In this ever growing spiritual movement it’s imperative to discuss some spiritual growth sabotagers cloaked in a disguise of spiritually.
You may be aware of the growing interest and exploration of spirituality and personal growth. Inspirational quotes are all over social media.
While this indicates that our society is moving in the right direction, a misunderstanding of some of the mainstream inspirational and spiritual mottos can oppose their intended effects of growth and inspiration.
Spirituality is a beautiful, essential aspect and practice in life. However, it is crucial to discuss the spiritual myths, misconceptions, and pitfalls running rampant in the spiritual community.
There are quite a few spiritual growth sabotagers. Most of them fall under the umbrella of something called spiritual bypassing, which I’ll describe next.
What is spiritual bypassing:
Spiritual bypassing is the dark side of spirituality. Spiritual bypassing is the misconception, misuse, and misinterpretation of spirituality. It is using (consciously or unconsciously) spirituality in such a way that actually sabotages healing, as well as, spiritual and personal growth.
Spiritual bypassing is elusive in nature. Therefore, many of us don’t even realize its grasp around us. We think our actions and thoughts are applications of our spiritual practice when, in fact, they are quite the opposite.
Spiritual bypassing is probably more common than not on the spiritual journey. I would bet at least 90% of spiritual seekers experience it.
Now, there are a lot of behaviors and beliefs that take us into the realm of spiritual bypassing, so let’s get started.
21 Spiritual Misconceptions, Spiritual Myths, and Spiritual Pitfalls:
1. Saying ‘No’ is Always Resistance. Saying ‘No’ is Bad: [Myth]
This myth sprouted from the spiritual practice of nonresistance. The idea of always saying ‘yes’ to life has its merits. If you say ‘no’ to everything, you’ll miss out. On the other hand, the complete. elimination of ‘no’ has detrimental effects. Sometimes a healthy ‘no’ is warranted.
As a fellow people pleaser and previous ascriber to this myth, I have many times said ‘no’ when I knew to say ‘yes’, and I’ve said ‘yes’ when I knew to say ‘no’. I often found myself betraying my inner Truth.
The false belief that saying ‘no’ is bad can lead to a massive internal dissonance. It is amplified when combined with people pleasing tendencies.
Furthermore, seeing ‘no’ as a bad thing can lead to weak and loose boundaries that allow others to take advantage and betray you as you have yourself.
Saying ‘yes’ when you know you need to say ‘no’ can obligate you to too many things. You get stretched too thin to perform in a high quality way. Somewhere, someone or something will suffer.
One afternoon, my brother cooked fish. It was too salty, and he pointed it out himself. Instead of saying the truth— “Yeah, it was a bit salty. I appreciate you cooking it though,”— I lied to avoid hurting his feelings. “No it’s not! It’s so good!”
He said, “I know it’s salty. You wouldn’t tell me if it was. I can’t trust you.”
Something inside me shifted me that day. Always saying “yes” is inauthentic, and I pledged to myself that I’d work on healing and shedding the belief that I should always say “yes”. Sometimes I still struggle with this one, but I’ve come a looooong way.
I always had awareness of my pleasing tendencies, and I felt that discomfort of the dissonance. But that day I realized on a deep level how detrimental it is to withhold your voice.
Yes and no is a balancing act. Your gut is pretty good about letting you know where to draw the line.
The Healthy ‘No’:
All hail the healthy ‘no’! Sometimes, ‘no’ is the spiritual response!
First and foremost, you must say ‘no’ to toxic relationships activities. Engaging with toxic people and activities, obviously, is counter-spiritual. The details of a healthy ‘no’ vary with each situation.
That being said, the most universal key in its application is emotional nonattachment to the ‘no’. Say the truth as kindly as possible while releasing fear of judgment or how the other person might respond. This is a high quality ‘no’ said with a sacred intention and from a sacred state of being.
Easier said than done, but it feels so good to remain true to yourself, that it gets easier every time.
2. Spirituality That Serves the Ego (the Else): [Pitfall]
Sometimes, we use our spirituality to serve the ego. It’s totally natural that this happens. It’s a primitive function of an aspect of our human nature. My word for the ego is the Else. It plays a massive role in your life so totally check out my post about it!
If you’ve ever had these inklings or experiences, this may be the case for you.
- A little belief that spiritual people are superior to non-spiritual people.
- Maybe you get a wee little ego boost because you meditate or do yoga, or feel more “enlightened” than someone else.
- You might believe being spiritual makes you more worthy or intrinsically valuable than others.
