Tag Archive for: Spiritual Bypassing

Examining our deepest fears of intimacy and wounding.

I was never a fan of the show “FRIENDS” but reading about Matthew Perry’s untimely death this morning struck a deep, reflective chord in me. He passed away in a hot tub after battling for years with addiction and going in and out of rehab centers. He never married and never had any children, although he did have relationships with famous people like Julia Roberts. He and I are the same age and his tragic death caused me to reflect upon my own life, spiritual tradition and friendships. He longed to become ready to eventually let someone in and find love. He said:

”That was me afraid. I manifest something that’s wrong with them, and then I break up with them. But there can’t be something wrong with everyone. I’m the common denominator. I left first because I thought they were going to annihilate me.” 

Matthew Perry- People Magazine

However, he said that he had finally ”gotten over” his ”fear of love” after becoming sober in May 2021 and said ”I’m not afraid anymore,” and said that he wanted to find love and have children.

Accountability- What it Means to Grow Up

In any 12 step program, one of the hardest things is to begin the trajectory toward healing, and take the first step and admit that you have a problem. I commend Matthew for going into rehabs to battle with his inner fears and demons. I don’t know if drugs and alcohol were involved in his death, but irrespective of that, I think his memoirs show that he was able to have a great degree of insight and accountability.

I appreciate that he did a sufficient amount of inner work to be able to see his shadow and see where he had deprived himself from really being able to go deep, and love another person by wanting to make a commitment and eventually, have a family. Just that insight alone is so rare, that a person is able to see their core issues in and their wounding and then long to heal and make personal change. This means that he was able to venture into the darkest places within himself, that a lot of us never dare to touch. As far as I’m concerned, because of this accountability, he died somewhat spiritually healed and exhibited rare bravery. Matthew, I’d like to wish you well and I would like to learn from some of the things that you shared, so that each of us could have deeper relationships, and more fulfilling lives and not let our fears, insecurities and inner demons cast us forever into a life of emotional isolation and despair.



What is Love Avoidance?

According to the DSM5, avoidant personality disorder it is a cluster B/C personality disorder, hallmarked with a “sensitive hyper-vigilant temperament, with a general longing to relate to others.” Furthermore they have excessive fears of such issues as intolerance of any disapproval, criticism, or rejection. Love avoidants also have “inhibition in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy.”

One of the hallmarks of a love avoidant, is that they can avoid being hurt or being emotionally vulnerable, and they stay in complete control of the relationship by withholding. Love avoidants exhibit intense escapism and often sabotage any chance of someone really becoming close to them. Because of this deep inner wounding and intense insecurity, they wind up often turning to drugs and alcohol and compulsive behaviors. They can be secretive, sexually compulsive and use distancing techniques like devaluing and criticizing their partners as the method of staying in control. They sometimes are “tactile defensive,” not wanting to be touched, except for sex.

At the first moment that they become vulnerable where they perceive that their partner might want to offend, hurt or leave them, that partner who they attempted to open up to, now becomes the enemy in their mind. They will usually discard their partner vehemently. This black-and-white thinking, is called splitting, where the person that they attempted to open to, is now inaccurately perceived as “all, bad or all evil.” This is very commonly exhibited in many cluster B personality disorders, like Borderline, Antisocial and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Love avoidance is a maladaptive, protective coping skill that can come from people that were neglected or abused as children. Sometimes there are genetic factors that are inherited generationally, and in these cases there is no real treatment or cure. However, in Matthew’s case, he was capable of insight and contrition, and for people like that, there is often hope.

Love Avoidance and Spiritual Bypassing

I wanted to share why this personally inspired me to write today. I have tried many relationships in my Buddhist community for decades with men that supposedly upheld values like: being trustworthy and safe, having ethics, compassion, patience, listening, forgiveness and indeed, 84,000 different skillful means of compassionate expression and problem solving skills. However, time and time again I would meet these men, sometimes even exalted teachers, and it became revealed that many had serious emotional issues, reactivity and commitment and control issues, that would result in conflict and breakups. I wound up marrying someone outside of my Buddhist spiritual tradition who was very sane, stable and well adjusted and we’ve been able to be married for over 22 years now.

A lot of my close Buddhist Dharma friends, both men and women are single, not all but many. I feel like if I had tried to find someone in our tradition, I probably would still be single myself. I’ve noticed that a lot of us admittedly, including myself, came in to Buddhism as westerners and spiritual seekers, because of some type of pain or core wounding or unresolved issues. The tradition values a simple, unfettered life without commitments and a strong commitment to hours of daily meditation practice.

