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6 Types of Spiritual Bypassing Holding Back Your Abuse Recovery

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In all my years of guiding others through narcissistic abuse recovery, I’ve seen some dangerous advice.  Everywhere I look, it seems there is a teacher or author who promises rapid healing, wholeness, balance, and the complete annihilation of trauma triggers for the rest of your life. 

But here’s the truth — recovery from narcissistic abuse is not easy, nor is it linear, fast, or permanent.

Recovery is exhausting, challenging, and forces you to question everything you thought you knew about yourself. Anyone telling you otherwise is promoting spiritual bypassing rather than genuine recovery.

Emotional abuse triggers don’t vanish overnight. Plus, the world is filled with toxic and narcissistic people.

We can’t avoid the “bad guys” and isolate ourselves in a pseudo-spiritual bubble forever.

That’s not true healing — when we engage in practices that bypass our humanity, we’re just dissociating and neglecting real recovery.

If you’re ready for some raw and real truths, keep reading because genuine recovery from narcissistic abuse is possible if you’re prepared to tackle the deep spiritual challenge.

What is Spiritual Bypassing and Why is It Dangerous?

Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist John Wellwood first coined the term “spiritual bypassing” in the early 80s, defining it as the “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.”

Some may call the westernized yoga industry a broad-form spiritual bypass because it capitalizes on yoga for profit and removes the true spiritual aspect of the practice.

Buying a $200 yoga mat made with child labor to nail the perfect pose isn’t exactly spiritual or self-aware — especially if you walk out of the studio and into Starbucks where you treat the worker poorly for messing up your drink.

People feel self-righteous and tell themselves they’re living a spiritual life but their spirituality can sometimes be devoid of any self-reflection and improvement. They’re not working on changing the negative material conditions of society or themselves.

In terms of narcissistic abuse recovery, spiritual bypassing is dangerous because you end up ignoring your human condition in favor of some grandiose pseudo-spiritual journey.

All the positive psychology in the world can’t dig anyone out of poverty and it can’t help you avoid a future abusive relationship either. We must acknowledge our faulty programming, accept it, and change it if we want to overcome narcissistic abuse.

You can’t go around the emotional, spiritual, and mental shortcomings that allowed you to tolerate the abuse. You must work through them to improve yourself and the dysfunctional programming you were indoctrinated into.

6 Types of Spiritual Bypassing Holding Back Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

It’s hard to put your finger on your own spiritual bypassing but you may see it in others.

When you’re in the throes of a spiritual bypass, you can’t see it happening. It’s as if the spirituality blinds you to the truth.

When you look at someone else going through a spiritual bypass, however, it makes you cringe because it’s so obvious they’re overcompensating for something — just like those jokes about men who drive big trucks and rev their engine at every stoplight.

Here are a few types of spiritual bypassing I’ve noticed in my years of experience in narcissistic abuse recovery.

  1. Positive Thinking

Positive psychology can be an effective way to change negative thought patterns.  But, it’s usually not the best place to start for anyone wanting to heal from narcissistic abuse.

We’ve all seen someone on Facebook posting about “good vibes only.” Many of us are guilty of this one ourselves sometimes because it’s an easy (yet sometimes unhealthy) coping tool.

While positive psychology can be useful with balance, it’s dangerous as a wholehearted philosophy because it encourages you to repress important so-called negative emotions.

But in truth, you shouldn’t repress emotions like anger, sadness, and grief. They’re normal!

Sure, acting on anger with aggression or violence is wrong, but acknowledging you’re angry is healthy.

The world has plenty of negative people, places, and things. We don’t need to let the negativity control us, but ignoring it is just as bad.

If everyone adhered to the “good vibes only” ideology, no one would try to fix problems like starvation, poverty, and inequality because they’d all have blinders on.  Attempting to use “good vibes only” as a way to heal from narcissistic abuse is just as fruitless.

