Spiritual Bypassing, Psychotherapy Bypassing, and Self-Help Bypassing

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April 30th, 2021

I fast-tracked high school and went straight to University. I was super naïve there, and got overwhelmed pretty quickly. I ended up taking philosophy, because I did not know what to do, and it seemed like philosophy could help out with that.

It did not help out with that. It just confused me more. It also depressed me. 

There was some good stuff in academic philosophy, but a lot of it was dry. I do like academic philosophers, but I didn't find much thumos in academic philosophy departments. The whole place had a neutered vibe. I was disillusioned. The philosopher, at least the disembodied academic kind, was not someone I was going to model my life after. 

Learning philosophy in academia felt like learning a history of ideas. I did not like that approach. I wanted to do philosophy, and apply it to my life, but everybody was endlessly going on about what Descartes wrote about 400 years ago. There was a moment when philosophy became real to me though, and it happened in a 2nd-year philosophy class when I heard about Thales and the olive presses.

Thales was a pre-Socratic philosopher who resided in the city of Miletus. He was a wise man, and many people gathered to listen to him speak. He was not wealthy though, and his clothes were humble. Some people could not see beyond his appearance, and his critics harshly dismissed him.

People should know better than to talk shit about a real philosopher. After hearing his critics, Thales probably wisely said to himself: okay fuck these guys, I am getting fuck you money. 

With the little money he had, Thales purchased all the olive presses, after accurately predicting a good olive crop was on the way, then when the demand was high he rented out the presses at a higher price. This gave him fuck you money. What a boss. 

Aristotle recounts all of this, and says that Thales's objective was not to get rich for its own sake, but to show the doubters of philosophy that philosophy can deliver. That story resonated, and it still resonates. This is about wisdom of course.

The many coaching sessions I am having in my practice, and the many conversations I am having with people at The Stoa, make it clear to me that there is a lack of wisdom about what to do.

Spiritual bypassing is one thing I see often as a response to this lack of wisdom. This is the term to describe people rushing into spiritual practices when they really should be looking at their psychological wounds, or perhaps just getting some practical shit done. 

There is also what I will call “psychotherapy bypassing.” This is when people do all these psychotherapeutic modalities, when maybe they should be engaged in deeper spiritual work, or yet again, getting that practical shit done. 

Then there is “self-help bypassing.” This is when people become self-help junkies, doing all these practical measurable things to “improve” themselves, but really should be focusing on more spiritual or psychotherapeutic stuff. 

Wisdom is the thing that can help tease these things out, and I do not think there is such a thing as “wisdom bypassing.” For sure, there is such a thing called “wisdom signalling,” I do that shit all the time here, but that is something else. I do not think you can bypass via wisdom, because wisdom is the thing that offers an opening for everything else. 

Perhaps, right this moment, the wise thing for you to do is …

Gun for awakening

Attempt to integrate your shadow

Gain more sovereignty

Refine your sensemaking

Cultivate virtue

Craft communitas 

Surrender into your dharma

Engage in systems change

Do activism for a noble cause

Get prepper ready

Go on an adventure

Find the others

Fall in love

Become a father or mother

Transform your life into an artwork

Win friends and influence people

Set some goals

Get things done

Look good naked

… and perhaps get fuck you money like our boy Thales did. Wisdom does not exclude any of these things, and it can afford all of these things. True philosophizing, not the neutered academic kind, allows one to bespokely know how one should live their life. 

We cannot do this kind of philosophy alone though. We need a wisdom commons for this. I see people talking about the need for a wisdom commons, but I do not see anybody attempting to create one.

What an opportunity.


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