Spiritual bypassing is a term used by people who advocate shadow work, to describe the act of attempting to paper over our gaping emotional wounds by means of a pretty, vague sense of outward spirituality. It certainly does exist, but sometimes the term gets used inappropriately, as I’ll explain in a moment.
If you’ve been around enough spiritual people, you’ve probably met some good examples of true spiritual bypassing. These are the people who post inspiring quotes on their Pinterest and Facebook pages, make frequent reference to the wisdom of the universe, carry crystals with them and perhaps read the occasional spiritual book recommended by Oprah, but never make any serious attempts to grow. They never set aside dedicated time for spiritual practices, never pursue any one spiritual practice with any tenacity, and never undertake any serious self-examination.
In short, they’ve adopted spirituality as a facade - an identity, and nothing more - and they expect their lives to improve simply by giving emotional assent to some vague higher power. This is true spiritual bypassing, or as I prefer to call it - fake spirituality.
Unfortunately, as it is a term primarily used by shadow work advocates, sometimes the definition gets broadened to include everyone who does not believe it is necessary or helpful to probe around in the past in order to find answers in the present. People who believe that negative thoughts, feelings and patterns can be changed and released without excessive analysis or acknowledgement of them.
Shadow work advocates claim that all emotions have a meaning and purpose, and if we don’t understand the purpose then we’ve missed the lesson. Even if we clear the emotion or change the thought, if the original cause of the thought or feeling remains then it will simply reassert itself in a different form. And the longer it’s repressed, the more malignant it becomes, they claim.
Study the teachings of Christ, Buddha and Lao-Tzu and you will find that all of these sages belong to the former school of thought. Nowhere in any of the Christian, Buddhist or Taoist philosophies is probing into the past recommended as a legitimate form of self-analysis. Nowhere in the Hindu-Yogic tradition is this recommended, either. In fact I’m not aware of any traditional school of spirituality that recommends this. Thoughts and feelings are just energy - but because they create our reality, sometimes we mistake them for reality itself. The true nature of our existence is absolute perfection, but because we were given the creative faculty of free will, it is possible for us to misuse that free will and create problems and suffering for ourselves.
If we truly dedicate ourselves to a particular spiritual path with devotion, persistence and realistic expectations, in time our consciousness will ascend to a state where negative energetic residue like traumas and trapped emotions begin to clear from the body automatically. The only thing that caused this negative emotional baggage in the first place was the misuse of our thought, not some complicated emotional damage that requires analysis and drawn-out healing. Even traumas are ultimately caused by our conscious misapprehension of a particular experience as being a threat to our safety. As our consciousness ascends, these thought systems begin to rewire themselves and become more healthy, also. Hence, a higher level of consciousness is a remedy for both the effects and the causes of our emotional baggage.
In addition to following a dedicated spiritual practice, it is also possible to use energetic techniques like EFT, The Emotion Code, The Body Code, The Sedona Method and so on in order to compel the body to clear trapped energetic residue. As we let go of these lower energies, we assist ourselves into a higher state of consciousness, and as our consciousness ascends, more of the lower energies automatically clear - so the process is reciprocal. Shadows simply cannot exist when exposed to the light.
“When illusionary sadness comes from memories, you don’t try and figure them out - please don’t try and do that. You’ll get yourself in trouble. All you have to do is simplicity again - is realise that it’s thought. The second you realise it’s thought, it’s gone. You’re back to the now, you’re back to happiness. So don’t get caught up in a lot of details.”
Of course, Banks is here referring to a deep spiritual understanding of the roles of mind, consciousness and thought - not the superficial intellectual understanding that most of us have of these matters. Only a deep spiritual knowing, of the kind that Banks himself possessed, has the power to instantly liberate us from all problems. The attainment of this deep knowing has been the object of all significant spiritual teaching throughout the centuries. Cultivate a true, enlightened understanding of the way things really are, and all your problems will vanish as shadows exposed to the light. The idea that we ought to examine the shadows instead of simply turning on the light is a by-product of 20th century psychotherapy, which has no spiritual precedent.
Proponents of shadow work sometimes like to claim that following the orthodox spiritual path of seeking enlightenment is attempting to find a shortcut to freedom. We’re ever searching for that elusive magic thought that will open up our spiritual understanding and collapse all our problems in an instant. That’s too simple, they claim, and the only path to freedom is to put in the effort and do the dirty work down at the coalface of our subconscious; understanding what made us the way we are and healing each individual hurt. On the question of impatience, I’ve often found the opposite to be true, though - that is, if someone is deeply hurting now, it can be very tempting to attack the problem directly by trying to understand and heal the causes - whereas searching for a comprehensive liberation from all suffering is often too vague, distant and elusive for the impatient. But note, of course, that the process of earnestly seeking enlightenment almost always leads to a measurable increase in a person’s consciousness and a corresponding decrease in suffering - so even if we never reach the enlightenment threshold, our search is certainly not wasted effort.
Many people who have experienced Reconnective Healing will tell you that their lives changed for the better overnight, due to the massive jump in consciousness caused by the healing. Things that previously bothered them no longer did, and they viewed life with an entirely different perspective. For many of them, the changes are permanent or at least long-lasting. For a few, however, things return to their usual negative state within a few days or weeks after the healing. This is not because the healing energy is in any way deficient - it’s because, unfortunately, they allowed their pesky thoughts to get in the way again. We’ve been told for such a long time that we’re broken, and the only way to return to wholeness is through an arduous process of self-examination and repair. The more deeply this lie has permeated our consciousness, the harder it is to accept that healing could be so simple. Consciously or unconsciously, such people will tell themselves “this is too good to be true...It can’t last!”
Our true nature is one of complete perfection and harmony, and Reconnective Healing - being the unfiltered source energy of the universe - simply allows us to get back to that state. But if we tell ourselves it’s too good to be true - that we need to struggle through the murky depths of our childhood and our programming in order to liberate ourselves permanently - then our thoughts will come true, since they are our creative faculty.
Understanding the programming may actually provide some relief from it for certain individuals - so by all means, if shadow work helps you then it may be a legitimate part of your spiritual journey. It is not something I can ever proactively recommend, but it is not up to me to direct your spiritual path for you. But please realise that identifying with your programming is not the road to enlightenment, and people who choose to walk the higher path of dissociating with their programming and embracing the higher truths of our eternal, perfect existence are not “spiritually bypassing” by doing so.