Frequently Asked Questions about the pre-course work
The most common things we’re asked in the build-up to the Process are listed below. If you have a question that’s not covered or you would like to discuss specific issues you’re having with your pre-course work documents, you can contact us on (+44)1903 889 990 and a member of the Hoffman enrolment team will be happy to help.
Q. How detailed should my answers be?
A. If you can keep it to a paragraph or two with the most important details, that may be enough – quality and depth is more important than quantity. Obviously, if something needs to be said, you should include it. If you feel comfortable and wish to gain a wider perspective, it could be helpful to ask family, friends and colleagues for feedback. The important bit is that it must come from people you can trust and who have your best intentions at heart.
Q. What happens if I can’t recall scenes from my childhood?
A. Don’t worry. It’s quite common for us not to remember much detail from our childhoods. Once you’re at the venue and in a retreat atmosphere, you will find that many memories surface and the brain has a way of bringing back scenes in context. In the meantime, take some time for reflection in a quiet place that’s free from distraction. Simple things like looking at childhood photos, talking to siblings or imagining a walk around your childhood home can bring memories back.
Q. I was adopted and didn’t know my biological mother or father OR: my mother/father abandoned/left me/died before I was born/when I was very young. What answers should I put?
A. It is perfectly normal to have no memory or thought about an absent biological parent. The effect will be different for everyone, but you’ll still need to look at their role in your life. In fact, we have an additional exercise to support those who are exploring the impact of being adopted or having an absent parent.
Even if they had no other choice, their negative trait for you might be abandoning, rejecting, irresponsible etc. The consequence of this could be fear of abandonment, rejection, feeling unlovable, undeserving etc., resulting in low self-esteem, not feeling good enough or not belonging. Having an absent parent can also mean that you have developed negative traits such as abandoning/rejecting others or setting yourself up to be rejected. Being secretive, indulging in substance or behavioural addiction, workaholism and the feeling of not being able to connect are all ways of coping.
Q. I went to boarding school. Should I use this as a surrogate?
A. If boarding school was a positive experience for you, you may not need to include it as a surrogate. However, some people have a sense that their boarding school demonstrated negative behaviours that had an impact on them – controlling, withholding affection, punishing, bullying or abandoning, for example. This may have resulted in negative attitudes towards authority, not fitting into a system, not being accepted by peers or in being bullied or bullying others. If that chimes with you, try and get a sense of whether your boarding school was a male or female surrogate and fill in the work accordingly.
Q. My mother/father was perfect and I feel guilty even thinking about them negatively. Help!
A. It could be that this course is not the right one for you. It is important that you are able to see your parents objectively, as flawed human beings who may have been trying their best, but weren’t perfect – because nobody is! However well-meaning they were and however happily you recall your formative years, your parents’ behaviours (both good and bad) will have impacted on you during childhood, and this is what the Process will be working on.
Try working with your guilty feeling as one of your own negative traits. Is feeling overly responsible one of your patterns? People-pleasing? Denial? Fear of authority? Once you’ve identified a pattern in yourself, try connecting it back to either or both of your parents/surrogates.
Q. My mother and father were very different when I was a child OR: I have forgiven my parents. What should I do?
A. We are looking at the effects that negative patterns have had on you before the age of puberty (approximately 12-14 years old). Even though your parents may have changed, this negativity is what the Hoffman Process aims to resolve. We all store emotional memories that can hijack our normal, rational responses. Witness how people behave around their parents, no matter what their age. Please keep an open mind as we explore the effect of how you internalised (and perhaps forgot) your early conditioning.
Q. I am completely different from my parents.
A. It could be that you have turned or ‘rebelled’ against your parents’ behaviours and messages. Do remember to consider this aspect. For instance, if your father was very hard working, you may have lost your motivation, or if your mother was very lazy and passive, you may have become very controlling. If you have become ‘not your father’ or ‘not your mother’, what effect has this had on you and those around you?