3. It Is What It Is: [Misconception]
“It is what it is,” derives from the practice of presence and acceptance. Presence and acceptance are extremely valuable practices, however, when misunderstood, this motto can lead to the detrimental result of exaggerated detachment.
This motto can promote an unwillingness to change, grow, or improve self or situation.
For this reason, we must take great care that it doesn’t excuse bad behavior or allow negative actions/situations to go unchecked.
4. Spirituality is a Serious Matter: [Pitfall]
I used to take spirituality so seriously. While it is extremely important, seeing it so seriously led to harsh self judgment when my ego (Else) did pop up, or when I chose the less spiritual choice. It’s okay to take it seriously, but judging yourself when you mess up is just more of the Else at work.
5. My Spirituality Determines My Value, Worth, and God’s Love For Me: [Myth]
This leads us to debilitating judgment of our wounds, fears, and areas for growth. Our value and worth are intrinsic and unchangeable. Regardless of our actions, Sacred’s (God’s) love for us is irreducible. Period.
6. Negativity is Wrong and Bad: [Myth]
It’s not that cut and dry. Judgment and shame tend to follow when we apply the “wrong” or “bad” label to anything. This only adds more negativity.
We must see negativity as a hailing for healing attention. It is a location flag for unmet needs and areas for learning and growth. We must move through our negativity, or let it move through us with grace. And if you need to cry or scream or feel grouchy for a little bit, that’s okay! A little release makes space for healing work when we’re ready.
I plan on writing an entire post to this topic, so stay tuned!
7. If I’m Spiritual Enough, I’ll Feel Blissful All The Time: [Myth]
This one is similar to the previous myth that negativity is bad. We are human beings. With that, sometimes, comes unpleasant emotions and feelings.
What matters is not that they come up, but how we process them. Processing them can feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and un-fun. Like a seed has to break open to sprout, we too might have to break open and break down in order break out into our greatness.
8. Spiritual Practice is Fun and Easy: [Misconception]
I don’t always want to do my meditation practice. I don’t always want to investigate my areas for growth. In fact, fun is far from the top of words that describes digging through our pain, wounds, and shadow sides.
Often, people face a lot of resistance towards spiritual growth and healing. It requires looking at and working through the shadow sides of ourselves that we’ve spent our whole lives denying, excusing, and avoiding. Our intention is growth and transcendence, not entertainment.
9. Spirituality is a Panacea for Removing All Life’s Struggles: [Myth]
Life will still bring challenges and messes. This isn’t a bad thing. We exist in a constant state of evolution. While spirituality doesn’t eliminate difficulties, it prepares us to move through them with sacred grace and less suffering.
10. Live in the Now: [Misconception]
This motto stems from the essential spiritual practice of presence. I call it currence. As I said, presence is essential. However, a misunderstanding of this practice can lead to irresponsible and shadow actions with painful consequences.
At times, we must use the present moment to consider best action. Sometimes, we must use the now to plan for the future or amend for the past. If we’ve wronged someone, it isn’t spiritual to say, “It’s in the past. Be in the present. Get over it.” No. We must amend for our mistakes, take accountability for our past actions, and learn from them to avoid repeating them in the future.
Live in the now does not mean, always do whatever you want and things will work themselves out. We still must use the present moment to take care of our responsibilities, and in doing so, infuse our thoughts, actions, and plans with sacred energy from a sacred state of being.
11. Anger Phobia: [Pitfall]
Up until recently, I labeled anger as unspiritual, but I’ve come to understand that, as with most things, it isn’t that simple.
Anger expelled without examination, expelled as a knee jerk reaction, no doubt, has its painful consequences. But I propose we look at anger with compassion rather than judgment. Anger isn’t to be squashed or muted entirely. It indicates an issue that requires high quality investigation with the intention towards high quality resolution.
A person expressing anger is usually in deep pain that they are unaware of. Does this excuse their hurtful behavior? Absolutely not. But their chances of healing and improving are amplified if we approach them with the intention to understand with compassion.
The feeling of anger indicates either a legitimate violation (someone is literally hurting you or someone or something), or you perceive a violation that, in fact, only triggered an unhealed violation or wound you experienced in the past. For example, someone says something with no intention to offend, but you misinterpret it offensively.
Either way, healing action is being summoned, either for ourselves, or a situation. This is where wise fury comes in. We transform the energy of anger into a formidable force of healing and transformation. Anger arising isn’t the issue. It’s how we deal with it that matters.
