914
Reaction score
241
Points
43
Location
Normanton
Great example!

My belief is that anger is a feeling that is all right for people to experience. However, most of us have trouble expressing it constructively - destructive anger is really bad, whether turned towards others or inward towards ourselves. Repeating loops of anger can turn into resentment, which is even worse.

I think turning to love, to benevolent thoughts towards a person one is resentful of, is a great strategy.

Where it can turn into spiritual bypassing is when one does not permit oneself to be angry, and pretend to be loving instead. Rather than seeking a resolution for the anger, the bypassing jumps straight to the "goal" of not being angry, without doing the work to address the causes of the anger. I've seen this blow up in people's lives around me, it is not a good long term strategy.

Yes as It is hypocritical to pretend to Love. The anger is for the actions, or inactions we see unfold in this world and I see no problem with that anger, as long as it is directed at the action, or inactions, not against the peoples. When housed in that Love, we may not act on anger in a negative way.

It is hard to control anger in Love, it is a constant balancing act to which we always have to work on and be aware of.

Regards Tony
 
Last edited:

Tone Bristow-Stagg

Well-Known Member
Messages
914
Reaction score
241
Points
43
Location
Normanton
I feel that this is a subject that could become very complex due to our choice of words. From Tony's post - From the list "Avoiding feelings of anger". From the example "Avoiding anger". Two different things in my opinion.

Fair enough but from the list in your post we have three activities beginning with the word "Believing". Does a believer have to try to embrace an aspect of faith?
Tony, I think this confirms your mention of "further explanation". Balance is most certainly required and I think, a high degree of specificity.
Further explanation is indeed needed, let's explore this one first.

"Believing that traumatic events must serve as “learning experiences” or that there is a silver lining behind every negative experience"

That one to me requires understandings of the things we can control and the things we are not in control of, before we can have a healthy look at how God's Will may unfold for us.

To me it is very healthy to understand that traumatic events do serve as “learning experiences” and that there is a silver lining behind those experiences. The key here is some of those are our own doing and some are acts of God that we have no control over.

By acts of God, we can use the example of an earthquake, which we have no control over.

There may be no material silver linings that result, in fact most likely many a heartache will result, but if we survive, the ability to cope and move on to again function in life, is a bounty we can be thankful for.

How many times do you see after a disaster, people saying at least we got out of it, we can replace the material, but we are not able to replace a life.

That is both the lesson and the silver lining, that faith offers.

There are some good talks on this in the Baha'i Writings, about what we can and cannot control, yet all the while God knows what is best for us.

Regards Tony
 

seattlegal

Mercuræn Buddhist
Messages
6,877
Reaction score
275
Points
83
Location
Pacific Ring of Fire
Are you familiar with the phrase "Spiritual Bypassing"? My understanding is that it refers to using spiritual or religious concepts to justify to oneself and others why one does not acknowledge and confront one's own shadow side in behavior.

An example from Buddhist circles: Using the concept of the "Emptiness of Phenomena" to justify unethical behavior.

I think it happens to a majority of people. I myself am certainly no exception.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it useful to engage the spiritual fallacies involved, to talk sense into people? In the Buddhist example above, one could point out that to the Emptiness used for spiritual bypassing is not empty at all, but rather, full of self-justification. What are your experiences with arguing along such lines, in whichever tradition? Do you know other ways to approach this?
I would say this spiritual by-passing is a recipe for building unskillful habits/karma. Unproductive, imo.
 

Aupmanyav

Search, be your own guru.
Messages
2,213
Reaction score
698
Points
108
Location
New Delhi, India
I try not to use that. I am not a shining example of a Hindu.
Extremely high, often unattainable, idealism
Focusing only on spirituality and ignoring the present
Only focusing on the positive or being overly optimistic
Many of these apply to Bahollah and Bahais, Spiritual Bypassing.
Misquote from Cino's post: "I think turning to love, to benevolent thoughts towards a person one is resentful of, is a great strategy of Spriritual Bypassing."
:)
 
Last edited:

Cino

Big Love! (Atheist mystic)
Admin
Messages
3,785
Reaction score
2,031
Points
108
Location
Germany
I try not to use that. I am not a shining example of a Hindu.

Many of these apply to Bahollah and Bahais, Spiritual Bypassing.
Misquote from Cino's post: "I think turning to love, to benevolent thoughts towards a person one is resentful of, is a great strategy of Spriritual Bypassing."
:)

The important difference is to use the benevolence as a foundation to examine and confront the source of the resentment. Often, there is a feeling of powerlessness at the root of anger and resentment. It can be very hard and painful to confront such feelings in oneself, this is tricky and unpleasant business, and the benevolence can be an aid here.

Again, to simply pretend to oneself that one is benevolent rather than resentful, is a great recipe for spiritual bypassing, I fully agree, @Aupmanyav.
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,639
Reaction score
2,761
Points
108
I had not come across the term, but am aware of the observations.

