I had a rare ear disorder called a cholesteatoma, where there’s an overgrowth of skin within the ear. I had 19 surgeries by age 14 and some of them were 7-9 hours long. It was in the hospital where I was told ‘you’re special’ and that idea took root.
I was the eldest of three children. On the surface, we lived an affluent, middle-class life in Surrey, part of London’s leafy commuter belt. My siblings and I all went to private school, and I had no idea just how much of a financial burden this was for my dad. I experienced him as inconsistent and rather distant. He was often absent, which I now realise was to provide for the family. I experienced my mum as intensely committed to us, intoxicated even, with being a ‘mother’. My childhood memories include her talking on the phone constantly, always giving us lifts, cleaning or cooking. She did everything for me yet somehow, emotionally, neither of my parents felt ‘available’. However, as a 6-year-old I found I could grab my parents’ attention by gallivanting around dressed as James Bond in my mini tux to the 007 theme tune. This is when I decided I was going to be an actor – a belief that stayed with me until my late twenties.
As I got older, the atmosphere at home intensified. Arguments and emotional volatility were the norm. One minute we’d all be laughing, the next there’d be shouting. By the time I was 10, I began fantasising intensely about girls I had crushes on. I needed an escape. I watched TV constantly and played video games non-stop; it was the only time I felt at ease inside. When I was 14, I moved into my dad’s office at the bottom of our garden. This alienated me further from my family as I slipped deeper into my own fantasy world.
During this time, I loved hanging with my best friends – they were my family. We spent our teenage years bonding over alcohol, drugs and a shared loneliness. And I always had my acting dream in the back of my mind. There was an unquenchable belief in me that I would be a successful, famous actor one day.
My parents eventually got divorced when I was 17 and not long afterwards, I left for university. It was in my first year of Uni that I started to have panic attacks and severe bouts of depression. At one point I even had panic attacks in my sleep, waking to a sense of dread. I didn’t feel safe inside.
I left university with a BA in Acting, but emotionally I was desperate, and someone suggested seeing a psychodynamic psychotherapist. So, at age 22 I found myself for the first time in a therapist’s chair. I had no idea what medical trauma was or that the stressful environment I grew up in had impacted me. Over the next four years, I deepened my awareness and buried anger began to surface towards my parents. I had a breakdown in 2017 after being stood up by a woman. I called the Samaritans and then got on anti-depressants. This gave me some relief and hope. I was on and off medication for the next year.
Then in 2018, I got a dream acting role and during the rehearsal period, I remember feeling utterly depressed. I’d got what I’d always wanted but it didn’t change anything!
I then got into my first serious relationship. I became obsessed with this person and then resented them for not matching up to my expectations (taking away my pain). By 2020 we’d broken up 4 times and I’d reached rock bottom. My fear of abandonment was so severe I found it hard to function. Each day felt like a marathon. But in this state of desperation, my heart broke open. I started to notice synchronistic events. For example, I was walking in the park one challenging morning and a man asked me, ‘Do you believe in God?’ We had an interesting discussion, and he gave me his card. I put my headphones on and walked away listening to a song which went, ‘for those seeking a new beginning‘. I turned over the man’s card and on the back was written, ‘For those seeking a new beginning’. I chuckled out loud as I began to hear the universe.
I then felt called to go on a solo retreat in Wales. And for the first time in my life, I did a digital detox. For that week I gave up all my devices – in fact, I didn’t pick up my smartphone for the following 8 months. I walked, meditated, and journalled. I felt connected with nature. Finally, I’d awoken to the deep unhappiness within me and began turning inward to face it. I felt relieved, because now I could finally do something about it.
As soon as I got back, I joined SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) to help with my romantic obsession. Around this time, I also heard the Blake Mycoskie interview with Tim Ferris where Blake talked about his experience of the Hoffman Process and a seed was sown, but it felt far too expensive for me. I applied for a scholarship, but they weren’t available during the Covid lockdown. Instead, I was offered a discounted place on their two-day Essentials course which gives you an online introduction to Hoffman’s core techniques and practices.
It was on the Essentials weekend that I discovered Hoffman was the real deal. Some of the visualisations completely floored me, I accessed a level of compassion for my parents that I hadn’t felt before. But I didn’t feel I could really let go as much as I’d have liked to. Although I did my best to create what Hoffman called ‘a supportive environment’ I was self-conscious due to flatmates and delivery people. I needed to do the Process! I got put on standby for a last-minute place, which offers a cheaper way of doing it, but I didn’t get a space in 2021. So instead, I decided to do a Vipassana 10-day silent retreat and begin Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy whilst continuing to complete my 12-step programme. By early 2022, I couldn’t wait any longer, so I decided to do Hoffman’s payment plan option to guarantee me a place. This all worked out for the best, as the inner work I did prior to the course allowed me to lose myself in the Process more deeply.
Two days before I left for the Process, I went for dinner with my dad. It was one of the most awkward and tense meals of my life. I wanted to get along with him but there was a part of me that shut down and had a real problem with him. Maybe there was something in me that knew what was about to happen…
On the first day of the Process, I struggled to hear my facilitator’s voice. Although normally I’m too self-conscious to mention my hearing to anyone I went to tell her that she was speaking too softly for me to hear and she said: ‘Oh yes, your cholesteatoma’. I was amazed she’d read my pre-course work so thoroughly and even more amazed to discover that her son had been born with the same rare condition! Serendipity struck again. And the most transformational week of my life began.
There was one moment I won’t ever forget. I’d just shared some stuff I’d never really shared with anyone. I was feeling icky, delicate and on the verge of tears. I was walking to my room and another man I’d initially negatively judged approached me. He pulled me in for a hug and we held each other. It was the best hug I’ve ever had in my life. I melted into him.
And then there was the bashing – the cathartic release work. For the first time ever, it felt like I had complete permission to express the unexpressed within me. That part of me that had had his boundaries infringed over and over as a child was finally allowed to speak up. And I was startled by how much rage and grief I’d held onto. It was a ball of fury that erupted. After that, I felt lighter and more alive than ever.
I’ve carried so much deep shame for so long and Hoffman was the first time I felt truly seen by a community of people. It was the first time I’d felt unconditional love. I didn’t have to be anyone but me. That love was there, no matter what. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing what that feels like. Hoffman provided the conditions I needed to find my voice and let it roar!Fast forward to the day after the Process and I’m on the phone with my dad. We’d not been speaking long when he said, ‘Wow, you’re talking to me differently’. Later I went to see him in Brighton, and we sat on the beach and told each other how much we loved each other. We’re now closer than ever. The same is happening with my mum, just at a different pace. It truly feels like the disconnection in our family line is breaking down. And you cannot put a price on something like that.
Since doing the Process I’ve qualified as an Integrative Counsellor and Coach, and I go around the country doing talks on mental health and healthy masculinity.
I can say for certain now and with the deepest gratitude, I really do love my life.