Are you using your spirituality as a “spiritual bypass” to avoid feeling your feelings and taking responsibility for them? Are you being loving to yourself and others, and walking your talk, when you tell your truth or withhold your truth? Would you rather know the truth with a partner, family, and friends, even if it’s very painful, rather than continue to avoid knowing what you know?
Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding Podcast. Today I’m speaking about the important issue of walking your talk – which means that how you live your life is in line with your truth, with what you say about yourself, and with what you may be teaching others.
I can’t tell you how often I work with individuals or couples who appear to be one way – like in social media, or in the public eye, or in teaching others – yet are not actually living in alignment with how they present themselves. It’s one thing to have knowledge about various aspects of life, and quite another to be living what you know. I’m grateful when a teacher or author I’ve admired turns out to be truly authentic, but often I’m sad when a teacher or author gets caught in some form of inauthenticity or scandal. Unfortunately, I’ve found the latter to be true with some spiritual teachers, some whom I’ve facilitated with Inner Bonding. Invariably, they are doing what’s called a spiritual bypass.
A spiritual bypass is when you are using any form of spiritualty, such as prayer or meditation, to avoid responsibility for your feelings.
How do you know when you are truly in surrender and allowing yourself to be guided by your spiritual guidance, and how do you know when you are using spirit as a way out of taking personal responsibility for your feelings and needs?
There are many people throughout our world who are convinced that they are guided by God, when they are just following their wounded selves. It is obvious to most of us that terrorists, some of whom say they are following God, are completely disconnected from the love that is God. It is also obvious to many of us that some political leaders, who say God guides them but are actually exploiting people and the planet, are following their wounded selves.
But what about the rest of us who are wanting to be guided by our higher guidance? How do we know if that is what we are really doing, or if we are using our spiritual connection as a way out of taking responsibility for ourselves?
Listen to the following list that can help you determine your true intent:
- If you think what you are being told to do is from your higher guidance, but results in physical or emotional harm to yourself or others, it is not coming from your guidance.
- If your actions do not result in inner peace and a sense of inner fullness, they are not being guided by your guidance.
- If you are connecting with your guidance, but not with your own feelings, then you are avoiding responsibility for your feelings.
- If your primary question is not “What is the loving action?” then your intent is likely to control rather than to love yourself and others.
- If you are being guided to connect to God through the ongoing use of drugs, then you are being guided by your wounded self who wants an easy way out.
- If you meditate and bliss out as a way to avoid your painful feelings, then you are using your meditation and your spiritual connection as an addiction to avoid responsibility for learning from and lovingly managing your pain.
The wounded self may try to use the notion of God as a form of control over others and as a way to avoid responsibility for your own pain and joy.
For example, Glenn told his wife, Cheryl, that he was being “guided by God” when he decided to have an affair as part of his “spiritual journey.” He and his lover were using drugs to connect with God. Neither of them was dealing with their feelings at all. Both of them had a long history of avoiding responsibility for their pain and their joy, and they were using God and drugs as a way to continue to avoid that responsibility.
Cheryl, after opening to her own pain about this situation and doing much inner work regarding her part of their relationship problems, decided to leave the marriage. It made her very sad to accept that the man she loved was avoiding his inner work, but she realized that this had been the case throughout their marriage, and she was no longer willing to be a part of it. She saw that Glenn was getting physically depleted by the drug experiences, rather than being in peace and joy. She saw that he did not want responsibility for his own wellbeing – that he had made her responsible for his pain throughout their marriage and was now making God, drugs, and his lover responsible for how he felt. Cheryl had spent much energy trying to have control over getting Glenn to connect with her and to stop blaming her for his feelings, and she finally accepted that she did not have this control.
Regardless of what you believe your guidance is telling you, if it is not resulting in deep inner peace and fullness, it is not coming from your guidance. The truth and the loving action always result in inner peace and fullness. That is how we know we are on the right track. Spirit has given us our feelings as a barometer to let us know when we are on the path of truth and love and walking our talk, and when we are off track.
If you stay open in Step One of Inner Bonding – staying tuned in to your feelings – and if you follow through with all the steps, right on through to Step Six, you will know when you are truly guided by your higher guidance and when your wounded self is in charge.
