Practical Growth: A Self-Recovery Podcast

Your Spiritual Beliefs Aren't a Substitute for Mental Healthcare

August 11, 2023 Season 3 Episode 305
Practical Growth: A Self-Recovery Podcast
Your Spiritual Beliefs Aren't a Substitute for Mental Healthcare
Practical Growth | Self-Recovery
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Spiritual practices are all the rage right now, but some of them aren't leading people into the light. They're banishing people into the darkness of mental illness...

We've all seen the videos. People are in full-on spiritual psychosis, starting cults and forming extreme communities all over the world and the web. What is happening? Why are so many people turning away from reality to their detriment?

Some of it comes back to spiritual bypassing

It's easier to look to the sky than it is to go to a doctor, take medicine, or confront the trauma that damaged you. That requires looking inside and being accountable for the mess you find. A lot of people would rather dissociate through spiritual practices. 

Now is the time to skip this path and embrace a healthier one - mental and emotional healing. It's a rocky path, but a worthy one, and one we can only take hold of when we have a well-rounded toolbox of skills and coping mechanisms to support us. 

The Unconventional Therapists' Guide to Nothing
Two therapists over-analyzing everything and anything to make it all make sense in the...

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Practical Growth podcast with me, ebi Johnson. Author, nlpmp and cognitive reappraisal coach. This is the podcast created for people like you, people looking for more, more health, more peace, more happiness. Each week, I explore a new topic in pop psychology and help you build a better life and better relationships. Join me for special guests, exciting ideas and practical advice that you can use to improve your life from the inside out. Let's get into it. Hello, hello, hello again, my lovelies, it is me, ebi Johnson, your favorite podcast host, your favorite writer and your favorite cognitive reappraisal coach.

Speaker 1:

And we are back back, back at it again today with another great episode, still going strong, although I think that this episode has a pretty good chance of rubbing some of you the wrong way. Now, what do I mean? I think it's probably better explained to you if I kind of started the beginning and the thing that kind of hit me sideways in the back of the head that made me understand that we needed to sit down and have this conversation. Okay, and specifically, it was this I had posted something on Instagram the other day and then I scroll for a little bit to try to look for other people's posts and like them or share them or whatever. And for about the 10 minutes that I was scrolling, I was shown at least at least three advertisements for spiritual retreats. For spiritual retreats Now, normally I wouldn't look twice at this, but the majority of them seem to say some pretty kind of eye catching things, and those eye catching things were things like heal yourself in seven days, or three days to total mental and emotional peace, or 14 days in Alicante will dissolve the anxiety you're feeling. Essentially, what was happening was these organizations, which were quite luxurious, quite nice. They were saying come to us and in three to 14 days we're gonna completely heal your mental illness by just letting you sit by the pool, do some yoga, get some massages and we'll talk to you like this the whole time you're here. As nice as those things sound, it reaffirmed what we needed to talk about today, and that is spiritual bypassing, specifically the idea that your spiritual practices, that your spiritual beliefs, can be a complete substitute for actual mental and physical care.

Speaker 1:

This is a growing problem that we're seeing more and more, not just on social media, but offline as well. We're seeing this in the real world. We're seeing this in people who are flocking to either. There's nothing else to call her, but cult leader like Teal Swan, right, who uses some pseudo psychological knowledge combined with pseudo new age spirituality ideology to trap people in really kind of victimized places serving her and her ego. Right.

Speaker 1:

And it gets worse, because the real problem and the real reason that I wanted to talk to you guys about this and it's not flocking to cult leaders it is when you adhere to this idea that you can just throw yourself into spirituality, throw yourself just behind God, just meditate all the time, buy all your books, go to your retreats and that your mental health, all these issues that you have, all of these traumas that you can't get over, that they'll go away. It's unrealistic, it's impractical and it's making you more mentally ill. It's a trend that we've seen becoming more and more common place as people become more financially stressed, more socially alienated from one another and more kind of thrust into this hyper-individualistic thinking, this hyper-individualistic society, some of these narcissistic traits that we talk about. This I control everything, I am the boss, I am the main character that kind of mindset can then feed into. Well, I'm also the center of the universe and I can control the universe and I am the voice of God here on this planet right. It's not a big leap between those two kinds of mindsets or mentality. Now you combine that with people who, frankly, just don't have access because, a there's not enough people working in the mental health spaces to address these problems and, b there's too many people demanding services and C there's no funding for these things. And then, d we are in relative recession, financial crisis for a lot of people, you've got a perfect storm. People are starting to turn to the sky and their third eye for answers, when they should be marching into the office of a licensed psychologist. And then what do these spiritual beliefs tell them? It's like a Disney movie, right? You just do these steps, you hum these things, you chant these things, you meditate enough and it will all go away, it will all be fine.

