What is spiritual bypassing?
One of the biggest pitfalls—one of the many—on the trauma healing journey is what’s generally termed ‘spiritual bypassing’. The word ‘spiritual’ is misleading as bypassing has got nothing to do with spirituality or any kind of otherworldly journey. It’s firmly rooted in the energetic mechanics of trauma.
We call emotional bypassing spiritual bypassing to bypass the truth of what it is about.
What is spiritual bypassing?
To put it bluntly, spiritual bypassing—I prefer to call it simply ‘bypassing’—is an attempt to heal trauma without going through the pain and disorientation of the healing process. It’s an attempt at jumping to ‘Go’ and collecting £200 on the Monopoly board of trauma healing… without the inconvenience of landing on the Waterworks and having to pay your dues.
To understand bypassing, let’s first look at the mechanics of generational trauma in very simple terms. (The same rules apply to all forms of trauma, whether incurred in our current lives or inherited through our parents.)
All forms of trauma are incomplete past experiences. An event occurred—whether to a ‘younger you’ or to an ancestor—that caused emotional overwhelm. This is the inability to process an experience as it happens.
That moment—along with its unprocessed pain—freezes in time. This is how trauma forms. The incomplete experience, with its associated pain, remains active in a family’s DNA until someone recognises and resolves the trauma.
Bypassing attempts to short-circuit trauma by wishfully jumping ahead to a healed state, without completing the experience or processing (i.e., feeling) the pain.
There are multiple reasons why people unconsciously seek to bypass genuine trauma resolution. They’re all based on fear:
- Emotional pain—how much is this going to hurt?
- Emotional overwhelm—while I be able to cope with this?
- Loss of control—what will happen if this trauma surfaces?
- Loss of identity—who will I be on the other side?
These fears are all completely understandable. Anyone who has done any trauma healing work will be intimately acquainted with them.
So much for the theory and the exploded diagram. How does it work in practice?
How does bypassing work?
Let’s say we have three people who’ve recognised they have a trauma and are looking for healing. This in itself is a step too far for many people. So, no beating oneself up regardless of where you are in your journey!
These three people have differing levels of willingness to confront and experience the fears described above. Let’s call them Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert. All three of them find a new healing modality and wonder whether it’s the solution to their trauma.
Beginner investigates this new modality. Their unconscious defence mechanisms, which are trying to protect them from all the fears listed above, kick in. Their unconscious mind looks at this modality and thinks, “Oh goody, this looks really complicated, we can get lost in here.”
Result: Beginner immerses themselves in the modality. They become an avid, cult-like follower, exponent, and even teacher of the modality. Yet, years later, nothing has changed. Their conscious mind has been tricked into thinking it’s doing something.
Intermediate does the same. Yet their unconscious reaction differs. “Oh-oh, this looks like trouble. It’s a decent modality; it might even work.”
Result: Intermediate finds some reason to reject the modality. They bombard social media with posts about what a sham and a fraud it is. Their conscious mind has been tricked into thinking it’s still looking for the ‘right’ modality.
Expert approaches the modality with a willingness to complete the incomplete experience and to face and feel all its fears. They’ll either feel drawn to the modality—it’ll feel ‘alive’—or feel no interest in it. That sense of aliveness signals the potential for healing. If Expert follows through, significant healing can result.
Moral of the story: fear creates spiritual bypassing. Once you understand that, you can approach your healing journey in a way that keeps you on the straight—but painful—narrow.