Article by singer, songwriter and author

Singer songwriter Lotte Mullan achieved critical acclaim with her debut album ‘Plain Jane’. She set up her own record company and wrote a blog about her adventures in the music business that was snapped up for a book and film deal by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures. Despite her creative success she found herself increasingly unhappy and unable to move on from her turbulent upbringing. After doing the Hoffman Process in 2012 she was inspired to write the haunting song ‘You must have loved him once’ available on the link below.

lottesepia250-livingedge1‘Before I did the Hoffman course I walked around with a constant sense of unease; a feeling that gravity would lose its grip and at any second I’d be flung out into the unknown. There is a strong history of mental illness in my family and I grew up around a lot of unpredictable behaviour including domestic violence.

The anticipation that something terrible was about to happen hung over my head at all times and I found myself living with a sense of anxiety mixed with burning rage. The anger rarely manifested itself in public but behind the confident persona I put on for my work as a singer-songwriter I was depressed, self-harming and being very difficult around those close to me.

I decided at twenty-seven that I really needed to do something about this. There had to be a cut off point for blaming my childhood for everything and I wanted to take responsibility for my feelings and actions but I just didn’t know how. I’d tried some conventional therapies and a good few years of anti-depressants but nothing seemed to have any lasting effect. I’d feel momentarily better but then slip back into bad habits very quickly. I’d seen a friend of mine be transformed into a much calmer person post Hoffman so I decided to give it a try.

Confronting Fears

I arrived at Florence House, where the Process is held, in a manic state and was freaked out about parting with my phone for a week. The idea of relinquishing control was terrifying to me. I also had some pretty cynical ideas about taking part in therapy with other ‘crazy’ people; I imagined we’d be sitting in a circle holding hands, while a rainbow scarf wearing soft voiced therapist told us to “just be kind” to ourselves. How wrong I was! There are in-depth studies behind the Hoffman Process (as well as some kindness) and the mixture of approaches (including gestalt, behavioural and cognitive therapy) aim to tackle personal problems from many different angles – there is nowhere to hide. As frightening as that sounds, for me it was the only way. I really benefited from the intensity of the course as I was unable to fall back into negative patterns like I would at home; I had to confront them head on and having no distractions from the outside world really helped this.

One of the most powerful insights I gained from the Process was that we often transfer negative traits from our parents onto people we meet later in life. Pre Hoffman, if I was around somebody who was raising their voice or gesticulating wildly I would find myself clamming up and feeling a sense of anxiety that was disproportionate to the scenario I was in; I wasn’t seeing that person at all, but reliving a fear from years ago. My fight and flight responses were all skewed, and I would often feel strong dislike for a perfectly reasonable person who had unknowingly triggered a bad memory for me.

fearconfront200-livingedge2A big part of the Process is identifying these triggers and negative patterns of behaviour, but an even larger part is devoted to how to confront them. I have learnt methods of dealing with my anxiety and found ways to self-soothe, which is such a relief, as it had become exhausting always looking for enemies and somebody to blame for my fears. I can now create a feeling of safety for myself, independent from what is going on around me, which is incredibly liberating.

This has proved invaluable in my work as a singer and songwriter. My relationship with the music business used to be one of feast or famine. Some days it felt like everybody wanted a piece of me and the phone wouldn’t stop ringing and then, in contrast to this, months could go by with no work at all. This environment breeds a strong tendency to swing from being on a high (natural or otherwise) with a throbbing ego, convinced of your own greatness, to feeling worthless and utterly alone. The propensity to measure your self worth by other people’s appraisal of you is as damaging for your state of mind as it is for your creative output. At your lowest point the temptation to self medicate and self-harm is strong and unfortunately the nature of this industry not only makes these temptations easy, but actively encourages them.

One of the tools Hoffman imparted to me is the ability to quieten the angry, frightened voice in my head which was previously prone to critiquing myself and everyone around me. This voice has not gone but I can identify what it is now and instead of being ruled by it I can see it as something separate from myself. I found the visualisations we did on the Process really useful in centering some of my manic tendencies and have since become interested in mindfulness and meditation; this had been an invaluable part of me staying on the rails post Hoffman. It’s as though I’ve been granted the courage to take the reins in my own life. Instead of waiting for that magic moment when someone grants me success, I’ve set up a business which ticks away nicely under its own steam. I write songs as gifts for people too give their loved ones and I record albums and play gigs. Beyond this I spend time with my friends and family. I now have a much better relationship with certain people close to me who I’d found it really difficult to be around previously.

Falling Back in Love with Life

lottenashvillerecording280-livingedge3I had wondered if doing the Process would make me want to flee London and quit my career in music but quite the opposite happened; I started to fall in love with the life I already had. I began to realise that what I enjoyed most was having a connection with people through music and I was able to acknowledge that I didn’t need to be an entertainer like the Madonnas of this world (fabulous though she is).

It was a relief to discover that I like writing small songs about ordinary people and zooming in on matters of the heart. Inspired by the Process I wrote a song about my parents called You must have loved him once’ and it’s become my most asked for song at gigs.

I think I was a little bit over zealous post Hoffman. I took a somewhat puritanical approach to my new life and was determined to think only the most zen of thoughts, throwing myself into yoga, herbal tea drinking and meditation with obsessive regularity – it was as though I was scared that my old self may return and everything I had learnt from the Process would come undone. This pursuit of such dogmatic bliss didn’t last (how could it?), but when the dust settled I found myself comfortably calm and open to the chaos of life without being consumed by it. It’s an attainable reality that holds me steady.

On the odd occasion when the world feels like it’s caving in once more, I return to my Hoffman folder and all the things I’ve learnt, and I’m able to reach a place of safety once again. The friends I made whilst at Hoffman are also a big part of this. I met some wonderful people who I really connect with and who have been a part of my life ever since. It’s a brilliant community and one I feel I’m always supported by but, best of all, I am able to support myself and that’s the greatest sense of freedom and peace of mind I could hope for.

Listen to Lotte’s Moving Tribute Track

Lotte’s parents divorced when she was a child; ‘You must have loved him once’ is a haunting and deeply touching song about how the Process helped her reconcile with this. To listen visit: soundcloud.com To order the album go to Lotte’s Store, itunes or Amazon. For Lotte’s upcoming tour dates and portfolio visit: lottemullan.com

Lotte will write a song for you personally to celebrate a special occasion or a loved one. To find out more visit www.bespokesongs.com

Edited by Nikki Wyatt

Photo Credits: First photograph by Hugo Tillman, second photograph by Bill Reynolds.