Are You Hiding Behind a Cloak of Spirituality?
Have you ever heard of the term, Spiritual Bypassing? It is also known as Spiritual Sublimation. They are relatively new terms in the field of psychology. They are one and the same thing and in brief, they refer to using ’spirituality’ as a tool for escape in the same way that you might use alcohol or drugs. In this way, you never confront your negative traits. The term, spiritual bypassing was coined by the late John Welwood, a prominent psychotherapist. In his classic book, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, he defines the term as using “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.” The goal of such practices, he claims, was enlightenment.
But, real spirituality is about walking one’s talk and not treating people or the environment badly. Real spirituality is about building positive traits like integrity, respect, transparency, kindness and compassion, and even punctuality. It is not for hiding behind a veil of meditation or whatever your practice happens to believe in. It is about facing your negative tendencies and finding resolutions for them.
Spiritual bypassing can be mentally more dangerous than drugs and alcohol. This does not mean that I am condoning these, but it can push the negative tendencies so deep down that one does not even realise that one has them. In other words, people who experience spiritual bypassing continue to smile and ‘be positive’ and bottle up what is deep down. It is like they enter into a deep denial of what is really there. This can culminate in a heavily burdened subconscious state which, in turn can lead to a ‘split’ personality’ or psychosis or repressed emotions. It leads to an inability to share negative aspects of their personality for fear of not appearing’ good’ in others’ eyes.
As an Ayurveda and Yoga practitioner, I have seen these cases from time and time. People in such a ‘category’ can also be very divisive and can develop anti-social behaviour to those they perceive as ‘ nonspiritual’.
To prevent spiritual sublimation or spiritual bypassing, the individual can perhaps make an attempt to be more honest about what is really going on inside his head or in his thoughts.
My advice to people who suffer from this is usually to develop kindness, integrity, respect, transparency and punctuality in day-to-day life in a way that they may be able to achieve these goals.
Ayurveda says that we need to analyse our actions daily so that we do not repeat the same mistakes repeatedly.
There is a way out, however. If ever you find yourself in this predicament, seek a good guide or counsellor to help yourself unravel what lies deep below the surface.