I’ve still gotten into painful conflicts with many yogi-robed acquaintances, mostly men on social media where, I would say one benign thing that they perceived as some type of injury and they would become rageful, defame or even block me. It was pretty vicious and callous, and it’s clear that they are using our tradition to foster nothing but Spiritual Narcissism. Many of them purport to be “dharma experts” and use daily photos of Buddhist teachers and insightful quotes to gain +/-500 virtue signaling “Likes.” What a sad life and waste of time and indeed these men are often quintessential love avoidants. I know that social media becomes a place where people with significant damage, wounding and personality disorders can play out a lot of prey/predator narcissistic disordered games. For that reason, I’ve left a lot of the social media milieus, and it has given me my real life back, with time for real relationships.

Was Gautama the Original Love Avoidant?

The Buddha himself was a renunciate and in fact even left his wife and newborn child and all responsibilities to “self actualize.” If he had left his wife and child so callously in this day and age, we may have considered him quite selfish and legally, he would be considered a “deadbeat dad” in many countries. However, the difference between the Buddha leaving his family and going deep into his ascetic, yogic practices and meditation was that his leaving was based on a very serious longing to develop himself and foster compassion to help others. That was an act of bravery as referenced above with Mr. Perry, rather than an act of escapism and avoidance.

Since his time, we’ve had a tradition of both lay and monastic practitioners, and sometimes I wonder what the root motivation is for westerners getting involved with this tradition. If we already have deep wounding and a propensity for escapism, spiritual narcissism and love avoidance, would we then find a religion that reflects, houses and even rewards some of our maladaptive psycho-sexual and relational patterns? I do wonder sometimes if we have misconstrued this basic point, and created an entire religion and paradigm that honors and exalts the propensity to be a love avoidant and bypass our deepest fears of vulnerability, intimacy and early wounding. Just because leaving his family was ok for the Buddha doesn’t mean we should emulate him, if we in contrast, are using our tradition as a method of opiation and escapism. All we will have done is hurt ourselves and others, and wasted this precious life, in spiritual delusion.

I noticed that a lot of my friends claim to have a strong commitment to their Dharma meditation practice and have been told that they have a rare “noble birth,” and consider themselves quite spiritually accomplished and even god-forbid, superior to others. We can’t really be making ANY spiritual progress if we have simply used our tradition for this quintessential spiritual bypass. Staying alone, rejecting the world, rejecting intimacy in some type of strange, self-aggrandized, escapist renunciation is often, simply the fostering of a monumental ego and cowardice, rather than anything that looks like openness, genuine compassion and enlightenment.

Healing Through Awareness

If we have discovered and become honest with ourselves that we are indeed love avoidant, or we are in a relationship with a love avoidant there are ways that these patterns can be healed. The very first step is education, awareness, insight and accountability. Then, we can seek professional counseling with a DBT therapist. And for partnerships: IMAGO is one of the best relationship healing methods.

I wish that Matthew had lived long enough to accomplish his dreams of finally finding real love and intimacy, getting married and having a child. Him understanding and saying that in fact, he was the common denominator in all of these failed relationships, and that he simply was afraid of being hurt, was intensely vulnerable and brave, and indeed, healed. Love avoidants can spend their entire lives blaming others as to why their partner deserved to be hurt, abandoned left or was never, ever good enough. In Buddhism and other spiritual traditions, we formed an entire religion where people are afraid to go deeply into their lives, be vulnerable and make any commitment to really… anything that they consider “worldly.” I think if we shed light on this propensity, we can become better and go beyond our deep wounding and develop true bravery, foster healthy relationships a meaningful life and indeed- real genuine mutual loving connections. I would like to learn and be inspired by Matthew’s life and insights, and may we all have the most meaningful, honest and healed life possible.



image: pexels evie-shaffer


MissLunaRose12, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons



spiritual bypassing

Repost from Jeff Brown

Author of Grounded Spirituality:

“They didn’t go to sit in the meditation cave to enlighten their consciousness. They went there to bypass their issues with the world. They didn’t turn to silence to extinguish the monkey mind. They turned to silence to turn down the volume on their pain (the monkey heart). They didn’t nestle into stillness because it’s THE royal road to the kingdom of God. They nestled into silence because noise ignited their traumas.

