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Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/14/17 9:26 AM
What is your understanding of the term "Spiritual Bypassing"?  Do you see examples in your own life?

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/14/17 9:32 AM as a reply to Tom Smith.
Below are a few definitions I found online.  You can find plenty more by doing a google.

AVOIDANCE IN HOLY DRAG  Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.

http://robertmasters.com/writings/spiritual-bypassing/


 According to teacher and author Robert Augustus Masters, spiritual bypassing causes us to withdraw from ourselves and others, hiding behind a kind of spiritual veil of metaphysical beliefs and practices. He says it “not only distances us from our pain and difficult personal issues, but also from our own
 authentic spirituality, stranding us in a metaphysical limbo, a zone of
 exaggerated gentleness, niceness, and superficiality.”

http://upliftconnect.com/spiritual-bypassing/

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/14/17 8:08 PM as a reply to Tom Smith.
As both a psychotherapist and a vipassana practitioner, that's something that has caught my attention. John Welwood explains spiritual bypassing well in various sources, some of which can be found on the web. In psychodynamic therapy I would call this "using spiritual practice defensively (i.e. as a defense against aspects of one's inner life). 

My own current take and hypothesis would add a nuance to what Welwood says. This may sound shocking to some: Even if you spiritually bypass, you can still get genuine awakenings like stream-entry. We don't have to resolve all our neurotic stuff to get awakened. How I came to this conclusion is reading numerous accounts of awakened people. However, you will still have your neurosis after stream-entry (and maybe after higher paths too, less sure for that one though). 

Jack Engler made his doctoral dissertation studying people who had attained paths amongst students of Dipa Ma. One thing he found was that many stream-winners had unresolved trauma they were still suffering from. Perhaps SE gave them more "space" around it but the trauma was still there. They may have spiritually bypassed their trauma, but hey they still got awakening.

To me this is good news. The idea of having to resolve all one's neurosis (which can take years of therapy, and can never be fully resolved) before undergoing vipassana training sounds a bit discouraging. 

The current discourse on spiritual bypassing may seem to suggest you should give up your cushion and go on the "couch" for a while before doing spiritual practice. To me that is not necessarily true.

If one's neurosis and relational problems are causing significant distress, one can do psychotherapy as a complement to vipassana practice. It's a very good combination. But the idea that we have to resolve everything before attaining awakening can be a real obstacle, in my opinion.

What I feel is best is for each indivudual to find the format that works best for them. This could mean doing light meditation practice for a while and psychotherapy, and as one's emotional and relational improves, adding more meditation practice in one's schedule. My point in all this is that we must be careful to avoid believing we should resoslve all our issues before awakening can occur.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/14/17 8:30 PM as a reply to Tom Smith.
Concerning if I see it in my own life, I can say I've seen it. I think perhaps we've all done it, to one degree or another. Spiritual bypassing is a defense mechanism. A defense mechanism is for the purpose of keeping painful aspects of ourselves and our lives at bay. For example, if I have low self-esteem, I could keep this painful self-perception from awareness by seeking a self-image of "a good Buddhist." Perhaps join a temple or community and get a new identity there. But the issue with defense mechanisms is that they never work for long. Symptoms will develop. In extreme cases some have developed dependence on gurus who are megalomaniac and dangerously controling. Since they have low self-esteem, they will do anything to win the approval of the guru.

But if the person meets the right teacher and practices the right method, I tend to think that even though spiritually bypassing, the person could get awakening anyway, as mentioned above.

All this IMHO, and my current thinking on the topic. Don't take it for absolute truth.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/15/17 10:55 AM as a reply to Tom Smith.
When my mind clears and slows there is a state where I see emotion/thought complexes and can just observe them and let them go.  Most of the unpleasant emotion/thought complexes involve anxiety.  What if it is anxiety about  something I really should attend to?  Simple  example:  What if my roof has a leak and the thought/feeling arises "I really should fix the roof".  Suppose there is  some anxiety in there.  Maybe I don't have the skills to fix the roof myself or the money  to pay someone else to do it.  It  is  a  situation I should do  something about.  The anxiety could be a natural healthy motivator.  What if I  am able to just let go of  the whole  thing and see it  arise and pass away?

That is a very simple example.  More real  world problems have  to do with  relationships, lifestyle and so on.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/15/17 11:13 AM as a reply to Ben V..
For example, if I have low self-esteem, I could keep this painful self-perception from awareness by seeking a self-image of "a good Buddhist." 