Speaker 1:

But it so much of these new age spiritual practices that cause this spiritual bypassing and even you know you see this in like old traditional fundamentalist Christian households as well so much of it is based on mythology. It doesn't address the real, fundamental issues behind our mental illnesses, behind the mental health problems, the emotional problems that we have as human beings with physical body. Now I know some of you are about to turn the dial, right, you're like I'm not gonna tolerate this. I have a really strong relationship with my faith and you are not gonna get in between that because my faith has rescued me and that is not what I'm trying to do in any way, shape or form. Okay, I'm gonna say this several times throughout the episode, but spiritual beliefs are perfectly fine as a part of your self-care toolbox, right? As long as you're paying attention to the whole and not just that one tool, that one element in the box. You use all of your tool, but it can't be denied.

Speaker 1:

There are four big, big, huge reasons why you can't just rely on your spiritual practices. If you're trying to find some kind of mental and emotional stability especially if you have something like PTSD, cptsd, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, any of these things, right, you are not going to be able to just sit and meditate yourself well, sit and pray yourself well, or sit and Bible yourself well. That alone is not going to be enough to bring you that actual whole sense of peace that you're actually looking for. And this is why, number one, when you only focus on spirituality, you're completely ignoring the physiology of mental illness, mental and emotional distress. Okay, spirituality itself does not incorporate those elements, and here's what I mean so much. Just look at the. Let's just look at new age spirituality, right? What is the number one kind of tool that they use to tell you to heal things? It all focuses on thought, right? What you're thinking, how you're thinking, whether that's prayer or singing or coming up with affirmations, whatever it is, it's all about changing your mindset so that you feel more connected, so that you feel this, so that you feel that, and that is great.

Speaker 1:

But some of our mental health problems are physiological. They have to do not only with our thoughts and emotions, but with chemicals in our brains, with hormones that are made in our endocrine systems. Okay, just doing spiritual practices doesn't leave any room for you to repair your nervous system, right? Or to acknowledge the very real, very evidence-backed realities of how trauma and stress deteriorate the body over time. Okay, those things are all reality and, in fact, some of your mental illness, your anxiety, your depression, you know your tendency to land with CPTSD some of that's in your genes, personality disorders included. Some of you weren't going to get out of that, no matter how good you had it, because it was in your genes and it was just waiting to be triggered. Okay, spirituality unfortunately cannot acknowledge those things. It wasn't created to acknowledge those things. It wasn't even created in the time in the same arenas as that kind of scientific, evidence-backed knowledge. So that has to be acknowledged. Doing spirituality alone, it's ignoring the physiology, right, the physical elements of mental illness and mental and emotional distress.

Speaker 1:

The second big problem is that when you are just being super, super, super hyper-spiritual, you're avoiding the root causes. You're not spending the accurate amount of time looking back, taking the knowledge that you need and then moving forward with a trauma-informed place of knowledge. Right, that's not included. It's all about looking forward and changing your future and changing your relationships with other people and, again, those can be elements. But you have to confront, acknowledge, accept Childhood trauma, past abuse, neglect all of those things add up and they affect our physical bodies. Some people are going to need doctors in order to get the wiring in their heads right. Okay, that's just a fact. Some people may have to be on medication for the rest of their lives in order to just have normal interactions with the people that they love, and that is okay, that's okay. Healing, real healing, means facing up even to shit that we don't want to swallow, right, it's not pleasant, it's painful, it's uncomfortable. But avoiding the root causes is way more uncomfortable in the long term, and that's what getting lost in the sauce with spirituality can lead to.

