There are a few reasons it’s hard to talk about the Hoffman Process itself. One, because all Process participants and graduates are under a confidentiality agreement saying we won’t discuss the others in our group. Two, because the element of surprise is such an important part of each day of the 7-day Process that we don’t want to give it all away! But we are given free rein to discuss our experience so I am going to attempt to do that as well as I can in this brief blog post.
As I said in my first post in this series, The Hoffman Process: Pre-Process Jitters and Why I Went, I went into the week with fear and uncertainty about what I was about to experience. This seems to be kind of the norm, in part because we really don’t know what we’re going to do. We have general guidelines given to us ahead of time, and we fill out 48 pages of pre-Process worksheets so we do have some awareness of our topics and what’s going to happen, but we don’t know how or what happens. Also, as Process participants we give up our phones and contact with the outside world for an entire week. This is in itself is kinda scary, but turned out to be so freeing too!
Hoffman’s founder, the late Bob Hoffman, wrote a pamphlet called A Path to Personal Freedom and Love (you can download it as a PDF or request a free printed copy HERE), which is an overview of the work done at Hoffman. In it, he wrote about what he calls “negative love patterns”, patterns we all develop, starting basically in the womb! These are patterns we either adopt or rebel against, learned from our parents, in order to gain their love and attention–the thing that every human being most needs and seeks, and so we ALL develop these patterns no matter how good of a person we are. These patterns are indeed negative as long as they are unconscious and in response or reaction to our need for love, and they hold us back from living our truest, best life. Fortunately, as he states, negative love can be transcended. The work of the Hoffman Process is designed to do just that, and to give us tools to keep transcending our negative patterns.
We do this through a four-step process:
Compassion and Forgiveness
Awareness starts with the pre-Process homework, those 48 pages of worksheets where I had the chance to look carefully at my past, my own parents and surrogate parents and myself. What patterns have I adopted or rebelled against? This work was super important in making me aware of oh yeah, I got this one and I do this and these things are all just patterns–they are not who I am. Doing the pre-Process work made me feel very compassionate for myself, and for that little girl I was who like all of us just wanted to feel loved and safe.
Awareness continues because once you’re aware of something, it tends to keep building on itself into more and more insights as you go along living life. Hopefully it leads you to Expression.
Expression is what we spend several days learning to do at the Process. In various ways, and through hard and extremely cathartic work, we expressed ourselves! All 40 of us students learned we were stronger than we ever thought we were. The power of 40 people, doing their own work but in a group together, was immense for me. I worked very hard at feeling supported and not judged for my self-expression. I felt very safe and was finally given the place and time to express emotions I’d carried for a very long time but had never felt safe or able to express. Emotions came up that I didn’t even know I had!
On day one or two, one of our teachers said these words which spoke so loudly to me:
“Anger in a child is a sign of hope.” ~Kani Comstock, Hoffman Institute Teacher and Coach
This gave me so much hope immediately! I sat up a little straighter and listened a little more closely. What could she possibly mean by that? Here’s a quote from Kani’s book Journey Into Love (Amazon link, non-affiliate), that fleshes it out a bit more:
“Children have a right to all their feelings. They have a right to be angry and express that anger toward their parents. The feeling of anger is a sign that something is wrong, that we have been hurt, that our boundaries have been violated. The expression of anger is a demonstration of hope that things can change.“
Wow! We all know anger, right? I’ve felt (and stuffed inside) a lot of anger since childhood, and I’ve seen a lot of anger come out of my children. And we’ve all seen the platitudes, and lived under the belief, that we must hide and control and do away with our anger (and grief, and sadness). And it doesn’t work. What we must do with our anger and all of our emotions is find a safe, non-harmful way to express them. And trust me, I got to do that at Hoffman!
And here’s what safely expressing my anger and sadness and negative emotions lead me to: JOY. I was so afraid that being aware of and expressing negative emotions would cause me to fall apart, to break, but instead what I got was much, much greater joy and lightness of being and ability to play and be in the moment. So much so that parts of Hoffman felt like the best days of my life. Oh, how I wish everyone could experience that feeling!
The other thing expression lead to, during the Hoffman Process, is Compassion and Forgiveness, step 3 and another place we spend a lot of time and do a lot of work. We work at forgiving ourselves, forgiving our parents and partners and all those people in our lives whom we need to forgive and for whom we can find deep compassion. Compassion feels like a deep new awareness, and forgiveness just feels lighter and freeing. I realized that I never knew how much crap I was carrying around and how much that crap was holding me back and burdening me.
Remember the scene in Disney’s movie Frozen where Elsa and Anna forgive the men who were after them in hopes of taking over the kingdom? I remember it clearly because they certainly forgave the men, but it wasn’t as if they forgot and let themselves be taken advantage of again (they sent them packing!). Too often I have seen forgiveness as weakness and giving in to mistreatment, when in reality it’s the strongest and best thing you can do for yourself. Setting the intention to forgive, working to forgive after allowing myself the full expression of ALL my emotions, freed my heart just like it melted the ice in Frozen.
This new freedom is surely what leads to the Hoffman Process’s fourth step, New Behaviors. This is the post-Process work that takes us back to our real life. At Hoffman we are given SO many tools to help us stay connected to ourselves, our body, mind, emotions and spirit (what Hoffman calls our Quadrinity). I am using those tools now on a daily basis. When I forget or get away from my visualizations or self check-ins, I feel it right away. The Hoffman tools are a huge part of why a person would choose to go to Hoffman. They go home with you!
As does your new Hoffman family–in the forms of an amazing connection to 39 other people (plus 5 teachers) who went through the Process with you. By the end of the Process week, much to my surprise, I felt so close to my fellow Hoffman students. We worked hard together and we experienced the lowest lows and highest highs together. Even though we each did our own work and only shared some things in both our large and small groups, we have a bond that is unequaled. We stay connected now via phone, email and Facebook and, hopefully soon, Graduate Reunions and local groups with other Graduates. Hoffman isn’t just one week of work–it’s a lifetime of new behaviors and JOY.
I am feeling that joy every day now, and in my next post I’ll talk some more about that.
See my first post here: The Hoffman Process: Pre-process Jitters and Why I Went
See my next post here: The Hoffman Process: How It’s Changing My Life