Imbibing the modern day version of “us versus them” tempts us. We are being served a glass on the daily, but this bitter concoction is anything but medicinal. So what is the real divisive issue here, this neighbor against neighbor? Is it masks, race, politics, freedom, the quickening doom of our inevitable annihilation into the great unknown someday, or perhaps very very soon?
“Us against them” has never been an issue of morals, and has always been the difficulty we have in building bridges between our own disparate internal parts. This must be done before we can even begin to broach accepting others for the gorgeous mess of complexity they are.
We are living in a time when our warp speed schedules have come to a screeching halt, and all of us who had been using modern life to distance and distract, numb and run must now have a reckoning with ourselves. We have been forced into a fish tank and we are scraping the bottom for exits or perhaps new strategies for dealing with our very unruly and often contradictory selves. In this pandemic, the glass walls are mirrored.
So what are we going to do about it? Lately it seems like our old friends bubbly, chipper exuberance, and even good old gratitude have been shooed away like embarrassing family members at a dinner party- under the guise of spiritual bypassing.
Spiritual bypassing is a fancy name for the psychological defense mechanisms of repression and denial. When we don’t want to feel something, we tuck it away deep down inside. This unconscious, automatic, and in some cases, necessary form of protection prevents us from being overwhelmed by circumstances we can’t emotionally handle. Think about a child with an abusive parent. The child cannot consciously acknowledge the abuse because they are completely dependent on the parent. The mind copes by literally hiding the emotions within the body and the psyche in inaccessible places, only to bubble up in flashes later on. We are in a collective trauma, and our commendable psyches are doing their darnedest to protect us from our feelings.
So what is spiritual bypassing NOT? It’s not putting all of our joy on hold. While feeling joy and peace and all that lovey dovey stuff might not be so easily accessible right now, it’s also not inherently bad, nor is it bad to strive to feel it. We’re not spiritually bypassing because we’re having a good day while the world is falling apart. So go ahead and have one.
The world has been “falling apart” as in experiencing climate crisis, systemic racism, poverty and war for generations. This ain’t new, it’s just that some of us are realizing the time is now or never to jump out of the boiling pot. I think it’s revolutionary during this moment for us to claim the joy that is our inherent birthright. Staying in a place of mild finger wagging or extreme anger may win us some new enemies in a social media scuffle, but if we’re going to move beyond hate, it might be time for a change. From a place of love, wholeness and centeredness, we can face the world and make meaningful, impactful choices for the benefit of everyone around us.
Obviously not everyone is going to see matters the way we do. Luckily, our opinions and beliefs do not define all of who we are. Knowing this, we can become more willing to let down our drawbridge hearts over the moats of misunderstanding we are drowning in. We don’t have to agree. We do have to orient ourselves around the qualities we admire and wish to embody. Alighting on these ideals is a good idea, and it’s not spiritual bypassing. We can practice those ideals everyday, every moment.
As adult human beings we can learn to steward our thoughts, feelings and actions. This is healthy and natural and necessary. So why do we abandon our morals and act like children with words for toy guns and fire our misplaced discontent every which way? We need to try to understand each other because if we don’t, we’re going to continue to be alone, both literally and figuratively. If we’re so gungho that our beliefs define us, and that our way is the right way, then for darned sake, let’s believe in love.
Love requires intimate understanding. Love requires patience. Love requires returning to the ground of our being where our nervous systems can unravel and we can feel something besides pain and panic when we get quiet. I know we are all capable of this state of being. I believe we can worship it, believe in it, invite it, savor it. Let’s not forsake it because we’d rather be right and make others wrong. It’s okay and natural to be angry, but being angry is not going to put us on the right side of history. We need to make room beyond the binary of our own thinking and be willing to challenge ourselves, humble ourselves, and ultimately, to transform. Metanoia?!