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Do you feel like you’re a spiritual person? And do you sometimes pretend everything’s okay even though it isn’t? You might be engaging in spiritual bypassing.

Curious about what it is? Let’s talk about it more.

What is Spiritual Bypassing?

Spiritual bypassing is a term first developed by John Wellwood in 1984. He played a key role in establishing the fusion of eastern spirituality and western psychotherapy as a Buddhist teacher and existential/transpersonal psychologist.

In Wellwood’s book, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, he defined spiritual bypassing as “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.” 

Simply put, it’s a tendency to avoid dealing with personal, emotional, and relationship issues by turning to spiritual concepts. For example, instead of dealing with recent emotional trauma, you keep telling yourself, “Everything happens for a reason.”


Here are some other signs you might be doing spiritual bypassing:

  • After an unfortunate event, you tell the person, “ You can create your own happiness” or “ Maybe it’s part of God’s plan.”
  • You avoid feeling angry
  • You feel more superior in terms of spirituality compared to others
  • Instead of recognizing the present, you’re focused only on spirituality
  • Being too optimistic
  • Believing you need to subdue your “negative” emotions constantly
  • Telling people to “Stop being negative” when they share how they feel with you

As you probably notice, spiritual bypassing doesn’t address other people’s real problems and concerns but dismisses them in the guise of spirituality. Interestingly, spiritual bypassing may be affected by one’s culture, as evidenced by a 2021 cross-cultural study.

Why does it happen, you ask?

There are several causes of spiritual bypassing. It may be a form of defense mechanism to avoid issues too unpleasant or painful to deal with. In addition, modern wellness culture may have also contributed by preaching toxic positivity and constant optimism. Lastly, it can be rooted in individualistic cultures wherein one’s needs and happiness are more important than the group’s.

Impact and Consequences

While spiritual bypassing may be useful in stressful situations, it can have long-term consequences and implications. Rather than dealing with negative experiences more holistically (emotional, interpersonal, cognitive, etc), it becomes centered only on the spiritual level.

Some possible negative consequences may be:

  • Control issues
  • Anxiety
  • Blind obedience
  • Absence of personal responsibility
  • Becoming emotionally confused
  • Spiritual narcissism or believing your spiritual wisdom is superior to others

Moreover, people can use it to justify suffering because “there’s a silver lining” at the end of it all. Instead of people owning up to their responsibility because it may be “what God intended it to be.”

Also, spiritual bypassing may be used to gaslight others. Instead of acknowledging their emotions, they are branded as toxic and negative.

As Erica Lee, psychic medium featured on The Travel Channel, says, “Spiritual bypassing is dangerous because, by avoiding unpleasant realities, we run the risk of those situations deteriorating further or not being processed. Preaching to others in our lives who are suffering, that “everything happens for a reason” or that they created their misfortunes via the law of attraction shows a lack of compassion and victim shaming. Spirituality is meant to enrich your life experience, not be a bypass or escape from participating in the full human lived experience.”

How to Deal with Spiritual Bypassing

Now, if you want to avoid this behavior, there are some things you can do:

  • Be open to your emotions and don’t box them as good or bad
  • Always remember that even unpleasant or negative feelings serve a purpose
  • Take note that uncomfortable feelings may mean that something’s not right and needs to change
  • Try to uncover the root of personal or emotional issues through therapy (e.g. hypnosis) instead of setting them aside
  • Attend a spiritual counseling session to examine or discover your spiritual beliefs and make changes when needed


Do remember that being human is as important as being spiritual. Don’t cover up negative experiences by hanging on to your spiritual beliefs; keep learning from them.