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Addiction to Spirituality

By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

Lian had been meditating for many years before consulting
with me for his depression. He had been part of 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
 peace he sought.

Yet Lian was depressed. "I have faithfully practiced what
I've had been taught, so why am I still depressed? What
 am I doing wrong?"

Lian was suffering from what is called "spiritual bypass."

Spiritual bypass occurs when people use their spiritual
practice as a way to avoid dealing with and taking
responsibility for their feelings. Anything that is used
 to avoid feeling and taking responsibility for feelings
 becomes an addiction – whether it is alcohol, drugs, food,
 TV, work,gambling, spending, shopping, anger, withdrawal…and
meditation. If, when a difficult or painful feeling comes
up, you immediately go into meditation in the hopes of
blissing out and getting rid of the feeling, you may be
addicted to spirituality.

It all depends on what your intent is when you are
meditating. People can meditate for two totally different
reasons: to avoid pain or to learn about love.

If you are meditating to connect with yourself and your
spiritual Guidance in order to learn more about loving
yourself and others, then meditation is a good way to get
out of your head and into your heart. It is a good way 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 can
help you become centered and compassionate enough to do an
inner exploration with your feeling self.

However, if you are using meditation 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 Lian 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 feeling self, his inner child, to feel
depressed, he was meditating to try to get rid of the

In his work with me, Lian discovered that he was constantly
either ignoring his inner child – his feeling self – or he
was in self-judgment. The combination of ignoring himself –
which he did primarily through meditation – and judging
himself resulted in his inner child feeling unloved,
unimportant, and unseen. Lian 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 Lian did attend to his
actual children's feelings and needs. It was his own that he
was ignoring and judging.

Lian 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 in 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 a poor role
model for him. 

In the course of working with me, Lian learned the Inner
Bonding process that we teach. 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 action in 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, Lian learned
to take loving care of himself and his depression
disappeared. Now his meditation practice was no longer a
spiritual bypass.


Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and
co-author of eight books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me
To Be Loved By You?" and "Healing Your Aloneness." She is
the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding healing
process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her web site for a
FREE Inner Bonding course: or Phone Sessions Available.

What tree did YOU fall from?