Many people who have been on a path of personal and spiritual growth have spent a lot of time talking. Talking with friends about what’s wrong and what they want. Talking with therapists about their past and their beliefs. Talking with a partner about what needs changing. They have explored and explored and talked and talked, and not much has changed. In fact, some things get worse.
Talking about problems isn’t the same thing as learning to love yourself and take responsibility for your feelings. Perhaps it’s time for less talk and more action – loving action.
Loving actions are those actions that support your highest good and the highest good of others. Loving actions are those actions that are motivated by love rather than by fear.
Exploring your limiting beliefs and where you got them in the past is essential for opening the door to loving action. However, you can explore forever, and nothing will change without loving action. You can talk and talk and learn and learn, but until you are willing to take loving action, nothing will change. It’s not that it is time to stop learning about your fears and false beliefs, but it is time for all this learning to result in loving action. Without loving actions, there is no way you are walking your talk.
What part of you is in charge of the actions you take? We are always taking action, yet much of the time the actions we take are not loving, in that they do not support our own and others’ highest good.
As many of you know, Inner Bonding teaches that all our actions are motivated by one of two intentions:
- The intention to have control over getting love, avoiding pain, and feeling safe. The intention to control is motivated by fear and the desire to protect against that which we fear.
- The intention to learn about what is most loving to ourselves and others. This intention is motivated by love and the desire to become the most loving person we can be.
When our actions are being motivated by fear and our intent is to control, our wounded self is in charge.
When our actions are being motivated by love – both for ourselves and others – our loving adult is in charge.
In order to take loving action and walk your talk, your loving adult needs to be in charge of your choices. Your loving adult is who you are when you are coming from a deep desire to be a loving person and you are open to learning from your feelings and with your higher self about what is most loving to you and to others. It’s when you are truly open to learning, as well as to eating clean natural foods, that you will most easily connect with a higher source of guidance, and when you ask, “What is the most loving action in this moment?” helpful answers will pop into your mind. Once you receive the answer in a particular situation, the loving adult then takes the loving action. This is part of what it means to walk your talk.
Lawrence had been meditating and teaching meditation and yoga for many years before consulting with me for his depression. He was a teacher in a spiritual community that encouraged their members to turn to God through prayer and meditation whenever they were feeling any difficult or painful feelings such as anger, hurt, anxiety or depression. He had been taught that spirit would transmute his feelings for him and bring him the inner peace he sought, and this is what he taught. But Lawrence was not walking his talk because what he taught was not working for him.
“I have faithfully practiced and teach what I’ve been taught, so why am I still depressed? What am I doing wrong?” he asked me.
Lawrence was suffering from spiritual bypass.
As I previously said, spiritual bypass occurs when you use your spiritual practice as a way to avoid learning from and taking responsibility for your feelings. Anything that is used to avoid feeling and taking responsibility for your feelings becomes an addiction – whether it is alcohol, drugs, food, TV, work, gambling, spending, shopping, anger, withdrawal…or meditation, prayer, or yoga. If, when a difficult or painful feeling comes up, you immediately go into meditation or prayer in the hopes of blissing out and getting rid of the feeling, you may be addicted to blissing out spiritually – with using your meditation as a spiritual bypass.
It all depends on what your intent is when you are meditating or praying. People can meditate and pray for two totally different reasons: to avoid pain or to learn about love.
If you are meditating and praying to connect with yourself and your spiritual guidance in order to learn more about loving yourself and others, then meditation and prayer are good ways to get out of your head and into your heart. These are good ways to connect with a loving part of yourself so that you can welcome and embrace your painful feelings and learn what you may be doing or thinking that is causing your own pain. When your intent is to be loving to yourself and take responsibility for your own feelings, then meditation and prayer can help you become centered and compassionate enough to do an Inner Bonding process.
However, if you are using meditation or prayer to bliss out and avoid your pain, you are using your spirituality addictively. You are using your spirituality to bypass learning about and taking responsibility for your feelings.
