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Spiritual Bypassing

In a society obsessed with spiritualism, whether it’s found through organized religion or in the woo community, it’s not hard to find examples of spiritual bypassing. Today, I’m talking about what spiritual bypassing is and how it’s causing real harm not just in marginalized communities but in achieving our anti-racist agenda and smashing the patriarchy. 

Ready? Let’s get started.

In this episode:

  • A breakdown of Rachel Hollis’ most-recent controversy and how she should have handled her misstep instead
  • What spiritual bypassing is, how it shows up on and offline, and how it causes harm to marginalized communities 
  • Why toxic positivity is a form of spiritual bypassing that props up the patriarchy

Listen to the podcast here:

Spiritual Bypassing

Hello, hello! I had planned to do a totally different episode this week about the harm we do by powering through our problems instead of feeling through them but then I saw a comment on Instagram and I knew I had to bump that one for this topic of spiritual bypassing.

At the time I’m recording this Rachel Hollis is embroiled in yet another…scandal? Controversy? Drama of her own making? And if you have no idea what I’m talking about or you’ve never heard of Rachel Hollis, you can do a quick search on the internet and find out. Even though I think she’s taken down the video and subsequent apology that sparked this most recent debate at this point. 

But Rachel Hollis isn’t even new to scandals like this. It’s got to be at least her third nearly identical misstep in the last year that has people speaking up and out about her. It’s been a year of people calling out white women who fuck up, other white women defending the white woman who was called out by saying she is doing her best, and then everyone forgetting about it and moving on in a few weeks. 

Over and over and over again into infinity. I guess until we all either start actually holding white women accountable or we learn. Whichever comes first. 

What little allyship she does show is so glaringly performative it makes me nauseous. Click To Tweet

I’ve seen women say that people are being too mean to Rachel and she’ll never be able to learn if they can’t be nicer in their criticisms but that’s white supremacy. I’ve done a whole episode called The Feedback Trap that dives a little bit more into that. Tone policing how feedback is given misses the point entirely. It’s possible for us to learn even if the opportunity to do so isn’t wrapped up in a pretty bow. 

I’ve seen women say that she’s still learning and she needs time. We’re all in a constant state of learning. And this is Rachel fucking Hollis we’re talking about. She is constantly talking about her team of 25 people and not a single one of those people is a DEI coach? She can’t pay women of color to teach her how not to be problematic AF?

And how much time does she need? This isn’t the first time she’s done something like this. I imagine it won’t be the last. She hasn’t demonstrated that she’s done literally any work in this area at all. Mostly by the fact that she keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over again. 

What little allyship she does show is so glaringly performative it makes me nauseous. And if you’d like to know about the absolute shittiness that is performative marketing and its insidious effect on you and your team you can check out the interviews I did with both Alison Tedford and Briar Harvey

And Alison actually shared a really great post on Facebook about how to properly construct an apology and do better, that I’ll link for you in the show notes. Highly encourage you to check that out. Because we’re not immune from missteps or fuckups. Fucking up is how you learn. Falling down is how you teach yourself how to get back up again and keep going. 

No one wants to fall on their face in public. No one enjoys fucking up and knowing they caused harm when they didn’t mean to and being called a racist. But if that happens to you then you have the opportunity to use it as either a learning experience or an excuse to retreat back into your bubble of privilege and do absolutely zero work to be better at the next opportunity.

You have the opportunity to use it as either a learning experience or an excuse to retreat back into your bubble of privilege and do absolutely zero work to be better at the next opportunity. Click To Tweet

So, what does this have to do with spiritual bypassing? 

As I was scrolling through the comments on one of the posts about this on Instagram I saw one that said “She’s wounded and needs to do some shadow work.” And it stopped me dead in my tracks. This is spiritual bypassing. 

Spiritual bypassing is when we use spiritual ideas—in this case, shadow work—to ignore the root causes of our issues. 

Now. I’m a pretty woo person. I’m intuitive and I read tarot and I have crystals and whatever. I’m also a believer in shadow work, which other people might call thought work or therapy. I go to therapy as part of my shadow work. 

I do not, however, use shadow work as an excuse for shitty behavior. We are ALL wounded by something. Whether it’s a personal trauma, a bad relationship, racism, discrimination, or the patriarchy. Those wounds and the work we need to do to undo the harmful effects they can have in our lives are not an excuse to act like a shitty person. It is possible for you to function in society and do shadow work at the exact same time.

It is possible for you to actively be working your shit out in therapy and working on your own anti-racism at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive. 

And there’s more to spiritual bypassing than wrapping your problematic behavior up in love and light. Toxic positivity is a form of spiritual bypassing which is definitely a tool of the patriarchy. Definitely check out the episode I’ve done on that, too. 

Toxic positivity is a form of spiritual bypassing which is definitely a tool of the patriarchy. Click To Tweet

And spiritual bypassing exists in any spiritual community including religions and some of its most common forms are things like avoiding anger. This is where you often find the love and light crowd. Thinking that everything happens for a reason (there’s another great episode I’ve done on that) or that every traumatic experience has a silver lining. Hint: it doesn’t. 

A big one is the idea that you can only overcome your problems if you think positively. This messaging is woven through a LOT of mindset and manifestation stuff. That if you somehow have a negative thought, you are broken or doing it wrong or putting bad energy out into the world or manifesting what you don’t want. In Chrisitian theology, it’s identical to the idea that thoughts are sins. 

And then there’s my least favorite…needing to “rise above” your emotions. This thinking incapacitates people and gives them the false sense that if you don’t feel happy all of the time, you are broken or something is wrong with you. Sometimes you’re just sad. Sometimes you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and everything pisses you off and you don’t know why. It’s ok to not know why. It’s ok to be sad or pissed off or annoyed or frustrated. You are not broken, you don’t need to rise above that, you can just experience it and let it go and still go on to be a functioning human being.

However you decide to work through your shadows, your demons, your pain, your trauma, just remember that it is never an excuse. It’s an opportunity to learn how it has affected you in the past so that you can make a choice to do better in the future. 

And we, as white women, need to stop making excuses for why other white women do and say problematic things. Because all that does is minimize the harm caused to and felt by the community that is directly impacted. And if you often find yourself rushing to do that in situations like this I really encourage you to take a step back and examine why you feel so uncomfortable that you have to speak up in defense of a white woman who has caused harm, no matter how accidental. Because there’s probably a lesson in that for you. 

Alright. That’s it for me today. Bye, y’all.

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