Spiritual Bypassing in the Plant Medicine World

Spiritual bypassing is a common risk in psychedelic healing. Join Nina Izel to identify and avoid spiritual bypassing.
Spiritual Bypassing. Top-down view of hands above a white surface. The left hand on the right of the image, which has an out of focus wide bracelet on the wrist (pearl and silver) is open, facing up. The right hand in the middle of the image which has beaded bracelets on the wrist (one with black beads, and one with blue evil eye beads) is holding psilocybin capsules.
Author: Nina Izel
By Nina Izel
October 25, 2022(Updated: February 12, 2024)

Spiritual bypassing is a common risk on the path of psychedelic healing. Join Nina Izel as we learn how to identify – and avoid – the pitfalls of spiritual bypassing.

Psychedelic plants like Ayahuasca can be powerful allies in our healing and awakening journey. However, they are not magic pills. As much as they can help you to heal and be free, they also can magnify your ego and further trap you in your shadow aspect.

Set and setting are the two major factors contributing to the quality and outcome of your psychedelic experience. Responsible preparation and supported integration are crucial to get the most out of your journey and to create a safe container.

To stay on your higher path while working with psychedelics, it is vital to understand that you are the healer, and the plants are powerful allies to aid you in your healing journey. Healing is a participatory process where you play the most crucial part. You are the one who can face your shadow and take action to change your life. Only you have the power to do that. You are the healer.

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The Basic Misunderstanding

One of the major pitfalls on the psychedelic path is the assumption/misunderstanding that the plants heal you and there is nothing you have to do apart from consuming the sacred plants.

This is a typical attitude, by the way, because in the West, we are conditioned to believe that there is a pill for everything and that taking a pill will resolve every situation. This is a very powerless position where you say it is not in my power to help myself, so I need something/somebody outside of me to support me.

When you work with sacred teacher plants like Mother Ayahuasca, She guides you back to your power and expands your awareness to see where you need to let go and heal. She helped me to recognize my own power and trust my ability to heal. She allowed me to see the pain and the fear I was holding and encouraged me to let go. But She didn’t do it for me. She taught me how to do so.

Life is a process of healing, learning, and awakening as we slowly remember who we truly are. It is an ongoing process. Plant medicines can teach us to embrace and navigate this journey without suffering. I am still learning…)

1. Avoiding Deeper Healing Work via Spiritual Bypassing

  • Spiritual bypassing
  • Spiritual ego
  • God complex, Savior complex
  • Arrogance

A major red flag on the psychedelic path is when you start to believe that you have completed your healing path, learned everything you could, dealt with all your issues, and now you are complete and better than others. You think you know what’s best for somebody more than they know themselves.         You feel it is your moral duty and obligation to help save others, and you believe that you have the power to do that, even without request or consent. You think nobody is above you, and you don’t need anybody apart from the plant medicine to support you on your healing journey. You believe you don’t require any more healing.

2. Obsession With Plant Medicine Healing

  • Obsession, compulsion
  • Victim mentality
  • Lack of joy

The other polarity of the same form of spiritual bypassing would be the obsession with healing and plant medicine, based on the belief that you must be fully healed to be loved. This expresses a basic, limiting belief that most people have: “I am not good enough to be loved.” This is a typical example of when a fundamental limiting belief will change to align with our new spiritual values and beliefs. But in essence, the underlying dynamic stays the same and keeps you in a state of dissatisfaction and compulsive consumption.

In this case, you are utterly obsessed with your healing, which takes your life’s focus. You are always in a deep process and talk about your healing journey all the time. You go from ceremonies to retreats, from one plant medicine to another, and you are losing touch with the simple joy of this life. You identify yourself as a disease or trauma survivor. You believe everybody should do what you are doing. That your way is the only way to heal.

3. Misuse of Plant Medicine as Spiritual Bypassing

  • Abuse, misuse, escape
  • Avoidance, denial
  • Addiction

Another way spiritual bypassing can show up is by abusing sacred plant medicines.

It is not true that you only need more medicine, as some people say or believe.

On the contrary, the more healed and whole you are, the less medicine you need. Eventually, you don’t require any medicine. The purpose of every great teacher, including teacher plants like Ayahuasca, is to empower the students to find their teacher and power within. Anything that you depend on long-term is a crutch and eventually will be an obstacle to your healing.

