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Over the last couple of weeks, it has been suggested to me that I may be a “spiritual bypasser.” Do you know this term? From Wikipedia, “Spiritual bypass or 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”. The term was introduced in the early 1980s by John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist. Clinicians in pastoral psychology have identified both beneficial and detrimental manifestations of behavior that could be described as spiritual bypass.”

I find this concept curious, frustrating and a bit mumbo jumbo. When it is suggested that I may be a practitioner, I get curious, frustrated (very), and angry. And then, using my other practice of mindfulness, I become aware of these feelings and let them go. Am I spiritual bypassing spiritual bypassing??

What are you holding on to? People? Stuff? The Past? The Future? I find holding on to be exhausting, a barrier to curiosity, creativity and joy. Holding on takes so much energy. For me, it is wasted energy. Not only wasted energy, but also wasted precious time. So, my intention is to inspect what I am feeling, what I am holding on to and let it go as fast as I can. 

To be fair to the spiritual bypass believers, they may see my desire to make quick work of the shit going on in me as the sidestep or avoiding in the definition above. I suppose we can get into a debate about what is a sidestep and what is legitimate letting go? I wonder if the advocates of the term believe a certain amount of time must be allocated to processing issues, emotions, wounds or developmental tasks before it’s not a bypass. Or is it the ideas and practices used to move forward? Spiritual or not spiritual (and how do you define this concept?? that’s a whole separate conversation.)?

As I reread this piece, I apologize for the rant. I am an advocate for finding contentment in whatever way works best for each of us. It is my choice to do it or not. I don’t find the labels helpful. I have said my peace and now I am letting it go. 


  • Craig Dooley says:

    Thanks for the rant, Shaun – I agree that any sort of label or judgment of what does or does not work, what is the right or wrong way work on ourselves is not helpful or productive or respectful of our individual journeys. If deep and lengthy introspection works for you, gives you peace, do more of that. If quickly moving through it and letting it go works, do that. Find your peace, that’s all that matters! Peace & Love!