HOW TO TELL IF SPIRITUAL BYPASSING IS KEEPING YOU STUCK IN CHRONIC ILLNESS
If you have been dealing with a complex chronic health challenge for any length of time and have valiantly struggled to muster up some gratitude for your blessings (with variable success) then read on.
First, what is spiritual bypassing? The term was originally coined in the 1980s by a psychotherapist named John Welwood and is defined as a "tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.”
Personally, I almost exclusively see this term used as an insult, like the grown up version of calling some one a “doo doo head.”
But from where I’m sitting, avoiding pain and suffering is a pretty normal and ubiquitous human tendency and this is just one way of many that people do this.
I also believe that close to 100% of the time, people aren’t exactly consciously aware that they’re doing this. And I believe that in our current culture at this current moment in time, it’s hard to find anyone at a certain level of human development that hasn’t done this.
Finally, I’m pretty cynical about most psychological approaches on offer. The vast majority don’t stem from any accurate understanding of human psychological development, the mind or the brain. Most people with legitimate human suffering aren’t given great ways to safely and productively deal release the pain and emotions of psychological trauma. So it may not be such a dumb idea to try to use spiritual ideas to as an analgesic until we can actually find an effective way to heal past trauma.
But, at the same time, it’s worth looking at what spiritual bypassing is and how we can tell if we’re doing it because I think that while often well-intentioned, it can contribute to us remaining stuck in the land of chronic illness.
Imagine that you’re brain’s on fire and you’re trying to fix this by meditating and cultivating gratitude.
Just to make a small distinction, if you are suffering from chronic illness and you are able to feel and cultivate genuine feelings of gratitude, please of course keep doing this!
If you’re not, then this lab note may help you to see why.
Many practices, while potentially transformative, can be ineffective or even harmful if done at the wrong time. Having a better understanding of this common tendency and a map of where to focus our efforts on the psychological side of the equation as we move through the stages can be incredibly valuable.