Spiritual Bypassing – You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

spiritual bypassing

Facing the Shadows

Spiritual Bypassing is a term used to describe individuals who use Spirituality as a distraction to avoid doing any kind of necessary internal work. For many people this is a coping method to escape dealing with trauma, health issues, addictions, unpleasant emotions or anything else that feels too difficult.

It’s the equivalent of putting a band-aid over a bullet hole and expecting things to heal properly. These individuals don’t understand that the peace, happiness and grounded energy they’re searching for have to be earned. So, no matter how many books you read, classes you take, or rituals you learn, you’ll never achieve this desired same state of being if you continue to cut corners.

If you’re not sure what that looks like, it can appear in a variety of ways. Here’s some examples that you might see:

  • An individual who needs mental health therapy, addiction counseling, medical attention or another professional service; But instead throws all their efforts into becoming more Spiritual in an attempt to avoid facing themselves and correcting harmful behavior.  
  • An emotionally unbalanced individual who uses Spiritual techniques or practices to punish people who have wronged them.
  • An individual who has studied Spirituality at length but still lacks the wisdom and ability to apply concepts effectively. It’s one thing to memorize information. And it’s another to use your personal power to make it work.
  • An individual who is in great need of healing and attempts to heal others instead of focusing on themselves. (Sometimes causing illnesses or other energetic issues as a result.)
  • A person who spends a lot of money on unnecessary tools or items to create a Spiritual aesthetic. This is typically done instead of taking time to work with a specific practice to enhance their abilities. It’s more about how things look on the outside vs. having any real skill or understanding.
  • A person who believes Spirituality always has to be a positive experience and refuses to accept another level of expression. For example: Thinking Spiritual people are always happy and full of “love and light.” Especially when we have ups and downs in life like everyone else.
  • People who try to tell others how they should practice Spirituality to make themselves feel more important, instead of correcting the things inside of themselves that are causing these behaviors or outbursts.

Why it doesn’t work

Spirituality is the one place where you absolutely cannot take shortcuts and succeed. It’s core energy is based on having a good connection with yourself and developing the ability to stay grounded. When you come into something new and try to skip the most important step, there’s no way to build a solid foundation for your practice.

With that being said, working in any area of Spirituality can be quite enlightening. In fact, it can help you face the darkest parts of yourself and allow you grow. It is a wonderful supplement for people who need to be doing more serious work with professionals in other areas. But if you can’t be honest with yourself about where you’re at – you’ll always be stuck on the outside looking in.

I’ve had my fair share of experiences with individuals exhibiting Spiritual bypassing. Some were harder to deal with than others. Over the years there have been a few disruptive students in my classes. One in particular tried to take over and turn it into a personal one man show. I’ve heard about individuals with so much unsettled energy they blew out transformers and air conditioning units when doing spell work. I’ve watched internally chaotic practioners try to bully people into their version of Spirituality. And on one unfortunate occasion, became ill for three months when an unhealed individual worked on me without my consent or knowledge. As you can see, Spiritual bypassing can cause some unintentional problems if you’re not careful.

What can you do about people who are Spiritually bypassing?

If you feel comfortable, you can have a neutral and compassionate conversation to offer support if you feel so inclined. Sometimes people on the lighter end of this spectrum just need some guidance or a nonjudgmental space to help them understand what’s happening.

Understand that you cannot help anyone who isn’t ready. Spiritual bypassing is a defense mechanism to avoid looking at a much larger issue. The reality is that many people aren’t always willing to acknowledge that they are the problem. Know when to walk away and set firm boundaries if someone’s spiritual bypassing is negatively affecting you.

How to avoid being caught in this trap

Spiritual bypassing can be messy and keep you in an endless loop. Searching for something you’ll never find. But the good news you can avoid falling into this trap.

Shadow work

A lot of Spiritual bypassing stems from the fact that we don’t want to take an honest look at ourselves. Specifically, things we have decided are bad or that we view as undesirable behaviors. We’d rather avoid the discomfort of working though these beliefs so we dodge Shadow work like the plague. But if you can be brave for just a little bit; doing shadow work will help you grow into the kind of person you can be proud of.


Most of the time people are busy paying attention to things that happened earlier or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. Their minds are in a million different places from moment to moment. When you think this way, you completely forget to enjoy the present moment. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as easy as having a cup of coffee outside (without your cell phone). And taking those 10 minutes to breathe in some fresh air and appreciate your surroundings. This practice can extend to being more conscious of how you’re feeling, thinking, processing and reacting to situations around you. When you take time to observe yourself, you’ll start to notice areas that you would like to work on or change.


If you’re not going to take care of yourself then no one else is either. We are all responsible for ourselves, whether this relates to self-care or extends to how we move throughout the world. If you can learn to be nice to yourself, to exercise compassion and kindness; you’ll start to see yourself in a different light. You’ll understand where you might need some guidance in certain areas. And when you’re not judging yourself harshly for it, it’s much easier to reach out and get the help you need.

Remember that working on yourself isn’t easy, but you’re definitely worth it.

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