What is bypassing & why is it harmful?

Bypassing is used in both collectively and in our personal lives to avoid the stuff that will inevitably mean facing grief and our imperfections.


Picture of Emily Johnsson
Emily Johnsson
Nurturing changemakers for a whole world.

A mantra I often share with my clients is “I am imperfect and I am enough, and there is room for growth”. Without knowing this, we will not have the courage to self-reflect, receive feedback and DEVELOP in our emotional maturity. We won’t be able to lead ourselves better either.

Another thing I often share is a reminder that although grief can seem so dark and scary, it’s the place where new life is made.

I do this as an invitation to lean into what feels painful as a passageway to experience a greater sense of wholeness, instead of seeing what hurts as something to run from.

When we let go of bypassing as a pattern, we can enable breath and movement and new life-giving pathways to emerge in our lives.

Because to bypass is to avoid something that gives us a contraction in some way.

For a lot of my life, despite being a highly feeling person, I made myself so busy so that there was no time or space to be with emotions I believed would engulf me: shame, fear of being all alone in the world, the grief of being unloved.

Instead I swallowed them down hoping they would disappear.

Bypassing is a sign that we don’t want to face something that feels uncomfortable, such as the truth of a situation. It is therefore a form of denial.

When we are trying to run away from stark realities in our lives, we are often unable to let go, relax and engage in deep regeneration. Which is why bypassing and burn-out are sometimes, but not always, interlinked.

It often means we are rushing through our lives, not only feeling disconnected from the full range of our emotions, but life itself too.

In public debate, when something is bypassed, it is left out deliberately to avoid accountability. Being held to account is often seen as a place of judgement and shame rather than an opportunity to learn and grow.

Topics that are commonly bypassed in public debate are issues such as systemic racism, social injustice, ableism and the (extent of) climate breakdown. These are all different forms of abuse.

In New Age Spirituality, uncomfortable emotions and realities are often bypassed in the name of ‘love & light’, ‘positive mindset’, ‘keeping a high vibe’ and ‘unity’. Unfortunately, when we refuse to look at unjust realities and painful emotions, no deeper healing can take place.

Ignoring injustice, pain and our complicity in it, doesn’t make it go away. Pretending something doesn’t exist is a form of gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional violence, where we distort what is actually going on in order to manipulate others (and sometimes ourselves) who are experiencing a form of oppression that it doesn’t exist and they are making it up. All in the name of avoiding looking at the degenerative reality of power-over relationships.

In our own personal lives, this may mean that we bypass emotionally abusive behaviours from those close to us, as it is simply too painful to face the truth that they do not treat us right. This can keep us stuck in degenerative relationships for years.

The antidote to bypassing is practising self-acceptance and self-kindness.

As changemakers, we are here to look at issues head on, however uncomfortable they may seem. This is as true for our personal lives as it is for our contribution to society.

When we are held to account, or are nudged to sit with painful truths, we come face to face with both our imperfections, and with grief.

Only when we acknowledge and face the reality of a situation, can we begin to heal it. Deep healing is not going to be comfortable, but it will lead to a greater sense of wholeness.

Featured Posts

What is Wholeness? Embracing the fullness of life in all directions

Wholeness is a process that can support our capacity to lead ourselves well and move through life feeling more connected, resilient and free.

Emily Johnsson | November 25, 2023
Scroll to Top

About Emily & White Supremacy

Emily is a space holder and self-leadership coach to changemakers. She has over 20 years experience in the field of human development, learning and growth, and leads the coaching and consultancy company Wish Tree since 2011. Her work centres around wholeness – whole humans, whole communities, whole organisations, whole ecosystems. A whole world. Her changemakership is therefore dedicated to clearing distortions and fragmentations that relate to our perceptions of separation.

