2. Examine the light and dark side of what you do
There is a light and dark side to everything. Even if you struggle to find what’s wrong with the spiritual activities or commitments you’re dedicated to right now, create hypothetical scenarios. For example, if you follow a spiritual teacher that you love and adore, create a hypothetical scenario where that teacher betrays your trust or does something against your ethics. What then?
Ask questions such as, “What could go wrong here?” “What aren’t I seeing?” “What’s the other side of this?” “In the past, how has this hurt someone?” “What warnings do people give about this activity?” “Is this hurting me in some way?” “Is this harming others in some way?” “How is this making me weak or dependant?” “Is there an opportunity for me to be taken advantage of here?”
Listening to your doubt is intelligent. Blind faith creates sheep, not a self-sovereign wolf. Dare to look at both sides of life. Honor the yin and yang of existence. Embrace the energy of both Shiva (the destroyer) and Shakti (the creator).
3. Dare to face your cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance (CD) is a state of being where a person’s beliefs and behaviors do not align. CD also happens to people who hold two contradictory beliefs. The result is a sense of underlying uneasiness, anxiety, guilt, and like “something is not quite right.”
Those who carry a lot of cognitive dissonance tend to “explain away,” their behavior (or that of others) and live in denial. Facing the truth is too painful, so reality is avoided, and a false reality is created instead.
CD often happens to members of cults, but can also occur in the general spiritual community. For example, a person might experience CD when they follow the principle of compassionate non-harming but hit their children every time they get angry.
Other examples of CD include following a narcissistic spiritual teacher who says one thing and does the other, claiming to be a healer with special abilities but on some level knowing that it’s a pretense (and placebo), following a non-dual philosophy but being dogmatic about it, and so on.
Facing CD involves doing some shadow work and examining places and behaviors in your life that don’t add up. This is not about shaming yourself or being “more perfect,” but being honest and clearing away any self-delusion.
4. Ask others for their honest opinions
If you have any close friends or family members (who you have a healthy, respectful relationship with), talk to them about this topic. Ask them if they have noticed any spiritual bypassing tendencies within you. Brace yourself (and your ego) by taking a slow, soft, deep breath for their response. If at any point you feel overwhelmed with an emotion like anger or defensiveness, thank them and tell them that you need a minute or two to process what they’ve told you.
Feedback from other people (who genuinely care about our wellbeing) is invaluable. But make sure it’s from people you trust. Don’t go asking someone you have a complicated connection with to divulge your spiritual bypassing tendencies. Likely, they will use it as an opportunity to hurt you in a backhanded way. If you don’t have anyone you trust, you could try a spiritual counselor who is familiar with spiritual bypassing or even an online group of kindred spirits whom you trust.
5. Face and feel your pain
Why does spiritual bypassing occur? The answer is that it helps us to avoid facing painful emotions such as grief, shame, rage, hatred, and terror. Everyone wants to enjoy a sparkly spiritual high (that is ultimately short-lived) but no one wants to do the hard work of facing inner pain (that leads to longlasting joy, fulfillment, and peace).
Facing and feeling your pain is not simple. You will most likely require the help of a spiritual counselor or therapist – and ideally, they will be trauma-informed, as repressed pain stems from unresolved trauma.
This is not a fun prospect for most people, hence why they avoid this work and keep using spiritual bandaids. But the fact still remains: the pain needs to be dealt with sooner or later.
Practices that can help you face and feel your pain might include breathwork, bodywork (like yoga), meditation, mindfulness, journaling, art therapy, expressive dancing, catharsis, inner child work, and the list goes on.
To conclude, I’ll leave you with this beautiful spiritual bypassing quote by psychologist and author Elaine N. Aron:
Real redemption or enlightenment, as much as it can be achieved in this world, comes through hard work that does not skirt tough personal issues.
It can be a deeply unsettling, even terrifying experience to tear down the veneer of illusion from our lives and stare into the face of truth.
But the spiritual path is a process of destruction and purification. It requires you to set afire all hidden illusions and falsities so that life becomes clearer, deeper, expansive, liberating, and joyful.
What has your experience been like with spiritual bypassing? I’d love to hear any thoughts, feelings, or stories you have below.
Written by Aletheia Luna
Originally appeared on Lonerwolf.com