This is what Lawrence was doing. Because he was avoiding learning from his feelings, he was continuing to think and behave in ways toward himself and others that caused him to feel depressed. Then, instead of exploring what he was doing that was causing his soul, his feeling self – his inner child – to feel depressed, he was meditating and praying to try to get rid of the feelings, and teaching others to do the same.
In his work with me, Lawrence discovered that he was constantly either ignoring his feelings or judging himself. The combination of ignoring his feelings – which he did primarily through meditation – and judging himself resulted in his inner child feeling unloved, unimportant, and unseen. Lawrence saw that if he treated his actual children in the way he treated himself – ignoring their feelings and constantly judging them – they would also feel badly and maybe depressed. But Lawrence did attend to his actual children’s feelings and needs. It was his own that he ignored and judged.
Lawrence realized that he was treating himself the way his parents had treated him. He was a much better parent to his children than his parents had been with him, but he was parenting his own inner child the way he had been parented. He was not only treating himself the way he had been treated, he was treating himself the way his parents had treated themselves. As a result, he was not being a good role model for his children of personal responsibility for his own feelings, just as his parents had been poor role models for him. And his teaching was not in integrity.
In the course of working with me, Lawrence learned the Inner Bonding process. He learned to welcome his painful feelings during meditation. He learned to quiet the self-judgmental part of himself and to treat himself with caring and respect. He learned to take loving actions on his own behalf so that his inner child no longer felt abandoned by him. It was the inner abandonment that was causing his depression. He discovered that his depression was actually a gift – a way his inner child was letting him know that he was not being loving to himself. With practice, Lawrence learned to take loving care of himself, and his depression disappeared. Now his meditation practice was no longer a spiritual bypass.
Lawrence learned to include some of Inner Bonding into his teaching, so that he was also helping the people he was teaching take responsibility for their feelings. He was now walking his talk.
If you have been involved with spiritual teachers who seem to be in their head rather than in their heart, consider that these teachers are not walking their talk. If you can’t feel their inner peace and joy, consider finding a different teacher.
A member of Inner Bonding Village wrote this about her experience with some of these teachers:
I used to belong to a spiritual community, a place where I would go to weekly healing circles. This community also regularly invited supposedly highly enlightened spiritual teachers to come and give talks and workshops. Each one had dedicated years to their spiritual practices, and each offered the way to true enlightenment and connection with God. At first, I would wonder what was wrong with me, because everyone else seemed so enchanted and I clearly was not getting it. Indeed, I have had this experience repeatedly over the years. Gradually, I realized that what was true of each of these teachers was that I could not “feel” them at all. They were not present. If that was where their practice would lead, it was not something I could believe in.
We cannot walk our talk if we are devoted to avoiding the truth – the truth of our feelings, the truth regarding whether we are loving ourselves, loving others, and whether others are loving us. Author Martha Beck said “No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.” Truth is food for the soul. But if you are not walking your talk, you are not living in your truth, and if you are not told the truth and living your truth, it may be hard to truly walk your talk.
Are you brave enough to listen within to your truth of how you really feel? Do you have the courage to hear the truth from your higher guidance? Do you want the truth from others? It takes courage and bravery to open to truth so that you can walk your talk with integrity.
How did we come to believe that it’s better not to tell the truth or hear the truth – that the truth hurts too much, and that we and others can’t handle it?
Granted, the truth can be very painful. But not nearly as painful as finding out the truth too late to deal with it or finding out that you were lied to.
Truth is essential for trusting yourself and your guidance. One of my clients, Rebecca, always felt that she somehow didn’t belong in her family. When she was 19 years old, her mother finally told her she was adopted.
“I felt so many feelings at once that I was overwhelmed,” she told me, “I was enraged at not being told and believing all these years that there was something weird about me because I wasn’t like anyone in my family. I asked my mother when I was eight years old if I was adopted and she denied it. I felt betrayed that I was lied to, and I felt relief at finally knowing a truth that I had felt in my soul. I felt scared about what all this meant, and I felt so angry that my inner truth had been denied and discounted, which has led to a lack of trust in myself. I felt excited about the prospect of finding my birth parents. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had been told the truth from the time I was little.”
Knowing the truth gave Rebecca what she needed to begin to learn to be herself and walk in truth.