Emily has been exposed to and ‘sat with’ systemic issues around race, racism, privilege and injustice her whole life. She was born in Camden, London, in the late 1970s to a Swedish immigrant single mum and spent her first formative years in a highly culturally and ethnically diverse setting. As a baby, Emily and her mum lived in a bedsit in a shared house with a Black British family. Her first memory of Father Christmas was of him as a Bangladeshi man. Emily’s mum worked with refugee families and in Children’s Homes in inner city London, and since she had no access to child care opportunities, Emily joined her at work. For a while, Emily had an older Black British foster sister called Debbie. She was very often the only white child in the community of children of which she was a part.

Emily moved to Sweden with her mum as a child and as a teenager became involved with, and led, antiracism youth work in her local town through her school and council-initiated networks in the 1990s.

Her mum, who was active in the peace-and- environmental movement and who had been involved as an ally in the civil rights movement in the US on her travels there, introduced her to Black feminist and activist writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Audre Lord, and actively taught her about white privilege, white supremacy and the truth of colonialism. She was also taught about the importance of learning from Indigenous wisdom keepers in order to heal and evolve as humanity, and to (in those days) stop climate change.

In contrast, on her father’s side, Emily is of British Colonial descent. Emily’s grandmother was born in Zimbabwe to Scottish sheep-farmers. Her grandfather came from a poor English background but won a scholarship to Cambridge University to study law. As many young British men of his time who sought “adventure, a good job and travel”, Emily’s grandfather joined the colonial service in the final days of the British Empire, and served in several African countries as a high-ranking colonial officer. He spoke Zulu and Emily’s father spoke Swazi and Swahili before being sent to Britain as a child to attend boarding school, thousands of miles away from his parents.

Although Emily did not grow up with her father or his family, she eventually came to know them and have a relationship with them, which involved taking responsibility for understanding and healing her own familial and ancestral relationship to colonialism and white supremacy.

In this process, she came to see, feel and understand first hand and close up, the deeper psychological workings of the system of white supremacy, the colonial mind and its intimate links with narcissism, perfectionism, patriarchy and extractive economies and behaviours.

Between 2003-2015, Emily worked as a learning researcher and Access, Diversity and Inclusion enabler in the Arts & Cultural Sector, deeply rooted in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Convention. She worked across the U.K and Scandinavia contributing to a number of large scale change projects, self-evaluation initiatives, conferences and trainings such as “Access for All”, “Inspiring Learning for All”, “Belonging – the Voices of London’s Refugees”, “The West Indian Front Room”, “Kultur och Fritid för Alla”, “Vidgat Deltagande”, “In this curriculum I don’t exist”, “In between two worlds – London teenagers’ ideas about Black History, Belonging and being British” to name a few. She worked with a wide range of marginalised communities as well as with leaders and directors holding white privilege, facilitating necessary and brave conversations challenging the status quo.

Emily has worked across many cultures and languages around the world from Sri Lanka to South Africa, Costa Rica and India to Romania and Denmark, continuously reflecting on and challenging white saviour tendencies. In this process has come to observe how white supremacy and racism works differently in different countries depending on context and history.

In 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Emily became a loud voice in the Wellness industry by calling in leaders bypassing white supremacy through ‘love and light’ rhetoric, exceptionalism, colourblindness and virtue signalling. She closed down several online coaching circles because white participants were unwilling to dive deeper into their own internalised white supremacy, and rendered the spaces not only additionally unsafe, but traumatising for BIPOC clients. Her platform and large facebook community for coaches and wellbeing facilitators centred BIWOC-led anti-racism conversations as a response.

Emily is a skilled and fiercely loving coach and space-holder with many years experience of creating safe spaces for accountability, healing, integration and growth to take place.

She is dedicated to her own ongoing learning, healing and unlearning of covert white supremacy. Examples of this are continuous learning from a wide range of anti-racism educators, authors and activists from around the world.

This bio has not been written with the intention of centring Emily in the context of Me & White Supremacy, but to transparently share about her background, values, skills and experience in order for you to make a conscious decision to choose her as a space-holder, or not.

137 Seacoast Ave, New York, NY 10094
+1 (234) 466-9764
Excuisite food, unforgettable atmosphere...