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Spiritual Bypassing and Talking To Your Black Clients

Something I've noticed in the healing space is the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing. We want to make people feel better about themselves and their situations. We want to help them make a change in their lives. It's understandable that you can get into the practice of putting the responsibility on the client to make a change. But in certain situations it can be harmful.

We're used to speaking to clients in a certain way that allows them to put the power back in their hands. When we do that we make them responsible for their feelings and their perspective of a situation. But with racism and other traumatic acts... that kind of thinking isn't helpful. It can end up being a bit gaslight-y because it tells the client "what you experienced is solely based off of your perception of the situation. If you just choose to think that it wasn't that bad, you wouldn't feel so upset by it." I doubt that's the message you're going for.

When your Black clients come to you with an issue about race or racism, please understand that it took that person a lot to even trust you enough to have this conversation with them. Also note that more likely than not, they're already dealing with feelings of shame and frustration about their experience. The last thing they need is for someone to make them feel like what they experienced was all in their head, which is what that type of coaching can do to them.

So what should you do instead? Help them process what they experienced. Hold the space for them to openly and honestly talk about what they went through and how they felt. Acknowledge how difficult the experience must have been and validate the feelings of pain, shame and frustration that go along with it. Don't try to force them to look at the situation a different way. Allow them to experience the situation as it was and help them work through their feelings. Take a step back.

Here is an amazing article on spiritual bypassing and racism. If you notice yourself doing these things or if you have some resistance to changing up how you coach clients in this situation, check in with yourself. What thoughts are you having about your client? What thoughts are you having about the story they're telling you? What are you making it mean about you? Going through that may unlock the deeper work you may need to do with yourself.

If this is something you used to do, try not to take a deep dive into guilt. You're here and you're willing to learn. Now that you know what to do, just put those changes into action.

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