Tony Robbins and Spiritual Bypassing
How did you feel when you heard Tony Robbins tell Nanine McCool, a survivor of sexual abuse, that speaking up in the #MeToo movement was to “try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else.”
When I hear justifications like this from leaders who are esteemed by millions for their ‘awareness,’ and who influence thousands of people on a daily basis, I am not surprised.
As I watched the tape I was saddened by the dialogue, and especially after years of witnessing how the minimization of trauma has led survivors of sexual abuse, men, women, and children into deep states of distress and victimhood through the lack of emotional and spiritual support, I am not shocked to find that there is a lack of empathy and understanding in the 'healing industry.'
It is a state of consciousness known as ‘Spiritual Bypassing.’
It is an experience I know well. I experienced rape when I was 15years-old and did not tell anybody about it for over 40years for the reason it was not safe to do so. I would have been subject to the ‘secondary trauma’ of blame and judgement by the ‘moral majority.’
Has the ‘moral majority’ shape-shifted into 'spiritual form?’
What we need to consider is that the trauma of rape needs a more in-depth discussion than that of sex.
After spending most of my adult years healing from emotional pain and disempowerment, and then becoming a healer, I found that surviving abuse is not solely about sexual abuse.
Nor is perceived victimhood a reason to persecute the vulnerable.
Trauma generally starts much earlier in life, I know mine did. It began with domestic bullying and a few careless words from a family member (which I have written about in Soul-Mate or Soul-Inmate? ) and then later, flowed into the collective power dynamics in society. This aspect in part is discussed also by Tony Robbins in the video as he talks freely about his business friends not wanting to hire attractive women. At no time does he discuss the role of men to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions: it was women who paid the price by being overlooked for the positions they were most qualified for.
What I know for sure is that there are countless ways in which we give our power away and countless other ways in which society blocks people from living their best lives.
Tony Robbin's reaction to a woman's authentic voice served only to shut down her journey of self-empowerment, where speaking up in the #MeToo movement is only one part of a long and difficult process.
What are the signs of Spiritual ByPassing?
Spiritual Bypassing is the use of “Spirituality” to avoid or suppress the uncomfortable and painful aspects of life, as explained by Robert Augustus Master, PhD., in the article Avoidance in Holy Drag,
“Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.
It is a spiritualized strategy not only for avoiding pain but also for legitimizing such avoidance, in ways ranging from the blatantly obvious to the extremely subtle. It includes:
- exaggerated detachment
- emotional numbing and repression
- overemphasis on the positive
- blind or overly tolerant compassion
- weak or too porous boundaries
- lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence)
- debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements,
- devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being through servings of reheated wisdom such as
- “Don’t take it personally”
- “Whatever bothers you about someone is really only about you.”
- “It is all just an illusion.”
All are terms available for consumption and parroting by just about anyone.”
Spiritual Bypassing is the minimizing of Authentic Pain
Large numbers of people would much rather stick to theories about healing and consciousness than go deeply into the pain because it would bring thoughts and emotions to the surface that they have long disowned or suppressed.
True spirituality is not a high, not a rush, not an altered state… Most of the time when we are immersed in spiritual bypassing, we like the light but not the heat, doing whatever we can to distance ourselves from the flames.
Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, responded to Robbins saying, “We have a hard enough time trying to shift the narrative about what this movement really is, and he stands in front of thousands of his followers and completely misrepresents the @MeTooMVMT.”
Speaking out is not only personal, it is also about Collective Empowerment
Many people come to a point where it is time to restore their strength by letting go the painful memories, and expressing how they feel is a vital part of this procedure. Personally I had no desire for revenge or retaliation, I never have, for I had spent most of my young life blaming myself. Nor was it about blaming the perpetrators; it was an excruciating exercise to share some details about this traumatic period in my life and hope I could help others through their process.
Like many people, my decision to speak out was more for the purpose of supporting men, women, and children to stand up and get the help they need to heal: that they do not need to experience a lifetime of pain, shame, and denial.
As valuable as the search for happiness and a higher spirituality may be, change does not occur by avoiding pain. It is not until we release all aspects of our suppressed selves and transmute the traumatized energy patterns that we find the peace we desire; how we do this is a personal decision.
For healing to happen on any significant scale, we must see Spiritual Bypassing for what is, as the numbing of grief that serves to silence the consciousness of a substantial portion of the population: that learning is lifelong process.
Well done Tony Robbins for becoming part of the solution!
Compassion, is to love and accept all aspects of ourselves through the 'reintegration of consciousness,' blame has no place here, only realization of the whole self can bring about the inner connection we seek.
What is becoming more and more apparent in this new-age is that finding safe, aware environments to transmute pain into empowerment is not as straightforward or as personal as it first appears.