  1. “Maybe You Should Look in the Mirror”

There may be some truth in the idea that what you dislike in others is an unrecognized trait that you dislike in yourself.  But, it’s not as black-and-white as some of the so-called gurus are telling you it is.  

The “you hate in others what you hate about yourself” ideology is one of the most dangerous types of spiritual bypassing because it’s rooted in victim-blaming.

Let’s get it straight: Self-reflection is good. Looking at toxic situations or your own harmful behaviors and asking yourself “how did I get here and what can I do differently to avoid it?” is healthy.

Looking at narcissistic abuse and saying “maybe I’m the manipulative one” is not recovery. It keeps you stagnant and opens the door to future abuse.  Too many people who’ve been on the receiving end of emotional abuse, especially long-term abuse, chalk up their defense mechanisms as being narcissistic.  In turn, they feel they should forgive the true narcissist in their lives and overlook genuinely abusive behaviors.

When you recognize a person’s behaviors as abusive, that doesn’t mean that you, too, are abusive.  It’s most likely righteous indignation and it can be a powerful weapon of positive change, but you need to know how to harness and use it.

  1. The Law of Attraction

“You attract what you put out.” The law of attraction is another type of spiritual bypassing rooted in victim-blaming.

No one attracts narcissists and abuse.  It’s not your fault for winding up in an abusive relationship, regardless of whether it’s a partner, friend, or family member.

But it is your responsibility to learn and grow from the experience so you can stop repeating the same patterns of dysfunctional relationships.  You’re not “attracting narcissists” – you’re experiencing repetition compulsion by clinging to a familiar dynamic.

That said, narcissists are experts at finding and creating a good supply. They use manipulation tactics to build one-sided emotional bonds, test your limits, and take you for all you’ve got.

That’s why narcissistic abuse recovery is so important, especially learning how to create and maintain boundaries even when it’s tough. Most often, narcissists won’t let their true selves show until they have you in vulnerable positions.  Because of this, learning to create and maintain boundaries is a non-negotiable for empaths and sensitive people who feel they need to save the narcissist(s) in their lives at all costs.  

If you have your boundaries figured out – and actually use them – you don’t have to worry about being taken advantage of by narcissistic people.  And you can focus on using the Law of Attraction for the good things in life.

  1. “Everything Happens for a Reason”

Boy, it’s sure easy to remove all your personal power with this one, isn’t it?

Meeting the narcissist was simply your destiny. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet another one someday and get stuck in the same cycle. Everything happens for a reason, right?

While it’s healthy to look at abuse as a learning experience, the goal should be to develop tools so you can avoid future abusive situations.  The whole idea behind being the target of narcissism is to learn to say no and to take up for yourself.  At some point, you should be able to implement boundaries in your relationships.  Not throw your hands up in the air as if being the target of a narcissist is simply the hand you’ve been dealt in life.

This is a common reaction from Empaths who are having a hard time leaving the narcissist in their lives. They don’t consider the possibility that they entered into a relationship with a narcissist in order to have a particular transformative experience, or to learn to say no. We like to think that living from the heart, being totally in a space of love and affinity can only be good; that it can never be wrong or bad. But one must also truthfully ask themselves: is it balanced? Is it healthy?

Unfortunately, the common undercurrent with many empaths is that they often heal others to their own detriment, which is very unhealthy.  This is why throwing your hands up in resignation as though narcissistic abuse is just your lot in life is one of the most disempowering things you can do to yourself.  

