photo credit: Salty Canary
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
~ Maya Angelou
At the very start of this year I was burnt out. I felt stuck in a perpetual cycle of never having enough, yet would become overwhelmed and unable to enjoy my successes. Everyone around me was excited for my achievements and creative potential and cheered me on, but I was unable to hear it. I would swat away compliments as if they were tiny daggers, and I had a nice comfy layer of pessimism coating everything I had accomplished. You know, just in case things don’t work out! I have a wonderful family and group of friends that support and encourage me. Yet, I just wasn’t fully enjoying the goodness and good people that were all around me. I was scared of getting my hopes up about my own life’s potential.
To add fuel to the fire I continued to add new projects and commitments to my plate - setting almost impossible deadlines for myself that would act as a silent cattle prod. While I knew I was taking on too much I still couldn’t resist the challenge of tacking on more to my work life, almost as if I had a compulsion to do so. However, I never really felt the elation of a job well done. The thought of a project after it was completed would dredge up stress and resentment. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, the shit to hit the fan, etc. I began silently looking for any reason to call it quits and to start over, even though my business was experiencing an amazing growth spurt. Things were finally starting to take off and I was witnessing the fruits of my labor, so why wasn’t I enjoying it?
Sometime around the end of last year I realized something major about myself. One night I was sitting at home squeezing out drawing after drawing, all while taking breaks to obsessively check my bank account (because you never know what may have changed in the last hour!). My husband was in the other room wishing I could stop working so I could just watch a movie with him. I was growing increasingly irritable because I felt like I had to keep working. If I didn’t, who would keep it all together? Everything I had built would fall apart. Also, can’t he see how hard I’m working? Doesn’t he appreciate that?? All that I do for us.
Then I was struck with a moment of realization...All of the time, energy, and sleepless nights I had thrown into building my business had not just sparked from the pure desire to create beautiful art and designs. It was not just for the purpose of wanting to thrive. There was something else there, some sort of stench contaminating my motivations:
I had been overworking in order to prove myself worthy to others.
It was like I had been fumbling for the key to a locked door, and I had finally found the key. I could see clearly something about myself that I had never acknowledged before. It shocked me and I was floored by this slice of clarity. Now, why couldn’t I change it? I could see the issue and what needed to change, yet I had no idea how to make it happen. Something was still keeping me from putting that key in the damn door. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of my own making.
For most of my life I had felt like a lone wolf of sorts; always sticking it out on my own and resisting the help of others because I could just do it myself. This was a pattern I picked up early in my childhood as the youngest of four children whose age ranges were pretty vast. I was left to my own devices often as a child. I also adopted other patterns of course: being critical, self-loathing, angry and judgemental, fear of being vulnerable (that’s a big one!), rebellion, pessimism, defensiveness, irritable, negative, “I can do it myself”, “I can fix it for you”, lashing out, shame, guilt, feeling responsible for others, and reclusiveness (to name just a few). I grew up in a household where I felt like I had to walk on eggshells so as to not disturb the flow and jeopardize my chances of receiving love. I never wanted to outshine my father, and then later my partners.
I had learned to keep myself small.
While I was becoming increasingly aware of these things about myself I still couldn’t completely change them. I had finally begun a regular meditation and visioning practice and was really deep diving into my spirituality more than ever… yet, something in the back of my subconscious still tethered me to old stories and ideals about myself. Something wouldn’t let me fully believe in my own power. I was ready to seek help in order to find real change.
That’s when I decided to sign up for the Hoffman Process. My sister and brother in law completed the process years ago and I saw how effective it was for them. Now, sufficiently past the flightiness and somewhat drunken blur of my twenties, I was ready to release this dusty old baggage I was lugging around and reveal my true, authentic self.