Speaker 1:

Now, the third problem with this spiritual bypassing, or I like to call it spiritual dissociation, is that it preserves the status quo, and it absolutely does, and this is the one that really ticks people off. This really is the trigger for some people. Listen, a lot of people get seduced into new age spirituality because they feel like it's noble and good. Right, it feels virtuous, it looks really, really virtuous and progressive on the outside. Right, there's so many female yoga instructors. But the problem is that once you kind of dig beneath the surface with a lot of these quote unquote new age spiritual practices, you find that they work really, really well in preserving the status quo, which, if you look around, ain't great for a lot of people. Right, it's not really really good. And then, if you go back about 80 years, not really good then either. And if you want to go back another 150, still pretty rough, right.

Speaker 1:

Sexism, racism, genocide, all of it can be reinforced in populations who are spiritually dissociated right, and I'll explain to you how that happens. It works on a few different levels. First, that illusion of control that spirituality gives people. It depletes their empathy. It depletes their empathy and it pushes them towards narcissism. It encourages that spiritual person to think well, I used my brain and my meditation to fix my life. Why haven't you done it to fix yours? But not every shoe fits every person right. But they don't think that way anymore. They're so just sucked in and annihilated by this concept.

Speaker 1:

Individuals in these new age spiritual practices are not encouraged to see outside of themselves or to consider bigger systemic issues. Now here's the second level to that. A lot of these new age spiritual practices create and encourage what I call blissed out populations who are very comfortable being complacent. They're very checked out and they are real, willing to look past horrible, horrible things. And we can look at that in the terms of soul contracts. Right, go and look at a conversation happening in the comments of a soul contracts video and you will be absolutely horrified, especially when you see the parents talking about these soul contracts.

Speaker 1:

This element of spiritual practices teach that before you're born, you agree to everything bad that's happened to you, everything you agree to every person you meet, every bad thing that happens to you. Every good thing, but all the trauma, all that stuff. You agree to it because you want to learn from it so that when you die you can go up a level in some alien earth school. That's ultimately what the soul contract concept is. So why is that dangerous? Because it encourages people to look past racism, genocide and sexism. Right, because if you believe that everyone signed up for their suffering, then it's really easy to look at the suffering of someone in a concentration camp and go, oh, but they signed up for that. They just wanted. They wanted to learn. This is their journey. I shouldn't get in the way of their journey. Right, because this is going to make them better on the other side when they die.

Speaker 1:

And as if that weren't bad enough, this third level to this kind of preserving the status quo issue people who are checked out spiritually. They tend to get so absorbed and lost down their path of spirituality that they become distracted. They ignore the very obvious shortcomings in their thinking and also in the systems that exist to help save them from these moments of you know what borders on spiritual psychosis for some people. Okay, they stop looking at the failures of mental health care policies, they get disengaged and they're just focused on their religion, their beliefs, you know, thinking or connecting with their God enough to suddenly be magically healed and they get lost in that. So that's not good.

Speaker 1:

Now number four the last really big problem with this spiritual bypassing, this big issue, is the delusion. It encourages delusion. It attracts narcissists like moths to a flame. Spiritually obsessed people become narcissistic so quickly. Okay, and it's easy, because when you suddenly adopt the mindset that you, that you are so special that you can control the actual behaviors of people around you, the behaviors of the cosmos, that you are so ordained that you can predict how the universe will spin, when scientists who have spent their entire life studying the literal universe don't even know how most of it works, right, there is a certain amount of arrogance it takes to center yourself in the universe that way, and narcissists love it.

Speaker 1:

In new age spiritual practices they get to declare themselves a God, they get to declare themselves a goddess, they get to assume that they're at the top of this imaginary hierarchy that does nothing but alienate them from their true humanity, and it is dangerous as hell. It is so dangerous and so many people slip into it and that's why we see people like Teal Swan. That's why, over and over again, we've seen people like Jim Jones able to take advantage of people in this way, concrete their delusions, capitalize on their narcissism to feed their own narcissism and in the meanwhile, not actually help people with their mental health care. Because when you're concreted in delusion, when you're focused on predicting the movements of the universe and the cosmos, you're surely not regulating your emotions and learning how to tie that into your nervous system. It's just like absolutely crazy, and you see it over and over again.

