When Alexander Technique teacher and psychology graduate Carmen Barral did the Hoffman Process she was struck by the transformative power of emotional release through the body. Now she’s been inspired to bring that to others.
With your background in psychology some people may be surprised that you chose to do the Hoffman Process. What inspired that decision?
I‘ve always been interested in finding out why I feel the way I do, in particular what was behind the anxiety I felt at certain times in my life. This led me to choose psychology at university and later on to study psychophysical re-education and become an Alexander Technique teacher.
Then I became a mother, and between work and motherhood I had no time to think of anything else, let alone time for myself.
However, things changed in 2009 when my eldest child left for University. That event triggered very deep feelings from my childhood, so I started looking for something to help me understand those old emotions.My studies meant that I was familiar with many different approaches to personal development. By chance, when I was talking to someone about Family Constellations, they mentioned they’d looked into the Hoffman Process but decided against it because it was supposed to be very hard and tough. That immediately caught my interest. Yes! I wanted something that would open up and reveal more of those unconscious parts of myself that had shaped the way I relate to myself and to life in general
Despite living in the UK you went to Spain to do the Process – the country of your birth. Do you think that made a difference?
I felt that in order to work with childhood experiences it was important, if possible, to do it in my mother tongue and in the country where I grew up, and I was right.
There’s a day on the course when you’re transported to your childhood through games, songs and many other cultural references and I wouldn’t have been able to relate so easily if it had been in a different language and culture. That was a really magical day, when I gained so much insight.
Did the Process have the effect that you hoped for?
I knew that a one week residential course would not ‘fix’ everything. What I did realise was that you can talk and be very articulate about your feelings without actually feeling much at all.
I found that the physical expression in the bashing sessions brought to the surface emotions I never knew were there. I realised that letting the body talk was a fantastic way to bypass the rational and censoring mind which is the main obstacle to feeling more of ourselves. It’s also a great tool for shedding some of the burdens you’ve been unconsciously carrying most of your life
Did your husband notice a change when you returned home?
In the past when I’ve had meaningful experiences in a group setting away from daily life, I used to feel sad or apprehensive about returning to my usual routine. A telling sign of the Process being an experience that filters into your life and not just one that ends when you leave, is that on the final day I was very much looking forward to returning home to my ‘normal life’ and sharing my experience with my partner and my friends.
I followed the advice we were given by the teachers in that I did not try to ‘convert’ anyone. Still, my enthusiasm must have been contagious or the change in me obvious, because my husband and two other friends decided to do the Process a few months later.
You mention being struck by the power of emotional release through the body that we do on the Process. Did that encourage you to explore the link between our emotions and our body even further?
The Process reinforced and confirmed what I knew through the Alexander Technique: that we think, move and feel as a whole. Our body, emotions and mind are intricately connected. We’re a unit and we act and change as a unit. When we think about stressful events, our body releases cortisol, when we think about happy events, oxytocin is released and the muscles relax.
Is there anything that has been of lasting benefit from the Process that you still appreciate all these years later?
I continue to use the tools I learned on the Process.The very powerful experience of working with the body to reach my emotions has stayed with me.
Through the Alexander Technique I realised that my long-standing lower back pain was not related to the work I was doing but to the habitual way I was using my body.
Over the years that I’ve been working with people to help them change the habits of tension that cause their pain, I’ve noticed that, in the majority of people, their muscle tension has deep emotional roots.
Six years ago I came across Rosen Method Bodywork and I immediately knew that this was what I’d been looking for.
The Rosen Method is a somatic therapy that works with muscle tension which has developed as a response to adverse experiences. It uses a unique form of touch and simple verbal communication, to help the person feel safe and accepted. When this happens, the nervous system’s stress response is de-activated, the muscle tension is released and it’s then possible to connect with the emotions that caused the tension in the first place.
At times, the Rosen Method echoes, in part, my experience of cathartic release on the Process.
Through the Rosen method I’ve discovered, and witnessed in my clients, a direct way of accessing and healing deeply rooted childhood wounds.
Read more about the Rosen Method on Carmen’s website: rosenealing.com
Click here to read about the scientific research by Professor Alan Fogel on the health benefits of the Rosen Method. Or for more on the Rosen Method, click here.