The first thing you learn about when you start the Hoffman Process is a concept called the Negative Love Syndrome (NLS). In a nutshell NLS is the negative patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving in any kind of relationship of which you learned in the formative years of your childhood. The ways in which you give and receive love, and even your concept of what love is, is very much defined by your experiences as a child. Even if you had the most supportive, loving, most present parents in the world - nobody is perfect. We are all human. The process is not about demonizing your parents or surrogates; in fact it’s just the opposite. It’s about understanding and forgiving the human beings who became your parents, dissecting and releasing your learned negative patterns, and revealing your authentic self...and so much more.
The entire process is 7 days long, plus 2 days post-process time to slowly integrate back into your normal life. When you look up articles on the Hoffman Process you will often read how it’s like condensing 10 years of therapy into 1 week, and I see now first hand how true that is. I feel like I was there for years… a lifetime, even. Through visioning and meditation exercises I time traveled back to my childhood, my parents’ childhoods, and many worlds beyond here. There’s so much that happens that week, but instead of going into too many tedious logistical details, the scientific research noting why the Hoffman Process works, and how it all came to be, I am going to leave that up to you to look up on your own. There’s so much written about the Hoffman Process and they have a ton of great information on their website if you’d like to continue learning about it. There’s even a great book written by my teacher Tim Laurence that I can’t recommend enough if you’re considering diving in.
Like everything else in life, I can only speak about my own experience.
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How I've changed after the Process
It was about halfway through the week that I noticed a major shift had happened - the ways in which I used to react were no longer there. I was purposefully responding to others and situations, rather than unconsciously reacting from an old pattern. I no longer felt the urge to shut down and retreat. I felt different. My mind felt different! The desire to check out mentally and emotionally had subsided and I was no longer fearful of my feelings. I could actually feel my emotions and understand them in a way that I never had before. I just felt lighter - like I had finally let go of a 100 lb weight that had been resting on my mind and my heart.
The changes continued to roll after each day, my intuition kept deepening, and my heart kept widening. By the end of that week, and now 3 weeks past that, I am still in that process of change and opening up. It’s difficult to do but I have finally been able to put some of these new changes into words:
I have found peace within myself, and the ability to forgive. I have found my voice after years and years of subduing and doubting it.
I no longer feel the anxiety that would permeate my stomach and my mind on a daily basis. Instead, I have replaced that anxiety with calm, and I am open to what can be.
I no longer feel like I have to please others or swoop in to “fix” their problems. I am responsible for my own happiness, and my own happiness alone.
I am free of the thought that I am unworthy of love, success, fun, excitement, genuine friendships, time off to just be - all of those old, tortured beliefs have dissipated. They no longer have energy.
I know how to play and have fun again!
The old stories of my childhood, resentments, the unresolved feelings and injustices that used to consume my subconscious - gone.
I have remembered parts of my personality that are more extroverted. Elements of myself that I had long ago put up on the shelf to collect dust, in fear of being seen.
I am a bold and dynamic artist capable of infinite ways in which to express myself.
I am powerful!
My heart is wide open in a way that I could never fully describe. It is a vulnerability that I had never allowed myself to feel. It’s like a wave has washed me clean.
My love for others, even complete strangers, is limitless.
I had no idea how quickly I could get close to 40 strangers in just one week’s time. Each and every person I met has a place forever in my heart and I love them like they are my family, even though I may not see any of them again. These strangers reminded me of how powerful my ability to connect is. They reminded me of why I’m even here in the first place:
To connect. To love. To be present within myself so that I can be present for others.
As I continue to integrate back into my life after such a transformative experience I am putting the tools I was taught to use on a daily basis, and I’m experiencing each day with a renewed gratitude. I am allowing the changes within myself to develop as they need to, shifts to occur, and I remain curious. I have never been more excited to live my life than I am right now. The future holds so many unknowns and life is never a linear road, but for the first time I feel prepared for its challenges. I have the tools I need when things get tough and my dark side rears its head again. That dark side may never fully go away, but with my new authentic sense of self it will continue to grow weak.
While nothing in life is ever a cure all the Hoffman Process has changed my life. I can see the light within myself and within others, and because of that, the dark roads that I may come across are never truly dark.
I have finally come home to myself <3