Matt had always had a very hard time with his father. He couldn’t relate to him, and always felt that he was being treated differently than his younger siblings. Matt was 25 when his father died, and his mother finally told him that his father was not his biological father – that she had met his stepfather 16 months after Matt was born.
“Hearing the truth put so many pieces of the puzzle into place for me,” Matt said to me. “My mother said she didn’t tell me because my father didn’t want her to, and because she didn’t want me to feel different than the other children. But not being told caused so much confusion for me. I would have given anything to have known the truth all along.”
My experience with not being told the truth was one of the most painful experiences in my life.
My angry, narcissistic mother and I always had a difficult relationship. Nevertheless, my parents assured me that I, as their only child, was the primary beneficiary in their will. While they were not wealthy, they had worked hard and were well off, so there were substantial funds to be distributed.
My mother had always been angry at me for being me, for walking my talk in my life and my work, but I thought in her later years she had mellowed. Unbeknownst to me, she continued to be angry, and as a final angry act, she disinherited me, leaving almost all their money to my children without telling me. To the end, she lied to me that all was fine.
I found out about all of this only after she died. I was devastated – not by the fact that she gave the money to my children, as she had every right to give it to whomever she wanted, and I was glad for them – but that she lied to me. She knew that I hadn’t worried much about my retirement, because she led me to believe I would receive their money for my retirement. At 65 years old, I had to start addressing an important part of my financial life, that I had believed was taken care of.
Even as I write this, I still feel the heartbreak and grief of being lied to. The truth would have been so much better.
We also need to be honest with ourselves about telling our truth. Truth can enhance or destroy a relationship, depending upon your intent. Deciding whether or not you choose to speak your truth needs to come from your own honesty with yourself about why you would speak your truth.
There are times when telling your “truth” is unloving. For example, you might not be wild about what your friend is wearing, but if your friend is giving an important presentation and asks you how he or she looks, it would not be in anyone’s highest good to give your opinion. Opinions are generally judgments and rarely contribute to the good of a relationship. It is therefore very important to distinguish between opinions and truth. Too often, just because we think something is true, we assume that it is true. However, truth is a fact, not an opinion. If I am hungry, that is a fact, but how you look is my opinion.
There are times when someone might be having a hard time, and it is not fun to be around them. For example, your friend has lost a beloved person to death, and your friend is in mourning. It is not fun for you to be around the grief and stress, yet telling your friend that it doesn’t feel good to be around him or her would not be loving or supportive to your friend. It is very important, when telling our truth, to distinguish between being loving to ourselves and others – having our own highest good and the other’s highest good at heart – and making another responsible for our feelings. Telling another that, “I’m upset because you’re tense and it doesn’t feel good to be around you,” indicates a lack of empathy and that you are making the other responsible for your feelings.
Therefore, the important thing in telling your truth is to be honest with yourself about your own intent in telling your truth. Are you truly being loving to yourself and others and walking your talk, or are you using your truth to control another and make him or her responsible for you? Are you speaking your truth to enhance the relationship, or to get the other to change?
There are many times when speaking your truth is in your highest good and the highest good of others. Yet many of us have much difficulty speaking our truth to others, especially to important others such as parents, siblings, close friends, co-workers, and a partner. We are afraid the other person will be angry or hurt by our truth, even when we state it without judgment or blame. So we say yes when we mean no, say things are okay when they aren’t, avoid difficult topics of conversation, pretend to enjoy something, such as food, sex, a movie, the topic of conversation, or the way we are spending time, to avoid upsetting another. We may continue to tolerate things that are intolerable to us to avoid a conflict. When we don’t have the courage to be honest with these kinds of issues, we are not walking our talk.
Withholding our truth can be a form of control, just as telling our truth can be a form of control. We may want to control how another feels about us and treats us. We want to make sure we don’t get attacked or rejected. Often, I hear my clients say, when I encourage them to tell the truth, “I can’t say that. He or she will get mad.”
Yes, he or she might get hurt or mad. Yet courage may mean the willingness to speak your truth anyway and learn to deal with the other person’s response. This is about practicing Inner Bonding and developing your loving adult – learning to not take the other person’s behavior personally, learning to stay solid in your truth and allow the other person to go through whatever he or she has to go through in response to your truth without taking responsibility for the other’s feelings.
