Read an Excerpt
FED UP WITH
TRYING TO CHANGE?
God regards with merciful eyes not what you are nor what you have been, but what you wish to be.
the cloud of unknowing
Have you tried to change but, even with the best of intentions, ended up doing the same old things in the same old ways? You’ve read the books, taken various courses, and bought the T-shirt, made firm resolutions and even told all your friends about those promises, only to return swiftly to the same old place in your life? Sometimes you even feel worse and then you beat yourself up for breaking your own promises. You still feel overweight, you’re still dissatisfied in the same job, you still follow the same old cycle of “I love you and can’t live without you—I hate you and don’t ever want to see you again” in your relationships. Sound familiar?
Bob Hoffman was working in San Francisco, leading individual sessions, when it became clear that he was often hearing the same old stories about people getting stuck. His clients were usually the world-weary types who had tried just about everything else and had come to him through desperation. He felt there had to be another way beyond merely talking things through. What could enable someone to change fundamentally? Over the course of several years, he came to develop his own practice of moving people through the blocks in their lives. He earned a very solid reputation among a circle of San Francisco area psychiatrists and therapists by helping some of their toughest clients. They had referred these people when more-traditional methods failed.
From 1967 until his death in 1997, he worked first in the US, then in South America and continental Europe, and, finally, in the UK. The culmination of his techniques was the Hoffman Process, a sequence of exercises that moves us from Awareness of our blocks to finding Expression for them, followed by self Forgiveness and, finally, New Behavior.
When I first met Bob Hoffman, I had an interview with him that probably lasted not much more than half an hour. But during that short time, he managed to touch me deeply. I cried for the first time in months, suddenly aware of my sense of loneliness. I got angry at the injustice I had felt as a child. I laughed at his crazy wisdom. With his help I saw a higher reality, beyond my normal consciousness. This is how I want to live, I told myself as I left the interview. I want to feel all parts of me fully alive again.
Bob was part genius, part crazy fool. He was the wisest of men and the simplest. I never saw him reading a book on psychology, but he knew more about the human mind than most of my former teachers put together. He was deadly serious about helping people to leave their pain behind and had a terrible sense of humor that delighted in appalling puns. He could melt you with his doleful eyes and find the right buttons to drive you madly angry. He could call you a sensitive, loving person and an hour later say you were being a two-faced phony. He did not live by the normal rules and took great risks in—as he put it with characteristic lack of modesty—“pushing people toward Heaven.” So if he discovered or just sensed that you were stuck in a pattern, he would march right in there, all five feet six of him, with his psychic surgeon’s knife.
Bob Hoffman was not a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist. His knowledge of the human condition was one based on his intuition, as well as direct experience—of his own life and the lives of his clients. He was a formidable natural psychologist, a gift shared by many people who closely watch the cast of characters and their display of human nature around us. Perhaps it was his lack of formal education that enabled Bob to see through the layers of denial in his clients. When I first tried to blind him with my own knowledge—terrified, of course, that he might see the real me underneath—he looked at me kindly but directly in the eyes and said, “You can’t fool me. I’m too ignorant.”
Bob was a gifted psychic and wanted to use his gift to help others. He realized that the brightest of people could fall into self-destructive behavior, so the answer could not lie in intellectual reasoning. He saw that there was a gap in our comprehension of the world, a gap that no body of teaching had yet approached.
The gap, Bob realized, was that we learn our habits emotionally; therefore, we can only come to healing by releasing emotionally. This could not be done by talking. It had to be done by expressing the full range of emotions and then arriving at a complete sense of compassion for our parents and ourselves. It was to be a new education, a reeducation of the emotional part of ourselves.
He tested out this theory, and it worked—so much so that the professional community started beating a path to his door. He was persuaded to train a group of therapists in his method.
Now, Bob was never really one to write things down. Fortunately for him, he found willing helpers to transcribe what came to him naturally. He named his theory the Negative Love Syndrome, and the four-part model of our being, the Quadrinity.
THERAPY, EDUCATION, AND RITUAL
As a method of change, the techniques you are going to be using work in a variety of ways. They provide a bridge that few others have ever been able to build or even imagined building. It’s a bridge that connects the therapeutic benefits of “self-inquiry” to the world of “education” and to the methods and practices of “ritual.”
