A person, we shall call him "Adam" had been a meditation practitioner for many years before turning to a doctor for his depression. Adam had been a member of a spiritual community that encouraged their members to turn to God through prayer and meditation whenever it occurred that they were feeling any difficult or painful feelings; for instance: anger, hurt, anxiety, or depression. He had been taught that Spirit would transmute his feelings for him and bring him the peace he so deeply wanted - and all Adam had to do was turn over these feelings to God.
Yet Adam remained depressed despite believing deeply in the practice of turning his difficult feelings over to God to transmute and take care of for him. Adam thought to himself, and occasionally lamented to his doctor and spiritual community members “I have faithfully practiced that which I’ve been taught, so why is is it that I still suffer from depression? What could it be that I'm doing wrong?"
Adam was suffering from the misaligned expectations for what he should feel and be responsible for due to a belief that spiritual practice should take all of his responsibility for these emotions away. This phenomenon is referred to as “spiritual bypass.”
Spiritual bypass occurs when individuals use their spiritual practice as a tool to avoid dealing with and taking responsibility for their feelings and emotions. It can be said that anything that is used to avoid feeling and taking responsibility for one's emotions becomes an addiction – whether that thing or tool used is alcohol, drugs, food, TV, work, gambling, spending, shopping, anger, withdrawal…and YES, even meditation. If you find yourself in that pattern that when a difficult or painful feeling comes up for your awareness, you opt to go into meditation in the hopes of blissing out and getting rid of the feeling, you may be addicted to spirituality. It is an avoidance and escapist technique and if it blocks or diverts someone from dealing with or feeling unpleasant or even dreaded emotions, it can become an addiction.
The difference between leveraging meditation for true healing and self understanding and leveraging it for escapist purposes depends solely on intent. Generally speaking, human beings can meditate for two very different reasons: either to avoid pain or to learn about love.
If one's intent behind meditating is to connect with one's inner self and one's spiritual Guidance in order to learn more about loving themselves and others, then meditation can be good way to step outside of the cerebral and intellectual mind and into one's heart space. This practice is a sound way to connect with the loving inner part of one's self so that you may welcome and embrace even the painful feelings and learning and discovering how you may contributing to your own pain through your words and actions. When your intention is to practice self love and take ownership of your own feelings, in that case meditation can help center you and put you in a space for self compassion so that you may do the inner work to explore your internal feelings.
In the transverse, if you find you are leveraging meditation to bliss out and avoid feeling and moving through your pain, you are leveraging and leaning on your spirituality in an addictive pattern. You are then actively using your spirituality to get around learning about and taking self ownership for your emotional spectrum.
To return to the example, this is what Adam was doing. As he was avoiding learning from his feelings,
and avoiding particular breakthroughs...the ways in which he continued to behave toward himself and others around him caused him to feel depressed. As a result, rather than exploring the words and actions that were causing his feeling self, or his inner child, to feel trapped in a state of depression, he was meditating to push away and bypass any feelings. Instead chasing the bliss.
In his work with a psychologist, Adam was able to discover that he was constantly either ignoring his inner child – his feeling self – or he was in a state of self-judgment. This combination of ignoring himself – which he engaged in primarily through meditation – and judging himself resulted in his inner child feeling unloved, unimportant, and especially unseen. In reflection, Adam saw that if he treated his actual children in the way he treated himself through his treatment of his inner child – ignoring their feelings and constantly judging them – they would also feel unloved and depressed. Adam did attend to his actual children’s feelings and needs, and it was merely his own that he was ignoring and judging. This comparison and parallel let him see exactly how he had been off track in his thinking and treatment of self.
Adam came to the realization that he was treating himself the way his parents had treated him. By anyone's estimation Adam was a much better parent to his children than his parents had been with him, but through what he had internalized about himself and the attention to needs and self he deserved - he was parenting his own inner child in the way he had been parented. What's more, not only was he treating himself the way he had been treated as a child, but he was treating himself the way his parents had treated themselves regarding their feelings and emotional management. For this reason, Adam was not being a good role model for his children regarding personal emotional responsibility, just as his parents had been a poor role model for him.
Through his dedicated inner work, Adam learned the Inner Bonding process. Adam learned to welcome his painful feelings during meditation and to sit with them. He learned to quiet the self-judgmental part of himself and to engage with himself with loving care and respect. He learned to take loving action in his own best interests so that his inner child would not feel that sense of abandonment from him. It was truly the inner abandonment that was causing his depression the whole time. Adam discovered that his depression was actually a gift, a teacher, a light to illuminate what was still dark – a way his inner child was tell him that he was not being loving with himself. With mindful action, Adam learned to take loving care of himself and his depression disappeared. He could now use meditation and inner connection as a tool to explore and take inventory of his feelings, his true feelings - he no longer misused meditation as a tool for spiritual bypass.
THE GLOW CHIEF
Hi! I'm Mischaela, AKA the "Glow Chief" (THE GC) the creator of Inner Glow Up!