When I was in my 30’s, I became aware of spiritual bypassing. “A spiritual bypass or spiritual bypassing is a "tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks." The term was introduced in the early 1980’s by John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist.” (Source)
Unfortunately, I was an expert at spiritual bypassing. I used my beliefs to cover up pain and deny dangerous situations and unhealthy relationships. Meditation unlocked the deeper realms, but wisdom pulled me into co-dependence recovery. I tried almost every kind of 12 Step recovery group, including Overeaters Anonymous and AA (I didn’t have an alcohol addiction, but attended some open meetings; I ran into some wise people there.), and found that each group offered a unique twist to my healing journey.
Below is a list of unhealthy behaviors that signal poor interpersonal boundaries. The first rule of thumb in recovery is to handle the substance addictions: get clean, get sober, and then heal the deeper emotional causes of one’s struggles. This is called personal work. One cannot be spiritually fit when they are unable to pay their bills, get along with others, or feel taken advantage of all the time. These signs of unhealthy personal boundaries point to deeper problems that must be addressed before we can fully accept our spiritual heritage.
- Telling all.
- Talking at an intimate level at the first meeting.
- Falling in love with a new acquaintance.
- Falling in love with anyone who reaches out.
- Being overwhelmed by a person - preoccupied.
- Acting on the first sexual impulse.
- Being sexual for your partner, not yourself.
- Going against personal values or rights to please others.
- Not noticing when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries.
- Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries.
- Accepting food, gifts, touch, or sex that you don't want.
- Touching a person without asking.
- Taking as much as you can get, for the sake of getting.
- Giving as much as you can give, for the sake of giving.
- Allowing someone to take as much as they can from you.
- Letting others direct your life.
- Letting others describe your reality.
- Letting others define you.
- Believing others can anticipate your needs.
- Expecting others to fill your needs automatically.
- Falling apart so someone will take care of you.
- Sexual and physical abuse.
- Food and chemical abuse.
The above list is from Recovery.org and it covers boundary issues, but there are many other issues one finds in codependency. Codependency is a result of not learning how to take care of oneself while growing up. This sets one up for covering up and denying problems and personal dysfunction. Poor boundaries are signs of codependency. Other signs include:
- Rebellion against healthy authority figures, such as an employee or the police. Of course, one needs to rebel against abuse, but not all people in power are abusive.
- Not handling money properly. This includes overspending, not planning, buying too much, always being broke.
- People pleasing.
- Being consistently late to work.
- Denial patterns.
- Compliance patterns.
- Low self-esteem patterns.
- Revenge patterns - failing in one’s personal life because their parents wanted them to succeed. Or they might try to get even with parents by subconsciously setting up their spouse or other close personal relationships to be their parents and they take out their unresolved anger on them as parent substitute figures.
- Hoarding and cluttering.
- Poor personal hygiene.
If you identify with the above symptoms and want help, start with Pia Melody’s seminal book, Facing Codependency. Once you read the book, you can follow up with the workbook, Breaking Free: A Recovery Workbook for Facing Codependence.
In 1990, I went to Gurumayi’s ashram, which is north of Mumbai, India. One day a group of ten people, all Americans, were sharing, and eight of the 10 attended a 12 Step recovery meeting. While I no longer attend a meeting, the 20 years I spent in the meetings provided immeasurable support and many healing opportunities. Many cities have codependency meetings and there are even online resources. You may also find the following prayer helpful.
Co-dependency Prayer *
God, grant me the grace to let others have their addictions, upsets, and imperfections, without trying to fix them, change them, or solve their problems. Give me the courage to say “No” when I want to and the wisdom to reach out for help when I am in denial. Heal my need to please others or control them. Help me to accept with serenity my imperfections. Open my vision so that I know I am precious, and make me aware that my expression is valuable. Amen.
* Excerpt from Offbeat Prayers for the Modern Mystic © 1989 Easy Times Press, Anne Sermons Gillis, AnneGillis.com.
If you are tripping over your life, regardless of all your
meditations, your affirmations, and your assertiveness classes, you may
need a spiritual reboot. The ground on which we stand must be filled
with common sense and the ability to live in the world and take care of