Updated: Jul 16
Spiritual bypass. Have you heard this term? I hadn't either until, well, I did. And when it was explained to me, I could relate. Spiritual bypass is about refusing to be human. It's the longing to float above the hubbub of a real, messy, unpredictable life and linger (languor?) in the "light".
We've all met someone like this. They have that air of above-it-all-ness about them as though they have discovered the secret to life and they're not sharing. Their out-of-focus, middle-distance gaze seems always to be saying "Chill, man. Relax. It's all good." Or, a personal favourite, "Everything happens for a reason. Trust." Really? Everything?
And, even were that true, there's the underlying judgement about how you are coping. or more likely not, with the situation at hand. Sure, there may be a greater purpose to what's happening to you right now but it may take years for you to see it. In the mean time, you are stuck with the grief or the pain of betrayal, or whatever it is. What to do with that?
The pursuer of a state of spiritual bypass will do nothing with the feelings. Instead, they will detach from their reality and enter the Land of Denial. That mythical place full of sun dappled seas and early Spring green. Meadows of wild flowers and unafraid deer nibbling at the shore of a glittering lake. There might even be a unicorn. No one is ever angry or hurt, no one ever dies or leaves us, no one has to earn a living. It is a place full of harmony and peace forever and ever, amen.
"Sounds pretty good", I hear you say. "Where's the harm?"
We have all visited the Land of Denial. It is a tremendously efficient and even necessary coping mechanism when life throws us some curve balls (which, let's face it, seems to be most of the time; it's just a matter of degree). But overstaying our welcome is the hitch. You know that feeling when you're at a cocktail party busily chatting up all the other folks, "working the room" and being the life of the party that you hardly notice that everyone but you and host are the only people still present. Everyone else has sensibly left and returned to their own homes and lives? The host is checking her wristwatch in between loading wine glasses into the dishwasher? That feeling?
There comes a point when you have to leave the Land of Denial and return to the pain that sent you there. Denial is a welcome reprieve but it is not meant to be a permanent or even long-term place to stay. The good news is by returning to reality you get an opportunity to resolve and heal from that thing you were trying to avoid. These things never go away; they get buried only to resurface again and again until they are acknowledged, understood, and released.
This is the act of grounded spirituality.
Beware the "spiritual sages" who purport to have all the answers, who insist that they have it all figured out and have nothing left to heal or to learn. Those who feel an entitlement to judge you and your "petty" concerns. In my professional world, we call this projection - a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities [both positive and negative] by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
The not-so-inside joke of grounded spirituality is that if you had nothing left to learn in this life, you'd be dead. So ... there's that.
It's good to look for guidance and support when life just gets to be too much or when you cannot seem to make sense of a confounding situation. But, when you start your search, make sure you find someone not only who you trust but who trusts you back. Find someone who happily acknowledges that they do not have the answers you seek but they trust that you do. Because no one and I mean no one knows you better than you do.
That's not denial; that's grounded in reality.