Psychologists’ concept of “spiritual bypass” may hold the key to understanding why.
In the 1980s, a psychologist named John Welwood used the term “spiritual bypass” to describe how people often turn to religion or other forms of spirituality to avoid dealing with difficult feelings such as anxiety, guilt, or shame.
Spiritual bypassing, according to integrative psychotherapist Robert Augustus Masters, involves hiding behind a spiritual veil of metaphysical ideas and practices.
He says that as a result, “this not only isolates us from our spiritual suffering and personal problems but also isolates us from our true spirituality.”
This leaves us stuck in a metaphysical limbo where we are very kind, nice, and shallow.
Below are five examples of “spiritual things” that hinder development:
1. Engaging in “spiritual” quests to feel superior
This is a common trap many fall into and it can take many forms, like reading Alan Watts and feeling a false sense of superiority.
Instead, consider simpler actions like commuting to work by bike or reducing your TV consumption. Exploring vegetarianism or using crystals are other alternatives.
Visiting temples, practicing meditation or yoga, and even experimenting with psychedelics are also part of this pursuit.
It is important to note that I do not intend to blame anyone for these behaviors. Like Alan Watts, I really appreciate the value of meditation and the insights it brings.
However, it is essential not to allow these activities to inflate our egos and make us believe that we are better than others.
This type of mindset hinders true spiritual growth by shifting our focus away from the universe and developing a deeply emotional connection to the awe-inspiring wonders of life.
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2. Changing interests or ideas simply because of the trend
As social creatures, we naturally crave acceptance and belonging. We seek communities to call home, and spirituality often becomes an area where different groups form.
There are many spiritual communities that emerge around common interests.
While this can be helpful, it is important to be aware of trends that may be fleeting or absent in the long term.
3. Judging others when they express anger or strong emotions
Often, we fall into the trap of thinking that getting angry won’t solve anything. We can silently condemn someone for voicing their frustrations, using it as an excuse to avoid dealing with the real issues at hand.
However, anger is a normal human emotion and can be a valid response to certain situations. It is essential to recognize that anger often indicates deeper, underlying problems within ourselves or in our relationships.
Ironically, many spiritual individuals try to suppress so-called “unspiritual” feelings while artificially reinforcing “spiritual” traits such as compassion, kindness, and calmness.
This leads to a lack of authenticity. Trying too hard to appear calm, happy, and peaceful can make others question our sincerity.
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4. The use of “spirituality” as an excuse for drug use
Many people believe that psychedelic substances can lead to profound spiritual experiences, both within and outside the realm of religion.
However, some individuals exploit this belief to perpetuate harmful drug habits.
In extreme cases, those who identify as “spiritual” may spend their entire waking day planning cannabis ceremonies, indulge in psychedelics without regard to proper parameters or frequency, and refuse to recognize the negative consequences of their behavior.
It is important to approach drug use with care and respect, understanding the potential risks involved.
5. Have a strong aversion and contempt for the evil side
Developing a strong aversion to the darker aspects of life and holding spiritual figures like Buddha or the Dalai Lama on a pedestal can be misleading.
The truth is that we are all imperfect human beings who make mistakes from time to time. No adult can go through life without making the slightest mistake, and over time, there will inevitably be more significant slip-ups.
Just as everyone gets sick from time to time, it is essential to practice self-forgiveness and embrace our fallibility. Reflecting on our failures and striving for improvement is the best way forward.
Ultimately, the bottom line is that the journey of learning and personal growth never ends. Believing there is nothing to learn is a dangerous mindset that can lead to stagnation.
It is essential to admit that we may have been wrong or misinformed for a long time, and accepting this challenge can be difficult but extremely rewarding.
Without constantly challenging ourselves and seeking lifelong education, we risk spiritual and intellectual decay, trapped in the illusion that we have found the final solution and are unable to progress further.
In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, embracing a mindset of continuous learning is essential for personal development and staying relevant in an evolving environment.
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