They didn’t tame the ego because the ego is the enemy of the sacred. They tamed it because it confronted them with their unresolved humanness. They didn’t purify the body because the body is something less than Divine. They purified the body in an effort to escape their toxicity. They didn’t strive for transcendence because there is anything up there for us. They strove for transcendence because they lacked the courage to live on Mother Earth.

They didn’t seek formlessness because it is our most awakened state. They sought formlessness because their form hurt too much. They didn’t master non-attachment because it is the primary path to self-realization. They mastered non-attachment so they could sidestep the challenges of human relationship. They didn’t shame anger, because anger is a sub-standard emotion. They shamed anger because it triggers their unacknowledged rage. They didn’t shun non-judgment because all judgments are bad. They shunned non-judgment so they could get away with doing anything they wanted.

Friends, we have been fooled for centuries. The patriarchy went to a lot of trouble to camouflage and cloak their personal issues. A whole spiritual world was birthed from their self-avoidance. And it is now time to call it out. It is now time to bury patriarchal spirituality in a graveyard of its own making, and to co-create a spirituality that is grounded in our humanness, our bodies, our feelings, our relationships with each other and Mother Earth. It’s the only way we can save our species.”


cave yogi


Photo by Prince Kumar from Pexels

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~Rumi


Spiritual Bypassing, Using Religion to Build Up Ego

As westerners who chose to be involved with eastern religion, it is safe to say, we were looking for something greater. Tibetan Buddhism took root in the United States during the 1960s where people were spiritual seekers and often involved in the psychedelic movement. A lot of us came from a great amount of curiosity, disappointment and loss. A large portion of us came from dysfunctional families, divorce or even outright abuse. We were told that if we were to take complete refuge in this religion that all of our cares would cease. We could follow a very tried and true graduated path that would bring meaning to our lives, quell our emotional, spiritual and psychological problems and result in us attaining enlightenment, if we devoted ourselves to it sufficiently.

The problem is, is that unless we come into the spiritual path with having a basis of feeling well, a basic sense of warmth, well-being, groundedness, and the harsh barbs of our trauma being resolved, there’s a tendency for ego to slip in and use even positive methods of liberation for its own constructs. If we use the dharma to feel superior, pretend that we are more knowledgeable, spiritually evolved than others, hide, cower and escape from our vulnerability, our fears or our deep karmic wounding, the dharma itself becomes a method to spiritually bypass and therefore itself, a worldly dharma. Spiritual bypassing is akin to hopping over our issues, our deep karmic blocks by denying, projecting them into others or ignoring, and then using one’s religion or spirituality as a faux front.

We will have devoted our lives to something wheres it is impossible to make any progress because the fundamental obstacles have never been touched, opened and routed out. Chögyam Trungpa clearly explains this process in his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. It is like my teacher would say-

“If we don’t practice properly and really use these methods to evolve, it’s like going to an island of diamonds and coming back empty-handed.” Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

84000 Methods Can Be Absconded By Ego

Ego is very slippery, like a shapeshifter, and can use these methods in the dharma to build itself up. We often see fluctuation between pompous credential or an opiated escape, neither are enlightened. For example, if the way that you hide from pain is that you have some type of avoidant personality disorder and withdraw, will you find a particular part of the vast body of Buddhist teachings to confirm your propensity. You will then withdraw from society and hide and consider yourself really spiritual and in concurrence with the scriptures.

If you happen have a propensity for hedonism or sexual addiction, we have a controversial Saint named Drukpa Kunley who would unhesitatingly sleep with whomever he wanted to. You could use Dharma teachings to say that “morality is relative” and everything is part of the absolute manifestation of sacredness, and thereby justify sexual misconduct. How can this be spiritual? Both are sides of the same type of spiritual ego, and none of these propensities, I believe, can make any progress in this life until they breakdown the constructs of what they’re using to cover. Sadly, for many I see no sign of hope as of yet, it is all about “virtue signaling,” being “spiritualistas” or “spiritual slactivists.”

Guru Devotion as a Weapon

One western Tibetan reincarnated teacher called a “tulku” recently said to me:

“The intense mind control and hierarchical culture of obedience is something I’m really uncomfortable with now. I actually think more people got hurt through that than from sexual abuse itself.”

Yes we have a religion where we offer the guru absolute control and blind obeisance. You can imagine if anyone has seen the miniseries Wild Wild Country, how well that works out. We have this unbreakable vow that we take with the teacher, that if we break or leave the teacher or community or speak ill of them or even have a negative thought, we’re supposed to go to this terrible mind torture hell in the afterlife, and/or be riddled with personal obstacles and punishments. This vow which is supposed to help us to make spiritual progress is often used as a weapon of control and ownership of students. This does nothing but create cult-like communities and spiritual, psychological and emotional harm to so very many.