Speaker 1:

I just saw it the other day. There was someone on there who said she was a half alien, half angel, specially chosen galactic senator hybrid that was sent from the galactic council to free the earth. Like that's delusional, that is delusional. And if this person had been balancing their spiritual practices with honest therapy, with a mental health professional, that delusion would not have been reached Right, because that professional would have gotten involved. There has to be a balance.

Speaker 1:

I don't think that you can really prevent this. I don't think we can really break the trend, even in ourselves, if we don't understand why this happens. Right? Those are all huge issues, you know. Avoiding the physiological realities, you know. Avoiding the root causes, concreting delusion. All those are big issues, but why? Why did that happen? Why do these people come to these points when they want to just completely bliss out and dissolve themselves in spirituality? Why does that happen?

Speaker 1:

Again, there are four core beliefs here. Number one it's easier. It's way, way, way, way easier to just adopt a spiritual practice and declare yourself a God and tell yourself one day I'm going to wake up magically healed. That's way easier than sitting in a psychiatrist's office week after week after week for a year or more on serious medication, spilling your guts about everything that's happened in your life. Right, that's hard. It sucks Because you have to face parts of yourself that suck, that they just suck. They're broken and they suck and you got to accept it so that you can be better. That's tough and a lot of people don't want to do that. They don't want to deal with triggers, they don't actually want to control their emotions, they don't actually want to do any work. They just want to wake up magically healed. And you know spirituality can promise that and true, reliable mental health care can't. Number two it happens because, again, illusion of control.

Speaker 1:

Humans love to feel like they're in control of nature. We love it. We love to think that we are top of the food chain. But here's the fact this planet is the top of the food chain and anytime it gets sick of us, we're gone. You could argue, we're already on the way out. Now, right, but spirituality doesn't teach that. Spirituality doesn't encourage you to go. Uh-oh, are we doing extinction? How could we improve this decline? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Spirituality says we will stop it. We will dominate nature, we will dominate the universe because we are so special and ordained that we are in control of the chaos. The chaos is us, we are the chaos. It's absolutely crazy, it is absolutely delusional, and that's why spiritual narcissists, you know, get on board. That spirituality gives us the illusion of complete and total control, when sometimes the best way to control your mental illness is to go and talk to somebody and get yourself on medication.

Speaker 1:

Number three dissociation, dissociation, dissociation, dissociation. Spirituality just provides another avenue for dissociation. Traumatized people start to feel safe, they can feel a sense of euphoria, a because they start to get away from the trauma, but B, because there's a lot of hypnotic talking. See, you guys don't know these things, but in NLP we talk a lot about this. There's a lot of hypnotic speech, hypnotic talking that's used, hypnotic phrasing in religious practices and spiritual practices which are specifically designed to trigger certain parts of your brain that make you feel certain ways which then make you feel more attached. So when you are doing certain spiritual practices and you're doing, let's say, a combination of meditation and breath work, there's a certain amount of euphoria. You might feel right, and that is because of chemical reactions that are going on in the brain and the nervous system, mostly from the breath work. But if you don't know that, because you're not getting proper mental health care and you're not having a balanced reeducation of yourself, then you go oh, this is euphoria, this is God coming down and speaking to me. It's not, you're a little bit dizzy because of the breath work resetting your nervous system and the oxygen fluctuating in your brain. Okay, it's, it feels nice. It is a better avenue of dissociation than doing the work.

Speaker 1:

And last but not least, that fourth big reason that people do this, the reason that they slide into this, is placing the blame. Spiritual practices are great, especially things like astrology, right, because then you can just say oh, it's in retrograde. I was terrible for the last two weeks because retrograde, maybe not. Maybe it was your hormones, maybe it was your mental health, maybe you've picked up some really nasty behaviors that you need to look in the mirror and take accountability for, but unfortunately, spirituality kind of lets people shoulder that off and keep going. So let's wrap it up then.

Speaker 1:

What are the best ways for us to find balance? That's what I've said over and over again through the episode. You got to balance it. You got to balance it. You got to balance it Because that's true, right, you don't have to be anti-spirituality. I'm not anti-spirituality, I'm not anti-religion, I'm not any of those things. You can believe whatever you want to believe.