All that being said, I feel a disclaimer is necessary regarding people with anger issues that lead to harmful and/or abusive behaviors. Each person’s healing is their own responsibility. While we can point a person in the healing direction, we cannot heal someone else no matter how loving, kind, fun, supportive, attractive, etc we are. If someone is harming us, we must remove ourselves. You can send them light, love, and prayers from a safe distance.
12. Focus on the Positive: [Misconception]
This is a biggie. Focusing on the positive is an essential practice. It keeps us from spiraling into a pointless pit of despair. It helps us attract positive energy. It softens and injects peace and gratitude into dark places and situations.
But the misconception of this practice can lead to stagnation of healing, as well as a perpetuation of problems that scream for healing attention. Focusing on the positive doesn’t mean ignore personal or global problems and wounds that need healing attention and action.
While positivity is important, there are still issues to be addressed. We identify and enter the negativity and pain, not to wallow needlessly, but with the intention to transform ourselves or a situation. Rather than resisting it, denying it, or suppressing it, we embrace the issue with acceptance, acceptance in the nonresistance sense, not the condoning sense.
The idea is to refrain from attaching negativity to the issue, and addressing it with the high quality response of sacred solutions.
If your house is on fire, sitting inside saying, “Everything is great! Everything is well!” will not put the fire out.
Sacred (God) uses nature to demonstrate the laws of the Sacred realm. Take a garden, for instance. The garden has many juicy fruits and vegetables growing in it’s nice, neat rows. However, there are also some weeds sprouting. Staying positive and saying, “Well, at least we have these great fruits and vegetables. As long as we’re positive and grateful, the weeds won’t matter. Let’s go inside and have some delicious tea.”
Guess what happens next. That’s right. The weeds eventually overtake the beautiful rows in the garden. Sometimes, “problems” or “negative” situations call on us for healing attention rather than positive vibes.
13. If I’m Spiritual Enough I will Never Feel Painful Emotions or Have a Bad Day: [Myth]
Not true! I think this stems from the “acceptance” and “go with the flow” teachings. Unless you’re a saint or monk, you’re going to experience painful emotions.
We’ve gotta accept that sometimes we feel like ass. If you believe it isn’t spiritual to feel these emotions, you’ll most likely label them as bad or wrong and, subsequently, shame and judge yourself for feeling them. This shame and judgement is a function of the Else (ego).
Rather than resist or suppress the emotion, we must tap into our Sacred tool belt to ride the wave through the discomfort. We can’t always stop the arising of our emotions, but we can control how we respond with and to them. That’s where our spiritual practice applies. You’ll notice eventually that when you accept and work through your emotions in a high quality way, their grip on you loosens, and sometimes, they stop coming up altogether.
We can bury, deny, at our pain all day long, shoving them into the depths of our subconscious. But they don’t stay down there quietly.
As an attempt to call in healing, wounds buried in our subconscious lead us to create dysfunction and toxic patterns, and will resurface at inopportune moments. This is seen in overreactions, repetitive dysfunctional relationships, addiction, dysfunctional life, etc.
Working through our pain won’t feel particularly great. At first, it may even feel like too much to bear.
Feeling our feelings and sitting with our painful emotions is a practice that prevents them from embedding themselves in our subconscious mind. That being said, there’s a line between wallowing in our pain and working through our pain in a healing manner.
To determine the difference we look at all the aspects of our life. If things are improving in time, we’re healing. If they’re crumbling, we’re stuck in the pain and potentially need to seek outside help.
14. Practice Makes Perfect. If I’m perfectly spiritual then I’ll be a perfect human with a perfect life who makes perfect decisions and never makes mistakes: [Myth]
I used to believe I had to have all the knowledge and wisdom to be complete. My perfectionist tendencies led me to this belief.
Perfect is not the way of this world.
I struggled with this and still face it from time to time. My perspective has shifted into the understanding that everything works perfectly in service of the greater good and Sacred’s will. My human perception may see useless pain and suffering. My Soul self knows every experience is used for transformation, even if it appears as destruction.
I’m learning to accept my imperfection and humanness with grace and forgiveness. I’m working towards cultivating gratitude for the lessons and potential for growth embedded within my mistakes.
Evolution and convergence (alignment of human self with Soul self) are the key, not perfection. It’s about practice not perfection. It’s not about the destination; it’s about your state of being in every moment.
15. Deny Wounds and Fears Because it Isn’t “Spiritual” to Have Them: [Pitfall]
This leads to emotional numbing and repression. This is detrimental to growth and healing.
