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What Is Spiritual Bypassing: Avoiding Life and Other Dangerous Games

I feel drawn to point something out:

Spirituality is not always pretty. It is not always love and light, despite what you’ve read on Instagram.

Often, spiritual exploration is painful. And with good reason: you are burning the old, broken, damaged you and forging a brighter, stronger, sharper one in the flames.

That is a lot of work.

So for those who think hiding behind spirituality looks like a fun way to check out of life and coast for a while, you probably want to think again. Because there is a name for that—and it is damaging to your growth as a human being, as a spiritual being, and as a unique, feeling, loving individual.

And that name is spiritual bypassing.

What Is Spiritual Bypassing?

Spiritual bypassing is a phrase coined by 1980s psychologist John Welwood. In a nutshell, it describes the act of hiding behind spiritual practices and ideology to avoid facing our own reality.

Essentially, it is using spirituality to avoid doing life. It is a damaging form of escapism.

And I know there is a lot to escape from.

The loss of loved ones. The end of treasured relationships. Abuse. Suffering. Fear. Health issues. Loneliness.

These are incredibly painful parts of the human experience. But as humans, they are very much a part of our experience.

And you deserve to heal from that: through hard work, dedication, and awareness.

By indulging in spiritual bypassing, you are denying yourself the right to heal.

If you are toeing the line between spirituality and spiritual bypass, make sure you’re on the correct side. We’re about to ask the hard questions to help you identify if you’re spirituality as about growing—or hiding.

7 Questions To Identify And Avoid Spiritual Bypass

Many of us already know when we’re using our spirituality as an emotional crutch, instead of as a way to grow in our spiritual body. But by asking these 10 questions, we’ll be able to address the underlying drivers behind our behaviors.

#1 Are you thinking positive or avoiding the negative?

Because there’s a big difference. If you are afraid of acknowledging the negative aspects of your life, or putting off addressing a situation under the guise of ‘manifesting’ a resolution, you’re in denial.

To build resilience, we need to think positive even as we address negative situations or experiences—not avoid the negativity all together.

#2 Do you judge others for the way they seek spiritual enlightenment?

To avoid addressing our own issues, we often look outwards. We can comfort ourselves in knowing we’re more healthy on a spiritual level than XYZ because they are doing something wrong.

And we may not call it judging. We may try to come across as helpful, or as a spiritual mentor. To genuinely help others, though, our advice needs to come from a place of genuine desire to serve.

#3 Are you seeking spiritual inspo on social media?

man on a smarthphone

Flamingo Images/Shutterstock

We all know those people who post inspirational spiritual memes on social media, with a delightful backdrop of flower-scapes or sunrise yoga shots. If only spiritual enlightenment was really that easy. Scrolling through social media isn’t the path to spiritual growth and healing—it is a form of entertainment.

If you find yourself looking for Instagram inspiration to fuel your tank of spiritual awakening, you’re not destined for a healthy journey.

#4 Are you hiding behind accepting others?

accepting others


If you keep repeating the mantra ‘we all do the best we can with the tools we’re given,’ it is a beautiful, peaceful sentiment. If you’re doing it to avoid having a difficult conversation with someone, or because you don’t like the idea of confronting someone about their behavior, you’re not coming from a place of spiritual growth.

You’re coming from a place of fear.

READ MORE: Signs of Spiritual Death

#5 Are you buying into the misconception that we have to be nice to be kind?

kind woman

WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock

As a follow up from the last question, are you really being kind?

Being nice is about being accommodating, agreeable, and docile—so people will think we are nice.

Being kind is about showing compassion, acceptance, and encouragement—for the other person, not for ourselves.

READ MORE: 7 Signs You Have a Spiritual Gift

#6 Are you spending too much time in the spiritual realm?

What Is Spiritual Bypassing


Do you often lose track of time, keep people waiting, or miss appointments (or cancel them all together)?

If your time in the spiritual realm is eating into your responsibilities and relationships in the physical world, there may be something you’re avoiding. A key principle in spiritual growth is an ability to be fully present—in our relationships, our conversations, and our lives.

READ MORE: 20 Movies About Depression

#7 Are you frustrated when things don’t go your way?

frustrated woman


No matter how hard we work on ourselves spiritually, or how far we come in our journey to spiritual wellness, there is a cold, hard fact we need to acknowledge:

Sometimes life just hands you lemons.

If this makes you feel bitter or jealous, you may be battling with entitlement. The spiritual world owes you nothing—and the journey you take is, in itself, the reward.

Have you broken away from spiritual bypassing? Tell us how in the comments below.

Featured image credit – Khosro/Shutterstock

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