As personal growth, the Process helps to identify and resolve issues of the past that affect our present lives, whether they involve relationships, work, or career, or our roles as parents or as spiritual beings. It is not, however, concerned with making a diagnosis and listing personality disorders. Bob used to say, “These are your patterns of behavior,” but quickly would add, “but they are only patterns—you yourself are much more.” Instead, the Process aims to build up a healthy sense of self that does not need to rely on others, especially parental and authority figures, but that can stand independent and willing to take responsibility for its own actions. A healthy ego is one that is centered in itself first and has worked on its own development through the various stages, from the healthy “no” of a two-year-old, through the rebellion of a teenager, to leaving home both literally and metaphorically when we come of age.
As education, the Process teaches that we can be led out (the Latin e-ducare means exactly that) of old patterns of behavior and can be taught—or, more importantly, teach ourselves—new ways of being. It is a very emotional education, meaning that we feel our way through it, and by that method it lodges deeper within our own learning system. Without it, we would always have to have someone either doing the fishing for us or being paid to teach us how to fish. This way we can go out and find food for our own nourishment.
As ritual, the Process makes real this passage into the world of self responsibility. You may be already familiar with the work of Joseph Campbell, who spent his entire life inquiring into the universal rituals of the Hero’s Journey. The stages he identified were:
• Separation—we leave our everyday world
• Initiation—we go through a series of tests
• Return—we take our learnings back into everyday life
So it is with the Hoffman Process. Doing this work, you are taking time out of your regular life to undergo a set of tasks and challenges, a kind of inner search for the dragon. You confront this dragon, slay it (or sit down and have a cup of tea with it, learning the gift it can offer us), and then go back into your regular life again to apply what you have learned. You are forever “marked” by this ritual.
THE HUMAN CONDITION:
FOUR ASPECTS MAKE US WHOLE
The three pillars of personal growth, education, and ritual build firm foundations upon which we can turn from a human doing into a human being. The Quadrinity Model plays a key role. Bob Hoffman explained that we are composed of four parts, which he labeled the Quadrinity. These four parts are:
• our Emotions or feelings
• our Intellect or thoughts
• our Spirit or essence
• our Physical realm or body
All four parts will be involved as you work through this book.
Our emotional self develops from birth onward. Its function is to provide us with the feelings and emotions needed in order to develop enjoyable and productive relationships with others as well as ourselves. We need relationships to belong, to love and to be loved. When we experience any form of emotional deprivation as children, we acquire feelings of rejection, humiliation, abandonment, and betrayal, which we recreate in our subsequent relationships. Our emotional well-being and growth can be stunted, and we do not mature emotionally. And childish patterns can remain. We say “no” without thinking or automatically reply “I can’t do that” when facing a new challenge. We are petrified of standing up and speaking in public. “What if I get criticized?” says the emotional self childishly.
The intellectual self develops from around six years onward. Its function is to provide us with clear thought and reason in order to make decisions in a healthy and rational way. It is required for the development of reason and to ensure survival as we continue to grow and mature. We are driven forward in the world by our need to know. When this is not encouraged or is overstressed in childhood, we develop feelings of being stupid, inadequate, confused, or even mentally unbalanced.
A positive intellectual aspect provides us with good judgment and discernment.
A negative aspect internalizes the voice of the critical parent by saying, “Don’t do that” and “Don’t be so stupid.” It has overdeveloped its critical faculty and turned it in on itself or is always looking for faults in others. It’s a side of us that is defensive, self-righteous, and hates to be wrong. Oh, and it loves to have the last word!
As emotional adults we would like to be able to respond and articulate our own feelings, but, sadly, many of us stay repressed or depressed. The worst part of it is that we don’t even keep the childlike part of ourselves alive—the happy, enthusiastic, spontaneous person inside. What we have in charge most of the time is a highly rational side, what Hoffman calls the “Adult Intellect.” We believe that we have to look together, sound intelligent, be efficient and productive, and generally miss out on the fun. Indeed, fun and play are scorned by our adult intellect as being beneath consideration. This has disastrous consequences on our internal peace. At other times, it’s the emotional self or “child” inside that is in charge, hijacking our responses to a situation. We come across as being dramatic and highly anxious, or we want to throw it all in.
A large emphasis of this Process is on reconciling the emotional (child or old brain) and intellectual (adult or new brain) aspects of your personality. Through this you can then integrate the four parts of your being. To enable this to happen, you first have the opportunity to explore in depth the relationship with your caregivers when you were children and to understand the effect that these relationships have had upon your subsequent emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual development.
By first understanding childhood experiences and then working through them, you will be able to separate yourself from rigid belief systems and parental character traits, as well as potential emotional trauma that may have been sabotaging your adult life in one way or another. Once this separation has occurred, you can experience a profound inner healing with long-lasting results.
