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How to Avoid Spiritual Bypassing in Sex & Relationships

Jacqueline Hellyer - Sunday, July 22, 2018




Sex within intimate relationships can be an extraordinary place to grow spiritually, to deepen in love, expand conscious awareness, to feel more peace, bliss, ease. But it’s also very easy to fall into what’s called spiritual bypassing, thinking that you’re becoming more spiritual but actually doing some or all of the following:

  • exaggerated detachment,
  • emotional numbing and repression,
  • overemphasis on the positive,
  • anger-phobia,
  • blind or overly tolerant compassion,
  • weak or too porous boundaries,
  • lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence),
  • debilitating judgement about one’s negative or shadow side,
  • devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and
  • delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being. *

Which means you’re bypassing doing the psychological work you need to do to actually be able to develop spiritually.

I see a lot of this in my work, here are the most common examples:

  • Spiritual narcissists, where one partner considers themselves spiritually ‘superior’ to the other. This may be because they have studied or engaged in spiritual practices more than their partner, and assume that that makes them more spiritual. In fact, this is merely an inflated ego speaking. This can manifest in small ways such as bamboozling their partner with spiritual terminology. In more serious cases the ‘superior’ partner doesn’t take personal responsibility for their part of the relationship because the ‘less developed’ one just needs to ‘grow’ for the relationship to improve, and if they have a complaint they’re just ‘projecting their own shortcomings and need to look at themselves’, because of course the superior one doesn’t have any.
  • In contrast to the first point, some people overly romanticise relationships, seeking a ‘soul-mate’ with whom they can have ‘perfect’ ease and harmony. This is actually fusion, which leads to avoiding issues as conflict of any sort indicates a lack of ‘perfect union’. This in turn stops real vulnerability and intimacy and leads to suppression rather than growth. If conflict aversion is combined with low-self esteem, a person might hand their personal power over to the other, which inevitably leads to control imbalance and inequality in the relationship and a whole heap of issues that stem from that.
  • Clients who have succumbed to sexual predators masquerading as spiritual teachers and healers:
- The worst case I’ve had was a woman who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her guru while he was staying at her house during a visit.
-  I’ve had clients who had seen so-called tantric goddesses who have traumatised their clients under the guise of sexual healing. One such case was a rather reserved man whose wife was complaining he wasn’t sensual enough. The woman did teach him some ways to breathe and embrace - then finished the session with a hand-job! This was a shock in the sudden turn from sensual to overtly sexual, and more importantly because it breached the marriage vows, causing problems for him and his relationship.
- Lots of clients who have been to spiritual and/or tantric workshops and retreats and come out traumatized by the psychologically unsafe practices, or who had a major opening without supportive follow-up to enable integration back into their lives, leaving them at best confused and at worst verging on the psychotic.

  • Many of my clients who have done a lot of spiritual development  struggle with intimacy. In these cases, it can simply be a lack of understanding that personal growth does not necessarily equate to relationship growth, that intrapersonal development and interpersonal development are different. More often it’s because the person has mistaken emotional detachment with spiritual transcendence. Relationship requires openness and ability to be vulnerable with another, whereas spiritual bypassers hide behind a solid wall of impenetrable ‘spirituality’.
  • People who confuse spiritual experiences with spiritual states. Too much success-driven ego is applied to the spiritual, people seek extreme experiences, visions, body convulsions, etc. And while these can be illuminating, they are only experiences in time, not permanent shifts in awareness. In fact, seeking these experiences does nothing to truly open and expand in love with wisdom and humility.
  • So many people use the pleasure of sex to avoid their issues. The intensity of sex and the release of orgasm can distract from the pressures and issues that really need dealing with. They are using sex to make themselves feel better. This applies just as much, if not more so, if people are using ‘tantric’ or ‘spiritual’ sex as a cover for really looking at themselves.
Truly joyful, spiritual sexuality can’t be forced or coerced. You can’t use it to achieve a state, it is an expression of a pre-existing state. There’s no short-cut. It requires dedication and a lot of challenging personal and relational cultivation to get there, both psychological and spiritual. Not that you ever actually get ‘there’, there’s no destination, simply ongoing focus and openness - and the potential for a lot of great loving along the way!



*This list is from Spiritual Bypassing by Robert.A. Masters - a great book if you want to read more about the topic.



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