By Lori Lines
The well wishes or salutations of "love and light" are frequently uttered, but do we truly embrace this precept at its core? A quote by Viktor Frankl, captures the idea of "love and light" more fully, "what gives light must endure burning." We can take this to mean, to be of the light we must first be able to endure the true trials of spiritual awakening. To acknowledge and explore the ugly, scary, traumatic, and raw aspects of who we are. Anything less is a form of avoidance referred to as spiritual bypassing.
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." It is a term introduced by Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist, John Welwood in the 1980s. Spiritual bypassing is both avoidance and the practice of legitimizing avoidance.
Spiritual bypassing is a defense mechanism known as avoidance coping. It tends to be a dysfunctional way of coping that involves behavioral changes and escapism to avoid thinking, feeling or experiencing things that are undesirable or distressing. In simple terms, it is a means of avoiding stressors instead of dealing with them. Avoidance coping usually leads to additional stress, depression and anxiety. As such, spiritual bypassing worsens stress by prolonging healing, allowing internal issues to grow and diminish personal empowerment.
When we use spirituality to avoid, suppress, or escape uncomfortable realities, it can become a crutch and a dependency like alcohol or drugs. Spiritual bypassing gives us a false sense of happiness and security, which is why we defer to it so easily. However, it undermines true spiritual healing, self-actualization, spiritual awakening, and enlightenment. Spiritual bypassing can be very deceiving, to break out of this cycle of coping we must be able to identify it.
"Choose to be optimistic, it feels better!" Blind optimism is a common form of spiritual bypassing. It is a BandAid that can numb and detach us from the challenges of reality. Sweeping comments about how things will work out in the end and how everything happens for a reason, though well-meaning, can rob us of the power our choices and behaviors have on our lives.
Blind optimism, when turned inward, is the avoidance of the shadow self. When we blindly accept ourselves as "perfectly imperfect," while this may be true, we may be avoiding authentic self-reflection at times. To every human being, there is light, dark and grey. By avoiding the unsavory within ourselves, we hinder our ability to grow and self-actualize. Without acknowledging the darkness within us we cannot truly embrace the light of truth.
Spiritual bypassing also appears when we devalue others as involved and view ourselves as superior based on where WE perceive ourselves and others to be on the spiritual journey. We cannot express "love and light" with hatred and judgment in our hearts toward anyone, their energies are mutually exclusive. Yes, awakened individuals may disagree with others, but they should not devalue them. In the end, judging others is a means of spiritually bypassing because it avoids having to focus on ourselves and shifts the attention to others. It can be a tough pill to swallow when we realize our disdain and judgment of someone else has everything to do with ourselves.
I have never observed this so rampant as I have in the spiritual "lightworker" community. Especially coming from those unwilling to see the specific realities going on in the world while asserting, "I only observe what keeps me in my joy" all the while everything around them is in chaos and falling apart. While this form of escapism can offer a temporary reprieve, in those times when we feel overwhelmed, it behooves us to try to understand that there's a lesson and a purpose for every one of us, individually, while the chaos is occurring. Hence, our shared oneness of our humanity.
In fact, in this political climate, during a time of such political divisiveness "love and light" is in very short supply. We are all entitled to our opinions and value systems. However, directing hatred that resides within us toward world leaders, other nations, or people with differing viewpoints not only impairs our journey of spiritual awakening but the spiritual awakening of the collective subconscious as well.
Spirituality and spiritual awakening are not pretty, they necessitate hard work and discomfort when navigating ourselves and our relationship with others, which can lead to painfully harsh realities. If there is hate within you, seek to work through that, not to propagate it out into the world. We must strive to be present and, in the moment, embracing the fallible humanity within all of us. To self-actualize we must not run from ourselves, we must burn away all that stands between us, our self-love, and our love toward our fellow human beings. To achieve enlightenment, we must not run away from humanity by perceiving ourselves above it, we must challenge anything within us that stands between us and our contribution to healing the collective unconscious.
In love and truth,
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Author Lori Lines
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