Denial, in all its forms, can be pretty insidious and sneak up on us when we least expect it. Spiritual Seekers and Happy Shiny Puppies aren’t immune from this. In fact, when we use our spirituality (including religious faith) as a defensive mechanism, when we utter platitudes instead of facing our emotions, or dismiss our own or other’s pain as “ego”, we’ve fallen into the denial trap called “spiritual bypassing”. In today’s video, I explore what spiritual bypassing is, how to avoid it and how to guard against others who try to use it on us.
Today’s burning LOA question comes from Awesome Anne, who wants to know…
“Hi Melody, do you think you could talk a little bit about Spiritual Bypassing? I’ve recently discovered the term and I think it means then I’m at the point in time where it’s relevant. Backstory: I grew up in a community of very religious people, who spent a lot of time in prayer and worship, but didn’t always treat others or each other very well outside of that. As I grew older, I discovered alternative forms of spirituality and I discovered secular activism, and I found myself veering towards these things. But even though I believe in good, and I believe in love, and in justice, and in truth, I sometimes see echoes of these people from my childhood in myself. And it really hurts, because I know how much it hurt to see people stand by in silence in the face of injustice, even as they claimed to believe in a faith that was about justice.
So, I guess what I’m wondering is
a) What’s going on here? I love how insightful you can be about drenching up what’s not been said in a question. But also,
b) How can we avoid the pitfalls of Spiritual Bypassing? How can we make sure that our pursuit of spirituality is not a distraction from dealing with the here and now?”
Well Awesome Anne, thank you so much for asking this question. Spiritual Bypassing is not a term that I personally use, so you won’t have heard me use it before. But I’m very happy to talk about it and translate it into the words that I do use, into the deliberate receiving language, or the happy shiny puppy language.
What is Spiritual Bypassing?
According to the internet, spiritual bypassing is a “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” Translation: Spiritual bypassing is all about being in denial. Remember that denial is being unaware about how you feel, and your unwillingness and inability to face how you’re feeling, or to face what it is you are afraid of, and then using your spirituality, spiritual words, phrases and platitudes as your defensive mechanism to create a defensive shield around yourself. It’s no different from any other defensive mechanisms; this just happens to be when you use spiritual words and platitudes, or your spirituality (pseudo-spirituality) in order to do that. So what does that look like?
This might be when you see somebody who is in a lot of pain, maybe they’ve lost a loved one, or they’ve had their heart broken by someone and you say to them, “Well you know, you create your own reality and everything does happen for a reason.” And they just want to punch you in the face, because in that moment the vibration behind your words isn’t one of support. It’s one of trying to tell them that they shouldn’t feel what they’re feeling. Telling them “Don’t be in pain! Don’t you know you brought this upon yourself with your own vibration?”, is actually a really powerless way of going about it.
The message behind those words isn’t one of empowerment, it’s actually the exact opposite of what we teach; it’s the language of denial. Here’s the thing that you have to remember about words: Words, in and of themselves, don’t actually mean anything. We have to assign meaning to them; just like everything else in our reality. Words can actually have drastically different meanings depending on the vibration that’s behind them. In secular terms, you might say that it depends on the context in which they’re used, the emotion that’s behind them, the meaning behind them. It’s about what somebody actually means when they say something, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Somebody might say to you, “God bless you.” And if, in that moment, they are in a vibration of pure appreciation and absolute celebration of who you are – a powerful being, you are going to hear that differently than for example, if I’ve just denied you service in my establishment because of your skin colour, or your sexual orientation, or your gender identity, or I’m just being a passive aggressive bitch, and I say to you, “God bless you.” In that moment, what I might be saying (if I was this kind of person), would be, “I feel very powerless in my own life and that is unfair, and then here you come in and you dare to be different from me, which scares me, and you dare to be an individual, and you dare to buck the system and these rules that I have forced myself to conform to, even though I don’t want to. I now feel I have absolutely no power and if I could just gain a little tiny bit of power over you in this moment, I can feel a little bit better….God bless you!” Yes, you are probably going to hear that a little bit differently!
Words mean different things depending on the vibration behind them
So you see there are different vibrations behind words and they don’t always mean what we think they mean. This can be very confusing to children growing up in religious, spiritual, or moral households when those households are actually anything but those things. When we tell a child, or say in front of a child “God is love”, but when the words “God” and “love” have a bunch of baggage behind them and we actually mean something really disempowering by saying something like that, the child is going to pick up on that vibration. We all do this; we all pick up on the vibration behind things, whether we know it or not. Children are particularly sensitive to it because they don’t have as many defensive shields up yet.
What happens is that you start to associate these words that you hear, like Forgiveness, God, Love and Compassion, with the vibration with which they were said and not how you actually want those words to mean or what they can mean in the positive sense. When you then go out on your own and you decide you don’t want to live like that anymore and you find a higher vibration, you start to discover these concepts (possibly tied to other words), and they feel way better. But when you hear these old words, they will activate within you the vibration of how they were once said, and what they were associated with before. That will feel really off. For example:
Making peace with my religious upbringing
I was born and raised Catholic, and for many years, whenever somebody said to me that they were raised Catholic, my first response was to give them my condolences, which was kind of sarcastic, but also not really. As Catholics, we shared the same kind of heritage of guilt, hypocrisy and contradiction. We were taught that God loves you, but if you messed up, you were going to burn forever. He is just going to punish you in the worst possible way for all eternity, unless you tell a priest what you did before you die; then it’s all good. We were told God loves you but if you stand in line in front of me at the breakfast buffet on Sunday after church and you take too long, then I will cut you. That was my experience with Catholicism, which is why my response used to be to give my condolences.
