Emotionally healthy spirituality

Spiritual bypassing is a concept I have come across many times. My personal interpretation is that it is when we “stuff away” our emotions and sweep them away in the interest of spirituality.

The other extreme is reckless indulgence in our emotions and treating them as the ultimate end-all-be-all.

How do we find a balance between the two, and how can we navigate our emotions consciously in a relationship with others, regardless of partner, family, friend or even just someone we pass on the street? One of the keys, methinks, is to treat people like people! Lol.. so simple yet so difficult to follow? More than consciously using people as things, I think we fall into the trap of unconsciously spreading our poison because of our own internal suffering… When we don’t know how to manage our difficult emotions, we lash out and seek to “fix” ourselves, to feel better, to put the blame on someone else to alleviate our pain, if only temporarily… Learning to sit with this discomfort is vital to our growth…

From Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero, recommended by my therapist!

I-It Relationships

In 1923, the great Jewish theologian Martin Buber wrote a brilliant but difficult to read book, called I and Thou. Buber described the most healthy or mature relationship possible between two human beings as an “I-Thou” relationship. In such a relationship I recognize that I am made in the image of God and so is every other person on theface of the earth. This makes them a “Thou” to me. Because of that reality, every person deserves respect – that is, I treat them with dignity and worth. I do not dehumanize or objectify them. I affirm them as having a unique and separate existence apart from me.

Buber argued that in most of our human relationships we lose sight of others as separate from us. We treat people as objects, as an “It” (to use Buber’s word). In the I-It relationship I treat you as a means to an end – as we might use a toothbrush or car.

What might that look like?

  • I walk in and dump my work on my secretary without saying hello
  • I move people around on an organizational chart at a staff meeting as if they were objects or subhuman
  • I talk about people in authority as if they were subhuman
  • I treat Geri or our children as if they are not in charge of their own freedom, dreams, autonomy; I expect them to be the picture I have of them in my head
  • I am threatened when someone disagrees with my political views
  • I listen to my neighbors’ problems and help them with chores around their house hoping they will attend the Christmas outreach at our church. They don’t… and I move on to someone else

The result of I-It relationships is that I get frustrated when people don’t fit into my plans. The way I see things is “right”. And if you don’t see it as I do, you are not seeing things the “right” way. You are wrong.

Recognizing the uniqueness and separateness of every other person on earth is so pivotal to emotional maturity. We so easily demand that people view the world the way we do. We believe our way is the right way.

I-Thou Relationships

True relationships, said Buber, can only exist between two people willing to connect across their differences. God fills that in-between space of an I-Thou relationship.


I won’t type up all of it here, but I thought the above was already quite enlightening and gives me much to work on. The Four Agreements I also find very helpful in guiding my actions in a way that expresses my personal integrity and values.

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