When life hands you lemons...don't be tempted to spiritually bypass!

awakening reflection (blog post) reframing Dec 18, 2021
Image of lemons and lemonade, symbolizing that while life hands you lemons, true growth requires understanding the lessons within, avoiding spiritual bypassing

By Dr Shuna Marr

After last week's blog post about how I reframed my experience of a flat tyre, several people said something similar to me:

“I love how you always look on the positive side.”

“I love how when life gives you lemons you make lemonade.”

This made me pause, because there’s a style of spiritual bypassing called 'over-optimism' and I wanted to explain how what I did differed.

Spiritual bypassing was coined by John Welwood in the early 1980s as:

"The use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid confronting uncomfortable feelings, unresolved wounds, and fundamental emotional and psychological needs"

In other words, avoiding the essential, messy side of spiritual growth.

Over-optimism is the practice of jumping straight to seeing a situation in a rosy glow with out actually addressing what it was about.

People who are doing this sort of spiritual bypassing often use maxims like:

  • Always look on the bright side
  • Be the light
  • Always focus on the positive

These kind of phrases have their place, of course - but while reframing like this can be really useful in some situations, you have to be careful not to let it lead you to bypass what the situation was actually showing you.

In other words, not let it make you suppress the emotions coming up and not deal with them because 'spiritual people' are supposed to always see the silver lining, aren't they?

Now there always will be a silver lining, a blessing

- because that’s what we are being led towards - but we can’t jump straight to the end and miss out the middle bit. That's where the bypassing comes in. 

I have come across the idea that, if you are on your spiritual path, you must jump straight from identifying the problem to seeing the blessing in it. Like, we can’t be allowed to see into our darkness, and that spiritual people shouldn’t get angry or be sad.

But soul growth doesn’t come from just perpetually seeing the bright side of things.

Soul growth comes from processing the wound, the false belief, the restrictive practice that the situation was showing you.

A lot of our true and authentic self is hidden beneath a blanket, or veils, of false beliefs, wounds, conditioning and patterning that’s imprinted on us.

The spiritual growth path is about lifting off these veils, layer by layer, to reveal our true selves.

Ultimately we are working towards embracing all aspects of ourselves - seeing no aspect of ourselves as good or bad, right or wrong - but seeing it all (light and dark) as a perfect expression of our true self...

… and we don’t get to the core of our authentic self by ignoring, pushing away, or bypassing, the veils that cover us, when they come up to be seen and released.

To get back to my example from last week about the flat tyre:

I told you that I was in resistance to the flat tyre that was scuppering my weekend plans. The emotion was coming up - I was fighting the situation. I felt heavy and realised that I was out of alignment.

That was the recognition.

Then, perhaps in the way I explained it, it looked like I just immediately reframed it and jumped to the blessing - but I realise that I’m so used to doing this now I didn’t explain fully what I did.

All the steps of the process I went through.

When you reach the surefooted pathfinder stage, you’ve become so expert in internal processing that it becomes second nature and is done very quickly.

I fell into the trap of not explaining the processing that took place. 

When I was much earlier in my journey, the confusion and processing that would arise from a triggered wound might take weeks or days to work through. Now the processing now can take minutes or seconds.

But I still DO go through the processing.

There are a series of questions I ask myself:

  • Where is the resistance?
  • Where am I abandoning myself?
  • How can I honour my needs in this situation?
  • What stories am I telling myself?
  • What am I making this mean?
  • What is the wound or false belief I need to release here?

And in that situation I did go through my processing repertoire to which the agitation and feeling heavy had alerted me.

And because I'm adept at this inner processing, the answers came very quickly:

I saw that I was in resistance to the reality of the situation and was trying to fight it.

I saw that this would lead me down a path I didn’t want to go - I’d be better served by staying in the cottage and relaxing than traipsing around the Scottish Borders looking for a tyre shop open on a Saturday afternoon.

The underlying motivation was the belief that I needed to be 'doing' and that what I had planned was what needed to happen.

And when I saw that false belief for what it was - an old pattern of always needing to be doing and be in control to feel safe...

... and when I released that expectation, I felt the relief in my body.

My body went from being heavy and feeling like my feathers were ruffled, to instantly feeling light and relaxed.

I leaned into what I was being offered and was shown that going with the flow was, on this occasion, for my highest good.

Now let me just say...

I’m not advocating that ‘going with the flow’ is a catch-all a maxim to live by either - as ‘going with the flow’ can sometimes be interpreted as ‘don’t fight your situation’ - and that’s not the case, because sometimes we do have to fight.

Sometime we do have to be the one who stands up to things and set boundaries and go against the flow of the masses…

but sometimes we do have to release accept and surrender.

Only you will know what feels right in any situation, in any moment.

Your inner guidance will steer you and use your emotional guidance system to show you what feels right for you.

Each situation and path will be unique to you and your awakening journey and only your internal guidance will be able to tell you what’s right for you in any particular circumstance.

And so that’s why connecting in with, and learning to trust your inner guidance, is such a vital skill to learn.

So that when life hands us lemons, we remember that we haven’t got lemonade until we go through the process of squeezing them to extract the juice.


Curious to dive deeper into your spiritual journey? Here are ways to work with us:

1. Explore our comprehensive range of 1:1 services designed to empower you on your path of spiritual awakening

2. Find community and support in our low cost membership Ascension Pathfinders Adventureland

3. Discover a wealth of transformational opportunities awaiting you on our ‘everything’ page, giving an overview of our range of courses, workshops and personalised coaching packages.