I've definitly done that.  Just about  everybody  does that at one point.  It seems like a normal phase in spiritual practice.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/15/17 11:55 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
  We don't have to resolve all our neurotic stuff to get awakened. How I came to this conclusion is reading numerous accounts of awakened people.

ba-dum-pum pshhh!!
Good thing I'd finished my lunch because this drew a decent laugh; great line emoticon

My experience is that self-understanding and self-transcendance operate non-linearly. At any given moment any given person is operating with or in proximity to some degree of both, and their opposites. Even a very neurotic person has some self awareness and even very mature, wise and self-aware people have some blind spots and more to learn about their own patterns. Even very materialistic people can have regular access to states of insight into empty impermanence but lack a framework from which to draw out the significance of these glimpses,-- and even very awake people eat and shit and etc.

I've done my fair share of spiritual bypassing and I would clarify, just because I'm not sure it's been made entirely explict yet on this thead, not just beliefs and practices and belonging to groups fall under the category of possible avenues of spiritual bypassing but also awakened states and genuine insights can function this way. Likewise developing self-awareness and healthier lifestyle and relationships can involve a rejection of spirituality; material bypassing if you will.

In my personal experience though the two facets of development can operate in a synergistic way, reinforcing and fleshing each other out.
Actually this ties in to your reflection, Tom. The ability to see mental-emotional formations arise and pass without (automatically) suppressing or expressing them is the definition, IMO, of non-defended awareness, and is essential to both 1) development of self-understanding, a healthy, integrated, nuanced identity and relationships and 2) deconstruction of identification-as-such.

To unpack a bit in what ways this seems to me to be so:

1) Development of this capacity has allowed me to integrate authentic feelings, thoughts, beliefs etc into my self-understanding; allowed me to be more vulnerable and open when being given difficult feedback from others; opened a space in which seemingly contradictory facts about my self, life etc can coexist and reveal more nuanced, complex, dynamic understandings.

2) Development of this capacity has also allowed me to see the process of identification in action, how from the open, complex, subtly interweaving impermanence of the holistic field of experiencing, mind crafts seemingly more stable but fundamentally 'flat' representations of self and others. While offering some pragmatic and/or poetic meaning when experienced without or with less reification, these representations when taken dogmatically/reified (This is ME! This is YOU! This is REAL! That is FAKE!) eclipse the open fluxing web of being which is our actual life. This very spiritual errancy, the becoming-locked-into-representations and the flavor of suffering that goes with that automatically, is a functional root of neuroses in that we can never really fit the totality of our being into any representation, so when self-representation is the paradigm for identifying who/what/how we are, we'll always have self-contradictory experiences of ourselves. Speaking theoretically for the purpose of illustrating the principle, we could say that you can't be fully grown up and healthy without being awake to this deeper limitation of all representation and thus of all constructed identities, and to the broader open field of experiencing that they arise and pass in.

Oh, and as for the tendency to confuse the attentional capacity for holding a non-manipulative (neither suppressing nor expressing) relationship to mental-emotional (or any) phenomena with the tendency to passivity, that definitely could be characterized as spiritual bypassing, but it can also just be a misunderstanding of the implications of the newly developed capacity itself, and of the nature of intention , activity and motivation in general. If we assume that motivation is identical to mental-emotional formations then we can feel powerless or agencyless when non-reactively seeing such formations arise and pass. If however we see the capacity for intention and activity as another natural thread in the web of open experiencing which although empty and impermanent nevertheless functions, no problem; the wind blows, the tides rise and fall, the hand reaches for the phone to google roof repair after the eyes see the leak.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/15/17 8:53 PM as a reply to Tom Smith.
The way I see it is there are two functions (or modes) of the mind here, both being important: one that makes meaning out of experiences, and one that sees emptiness (to me meaning the 3Cs) of experiences. 

For the anxiety you mentioned, observing it arising and passing away would lead to vipassana insight and perhaps stream-entry (I'm not there yet). And reflecting on its meaning would lead you to realize the situation with your roof and perhaps find a solution for it.

The optimal situation would be to have both abilities well developed. I assume certain life situations really call for using the meaning-making mode. The Buddha had a doctor. I'm sure he didn't just observe the rise and fall of the symptoms he had when he was sick. He used the meaning-making function as well in his own life.

I find Jake's explanations really good for further reflections on the issue.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
6/15/17 9:11 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Thanks for sharing all this Jake. I appreciate your explanation of how the two modes can opperate synergetically.