Growth and healing are inevitable and unavoidable. Our path to them is where we hold the reigns. The path of suppression and denial is much more painful than the path of intentional identification and healing of our shadow stuff.
Growth, healing, and transformation lie in the centers of our wounds and fears, not in their suppression. The Soul’s longing to heal has roots that eventually penetrate every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, this shows up as destructive, life shattering happenings when left untended.
I repeat: Healing and evolution are inevitable. There is much less suffering on the path of conscious evolution and healing; that is to say when we choose to grow and heal on purpose. This is the path of purposeful convergence. We must go inside with the unwavering intention to evolve and heal. We almost enthusiastically search for areas requiring healing. We must release our attachment to rightness and perfection. We allow that we are not okay so that we can make ourselves okay. We identify, examine, challenge, and heal the wounds and fears, for this is the only way to transcend them.
16. Unconditional Love Means Stand by Someone No Matter What: [Myth]
This massive myth leads to acceptance of abuse and enabling of dysfunction. As I said before, you cannot heal someone for them. Continuing to give an addict money or supporting them so they can support their addiction feels loving, but, in fact, it enables their dysfunction and prevents their healing.
Overly tolerant compassion is dangerous and spiritual betrayal on both parties. Unconditional love and compassion does not equal tolerating abuse or poor treatment. It does not mean staying in a toxic relationship or continuing to allow a toxic person to remain in your life. Unconditional love certainly doesn’t mean immediately trusting every person that crosses your path.
17. Money is Evil: [Myth]
If you believe this, you’ll probably find money hard to come by because you exude such a repelling energy towards it. Money isn’t the problem. Greed is the problem. If you want to go even deeper than that, the root of greed is fear. Money has the power and potential to serve great and sacred causes that promote love, compassion, healing, oneness, and more.
18. Let it Go: [Misconception]
Let it go doesn’t mean blow off stuff that needs healing attention and resolution first. It doesn’t mean allow abuse or unhealthy situations to go unaddressed.
Let it go applies to the releasing of thoughts and emotions brought about by situations that trigger the Else (ego). It’s helpful for more miniscule situations. For example, if you spill your drink—let go of the impatience, frustration, embarrassment, whatever pointless and painful emotion arises. Or someone cuts you off in traffic, let go of the event, as well as the anger that came with it. Maybe even send out a heartfelt prayer for that person.
Let it go means releasing toxic grievances where you are the only sufferer. It is forgiving with or without an apology in order to liberate yourself from the toxic thoughts and emotions that non-forgiveness brings.
19. Speak Your Truth: [Misconception]
“It’s my truth!” Often people believe they’re speaking their truth when, actually, it’s their Else’s truth, their ego’s truth. Someone getting pissed and flying off the handle screaming, “I’m speaking my truth!” is unclear on what their truth is.
Screaming anger is not the expression of truth. However, it does point to the truth that a person feels violated or has been violated, and they feel pain or fear. As a protection mechanism, they express this pain in the form of anger for fear of vulnerability, power loss, and further pain. They don’t realize that they are the ones giving away their power and furthering their pain by reacting this way. The Else makes them feel that the anger is protective and empowering, but the empowerment they feel from their anger is false and fleeting.
There is Universal Truth, that which applies to everyone, and there’s unique Truth, that which applies personally to an individual. The Truth is always empowering, but not in power trip sort of way.
Our Truth is never expressed by way of shadow states of being (anger, embarrassment, judgment, violence etc). The Truth does, however, lie on their flip side; it lies in their opposites (awareness, patience, peace, love, compassion, understanding). For this reason, we can use shadow states of being as guideposts towards areas for healing and discovery of Truth. Once we do this, we enable ourselves to truly express our Truth in a high quality way.
20. Be Yourself: [Misconception]
Be yourself refers to the Soul self. Often people use this motto to justify dysfunction, unhealthy behavior, and hurtful words and actions. “What?! I’m just being myself! That’s who I am!”
It is not best to be yourself when the Else (ego) controls your thoughts, words, and actions. There’s a big difference between being true to your True self, and being true to who your Else tells you you are.
21. Believe and Your Dreams Will Come True: [Misconception]
While belief is essential for creating your best life, this statement is only partly true. Sitting around believing all day will not a dream fulfill.
Belief goes hand in hand with growth and creative action as necessary components for fulfilling your greatest destinies—all of which stand on a foundation of a deep relationship with Sacred and our Soul self.
