I first heard about the Hoffman Process many years ago – perhaps I read about it in a Sunday paper. Certainly at the time (during my twenties) I read anything I could get my hands on regarding depression, so desperate was I to find ways of staving off the moods that frequently descended upon me, without recourse to medication. It came up again in 2011 – there must have been another article in the media. By this point I was 36 years old, post a period of study and travel and in a job that turned out to be rather different to the original description. I felt disillusioned but more than that, I was aware of a deep well of crippling shame inside that I couldn’t fathom but which left me feeling as though I was walking through treacle. The price of the Hoffman Process seemed prohibitive at the time and I plunged into a kind of meltdown which medication ultimately relieved.
During the summer this year (2017), with life looking considerably brighter for me, I met up with a dear friend who has himself been through a tough few years of depression but looked better than I had seen him in a long time. I was intrigued by the change which he attributed to the Hoffman Process and not only that, he had done the process 18 months previously and still felt its effects working themselves out in his life. By this point I was 42 years old and whilst stable on medication, I still felt a sense of being an observer in life. I was organised to within an inch of my life, rarely took risks or allowed for spontaneity and was affectionately referred to by my friends as ‘a brain with feet’…It hadn’t always been like that though and I was keen to see if a way back to a more heart-centred existence could be found. I also felt that I was ‘halfway through’ life if I was lucky and now was the time, if the second half were to be different from the first.
When I checked out the Hoffman website I was relieved to see testimonials from a couple of people I knew and trusted, although the fact that they had done the process was news to me. So, I took the plunge. The application process itself was intense. Certainly a week long experiential, interactive, residential course with a group of strangers without recourse to any outside distraction including phone, books, music, internet etc is not for the fainthearted. It also requires a degree of self awareness and Serena Gordon, who along with her ex husband Tim Laurence, brought the process to the UK in the late 90’s has said that many who apply are advised to go into therapy for a year first. Similarly anyone in recovery from addiction is expected to be a year clear before applying. Personally I found the pre course work stoked up my subconscious to such an extent I frequently napped in between sections! The Hoffman Team are always on hand to help with this though and the level of support they provided throughout the entire experience was truly impressive.
I arrived at Florence House in Sussex early on the morning of my 43rd birthday after an exhausting week at work and in a slightly crazed daze having just started a new relationship unexpectedly a week earlier. In retrospect, it was the perfect beginning as you literally cannot prepare for what lies ahead in the Process. My twenty two fellow inmates looked similarly unsure of themselves as we were sent to our shared rooms. What followed was quite literally like a term at boarding school. We had no responsibility except to turn up to our ‘lessons’ on time and to participate in the entire course. It was, without doubt, the strangest and most magical week of my life.
Details of the course are meant to be kept a secret and the surprise element is really key. Having said that there have been many articles in the media particularly recently and now Tim Laurence has published a book, https://www.amazon.co.uk/You-Can-Change-Your-Life so the general idea is out there. It has been described as a blend of Gestalt, NLP, CBT, mindfulness and psychodynamic therapy. The feature that really stood out for me was how the experience of childhood was recreated to the extent that I FELT the way I did as a child and was, therefore, able to work with and process those feelings. We were divided into smaller groups with teachers who knew us intimately and there was literally nowhere to hide. I knew before going in that I would be looking at my parents to see what I had learned from them – good and bad – and how that was playing out in my life but I had no idea that I could BE that child again. I still can’t get my head round it! But I was and my buttons were pushed so skillfully that my defences collapsed and the beauty of it was that everything occurred in community. I thus left the process with a group of 22 other souls that I feel intimately bonded to.
The follow up to the course is carefully designed to ease the transition back into life and we are all in contact with a series of meetings to look forward to. Overall, I feel lighter and I feel connected to a sense of playfulness, colour, creativity and possibility that had taken a back seat in life for too long. I also have a set of tools to go to when old patterns resurface and access to a deep love and respect for my parents. It’s funny but after years of silent meditation retreats I can see that it was love I was looking for. The heartbreak happens in relationship and the healing too, it seems. So love on, I say – what else can we do? As for the Hoffman Process, sometimes in life a before and after really does occur – this has been mine.