Speaker 1:

Whatever helps you be more healthily and effectively introspective, that's fantastic, but you should have a whole toolbox of things that help you to be better mentally and emotionally, because your body and your mind are complex, interconnected systems and you have to treat all of them physical, mental and spiritual. If you're a spiritual person, you have to treat all of them, and spirituality alone cannot do that. So how do you find the balance? Number one split the time you dedicate. Okay, if you are serious about this, then you're not going to spend all of your time only chasing spiritual answers. You're going to go get yourself some help. You're going to go talk to somebody serious. You're going to figure it out and find the right help that you need to address things like the chemicals in your brain, your hormones and what's going on with your nervous system. You will balance that time if you're serious.

Speaker 1:

Now, number two paying attention to the big picture. Paying attention to the big picture, you understand that you cannot be your best spiritual self without being your best physical self. You understand that the chemicals and connections in your brain really have something to do with how you experience your life. Okay, and within that, you're able to then step back and question okay, question what you're doing and why Do the practices you're doing encourage you to lose empathy for others? Do these spiritual practices ultimately encourage you to spend more time thinking about your mental health and taking action to improve your mental health? Those are red flags and it might be a sign that that's not realistic. That's the big picture thinking. Now, number three, last but not least embrace your f***ing humanity.

Speaker 1:

People Embrace being a fricken human being. This is the number one problem that most people have when they come to me. They're trying not to be human. They're trying not to be human. They don't want to have any more negative experiences. They don't want to feel anything but happy emotions. They just want to have this weird numb, only happy thoughts kind of life, and that's just not even human.

Speaker 1:

Spirituality encourages a lot of people to think that they can be God, that they are God, and that's just an arrogant way to think. You shouldn't want to be a God, because a God has to be in charge of everybody. They control people inherently. And why would you want that dominion over others? Because that's what a God does. Right, they have dominion over others. Being a human is much better, but it's harder. Right, because to be a human is to feel the good and the bad. You get that bliss, but you are always, no matter how much work you do, going to still have to deal with negativity. Look at the world. The world is good and bad. It's not even good and bad, it just is right. We assign the good or bad to stimulus. We decide what that is being a human is to have all of it Joy and suffering. You're not going to escape that ever, no matter what your spiritual practices tell you or how much money you pay your gods. That's the trap of spiritual bypassing.

Speaker 1:

Okay, you need to embrace the fullness of your humanity if you want to stop being so overwhelmed by it. And that is my anti-sermon sermon for the day. Okay, hopefully you've all enjoyed it Again. Spirituality totally fine, totally fine is part of a well-rounded, balanced approach to life. Okay, it could be a great thing. It could be a great thing, but anything that totally consumes you not good. Not good. We can't put the whole weight of our mental health and our emotional health on spirituality alone. Okay, we sometimes need real treatment that treats the body as well as the mind. So, find the courage to be more balanced. Okay, don't let the spirituality get in the way of your mental and emotional needs. Acknowledge the physiological realities of living in a human body. Embrace it. Okay, embrace the journey.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for listening. If you loved the episode, please don't forget to go over to Apple Podcasts and leave a five-star review. Tell them what you loved, tell them what was helpful. It really helps other people to find this podcast and find the information that they need, because there is so much bad information out there. Thank you again for listening.

Speaker 1:

If you want to get coached by me, if you want to figure out cognitive reappraisal and NLP and how that can completely change all the stuff you've been running from then, go apply for coaching with me. The new term and my new program, my new course, is an eight to 12-week course, which you'll find out about when you apply, but that is starting September 6th September 6th, so I think there might still be a slaughter to laugh. So if you'd like to work with me, make sure you head over to therealedjohnsoncom and click on Working with Me to apply. Hurry, hurry, hurry, because these spots will go For everyone else. Thank you again. Keep following me on mediumcom, because it is getting, and make sure you're following me on TikTok and Instagram, too, at therealEBjohnson, on both of them. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, keep your heads up, keep your eyes on the stars and keep moving forward. Bye-bye.

The Pitfalls of Spiritual Bypassing
The Problems With Spiritual Bypassing
(Cont.) The Problems With Spiritual Bypassing
Finding Balance
Coaching Program and Application Information