Spiritual Bypass: When Light Needs Darkness


Sober Recovery Expert Author

If your spirituality is based on never saying, thinking or doing something, instead of understanding why we do the things we should never do, there's a good chance you're spiritually bypassing a lot inside of you.

I know exactly what it feels like to be someone because you think it's how you’re supposed to be. We learn this from our childhood if we're not accepted for who we are by parents or caretakers. The good news is you choose who you want to be as long as you can confront your deepest self.

If your spirituality is based on "never" saying, thinking, or doing something instead of understanding why we do those things we should "never" do, there's a good chance you're spiritually bypassing a lot inside of you.

The Light (in Church)

A long time ago, I thought I had seen the light. I was caught up in heavenly, spiritual things. I felt my thoughts and feelings were too profound for others to understand, and confused my aloof, detached self as being spiritually elevated. That was until therapy gave me courage to face myself. After so many years spent in what I now recognize as spiritual bypassing, I’m relieved to know that “seeing the light” actually happens when we give ourselves permission to face and feel the darkest parts of us.

You see, I grew up in church. For the most part it was pentecostal, which means super religious, strict and heavy on the spiritual stuff. Now that I’m in touch with some not-so-pretty sides of me, I’m finally able to understand why I was drawn to church at such a young age. It all starts with my past.

A Toxic Family

I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional home. I had a domineering older sister, a single mother, and a father who stopped by every other weekend to dose us with a heaping serving of authoritarianism. There was no space for emotions or self-expression. I felt uncomfortable in my skin. I felt uncomfortable in my humanity.

My father rejected us, because he didn’t know how to be a father to girls. My mother neglected us, because she was mentally, physically and emotionally spent from a marriage with my abusive father. I connected to no one.

I took care to cater to my parents’ feelings in an effort to avoid being a burden or making them feel angry. I was a good girl, because I worked to earn my love and worthiness. I kept this act up for 29 years of my life, until I was finally diagnosed with PTSD.

Living in a Fantasy World

I often suffered bouts of anxiety and severe panic attacks. I interpreted church teachings to mean that inner peace would come to me when I did the right thing. So when peace didn’t come to me during these attacks, I felt guilt and shame. If I was anxious, I must have done something wrong, even if I didn’t know what that was.

In search of peace, I developed an obsession with positivity. I couldn’t stand negative sights or sounds. No complaints were said and no negative feelings addressed. Be positive, be good and at peace. I said good things and had no tolerance for anyone who contradicted my positive energy.

I felt good things, but I didn’t feel good. I felt profoundly exhausted.

The Charade Didn’t Last

Time would prove my foundation of spirituality to be sand and my character to be an illusion. I had no integrity because I didn’t know who I was, only what I thought I was supposed to be. It was a dangerous misunderstanding that created disconnect between myself and others.

Spiritual bypassing kept me from self-awareness and intimacy. It kept me from being real, vulnerable and in-tune with all the “bad” stuff that made me who I am. And being out of tune with the “bad” stuff meant I was in denial of all the help I really needed.

Thankfully, I overcame spiritual bypassing after a near mental breakdown. I was forced to face myself and now I know that real spirituality is understanding why I think and feel things I do, and choosing to be who I am in spite of it.

I understand now that being the light isn’t about having no darkness; it’s about acknowledging the darkness, accepting it and using it as a compass towards the best version of myself. I do things not because I’m supposed to, but because I know who I’m supposed to be.

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