Last week I wrote about spiritual bypass. That happens when we place judgment on our human experience and see it as inferior to our spiritual nature. I then started to think about what human bypass would look like. It occurred to me that a human bypass is when we forget that we are multidimensional beings who are the creators of our reality. It is when we forget that we bring the formless essence of our true nature into form and create reality moment to moment. For example, when I identify with my story, and forget I am also the infinite potential from which the story is created then I slip into human bypass.
This forgetting creates suffering. When I forget I experience my own thinking, it is easy for me to take my created reality too seriously and not see it is temporary and ephemeral. This is easy to do when I am in a negative mindset. I forget that I am creating my experience with low mood thinking. There is nothing wrong with doing this, but if I paint a depressing picture it is less painful when I remember it is a picture I have created and not reality itself.
I experienced a period of intense depression in my early twenties. It was invisible to me that my experience was coming from thought. The precipitating incident was a car accident, but I see how I was already sliding into overwhelm before that. I was not seriously injured in the car accident, but I did feel shaken to my core. Afterwards I found it very difficult to get my work done, and I fell further and further behind in college. My feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness grew. When it started to look like a good idea to take all of the pain medication that I hadn't bothered taking for the whiplash, I knew I needed help.
Help came in the form of a tricyclic antidepressant that did nothing for my mood, but made my morning breath the equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction, and tranquilizers that were from my psychiatrist's samples. They were past their sell by date, so that explains why they had no impact either. What did help were the kind, caring conversations I had with the psychiatrist. They were very reassuring, but whenever I wanted to address what I perceived my personal flaws to be, he told me we did not have time to do characterological work; being the good Freudian that he was. However, even though I wasn't doing "the work", the friendly conversations did me a world of good, so much so that I was able to leave after the summer for my junior year abroad in Glasgow.
When I was running low on anti-depressants, I went to see a Scottish doctor. I told him why I was there and handed him the prescription package so he could see what I was taking. He took one look at me and threw the pills in the bin. He told me in his thick Glaswegian brogue, "You dinnae need these lassie." And he sent me on my way. Fortunately, I didn't have any negative effects from abruptly stopping taking them.
Also, having a change in environment was really good for me. All of my classes were pass/fail so it took the pressure off. I had plenty of time for fun, travel, and adventure. What was also interesting to me is that I found all of the classes compelling and naturally applied myself in a way that was engaged, but not burning myself out. This was the first time that I saw high performance was not directly linked to painful effort.
All of this was beneficial to me, but I had no idea why. I did not understand that having reassuring conversations with the psychiatrist helped me to stop identifying with all of my dark and catastrophic thoughts. As I was reassured by him, I stopped fueling my negative thinking and stabilized. I felt myself again. In Scotland, I didn't reengage with the pressure cooker of my perfectionistic thoughts. I gave myself permission to have fun and enjoy myself. I naturally approached life in a more lighthearted way, but I did not know that I seeing life differently based on a shift in my understanding.
It is understandable then why this was not a sustainable change. Not because what I experienced wasn't real with my innate health coming to the surface. It was not sustainable because I did not understand why it worked. The thoughts that I would bring to life that caused me suffering were still invisible to me. I did not know where my suffering came from. I did not know it came from inside of me, and was innocently perpetuated by me focusing on my negative thoughts, being afraid of my experience, and trying to change it. I didn't know that it only takes ten minutes of focusing on negative thoughts to start changing neurochemistry. I did not know that that my internal emotional environment is determined by thought and has the power to turn genes on and off. I didn't know any of these things so I continued to feel like a victim to my moods for many years, and spent a lot of time in inconsolable tears, much to my naturally optimistic husband's chagrin.
I was in human bypass. I was oblivious to how I was creating my reality from via my spiritual nature. When I learned about spirituality through yoga and meditation, I then switched into spiritual bypass and tried to eradicate my emotional suffering through spiritual pursuits. This didn't work either. It was definitely better because I would have periods of reprieve, but I would still get snookered by bouts of depression. I could not maintain the reprieve because I was constantly working on trying to feel good. This was exhausting and would result in the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction.
What finally got me to spend less time on the roller coaster of human and spiritual bypass was seeing that I experience my own thoughts not an unadulterated reality. As Sydney Banks would say, consciousness is not a camera that captures reality. It is a like a projector that projects our thoughts. We see the projection of our thoughts not an objective reality.
As the quality of our thinking changes so does our reality. We do not need to work on changing the quality of our thinking. It takes care of itself. My personal shift came from simply seeing that when I am caught up in negative thinking and it looks like reality, there is nothing wrong with me. This is human. Just because I am temporarily not experiencing my wellbeing doesn't mean I need to try and find it. This took the pressure off of me. The perfectionist tyrant of my ego lost authority, and I saw the perfection in all of my human experience.
I saw that no matter what reality I perceive, it is a projected illusion created from my own thinking. The content of what I see, is not nearly as important as experiencing that I am also that which creates it. My spiritual nature is not superior to my humanness. Nor is my humanness all there is. I am both. I am multidimensional, and no matter what dimension I am identifying with it ultimately comes from the same formless energy from which everything comes. We are not human or spiritual -- we are both.
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist, a leadership consultant, and an executive coach. Rohini facilitates personalized three-day retreats to help individuals, couples, and professionals connect more fully with their true nature and experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. You can find out more about Rohini’s work on her website, rohiniross.com.