Toxic Masculinity

We can credit a lot of this social dysfunction to the term toxic masculinity. Human society has a very long history of the suppression of the feminine, considering emotionality to be weak and women to be subordinate, unstable, second class citizens or even, in some cultures, property.  Many men to this day, often believe that they are far superior to women with an undercurrent of continued social misogyny that exists in all cultures. I personally practice in a very male-dominated religion in Tibetan Buddhism where we are instructed to worship these men as divine. In that culture they have a word for women which literally translates as lesser human. Very few women have any power or real voice and it is disheartening to see this panel of colored robed, throned men telling us how to live. Many know that behind the scenes there are volumes of power, control, sexual misconduct, financial and ethics issues galore. I say it is high time for women to take leadership roles in both religion, spirituality and politics, to clean up a lot of this toxicity and corruption.

A study in the Journal of School of Psychology uses the following definition to explain toxic masculinity: “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.”

In modern society, people often use the term toxic masculinity to describe exaggerated masculine traits that many cultures have widely accepted or glorified.

This harmful concept of masculinity also places significant importance on ‘manliness’ based on:

  • strength
  • lack of emotion
  • self-sufficiency
  • dominance
  • sexual virility”


Real Spiritual Work Is Dirty

Karmic knots, emotional issues that we hold keep us stuck, however there is hope. By touching the wounds, our tears and fears, we can wholly liberate them. This is the crack of light that is possible. People come in to a tradition with trauma, loss, in pain and longing and are instructed to apply these high eastern yogic methods. It is not working; we need a new way of real liberation which includes deep fundamental trauma work and the base of healing before embarking on any spiritual path.

My Teacher’s Advice

I was practicing meditation in Denmark and really reflecting about my life. I’ve mentioned before, that I came from pretty serious child abuse and neglect, and I was crying about how it would ever be possible for me to feel happy and healed in this life at all, ever. Then, during my meditation practice an insight came to me. I could take the foundation of this pain and the abuse that I experienced early on, and try to heal from it and then use it later on in life as a way of deepening compassion for others that might have experienced something similar. That was the impetus for why I started to teach meditation in prisons, and learned so much about human growth, regret and real hands-on spirituality. I think if anyone wants to do any type of real spiritual work you have to get down and dirty, here are 4 steps to get started:

  1. Spend time with yourself in a very raw and honest way and feel where you’re stuck.
  2. We can journal about where our strengths and weaknesses are and look at ourselves with tremendous honesty.
  3. If we notice that we have some type of these dormant fears and wounding and pain, take the time to honor stuck places.
  4. We can use the retreat time that we have to face our fears head-on, cry out all the tears until there are no more, like a sponge ringing out dirty water.

It is so helpful to make the effort to cleanse these psycho-spiritual and emotional blocks built up from our lifetime or more. In this way, we can truly become a clear vessel that’s capable of wisdom. Without having gone through this messy, difficult dark night of the soul process, there’s a strong possibility that we are using our spirituality or religion in a deluded way, to cover the deep-seated blocks that we’re unwilling to face.

East Meets.. West

I think these Indo-Tibetan methods used 2500 years ago in India and in Tibet, were exceedingly valid and powerful methods of transformation and spiritual development. In our materialistic west, which allows no time for grief, we have often a lot of gross trauma and imbalances to heal before we can even start sitting meditation. If we don’t do the trauma work and we just sit alone with ourselves, let alone do any of the higher tantras which involve powerful methods of yogic practice ritual, those methods become ways to make us further imbalanced and can be actually dangerous. So this trauma work, taking time to delve deep into what has been hurtful, processing fears, going very deeply to core childhood or karmic wounding, is an essential step before we embark upon any more lofty spiritual path. Many often benefit from personal or professional support for this healing process. We could say that this is the basic foundation of the spiritual path. Real human strength and evolution is forged through bravely facing fears, heartbreak and tears, not bypassing or some renunciant escape. So go ahead, get curious about the cracks in our deepest, hidden wounds. Our hearts long to emerge from the shadows and see what type of welcome light can eventually come in. I have faith that with effort, we all have a capacity to learn, grow and heal, no matter what we have experienced. The human heart is forever fundamentally bright, and sometimes, the accumulated tarnish, just needs a bit of polishing.

Written By Dawn Boiani-Sandberg

Owner Buddhistmala.com


image from pexels