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Universal Bypassing: Everything can be used to avoid 🦢

3things jordan myska allen personal growth relatefulness stayinlove Mar 07, 2024


Spiritual bypass is using spirituality to avoid dealing with our pain. Mostly someone uses a spiritual ideal in a fake way to avoid a genuine feeling—like cargo-culting equanimity to avoid expressing anger.

Trickier forms of bypassing involve authentic spiritual practice. Turning a blind eye to abuse because you really do love someone. Brushing off repeated negative feedback at work because you truly aren’t bothered by seeking status or money. Knowing things really are OK can make it hard to find motivation to work hard to make things better. Perhaps rightfully so—many of our motivations for ‘self’-improvement or ‘saving the world’ have dubious roots at best.

This brings me to my more general point: In my professional opinion, everything can be used to bypass. Ironically, even including facing unwanted emotions!

I’ve used painful physical sensation to avoid facing unwanted emotions. I’ve turned toward deep childhood wounds to sidestep an even more vulnerable feeling of love. I’ve used powerful relateful habits to connect with strangers rather than face the clumsy awkwardness of normal socializing. 

I’ve used therapy to alchemize my shadows in a partnership that I desperately needed to leave instead. (Perhaps you see this as a clear cut case of standard bypassing, but I’m not convinced needing to leave was “deeper” or the shadows I was working on “more superficial”.) I’ve used seeing other people’s blindspots to think they’re the ones who need to change. Sometimes I’m right—that’s my point! 

We’re human. We can layer avoidance upon avoidance. Seeing experience as infinite it becomes clear how we can deceive ourselves with truths… the totality of being is so vast, even describing something so inconsequential as the space between these letters you’re reading inevitably requires decisions of what to include and what to leave out, and in that choice we have infinite places to hide from real things while still claiming honesty.

Where does this leave us?

Alive. Growing. Unfinished.

Needing each other.

Willing to question our motivations and actions continuously. ← (Including that)

Mostly we know when we’re fooling ourselves. Even in our self-deceptive mastery, even in the impossible task of representing anything at all, somewhere deep inside of us we know that we’re leaving something consequential out. That we’re being cowards. I can’t write clearly enough about this to program it into a computer, but I bet you know the feeling I’m talking about. If you don’t, start paying more attention.

It’s more than OK though. It’s beautiful. We’re sometimes tragic in our beauty, but we’re beautiful nonetheless. The hero’s flaws make the story. 

“Spiritual bypassing” as a concept opens the door to a more general concept of “Universal Bypassing”, which opens the door to a more general realization of our infinite inadequacy, and infinite power (to be, which we can’t not, to be present, and to choose how we’re sense-making, even when we’re not aware of it). I think it’s a useful concept—like all names it allows us to see something previously unseen, and therefore gain some power of choice, even when most often the wisest choice is to let it be.


With love, Jordan


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