Concerning my line, just to clarify to any other readers that could get this the wrong way, I was by no way making fun of awakened people. I have the deepest admiration for awakened people (from 1st to 4th path) no matter how much neurotic traces may be left in them. I look up to them because awakening is my most cherished goal.

The awakening  accounts I had in mind (and referred to in my line) are inspiring, and also give indication that normal human flaws and neurosis are still experienced for them on some level. Those I had in mind in particular are mentioned in Jack Kornfield's 'After the Ecstasy, The Laundry'. The neuriotic remnants added inspiration for me because it tells me that, hey, even if I have neurotic issues, I can still get awakened!emoticon 

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
8/8/18 5:38 AM as a reply to Tom Smith.
Don't know if this counts:

I am trying to find a job at this moment after some bad DN experiences. I'm listening to the videos of my career coach who talks about Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset and how the latter will help you grow in your skills and make your dreams come true.

My snarky spiritual bypassing mind is commenting how transcendence is much more important; how we should just renounce and become monks instead. 

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
8/9/18 11:24 AM as a reply to Mettafore.
Not sure if my 2 bobs worth is worth anything at all, but every time I read or hear of spiritual bypassing (SB ), I'm like 'As opposed to every other kind of bypassing non-spiritual people dedicate their lives to?!' Like career success bypassing, or Facebook attention seeking bypassing, or sex addiction bypassing, or get partnered up buy stuff have kids and try to fit in bypassing?!

The key question is, if someone is 'using' spiritual practices to hide or hide from aspects of their personality or reality, isn't that just slightly better than all the other ways we deluded worldlings spend our lives looking away from our sensate reality? Because at least if one is busily going to retreats and listening to Dhamma talks and scanning the DhO for some wisdom, then they might just have a chance of going beyond their fake-a%% mindset and make some peace with the pain that drives them to bypassing. As opposed to spending one's life accruing stuff and Likes on social media, which is just driving them deeper into the troubles. My point being, surely SB is not really a big deal, since it's not the worst way one could stumble about looking for solutions in this life. Or is there something to SB I'm missing that makes it a really big hindrance? Please enlighten me, as it were...


 

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
8/9/18 12:23 PM as a reply to Peter S.
The key question is, if someone is 'using' spiritual practices to hide or hide from aspects of their personality or reality, isn't that just slightly better than all the other ways we deluded worldlings spend our lives looking away from our sensate reality?
Sure, but since what we are talking about on this forum is spiritual practice, it makes sense to talk about the problems related to spiritual practice, and SB is one of those problems.  
 My point being, surely SB is not really a big deal, since it's not the worst way one could stumble about looking for solutions in this life.
I think it can  be a pretty big deal.  If we are devoting our lives to trying to see clearly, why not do it right.  It is a big deal if we delude ourselves about what we are really doing.  Not nearly as bad as heroin addiction for sure, but just because it is not as bad as something that is worse, that is not a reason to avoid looking at it.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
8/9/18 4:37 PM as a reply to Tom Smith.
Andrew Sims, past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists:

http://www.afaithtoliveby.com/2012/08/12/science-says-faith-is-good-for-you-health-so-why-isnt-it-news-wonders-professor-andrew-sims/
The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land 


In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.

RE: Spiritual Bypassing
Answer
8/9/18 5:24 PM as a reply to Tom Smith.
Tom Smith:
Below are a few definitions I found online.  You can find plenty more by doing a google.

AVOIDANCE IN HOLY DRAG  Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.

http://robertmasters.com/writings/spiritual-bypassing/


 According to teacher and author Robert Augustus Masters, spiritual bypassing causes us to withdraw from ourselves and others, hiding behind a kind of spiritual veil of metaphysical beliefs and practices. He says it “not only distances us from our pain and difficult personal issues, but also from our own
 authentic spirituality, stranding us in a metaphysical limbo, a zone of
 exaggerated gentleness, niceness, and superficiality.”

http://upliftconnect.com/spiritual-bypassing/

In relation to meditation ... I don't think meditation would help anyone avoid painful personal issues. It brings them into consciousness more clearly and helps to eventually get over the pain and develop equanimity in general. At least that has been my experience. In fact I think it's important to warn people who are beginning meditation that there is a strong possibility of emotional issues coming to the surface.


I also think one of the major causes of fidgeting, cutting meditation sessions short, or skipping sessions is emotions coming near the surface that the unconscious mind wants to keep under wraps.