  1. You can only be strong when you don’t need anyone

Today’s so-called spiritual message is that you can only be strong and powerful when you get to a place where you don’t need anyone in your life.⁣⁠
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Humans are not designed to be alone. We are pack animals. Some evolutionary psychologists speculate that as humans evolved, they learned that being part of a group gave them a higher chance of survival. Being separated from the tribe could literally mean certain death. For this reason, we have powerful emotional forces telling us that we need to be with others in order to survive and thrive.⁣⁠
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Does that mean to allow toxic people to remain in your life? Does it mean going right back into dating after leaving a narcissist? Not at all.
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It means that you shouldn’t force yourself to be lonely thinking you are on the way to achieving ultimate healing and enlightenment.⁣⁠
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It means only letting people in your inner circle who cherish and respect you. If that means you have to be alone for a while as you shed toxic people and situations, then so be it. When you do this, you make space for good people in your life. You make space for healing and transformation.⁣⁠
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Sometimes, as you leave toxic people and relationships behind, you will find yourself alone for a while. That’s okay. It feels bad, yes…but it’s part of your transformation. It gives you time and space to make friends with yourself and reflect on how to do life differently.⁣⁠
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But, don’t believe the hype that you should block love and relationships out of your life because you have the false belief that you can only become strong alone. ⁣⁠⁣⁠

When you finally escape a relationship with a narcissist (whether it be a spouse, parent, or friend), it’s common to throw yourself into the other end of the spectrum with spiritual individualism.

People have their own problems to work on, and you have yours. End of story.

We don’t live in vacuums. Our actions impact other people and vice versa.

An important part of recovery is understanding interdependence and how to grow with other people — not in spite of or without them. Not all people come to pilfer and destroy. Some people come to restore.⁣⁠

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  1. Focusing on Forgiveness

Holding a grudge is no way to live.

That said, part of overcoming narcissistic abuse involves admitting that you forgive people too easily.

How many times did you forgive the narcissist for shaming you, making you feel worthless, and using you as a doormat? Probably more than you could possibly count, right?

Most survivors of narcissistic abuse have a problem with people-pleasing. Many of us just want to make people happy — often at the expense of our own emotions.

For someone recovering from narcissistic abuse, this mentality is dangerous.

Instead, we need to learn to express our emotions in healthy ways. We need to learn how to speak up when we’re hurt and enforce boundaries.

Forgiveness will come naturally with time as you recover. Forcing forgiveness just to feel enlightened and self-righteous only does more damage as a form of spiritual bypassing.

How to Work Through True Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

You can’t go up, over, or around narcissistic abuse recovery — the only way to go is straight through.

True recovery is messy.

You’ll have to face emotional triggers head-on. You’ll have to accept boundaries are healthy — no matter how hard it hurts to enforce them. You’ll be forced to experience a range of emotions: joy, sadness, grief, freedom, anger, shame, loneliness.

Emotions are good, normal, and healthy even when it doesn’t feel that way.

If you don’t allow yourself to work through and process these emotions, you’ll never fully recover. Using a psychedelic blast-through and spiritual bypassing just puts a bandage on a gaping wound: You may not see it but it will get infected and come back to bite you later.

How To Get Started On The Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

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3 comments
RecoveringGirl says February 20, 2020

I love this article! and especially in dealing with people on #5.

“But, don’t believe the hype that you should block love and relationships out of your life because you have the false belief that you can only become strong alone” Love this part.

I waited 36 years before committing myself to marriage and who I learned recently is a narcissist. I recently left him after years of abuse, and I feel like i am recovering from PTSD. I quickly found and moved on with a wonderful supportive person that so far seems to love me a lot and follow through on his word. I struggle with friends telling me that I am with him because I don’t want to be alone. Well of course I don’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to get divorced, I didn’t want to lose my family. This new person fit very well into what I want from a partner. Love, affection, consideration, respect, kindness, value. I feel bad for my actions sometimes, because I sometimes project onto him my reactions triggered like PTSD by different emotions….and I am weary to make sure he is not a narcissist. I can’t go through that again, but he has been patient and loving through the process. My issue is that I spent 36 of my years single… I know what I want, who I am and I don’t need to be single to heal or recover who I was before….because that girl no longer exists. I am new, and I am growing with my new love. Anyone reading this, please let me know what you think or if you have any advice about moving on, and up!

