Spiritual Bypassing – 10 Common Signs, What Is It and Am I Doing It

by Larissa
June 13, 2023

Spiritual bypassing is a term that refers to the tendency to use spiritual beliefs, practices, or experiences to avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, or unmet developmental needs. It’s essentially a defence mechanism, albeit a sophisticated one, that distracts us from the reality of our lived experience and shields us from the fullness of our feelings and emotions.

The Individual Effect

Individuals may engage in spiritual bypassing in various ways. It can manifest as obsessive positivity, where people ignore or dismiss their negative feelings under the guise of maintaining a positive mindset. It can also show up as emotional numbing, where people detach from their emotions, asserting that they’ve transcended them. Sometimes, spiritual bypassing involves over-identification with the transcendent at the expense of personal, relational, and emotional development.

The effect of spiritual bypassing on an individual’s evolution can be profound. While it might offer temporary relief from discomfort, over time, it hinders genuine growth and self-awareness. Unresolved emotional issues and ignored psychological wounds do not simply disappear; instead, they can manifest in various harmful ways, creating disconnection, fostering unhealthy patterns, and limiting our capacity for true compassion and empathy.

The Collective Effect

On a collective level, spiritual bypassing can lead to a lack of interpersonal and social engagement. If we are always seeking the transcendent and ignoring the challenges and injustices of the world, we may fail to contribute meaningfully to societal change. In the long run, this can maintain and reinforce social and systemic issues, as it inhibits collective understanding, growth, and transformation.

The Use of Plant Medicine

In some cases, people might use plant medicine, such as ayahuasca or psilocybin, as a form of spiritual bypassing to quickly achieve altered states of consciousness or spiritual insights without addressing their underlying emotional or psychological issues.

Plant medicine can indeed provide profound experiences and insights, but it’s essential to approach these substances with the right intentions, preparation, and integration. They are not a quick fix or a substitute for the ongoing work of personal growth and spiritual development. 

Working with plant medicine should be done in a safe, supportive environment, preferably under the guidance of an experienced facilitator.

Putting in the Work

Natural healing processes and spiritual practices, such as meditation, yoga, breathwork, and energy healing, typically involve a more gradual approach to personal growth and self-awareness. These practices require dedication, discipline, and regular practice to cultivate inner peace, self-awareness, and emotional balance. They can help individuals address their emotional and psychological issues over time, leading to sustainable spiritual growth.

Common Forms of Spiritual Bypassing

Spiritual bypassing can manifest in many ways, often subtly and unconsciously. Here are some common forms:

  • Obsessive Positivity: This occurs when people dismiss or invalidate negative feelings or experiences, maintaining an artificially positive mindset at all times.
  • Emotional Numbing: This involves detaching from emotions, especially negative ones, under the guise of having transcended them.
  • Overemphasis on Forgiveness: This happens when people rush to forgive others without processing their feelings or allowing for healing and justice.
  • Denial of Painful Realities: Individuals may deny or minimize societal problems or injustices, claiming that everything happens for a reason or that it’s all part of a divine plan.
  • Disconnection from the Physical World: Some people might become so focused on the spiritual or transcendent that they neglect their physical health, relationships, or responsibilities.
  • Escapist Spiritual Practices: Certain practices, such as excessive meditation, prayer, or even the misuse of plant medicines, can be used as ways to escape from dealing with real-life issues.
  • Devaluation of the Mind or Intellect: This involves rejecting critical thinking, claiming that the mind is an obstacle to enlightenment.
  • Over-Identification with Spiritual Identity: This is when individuals identify so strongly with a spiritual role or identity that they neglect other aspects of their personhood.
  • Spiritual Elitism: This occurs when people believe they are superior due to their spiritual beliefs or practices, viewing others as less evolved or awake.

Remember that the goal of identifying these behaviours is not to judge, but to bring awareness to potential areas of growth. It’s essential to approach this with compassion, both for oneself and others, as spiritual bypassing is often a sign of unresolved pain or trauma.

Moving Forward

It’s crucial to recognize and address spiritual bypassing. Authentic spiritual development involves facing our shadows, feeling our feelings, and engaging fully with our human experience. It’s a journey that requires courage, honesty, and compassion, but it’s also one that leads to deep healing, growth, and the ability to truly connect with ourselves and others.