Avoiding the other’s hurt and anger is only one part of the challenge regarding walking your truth in relationships. The other part is that you may be unwilling to know the truth regarding whether or not that other person cares about what is important to you. If, for example, you tell your partner that you are unhappy with a particular aspect of your sex life, and your partner gets hurt or angry instead of wanting to understand, you might feel even worse. It feels awful to speak your truth and receive an uncaring response. The deeper feelings are of gut-wrenching loneliness, heartbreak, and helplessness over the other person’s lack of caring. It is deeply painful to share something that is important to you and receive an uncaring response.
So, not only may you be afraid of dealing with another’s anger, but if you have not practiced Inner Bonding and know how to manage the deeper existential painful feelings of life, you may be even more afraid of the painful feelings of being uncared about. Until you are willing to know the truth of whether or not the other person really does care about what is important to you, you may avoid speaking your truth, thereby avoiding the integrity of walking your talk.
Also, when you withhold your truth to avoid conflict and avoid feeling uncared about by another, the consequence is that you may feel alone and maybe depressed because you are not caring about yourself, and not walking in truth. When you don’t stand up for yourself, you may end up feeling unimportant, regardless of how others treat you. You cannot ignore yourself and feel good inside.
The question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I willing to give myself up to avoid losing others, or am I willing to lose others rather than lose myself?” I have found that losing myself is never worth it. If I lose others as a result of speaking my truth and walking my talk, then I have to accept the truth that those people never had my highest good at heart anyway. People who care about my highest good applaud me when I speak the truth that supports my highest good. People who care about me support me in living my truth and my integrity. Those who just want to use me in some way will get angry or hurt at my truth, and that lets me know the truth about their intent.
Therefore, you need to be willing to know another’s truth regarding whether or not that person really cares about you in order to tell your heartfelt truth. Let’s say that you say to your partner, “It is not tolerable for me to be around you when you are drinking because I feel shut out and disconnected from you. It is just too lonely to be with you when you are drinking, so when you are drinking, I will go do something else.” If alcohol is more important to your partner than you are, then the response may be, “That’s your problem, not mine. Stop blaming me for your feelings. Stop trying to control me!” If you are more important to your partner than alcohol, then your partner will address the issue and get some help with the problem. The question is, do you want to know the reality of the situation? Are you prepared to take loving action for yourself if you discover that your partner really doesn’t care about the effect his or her behavior is having on you?
You will have the courage to speak your truth when you have the courage to know the truth about any given relationship. What if you say to your best friend, with the caring energy of the intent to learn, “I often feel judged by you and it doesn’t feel good, and I’d like to understand what this is about for you,” and your best friend gets defensive and tells you it’s all your problem. What are you going to do if your best friend consistently responds in an uncaring way? Are you willing to lose someone who you have believed was your best friend, or are you going to avoid telling the truth to avoid knowing the truth? Are you willing to feel the loneliness if you find out that someone you thought cared about you really doesn’t, or do you want to go on pretending that real caring exists?
It takes great courage to tell the truth and discover the truth. We often kid ourselves into thinking that avoiding others anger and hurt is a loving thing to do. We justify our behavior by telling ourselves that it’s just that we don’t want to hurt or upset others, or that we just don’t want to deal with another’s hurt or anger. Yet avoidance may not be loving to ourselves or to others. Are you willing to sacrifice your own integrity to avoid the pain of conflict and loneliness? To me, nothing is worth a loss of integrity, of not walking my talk, not even the loss of another.
When you practice Inner Bonding and really tune into how you feel when you withhold your truth to protect yourself from conflict and loneliness, you will discover that honoring yourself by telling your truth, without blame or judgment, is deeply empowering. You will feel on top of the world when you finally have the courage to speak your heartfelt truth when your intent is to support your own and others’ highest good. Then you will be living in truth and integrity and walking your talk.
I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:
- And, How to Become Strong Enough to Love: Creating Loving Relationships Through the Six-Step Pathway of Inner Bonding
And we have so much to offer you at our website at https://www.innerbonding.com.
And, if you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.