Spiritual Bypassing. A massive tree with extensive roots in a park. The coloring is Autumnal. In the foreground of the image are stones balancing in the formation of balancing scales.

When you experience this shadow aspect, you feel you need the medicine to be ok and face your everyday life. As the afterglow wears off after the ceremony, you start to feel ‘called’ again to sit with the medicine. Instead of surrendering to the discomfort and facing your issues, you keep drinking more medicine and stay on that medicine high.

You proudly count the number of ceremonies you attend and tell others about it like a competition. You believe that the more medicine, the better. This use of sacred plants renders them a kind of spiritual painkiller. You feel you don’t need any integration or conscious healing work, just another ceremony. Meanwhile, in real life, you are stuck and struggling with falling back into your old patterns.

4. Lack of Grounding

  • Lack of balance between material and spiritual life
  • Withdrawal, isolation
  • Ungrounded, disembodied

Misusing plant medicine can lead to uneven development and imbalance of the Self. When you avoid doing your healing work and focus on developing your spiritual gifts and extra-sensory perception, you open your higher energy centers (chakras 5,6,7) while bypassing clearing and balancing your lower centers (chakras 1,2,3). As a result, you become increasingly ungrounded and live in your spiritual world.

In this state, you feel you have gone beyond the earthly plane and its lessons now that you are more awakened and spiritual. You feel less present and less connected to your physical body and this reality. You start to withdraw more and more from friends, family, and, eventually, from society. You become more solitary and only connect with people who are on a similar path, aligned with yours. You find it increasingly difficult to exist and operate in a more mainstream environment. You are only interested in spiritual things and other worlds. Meanwhile, in your real life, you struggle with money, sex, power, and unhealed relationships.

You can’t fully express yourself in this world when you are ungrounded and untethered. During my journey with Mother Ayahuasca, She taught me that I could not fly without roots. In other words, I am here because that is my purpose. I choose to be here and fully receive this experience we call life. I am not here to find my way to escape into a cozy corner and wait until it is all over; I am here to experience it all. And without grounding, without my connection with Mother Earth, I am unbalanced and disempowered. But when I am grounded and rooted here in this moment, in this reality, I can go and explore any reality because I am safe and anchored into Mother Earth.

“I am part of all things, and all things are part of me; I am here now.”

5. Further Shut Down and Spiritual Bypassing

  • Trauma, separation
  • Giving up on yourself
  • Isolation, inability to receive help

When you work with plant medicine in a sacred and responsible way with the intention of healing and awakening, you open, de-armor, and let down your guards and defenses to reconnect with the essence of who you truly are and fully receive the gifts of this life.

Is it possible to experience the opposite, be re-traumatized, and further shut down when working with these plant sacraments?

Sadly, it is. But I want to emphasize that this usually happens when somebody is not adequately prepared for the experience or if the ceremony setting itself is unsafe. An example of this would be being sexually abused by the shaman during, before, or after the ceremony. [Abuse is never your fault. If you have been abused in a psychedelic setting, Psychedelic Survivors offer support and resources.] This type of traumatic event can cause you to lose faith and trust in yourself and others and eventually give up on your growth and your healing path. It can engrain even deeper your dysfunctional behavior and cause you to isolate yourself and suffer alone with your struggles. It can lead to the inability to ask for help or receive any external support.

With proper preparation, which includes choosing a safe place for your plant medicine journey and having professional guidance and a supportive community during the whole process, you can often have a healing experience that serves your highest good.

You Are the Healer

So, how do you stay safe on the healing path and avoid pitfalls like spiritual bypassing? Keep doing your healing and self-discovery. Knowing your gifts and challenges makes it easier to notice when you walk off your path. Have a supportive community and professional support where you can truly be seen and be vulnerable. Have an open mind, but follow your heart, your intuition above all. Stay humble.

In the end, it is entirely up to you what path you choose to walk on and what kind of relationships you create with sacred plant medicines like Ayahuasca. There is light, and there is shadow. Sacred plant sacraments can magnify both sides. Let’s choose to walk in the light!

The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

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Author: Nina Izel
Nina Izel
Nina Izel is a healer, teacher, and author of the book: Heart Medicine, Ayahuasca Assisted Therapy and the Integration Process. Nina combines psychology, holistic healing tools and shamanic healing technologies to assist individuals to take back the power over their health and life. Nina's motto is "You are the healer and love is the medicine!" Learn more at Nina's website or her Psychedelic Support community group.

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