The hard stuff is facing difficult emotions. Sometimes it takes heroic efforts to digest emotional experiences rather than avoid them. A balanced spiritual path includes and integrates emotional reality. But sometimes spiritual tools themselves can be used to control and dismiss painful emotions in ourselves and others. This is referred to as spiritual bypass.
Spiritual bypass is the use of positive thinking, meditation, prayer, metaphysical theory, etc. to bypass emotional reality.
In an attempt to cope with challenging emotions, spiritual bypass can be used to push away the bad and cling to the good. The ‘good’ emotions (e.g. joy, love, hope, positivity, gratitude, etc.) are labelled as spiritual. And the ‘bad’ (e.g. fear, grief, rage, judgement, pain, chaos, despair) are dismissed as failure, illusion, distraction, or hazards to avoid. This leads to meditation, prayer, and contemplation practices which banish painful emotions into the shadow. These unprocessed energies are then acted out unconsciously and cause further suffering.
The antidote to spiritual bypass is emotional mindfulness, non-dual perspective taking, and self-love.
An emotionally/spiritually balanced practice involves touching into each experience as it arises. Emotion, even painful emotion, is met with a loving embrace that dissolves the need for dualistic labelling of good and bad. It releases us from the neurotic need to judge and control our experience. Pain, fear, and grief can then come to the surface to be made contact with, cared for, and ultimately released.
The integrated practitioner bridges the emotional with the spiritual.
Transformational psychospiritual practice invites us to bring our uncomfortable, inconvenient, and painful emotions into contact with our spiritual world. In this bridging we hope to receive assistance, understanding, and relief. Can we really do this hard work alone? And regardless of our spiritual path, do we know how to bring the hard stuff to it?