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Anonymous says February 20, 2020

Thanks Kim. It is a hard journey to take but well worth the trip. Have started to say goodbye to some very old friendships that I knew were draining me for a long time and I could feel the burden start to lift. When you are not chasing people trying to put out their fires, life becomes calmer. Actually, its taken me a while but scared me alot to begin with to see people as they really are and not with my people pleasing eyes. But now I do realise that we are all flawed and its ok, no one is a saint and as long as you have boundaries in place, life is easier. Like everything, the more you practice saying no, the easier it gets

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Dianne Caplin says February 18, 2020

Hi Kim,

First I must say your blog has helped my sister and I navigate through the mind field the narcissist(our mother) drags us through. Though we have decided not to enforce the “no contact” path for our own peace of mind, we have insisted on very strict boundaries that have worked. Our narcissist needs us and therefore if she want us to be in our life, she must follow the boundaries. My sister and I both know its control she is after and now that we are adults, she can no longer demand us to be what, or who she wants us to be. So thank you for helping us have a happier life.

My intention is just to share my journey, and how these spiritual techniques had helped me. I have heard the term “spiritual bypassing” before and know the gist of what you are getting at, but after years of study, and self reflection I have come to understand all of the types you refer to. Within each type there is so much depth. When a soul starts to awaken, these types of spiritual bypassing can seem superficial, but like a toddler who is learning to walk it comes slow at first. Yes on the surface “positive thinking” can seem as if a soul is closing their eyes to what is going on, but it starts a new vibration within the body. What needs to be changed is the core belief system for it is there where we truly heal. And positive thinking is a start which helps propel us forward. I’ve been healing from narcissistic abuse for 55 years. For me it started in my childhood. I was imprinted with a belief system that only served the narcissist. But that false belief system was how I viewed the world and how I reacted to everyone in it. This is where “Law of Attraction” comes in. I DO NOT believe I deserved, nor did I purposely attract a NEW narcissist into my life, but my vibration did. It’s the vibration which draws people in and out of our lives. It was my low self-esteem, my need to be loved that attracted my new narcissist, my ex-husband. Even though we were very different, our low self esteem vibrated at the same level. His low self esteem created his narcissistic ego and mine made me a people pleaser. It wasn’t until I raised my vibration through ridding my false belief system (which I did with the help of Dr. Joe Dispenza and Abraham Hicks) that I truly began to heal myself. What I discovered about my false belief system helped my sister heal too. By raising our vibration through positive thinking, the law of attraction got rid of those who vibrate at a different frequency. Either meet us at a higher vibration or don’t, it’s now up to them. “Everything happens for a reason” is true, but not in the sense most think. For me, what happened to me did happen for a reason but NOT because I was consciously aware of it. It was not a lesson. It was vibrational, and this vibration was so uncomfortable that it drove me to seek a different life. When I became “strong” enough that I stopped caring what the narcissist thought about me, when I stopped needing their approval, or understanding of my feelings, I truly started to live. I do focus on “forgiveness,” but not right away. It was hard to forgive when i was so anger. So, instead I was guided through my meditations to change my anger toward those who anger me to pity, for I truly believe they do not get it. From there I was able to acquire a new empathy for them which lead to forgiveness, but make no mistake- forgiveness is not for them, but for myself, for anger is too heavy to carry for it causes dis-ease and I will not allow my emotions to fester into disease within my body.

These are just a few things I have done to heal. And though it might seem like others may be using these techniques in the ‘”wrong way” it can be a pivoting point, a start to get back to our true essence. Maybe not right away, maybe not the way I did but in their own way. I believe any way a soul tries to heal is a path in the right direction. Sometimes the path leads us to new paths, or sometimes the path morphs into something greater, something different but explained with the same words but with much greater meaning. That’s what its done for me. It’s so multi-dimensional and different for those who bravely take the leap of faith to a better life.

XoXo

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