by Lisa Zahn
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Hoffman Process. June of 2015 was the one-year anniversary of my Process and graduation from it, and that felt like a big milestone. It is still amazing to realize that I am a completely different person because of it.
At Hoffman, we had many “ceremonies” and rituals as part of the Process. I remember in particular the last night, during what is called the Integration ceremony, we were asked to get up and say what we had received from the Process, what we will take away from it, and what we plan to remember forever (or something like that).
Here’s what I said: “Hoffman helped me to feel the entire spectrum of my emotions and helped me realize that to feel is to be alive. I never want to forget that.”
From the most intense joy, to the fiercest anger, to profound sadness and grief, to simple peace and calm, I came to realize all of the feelings are okay and good. All of them make us alive, and when we disconnect ourselves from our feelings, or limit the spectrum of acceptable ones, we might as well be dead. Whether we numb ourselves with alcohol or painkillers, or sexual addictions or excessive TV watching or other behaviors, or just passivity and not feeling our feelings, we live in a culture that doesn’t accept feelings. Pure and simple, we live in an addicted, numbing culture and I know now that if you can’t feel or don’t let yourself feel the hard feelings, you can’t and won’t truly feel the amazingly good feelings (joy! love! inner peace!) either.
The number one thing I have realized in the last year is that I no longer hate myself. This is so profound and has changed me so much, and I truly credit the Hoffman Process for this. Within six months before going to my Process, I got a journal prompt asking what was one secret thing about myself. I wrote, “I secretly hate myself.” And then I wrote in my Hoffman pre-Process work that I knew I was a child of God and worthy of love, but deep down I hated myself. It was a realization – this self-hatred – that actually surprised me. I hadn’t known it was there until that journaling day. I just knew I’d suffered from depression (anger turned inward) and anxiety, and constant feelings of self-judgment and fear that I wasn’t measuring up.
Now that I don’t hate myself, I am finally available for true intimacy. I see the love around me and I can feel it, too. That is an amazing feeling! I can also see the truth of people who don’t treat me kindly, and I have had a lot of opportunity to stand up for myself lately. Learning to self-advocate (as well as advocate and stand up for my kids) seems to be one of my biggest lessons and challenges in this lifetime. My whole life prior to the Process, my pattern was to retreat into myself and my home and do things “alone.”
Not any more. I realize there are people who truly support me, and I can ask for help. I know there are people who truly love me, and I can feel it now. And I can love those people back!
I never considered myself an addict or alcoholic of any kind, but I notice now how I used to numb myself with one glass of wine (maybe two) when the day was stressful or something had been hard. Or a vodka on the rocks, or some Bourbon, when I really wanted to chill out and calm down. I no longer even think like that. I am so sensitive to alcohol now that most of the time I just choose to leave it alone even though I like the taste and others around me are drinking.
Instead of numbing out, I am doing what needs to be done. I am feeling my feelings, and sometimes dealing with the consequences of that authenticity. It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. Hoffman is not a cult-ish thing and it’s not a panacea. It’s a set of tools to help you get real with your life, feel your feelings, and move forward in the best way possible, with the most integrity you can muster. There IS something magical about it that is hard to explain, but it is based in neuroscience these days and it absolutely works.
I have played more in the past year than I have since I was five. I have had more success in my work than ever before, and I love what I’m doing. I have moved forward in amazing ways. My husband and children are also on a path to move forward, and my inner work has helped them all tremendously. In fact, my husband completed the Hoffman Process in July 2015. He feels like his brain has been rewired and he’s changed in some good, amazing ways. We are now able to be more real with each other, and that is the best thing. Because what we have is real love.
Lisa Zahn is a writer, copyeditor, and life coach in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She writes at www.lisazahn.com.