By Katie Roche
I arrived at the secluded country retreat, leaving all connections to work, family and friends in the boot of my car. I’d been warned that there would be no communication with the outside world. No one would be allowed to immerse themselves in a fancy novel or inform themselves with a newspaper. We would be waking up at 7 am and finishing late each day. We wouldn’t have to do anything but give ourselves fully to the Hoffman Process. Deep down, I was scared stiff.
The Process is based on a theory called Negative Love Syndrome, meaning that everyone adopts behaviours from their parents, some that are positive, but many that are negative and get in the way of us having happy, fulfilled lives. Looking for attention; trying to please mum and dad; and being angry because of rules are normal behaviours for a child. For me, it meant rebelling against rules, feeling controlled and thinking nobody listened to me. As we get older, these childhood patterns still live in us and can become great obstacles in our lives. But what’s important to note is that nobody is to blame. Our parents’ negative characteristics were not their fault, they simply inherited them from their parents and so on.
Having spent hours filling out questionnaires about my emotional and psychological life, my family history and my history of trauma, I felt prepared. Sharing a house with strangers didn’t daunt me, but my expectations did. I was expecting something amazing. I left a note to myself in my drawer before I left. It said something like: ‘Katie, you are about to leave for The Hoffman Process. Whatever happens, all is well.’
My housemates were a mixed bag of something-professionals. There was the bossy man, the insecure and pretty high flyer, the secretive mother, and the lost girl – that was me. I discovered that one man thought me scatty and insecure at first, and another thought I was spoilt. “But you’re great now,” they said. We were all judging each other until we began to discover the pain in our lives. With that came understanding as we guided each other through the difficulties of discovering how our childhood experiences caused much of our current pain.
The Process uses powerful meditations and visualisations, as well as writing and drawing as we unravel our past. We were advised not to intellectualise everything. I had to let go of my normal behaviours and reactions, as did everyone else, and just believe there was method to the madness. I nearly walked out twice. But, by letting go, I discovered deeply rooted patterns that were preventing me from living a fulfilling life.
Visualising my own negative funeral was an eye-opener. I imagined all my friends, colleagues, ex-lovers and family shouting and laughing at my stupidity, how I couldn’t accept myself, how naive I was to life and all its follies. Horrified, I jumped out of that grave with pleasure, and vowed to myself that I would realise my potential, choose a different path and get more out of life.
The Process was an emotional rollercoaster ride. It was exhilarating, touching, depressing and fascinating. We had fires, danced, laughed and shouted. We bashed pillows. We cried buckets. We ate together with laughter and, at times, in a saddening silence. But once I retreated to my room, I’d have a giggle with my roomie who was my knight in shining armour. We’re now great friends.
Since the Process, the negative chatter in my head has lessened. My negative beliefs that developed from my past experiences are gone and I can now reach my stronger inner-self. I’m able to see my anxieties, and what they’re telling me, clearly. I had starved myself from having fun and enjoying my life for so long. The Hoffman Process has helped me open a can of goodness, full of opportunity and excitement. And I’m going to drink everything in that can till my belly is full. And if old, negative behaviours crop up, that’s OK. I’m aware of them now and what they do. And I now have the choice to do things differently. Through this awareness, I feel I’ve been given a map of how to live. And I certainly intend to use it.