Why Spiritual Bypassing is Concerning in the Mindfulness Movement

I’ve been in New Thought since 2000, finding the empowerment message so refreshing after being raised Catholic. Finding out the “Devil” was not “out there” but rather within my own mind was both liberating and frightening at the same time. This meant I had to take full responsibility for my life. Affirmations and mantras jazzed me up. Law of Attraction got me hooked, and I read everything I could on the subject. My life improved dramatically and in 2003 I was able to take a huge leap of faith and move 1800 miles away from home to start a new adventure in the Florida sun. My life was pretty good.

On December 30, 2012, I felt a huge lump on my left breast. I was not overly concerned – I was healthy as a horse, worked out six days a week, ate pretty well, and did not allow thoughts of sickness or “dis-ease” into my vibrational state, just like a good little New Thought practitioner. My mammogram in September was negative. I was sure it was a cyst.

At the insistence of my husband, I decided to have the lump checked out and lo and behold, I had Stage 2 triple-negative breast cancer at 43 years old. At first, I railed on myself. How could I have possibly vibrated this into my life experience? I NEVER worried about my health. The only real thought I gave it was to give daily gratitude for its consistency in my life. Then I railed on my body. How could it betray me this way? Now my health was gone, just like that. I cried for about two minutes and then got about the business of how to fix this monumental screw-up so I could move on with my life as quickly as possible. I agreed to undergo the medical part of the treatment (partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation) all the while affirming radiant health and energy and negative lymph nodes.

The spiritual bypass occurred when I refused to acknowledge the terror, the pain, the loss, the physical debilitation, and mental torment I was enduring each day. Instead of truly sitting with my feelings, I used my spiritual practice to cover them. I acted like I had a little head cold. I did affirmative prayers, I went to work every day, I exercised, and I took care of the house. I was basically the same as me. I smiled a lot. I never complained. I always said I felt fine. Clumps of hair falling out, it’s fine. Husband shaving my head, it’s fine. Only having one eyelash left, it’s fine. I was positive all the time – no letting negative thoughts in – no, no no!

It’s now five years later, and I realized that I have a lot of unresolved grief regarding the whole experience. I’ve started to allow myself to begin to feel what I needed to feel when I was first diagnosed. I see how the unresolved grief has popped up over the years, causing me to act out in ways I normally wouldn’t. I see how it’s shaped my relationship with my husband, and most importantly, with myself. I don’t look like I did 5 years ago. I don’t feel like I did five years ago. And that makes me sad sometimes. Instead of affirming away the sadness, I let it wash over me and I sit with it until it subsides.

I’m using my spiritual practice now to help me process, rather than avoid. I’m allowing kindness and gentleness and the process of inquiry into my thoughts and feelings to motivate me rather than pushing against negative feelings or pouring positivity over them hoping to cover them. I’m learning as I go, and that feels ok too.

Written by Mary Jo Michele

1 Comment

  • Christy Muir

    This is a beautiful share. I completely understand.
    Perhaps …. you did nothing *wrong* (I don’t really feel that you are saying you did something wrong )
    This Spiritual Bypassing topic is tricky.
    I generally do my best to acknowledge my Negative Emotions as Guidance in the moment that I am feeling them.
    The more I recognize my negative emotions as Guidance, as evidence that Source is shining on me, and I just haven’t figured out how to let it in …. the more I appreciate my Negative Emotions, and, ironically, the shorter I seem to *suffer* in them.
    Many Blessings In your path

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