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What is Spiritual Bypassing?

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Spiritual bypassing stems from an attempt to live a better life. 

People don’t spiritually bypass on purpose. It’s a result of looking for a different way to feel. To the ‘seeker,’ spirituality provides a set of positive reinforcement mechanisms that shape their existence.

For many people, spirituality is a path to empowerment after many years of wandering lost through life. New age spirituality, in particular, provides a general framework of positive affirmation, self-acceptance, and non-judgment. These are beautiful pursuits.  

It’s when spirituality is followed dogmatically that spiritual bypassing can become a burden.

My teacher states that spiritual modalities often ignore emotional realities. Spiritual bypass leaves people confused and stuck. With a perception of how their spiritual path intends them to be, many people are left unable to process their emotions. As such, emotion is even further repressed. 

A Mask for Underlying Emotions

Spiritual bypass becomes a mask for underlying emotions. Those people who end up spiritually bypassing are really looking to cope with discomfort that stems from unresolved patterns and habits stemming from formative times in their lives. They are looking for something to make them feel better – like a balm for their soul. 

For many, spirituality provides a context that creates a framework for safety. In that framework, seekers understand the permitted behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. 

From that perspective, spiritual bypassing serves an important purpose. It regulates the nervous system, allowing the seeker to feel at ease and to be safe in the world. From a polyvagal-informed approach, this place of safety is where everything seems possible. 

When someone challenges our spirituality, which mobilizes the nervous system, the seeker now feels unsafe and needs to be hypervigilant. “I must pay great attention and ensure my system of security (spirituality) isn’t under threat.”  

That’s the really interesting part: people who spiritually bypass have found an effective tool to keep their nervous system regulated. 

Difference Between Spiritual Bypassing and Astrology

Astrology is often a source of spiritual bypassing. 

However, astrology and spiritual bypassing are by no means the same.

Astrology provides a system to understand how the earth relates to planetary positions. It provides excellent explanations for what’s happening in the world. Astrology, just like Reiki or Yoga or Vedic philosophy, provides a lens through which people choose to see the world.

However, some followers of astrology overlook free choice.

While the planets and stars may fall into certain patterns, each and every one of us still has the capacity to shape our existence. Astrology helps to interpret the world. The daily astrological predictions may indicate you must befriend shadow. That isn’t to say you must go to the dark side. Instead, it provides a clue about how you might look at the world. How do your experience and patterning impact your interpretation of the world?

People who attribute everything to planetary alignment have found an effective outlet to avoid feeling deep, uncomfortable emotions. 

The Antidote: Awareness

Spiritual bypassing is a sincere attempt for people to express themselves in new and positive ways. It stems from a desire to understand the world and our experience in it. 

It’s when individuals are unable or unwilling to look deeper, to address habits and patterns, that spiritual bypass becomes an issue. Without the capacity to address emotions, seekers will find themselves on a perpetual quest for comfort, which will only come when they accept that discomfort is the greatest teacher. 

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Andrea Wood
Andrea Wood is a Shamanic Practitioner and Transformational Coach. Combining techniques from Core Shamanism, Reiki, Compassionate Inquiry and the Polyvagal Theory, Andrea supports individuals in their search for clarity in this world.

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