Psst... Your Insecurities are Showing
Spiritual bypassing in the wellness world is at an all time high right now — and by that I mean the act of using spiritual ideologies and practices without actually doing the work on an individual level; without facing one’s own emotional trauma/wounds and avoiding the work that’s required to actually heal oneself. It’s running rampant right now (I think) because everyone has access to all of this glorious information that was historically only reserved for society’s elites and aristocrats — for example, in Ancient India, yoga was only to be practiced by those within highest rankings of society, and people from lower classes would be punished should they attempt to gain access to yogic knowledge. Thanks to globalization and Al Gore’s internet, this information is no longer kept secret and accessibility is vast and wide. I understand this as a huge success for the collective — for everyone, all humanity — however, sadly it also makes it so much easier for false prophets (or ‘influencers’) and others in the spotlight of the media to be put on pedestals and be glorified for what they do, making it that much easier to take advantage of vulnerable people seeking real help.
I think social media has created a friggen’ monster of superiority complexes; whereby people who are praised for their work begin to internalize and truly believe that they are superior to others for what they do and essentially, who they are. All the praise and accolades (and free goods) they receive only act as encouragement, fuelling their fire to keep on going and do more. These people, whether they are gurus or pastors or what-have-you, limit (if not completely ignore) anything that does not support themselves and what they believe to be true, leaving no room for self-reflection or growth. These types of people cannot be reasoned with, because anything that goes against what they think, is falsehood in their head; anything that makes them question themselves and their superiority, is a threat. I call it spiritual bypassing because the ego is so large in these circumstances, and frankly, it is the ego that’s learned all the mindfulness/wellness skills and practices, making it grow larger and larger, while the praise they receive only feeds their ego even further.
There is always work to be done — no matter how long you’ve been practicing, or no matter how much you know. There’s trauma to be healed, and humility that needs to be incorporated into all this work in order to avoid spiritual bypassing. People rising to the top of any social structure without practicing self-reflection is truly dangerous, because in their minds, they can do no wrong. So, if anyone tries to offer feedback either through collaboration or maybe as a personal client of theirs, the individual will not be able to receive that constructive criticism. It will hurt their ego far too much and will probably result in denial and maybe even a blow-out. I’ve recently experienced this myself with a person in the spiritual scene in Toronto, where a well-versed yogi with over a decade of experience was completely unable to receive any information that was not in the form of praise or validation. I’m sorry, but that is not strength, that is fragility. The person becomes so fragile that anyone who disagrees with what they do or say will be seen as a threat, someone trying to tear them down, or they’ll conclude they’re just jealous of them (intense eye roll). Like part of me just wants to shake them and tell them to get over themselves, that as much as they think it does, the whole world does not revolve around them and how damaging it is to themselves and the collective by navigating the world thinking this way.
Something else I’ve learned along my journey while working with my shadow/inner child is that nobody can really offend me with what they say unless there is a part of me that believes them. For example, I consider myself to be an intelligent person, so if someone were to call me dumb — even if it was someone I deeply cared about, it probably wouldn’t really bother me because I do not believe it to be true. On the other hand, I know that sometimes I can be quite selfish when it may not be appropriate; this is something I already know about myself and it’s an area I’m working on. So, if someone were to criticize me by calling me a selfish person, it would probably elicit some sort of reaction from me — maybe I’d become upset with them, or I might tell them that it isn’t true, or even try to prove them wrong by going over all the different ways that I have demonstrated selflessness — but what my ego doesn’t know is that I’m not even doing this so that I could convince them, deep down I’m really doing it because I’m trying to convince myself. My ego responds in this way because it is a truth I share with them and it’s something that bothers me.
Everything is a mirror — every single thing this world is showing us is a reflection of ourselves. It’s the same way that two people could watch the same film or listen to the same album and leave with completely different take-aways from one another, because it’s based on our own interpretation — the parts that resonate with us will be based on what’s already supported by our belief systems. Sharing these interpretations with one other is so beautiful because it acts as a momentary glimpse into what life is like as that person. Listening to how individuals understand various forms of art could show us how different we are, or how similar we are, or even both! We can learn to appreciate how other people think and feel. It’s really amazing, I think, that our own imagination is so powerful and unique to each of us as individual beings. There’s no need to try to convince others of your own point of view, because no one can ever truly understand what it’s like to live as you, but we can come to appreciate all our differences and come to an understanding that our differences, our diversity, is what gives us strength as a collective. Something that is overlooked by me, for example, because it isn’t on my radar at this point in time, would not be missed by someone else who is receiving that information from the universe as a mirror.
I understand self-reflection as the act of sitting with an uncomfortable emotion or situation and listening to what my true self is trying to tell me; trying to find comfort in the discomfort, and look beyond my initial reaction to see what’s underneath the emotions. It’s a very personal practice and there is valuable information there. I fear that we’re depriving ourselves of things that could make room for us to grow and allow us to heal out of fear of processing our emotions. You might want to ask yourself the next time you’re faced with a difficult situation, “What is this trying to teach me?” I think that’s a great way to avoid spiritual bypassing, by humbling yourself, seeing yourself as a part of everything else — not at the centre of everything, but one with all that is — where there are lessons that can be learned from everywhere we turn and look.
I absolutely adore this clip of Toni Morrison because she perfectly embodies what it means to be unbothered and unapologetically Black. She professes how the actions of a racist person are not a true reflection of what they think about the racialized person they are brutalizing, but a reflection of what they actually think about themselves. The problem lies within themselves and maybe seeing a Black person living so freely is a trigger point for them and their mirror is demonstrating something that goes against their belief system, proving that they are not, in fact, better than said person. So, rather than sitting and analyzing why they feel the way they do about Black people, they act out in a manner that validates what they believe about themselves — that they are the superior race and have the right to do whatever they wish to us. You’ll notice in the video that Toni Morrison is not even slightly affected by the conversation they’re having; she’s cool, calm and collected the entire time. She’s comfortable in her own skin, and responds so calmly because she knows the racists she faces are not superior to her, she knows her worth, and she knows inside that she has absolutely nothing to do with the hatred that may be felt towards her and people like her, because she’s done the work and now it’s on them.