When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I really broke away from that in a big way; I became an Atheist for a while and I went to the other extreme of “There is no God”, but that didn’t feel right either. I then started to move more and more to spirituality, finding my own way, and making my own decisions, but I had to question everything in order to do that (I’m sure you’ve gone through this process yourself). Even though I did that and got to a really good place on the whole concept of God, for many years after that, I would still bristle when I heard certain words. For example, the word “Lord” as in “The Lord”, as in “The Lord Jesus Christ Our Saviour”; especially when somebody asked me if I had found him, to which I would reply (for many years), “I did not know he was missing!” Which never really landed with that crowd… surprisingly!
I had really made peace with the concept of God in my own heart and within myself, but the words “The Lord Jesus Christ Our Saviour”, these words still really triggered me. I would bristle at them because I had grown up in an environment where those words didn’t mean what they could have meant, what they were purported to mean. When people were talking about love, they were often not in a vibration of love. They were talking about the Saviour, but it was all about us being broken human beings, sinners, being horrible, about everything we had done wrong, and how we should feel guilty all the time, and I mean all the time. This was the concept, the association that I bristled at. Finally though, I realized that the words themselves really didn’t mean anything and I could assign them a new meaning, I could choose to assign them a new meaning. So I did, and I realized I could actually hear those words in the moment and translate their meaning, no matter how they were said, no matter with what kind of vibration they were sent to me. I could choose to deliberately receive (see what I did there!) the words in whatever way I wanted to, whatever way I chose to.
When somebody said the words “The Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour” to me, suddenly I heard “compassion” and “unconditional love”. I didn’t bristle anymore, because why would I bristle at that; that’s beautiful. It didn’t matter with what energy it was said, because I could choose to hear them in whatever way I wanted. I got to the point where I could say those words and they still meant whatever I wanted them to mean. Now when I use the words “God”, “The Lord” or “Jesus”, when I’m talking to somebody who’s language that is, I have no problem using their language because what I mean by those words will often be very different from how other people have used them, and certainly different to other people from my past who use those words. What is really beautiful is that this may have been the first time that a person has heard somebody use these words with that vibration. That can bring a lot of aha moments, comfort and a lot of healing.
How to protect yourself from Spiritual bypassing and other forms of denial
In your question you asked what is going on here. Well what is going on here is that these associations in your psyche are still being triggered; these associations, these words that you are hearing are still being triggered. These concepts about what faith is, what spirituality is, what religion is, you’re still grappling a little bit with that. And of course it’s showing up within you. If it wasn’t in you it wouldn’t be showing up in your reality at all.
So how do you protect yourself against Spiritual bypassing or against this form of denial? You become aware of how you feel. And here is where I want to make a little bit of a point, because Spiritual Bypassing can go right along with gas-lighting, which is the manipulative art of being really shitty to somebody and making them feel like it’s their fault, making them feel they are over reacting or being over sensitive, or by saying it’s their problem. In spiritual terms, this often looks like this: “I am so enlightened and if you don’t like something that I’ve said, or you are offended by something that I’ve said, or you just disagree with something that I’ve said, then you are wrong and I am right. I am the enlightened one, and you just don’t “get it”, because you are just not as enlightened as me.”
You are entitled to feel and think how you do
Now if you are a spiritual seeker on the other end of that then, as a spiritual seeker, you are going to question yourself. And as well you should, because you are taking responsibility for your own vibration. Your first thought might be that it is your own thing; for example, if somebody says that it’s just your ego acting up, you may question this, which is all fine and good. Question it, take a look at it, search yourself a little bit. However, the problem arises when you start to give them more power than they are due (which is any power), and you don’t just see it as an impetus to question it by searching yourself, by seeing how that feels and working your way through it. Instead, you ascribe authority to them and assume there is something wrong with you, because you believe there’s nothing wrong with them, there’s nothing wrong with something they’ve just said; they must be right, so you must not be seeing something. There’s something in you that you’re definitely not seeing; there’s something wrong with you! Here you have swapped over into self-blame. There’s a big difference between taking responsibility for your vibration, doing a check, asking why did I manifest this, what am I hearing here – and thinking there must be something wrong with you, believing that the other person must be right and taking their word for it at, or taking their word at surface level.
Sometimes you are going to manifest somebody coming up to you, saying it’s just your ego, in order for you to say, “No it isn’t! No it isn’t! That doesn’t feel right at all. I am actually entitled to feel the way that I feel and think how I think. You don’t have to agree with me but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong for me.” When somebody is gas-lighting you, when somebody is doing the Spiritual Bypassing, what they’re always doing, as in any form of manipulation or denial, is they’re saying, “You’re wrong and I’m right.” The only time that anybody needs to do that is if they’re insecure and they’re still living in fear, because otherwise you can say, “I’m right for me. You can be right for you. We’re all right; we’re all cool. So, let’s just pay attention to how we feel and reach for better feeling thoughts.”
I hope I’ve answered your question, Awesome Anne. Once again, thanks for asking it.
If you’ve had your own experiences with Spiritual Bypassing or Spiritual Gas-lighting, please share them in the comments below.
This has been this week’s Q and A. Thank you so much for bringing your light to the world. See you next week! Bye!