Furthermore, just as positive thinking doesn’t pull the weeds from a garden, belief alone doesn’t fulfill dreams. On the other hand, it is the essential first step. Creative action is the second half of the equation.
Through our deep and constant connection with Soul and Sacred, we invite inspiration, motivation, and clarity for creative action rooted in sacred states of being. This sacred and creative action sprouts from our belief and, together, they fulfill our dreams bit by bit.
How to know if you’re spiritually bypassing:
- You understand the importance of unconditional love but you judge or exclude others or yourself
- You believe we are all one, but you judge or exclude others
- You endorse understanding and compassion, but shame and berate yourself or others for a slip up
- Any dissonance between spiritual values and actual beliefs, or your spiritual life and how you actually live
- You believe everything happens for a reason, and that Sacred is always working in your favor, but you feel stress, worry, and resistance to challenging situations
- You espouse forgiveness, but you hold a grudge.
Requirements For How to Prevent Spiritual Bypassing:
- Letting go of being right or perfect
- Let go of judgment of emotions
- Allow healthy experience of emotions
- It’s ok to feel uncomfortable—healing this stuff most likely won’t be as fun as binge watching Game of Thrones
- Apply and use the tools learned in meditation, seminars, books, yoga
- Put intentional personal growth at the center of your spiritual practice. The purpose of spiritual practice is to converge your human self more and more with your Soul self. The idea is evolution, not perfection.
- Cultivate our inner garden. Again, our goal is authenticity, growth, and convergence. With gumption—and non judgment—we seek out the weeds in our minds and lives. Using our compassionate personal growth techniques, we uproot them and assess them in order to determine their cause and treatment for healing.
You’re Not Alone:
I think we all have our moments of spiritual bypassing. It seems to be part of the human journey back to our true selves. Nevertheless, these spiritual growth sabotagers lose their power under the keen eye of your awareness. So, now that you know about them, you’ll know how to spot them and bypass the bypassing!
I’m extremely familiar with the realm of spiritual bypassing because I’ve fallen into its trap many times. I still find old thoughts and beliefs from that realm bubble up in me. On a daily basis, I identify aspects of my human nature that aren’t aligned with my spiritual nature. You can read more about my story here.
If I were still deeply in the bypassing trenches, I’d go ahead and douse myself with shame, judgement, and all around bad feelings for not being wise or enlightened enough. I’ve learned now that that’s just more bypassing and the Else at work. That shame and judgment only pull me farther from my center.
I think very few people are fully and completely converged. An article in Time magazine discusses that even Mother Teresa struggled with dissonance.
If Mother Teresa had her moments of bypassing, chances are most everyone else does too.
First of all, if you find yourself falling prey to these spiritual growth sabotagers, it’s extremely important that you refrain from applying a negative label to them. Don’t get frustrated or mad at yourself. This reaction is a useless poison. Your worth and value is absolute and unchangeable by any act or power in or outside of yourself.
Second of all, don’t take it so seriously! Ugh, I used to do this! It is a toxic way to look at spirituality. Simply identify that you’re bypassing. Recenter and refer to your tools: breath, sacred states of being, currence, convergence, personal growth and healing.
Spiritual bypassing is the neglecting and judgmental banishment of our humanity. The shadow sides of our humanity are our guideposts for healing and transformation.
Part of our growth centers on embracing and accepting our place in our spiritual journey. It is about moment to moment convergence (alignment of human self with Soul self) and authenticity rather than enlightenment or perfection.
Spirituality is not a suppression, ignoring, or denial of feelings, wounds, and fears. It is a brave and compassionate dive into them with healing tools and the support of Sacred.
Spirituality is an embracing, curiosity, sorting through, and healing of our temporal nature. Our areas for growth aren’t to be shamed or seen as negative or bad. There isn’t anything wrong with us, nor is there anything about us that makes us less valuable or worthy of love and greatness. These shadow sides are simply a contrast to our light that we are charged with identifying and healing.
Dear holy, divine Sacred, thank you for always calling me back to myself, my true, divine self. Thank you for helping me recognize and recenter when I’m spiritually bypassing. Thank you for showing me the Truth in a gentle, clear way. My intention is to serve the highest and greatest good in the most loving and efficient ways. I intend to evolve and heal. I’m so grateful that you use me as a conduit for your will. Thank you for saving me when I’m tempted pointlessly into the darkness. Thank you for guiding my healing as I brave the shadows on purpose. May your healing and wisdom always course through me. Thank you. Amen.
In Light & Love,