Of all the ways that we fool ourselves into thinking that we are living authentically and on the high side of life, spiritual bypassing is probably the most deceptive and damaging.
The term spiritual bypassing was first introduced in 1984 by author, psychologist, Buddhist practitioner, and one of my mentors, John Welwood. He describes spiritual bypassing as a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks...trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced it and made peace with it. Spiritual bypassing often wreaks its worst havoc in relationships. We've all read about the spiritual guru or religious leader who fell from respect for stealing or a sexual scandal. For many of us though, spiritual bypassing is not that obvious.
John writes: "The basic human wound which is prevalent in the modern world, forms around not feeling loved or intrinsically lovable as we are. And as we internalize this conclusion, our capacity to value ourselves becomes damaged. In contrast to the indigenous cultures, modern child-rearing leaves most people suffering from various levels of insecure attachment: self-hatred, lack of grounding, chronic insecurity and anxiety, overactive minds, disembodiment, lack of basic trust, and a deep sense of inner deficiency. So many of us suffer from an extreme degree of alienation and disconnection that was unknown in earlier times--from society, community, family, older generations, nature, religion, tradition, our body, our feelings, and our humanity itself".
And he adds: "Being a good spiritual practitioner cam become a compensatory identity that covers up and defends against an underlying deficient identity, where we feel badly about ourselves, not good enough, or basically lacking. And when spiritual practice is used to bypass our real-life human issues, it remains unintegrated with or overall functioning".
Psychology speak aside, our individual lives and our relationships will continue to suffer and we will not be able to truly wake up from the mistaken identity (ego) until we become aware of how we bypass the necessary work of moving beyond the internalized script that we are defective at our core.
Of course, there are many spiritual practices that actually help us wake up...like silence. But waking up requires that we discern what spiritual practices and study are actually helping us wake up and what are continuing to feed the ego self...keeping us unconscious and stuck in auto pilot mode.