“My friend is going on the Hoffman Process, have you heard of it?” asked my relatively new boyfriend briefly glancing up from his phone.…. “I’d be interested in what you think”.
I smugly skim-read the website (having already made up my mind) and shot back: “It sounds like a waste of money and just repackaged pseudoscience. Probs a gimmick.” He nodded. It was a grey February evening in southwest London in 2022. I felt bored and flat. There was a small part of me which was deeply curious about the Process. Another part felt awkward and scared. I didn’t want to ‘admit’ I might need to make some changes. I distracted myself with my phone, doing my best to ignore that small voice that was desperate for change.
On one level I was ‘fine’. I was successful. I’d joined the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office aged 27 full of excitement and optimism. I was going to bring peace and help ‘change the world’. I’d been posted to Tunisia and Afghanistan and had spent the last seven years working in and on conflict environments. I’d studied at Oxford, the London School of Economics (LSE) and City University. I’d been a banker in Dubai and worked in a few other competitive industries too. On paper I was ‘winning’.
But something wasn’t right. I always felt like I was playing catch-up – one more promotion and then I’ll feel I’ve made it. Once I’m engaged with a baby on the way, I’ll know I’m capable and together. If I buy a house, I’ll finally be seen as respectable. It always felt like I was one step or achievement away from feeling good enough.
I took pride in who I was, but only in the ‘strong’ and professional bits. Whenever I’d needed an answer, I’d deferred to my intellect. I knew about emotions, but had only really started getting vulnerable and actually acknowledging them a few months earlier. And that had been out of necessity. In 2017, I fell for a fellow diplomat and after a tumultuous time in Kabul, he ended it. I bounced straight into another relationship and the same patterns were starting to show. I knew I had to do something different to create new situations in my life, but I felt scared, stuck and a bit lost as to what to do.
During relationship counselling, I’d been encouraged to explore my inner child and past – a side and experience that I’d tried to very hard to ignore and and keep hidden. I was starting to learn about this more vulnerable part of me, but there never felt time to just be when I was working every day in the week. One night after feeling particularly stuck and bored of not feeling ‘enough’, I grabbed my iPad, searched for the Hoffman Process and signed-up. After hours of really illuminating pre-course work and conversations with the Enrolment Team, I was on my way.
On the train down to the venue on the Sussex coast, I was in an emotional and seemingly endless WhatsApp conversation with my most recent ex – the one who’d first mentioned the Process. It hurt. Even though they stung, the string of little red notifications was a welcome distraction to the dread and uncertainty I was feeling about starting the Process! My mind was popping up its own unread messages: Should I be going? What will they think of me? If I’m late, can I not go? Will I fit in? Am I too young? Is this some sort of cult? Am I cut out for this? What if they don’t like me? Am I just a sad basket case who’s gone a bit Bridget Jones-woo?
My taxi pulled up and my heart leapt. Many of my new retreat mates were sat outside, enjoying the sunshine. Some were older than me, others looked more successful, others looked calmer, others looked ‘more together’. To my mind they all looked more ready than me. Luckily there was no time to dwell and – unluckily it seemed at the time – nowhere to hide. I couldn’t hide behind my intellect, my career success, or my story of how I’d overcome OCD – I just had to be me, stripped back to my essence. I quickly realised how unsure I was of my emotional self and the periods of silence on the course allowed me to see how often my inner critic would fill my head with negative self-talk.
As the week progressed, it was an emotional rollercoaster. Insight after insight came, to the point where I couldn’t remember what day it was and when we’d done what. I laughed, cried, shouted, celebrated, reflected. I found myself in a space where who I was on all levels (not just intellectually) wasn’t mocked or shamed – in fact my experience and values were respected and treasured. The love, acceptance, and courage of everyone I was with was remarkable and deeply healing. I felt seen, heard, and understood. I felt I could accept myself in a way I never previously have.
Experiencing that and learning so much about myself has fundamentally changed my life. I’m typing this from Lisbon, Portugal where I’m making a new home, a year or so after the Process. I now run a coaching business helping people in a way that I love and that I believe truly makes a difference. I’ve learnt to listen to that inner voice and focus on that, rather than what others think. My worth and value now comes from within. The Process really taught me firsthand how much inner conflict relates to outer conflict and, having lived in war zones and seen the pain inflicted by those who haven’t been able to resolve their pain, I’m determined to do what I can to shine a light in those dark places where awareness would make such a difference. I’ve started a book, which feels a first step in that direction.
Those closest to me have seen a change too. My Mum recently commented how happy she is that I’ve found a new way of living. She says she sees a lightness and joy in me. Strangers tell me they can see I’m at peace with myself. My sister has asked multiple times about the course as she can “see what a difference it’s made” to my life. When anyone asks me about the Process now, I tell them it’s excellent value and life-changing.
If there’s a small part of you which is intrigued, don’t let that scepticism and doubt win out. Don’t let your intellect get in the way, particularly if you like to intellectualise your emotions like I did! Pop your ego aside for a moment and just sign up. It’s calling to you for a reason. And, if you do sign up, my one tip would be to go all in. Don’t self-censor, don’t hold yourself back because of what others think. Stay open-minded. Notice if you feel resistance and lean in as best you can. The dividends really are endless.