The Paradise of the Desert Fathers is replete with sage advice on human psychology and the path of spiritual development. The monastic life – especially in community – often brings one face to face with these issues and it's a very, very tough school, not something to be taken lightly. Some accuse monastics of avoiding the world. I rather think they meet the world without many of the means of escape, avoidance, bypass, etc., open to the rest of us.

Here the role of the spiritual director is key and, when people rail against the idea, misunderstood. We are all expert at deceiving ourselves.
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,639
Reaction score
2,761
Points
108
It's a good talking-point list, but I do think the list can go the other way – it depends upon the context.

For example, 'avoiding' has a place on the beginner's path, but at some point issues must be dealt with, so it depends where one is on the path as to whether it's bypassing or authentic progress.

(Spiritual elitism stands out, I can't see a positive for that.)

Spiritual bypassing is the self-delusion of our own narrative, and that's where the guru, the spiritual director or the wise counsel of a good friend comes into play, someone who can hold up a mirror to ourselves.

Meister Eckhart praises detachment as the prince of virtues, above even 'love', but of course here's spiritual bypassing in action, when we dip into 'Meister Eckhart for Dummies' and assume that because we've read it, we understand it! The monastics of antiquity were aware of the chasm between authentic detachment and the ills of spiritual indifference – The Paradise of the Desert Fathers abounds in spiritual insights into the psychological disposition.

There is the story of Martha and Mary in Scripture, where Christ extols Mary's response above Martha's. The point I believe is that Christ could have told the same story, making a different point, and extol Martha above Mary ...
 
Last edited:

wil

UNeyeR1
Moderator
Messages
23,202
Reaction score
2,671
Points
108
Location
a figment of your imagination
For every silver lining there is a gray cloud.

Seems to me some of this is sour grapes

I don't care what one does to get by, along as don't harm others or try to drag others along, but if it floats your boat, i have no need to poke holes in it
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,639
Reaction score
2,761
Points
108
Is it useful to engage the spiritual fallacies involved, to talk sense into people?
Depends whether those people accept having sense talked to them.

The term seems to have been coined by someone engaged in Buddhist practice, so it has its place there, as in other spiritual disciplines. As Wil says, if someone's happy and not harming or others, then pointing out shortcomings might not be welcome.
 

Cino

Big Love! (Atheist mystic)
Admin
Messages
3,785
Reaction score
2,031
Points
108
Location
Germany
Spiritual bypassing is the self-delusion of our own narrative, and that's where the guru, the spiritual director or the wise counsel of a good friend comes into play, someone who can hold up a mirror to ourselves.
Yes, good point. Very valuable!

Of course, idealizing and being totally reliant on such a person is its own opportunity to bypass dealing with one's own stuff...
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,639
Reaction score
2,761
Points
108
When I started my career as a junior typographer many moons ago, I worked for a couple of years at an ad agency, until the chief typo took me aside. Time to move on, was the message, and he gave me a list of award-winning typographers I should try and get a job with, or at least keep track of, as people to work for and learn from. That still seems an eminent approach.
 

Leveller

Well-Known Member
Messages
196
Reaction score
148
Points
43
Location
London
As Wil says, if someone's happy and not harming or others, then pointing out shortcomings might not be welcome.
I wonder, how important is "welcome"?

I was once part of a voluntary work team on a project. The project was run by an organisation that was experiencing some policy changes. Changes that worried me and some others a lot. There was a woman on our team, she was a physician and so was given respect and listened to.
We often discussed the policy change both for and against. She just had this beaming smile and would say "I prefer optimism." It had the effect of killing conversations.
Some years on, all our fears about that organisation are coming true and the world is losing something special.

Over the years I have mixed and conversed with all types. Alkies have often said "it will look better after a drink". A junky friend always said "you just need some morph." Of course the conspiracy theorists will nod and say it is... Spiritual bypassing don't look very different.
 

Cino

Big Love! (Atheist mystic)
Admin
Messages
3,785
Reaction score
2,031
Points
108
Location
Germany
Over the years I have mixed and conversed with all types. Alkies have often said "it will look better after a drink". A junky friend always said "you just need some morph." Of course the conspiracy theorists will nod and say it is... Spiritual bypassing don't look very different.
I think it is a similar process of "self medicating". Of course, it is socially more acceptable to say "I'm meditating" than "I'm using a substance", even if both can serve the denial of some aspect of one's personality.

(I still think doing some mental gymnastics regularly is a good thing).
 

Leveller

Well-Known Member
Messages
196
Reaction score
148
Points
43
Location
London
I totally agree @Cino It is self medicating as far as I can see, but we are often doing it in the absence of an appropriate clinician exactly when we need one. There is a distinct shortage there.

The mental gymnastics is a good thing too. Spiritual bypassing like so much can be beneficial in moderation. A few days away from it all can be in your head as well as the countryside.
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,639
Reaction score
2,761
Points
108
Yes, I think the 'self medicating' thing is a good analogy.
 
Top