You will be able to heal by letting go of the past.
You will be able to live in the present.
You will also be getting to know a part of you that is free from any programs or conditioning. We call this part the spiritual self, or essence inside. Think of it as the diamond that lives within each of us, the clear channel of light. It is always there, even if we are completely caught up in our own day-to-day struggles, the trivia of modern existence. It’s the voice within, the part that leads us toward our greater potential. It is our connection with God and the universe.
Your spiritual self will be much more available to you once you look at and do some major housecleaning on your own patterns. The Hoffman Process digs out the layers of encrusted mud that have accumulated over the years and lets you reconnect with your diamond essence. By doing this, you are led back to your own truth and your own vision of how things really can be. You are put back in touch with your own wisdom and intuition. You will learn to trust that the answers lie within. Your spiritual self lets you experience love and joy arising from a source that knows no limit.
The fourth element is one that you can touch and feel at any time. It’s your physical reality, the body. Throughout this book, stay in touch with how your body responds when you feel an emotion. Stay in touch with your body when you go through a guided visualization. Listen to its response under stress and in times of peace. Learn to honor its own magic and mystery. It’s the home of your spiritual self during your lifetime. Don’t become, as so many of us have, like the character in James Joyce’s Ulysses, who “lived a short distance from his body”!
How Can the Process Help to Change My Life?
When you experience your wisdom and the power of things as they are,
together, as one, then you have access to tremendous vision and power in the world. You find that you are inherently connected to your own being. That is discovering magic.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
The residential Hoffman Process has helped to change many lives, whether the human being inside is an astronaut or businessman, young student or retired fisherman, homemaker or teacher. It is a deep cleansing experience that allows each person to completely reassess everything about themself and their belief systems in a safe and supportive environment. Sonia Choquette, author of Your Heart’s Desire, said of her experience, “In the Hoffman Process I experienced all aspects of myself cooperating instead of negotiating with one another, which I loved.”
How and why the Process is so effective is a hard question to answer, not least because it is very difficult in research to isolate all other factors and name those that contribute to change. However, over the years we have amassed a great deal of anecdotal evidence.
The first reason that people suggest is that they finally allow themselves to see the bigger picture, an image of themselves and the world that is not colored just by the beliefs that they had held up to that point. They go beyond the patterns of their parents and the dominant culture to feel underneath what is true to them. They may also have a profound spiritual experience once the chatter of the mind has been emptied out and may shift their fundamental life values or goals as a result. For others, going through the dark periods of their lives can release a great deal of blocked energy, especially the energy they have needed to hold in fear, anger, or sadness. That energy, now released, can be used for a positive direction—for example, in work or in relationships—and pay its own dividends in “the real world.” Joan Borysenko, best-selling author and co–founder of Harvard’s Mind-Body Clinic, said that since doing the Hoffman Process herself, “One of the most concrete changes I have experienced. . . is the steady increase of joy and gratitude that began to bubble up. Another change is that I find it nearly impossible to blame and shame myself or anyone else.”
At some point in our lives, we all feel the need to move on, to travel beyond what we already know. We experience a calling to learn and experience more than we have already learned or been taught. For some of us, that means traveling and exploring other cultures. For others, it means stopping work and training for another career.
All of us, however, can benefit by looking at what we learned, and probably take for granted, in the way we grew up. Even if we get along with our parents or caregivers very well, there are probably areas of our behavior and reactions of which we are unaware. To us, these ways of acting or being are totally natural. But they might just drive other people up the wall! For instance, we expect to have a Sunday lunch with the rest of the family. Our partner, unused to such strong family bonds, wants to spend a quiet day without visitors. We are quite happy doing an undemanding job. How come everyone else sees this as being lazy and unambitious? We lavish gifts on our children. We get accused of spoiling them. We wonder whose way is the “right” way.
Whatever our age, we need to leave the family nest properly and to discover our own values. On a deep level, we carry around not only our families’ sets of beliefs but also their attitudes and even their feelings. Through the Hoffman Process, the beliefs and attitudes that limit us and are not authentically ours can be identified and changed. It is important to consider both the positive and negative ways we view our parents and caregivers, because our lives may be run by them. Resolving on a deep emotional level any old issues with our parents and caregivers, even if we feel that intellectually everything is just fine with them, can very much alter the way we behave in the world, particularly to our loved ones and to those in authority positions, such as our bosses.