Q. I can’t remember ever being angry with my mother/father OR: I can’t remember a scene when I felt anger towards them.
A. Try and think of a time when, if not exactly angry, you were annoyed, frustrated or felt unheard by your parents. Anger can seem like a strong word if it is something that wasn’t allowed or expressed in your family, so thinking of a scene where you felt frustrated could be easier. The reason we ask you to think of a scene is that if a similar occurrence happened now – or example, feeling unjustly accused or ignored – it could bring up feelings that you had as a child.
To get the most out of this you need to take your parents off any pedestal you might have them on and see them as human beings who did their best. They, like all of us, will have taken on values and characteristics from the generation before them. This may well have stopped them from living a life of their own choices as they mirrored, mainly unconsciously, behaviour from their parents. Imagine for a moment where they learned to behave. Being angry is an entirely natural response for a child and highlights a child’s need for healthy independence.
Q. I’m struggling with patterns for my parents in the tick-box section. Is this normal?
A. On a day-to-day basis you probably wouldn’t be connecting some of these words to your parents, so some people can find it difficult to get started on this part of the exercise. Remind yourself that nobody’s going to see this work apart from you and members of the Hoffman team. The best thing to do is to look at the suggestions and (without overanalysing them) tick the boxes that have an element of truth about them. You won’t be held to it, but you need to get the connections flowing. It could also be that you have rebelled against some of your parents traits, so don’t forget to look at this.
Q. Can I use my own words when it comes to listing the negative patterns?
A. Of course! There may be others that come to mind when you use your own words. We’re just asking for at least 20 for each person.
Q. Before I reached puberty, I had a sexual encounter with someone of a similar age. Does this count as sexual abuse?
A. If you have memories of this and it has impacted on you negatively, then it is worth mentioning. We want you to explore your story fully to reveal any negative influences in your life. The age of the person does not matter so much as the effect it had on you, and this is an individual matter. You can either discuss this with the enrolment team in advance of your course or with your facilitator on the Process.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do I prepare myself physically to get the most out of the week?
A. In order to gain the most from the course we ask that you refrain from alcohol and from taking any substances (which may affect your concentration, moods or your ability to access your feelings) for at least two weeks before the course starts and throughout the duration of the course.
Q. I need more time to do my pre-course work – what do I do?
A. We can’t confirm your place on the Process without your pre-course work, and it’s referenced throughout the course, so you do need to complete it. It’s an important part of your Process preparation.
The reason we ask for it back three weeks in advance is because it’s firstly checked in-house by our enrolment team and then passed on to your Hoffman facilitator. They’ll need time to read it, prepare to meet with you and identify any areas where you may need additional support during the Process week. Your facilitator may also have questions or areas where they’d like you to clarify things – which all takes time.
If there’s a genuine reason why your work is going to take longer than you’d anticipated, give us a call. The enrolment team will be much happier to grant an extension if we’re in communication with you, and may even suggest moving to a later course as an option if that’s helpful.
Q. What is the purpose of the family letter?
A. The family letter contains important information for your partner/family in case they have any concerns about you on the Process. From a practical point of view it also contains emergency contact details, should anyone need to contact you urgently.
Q. Why do I need a childhood photograph and what happens if I don’t have one?
A. We ask you to bring a photo or photos of yourself in the years up to puberty. This photo is simply there to act as a physical representation of you as a child. The photo remains safe and in your possession. If you struggle to find a photograph, you may try drawing an image of yourself doing something you enjoyed as a child.
Q. What do you mean by mementos of my parents and what happens if I don’t have any?
A. At a certain point in the Process, we ask you to look at your parents and remember them vividly. It helps if you have a physical representation of both of them that makes your connection more real. Think of an object that would sum up your parent. Maybe a hobby, or perfume, jewellery, or some image that relates to something they did habitually. Examples might be a pipe, aftershave, gardening gloves, apron, paint brushes or a ring. You could try drawing something if you cannot get hold of any objects.
Q. Why do I need an alarm clock?
A. For practical reasons. You won’t be able to use your mobile phone, and you’ll need to be on time for sessions and for breakfast at 7.30am.
Q. Why should I spend the weekend following my Process free from commitment?
A. Experience has shown that having a weekend or even just the Friday night free of commitments can help deepen your Process experience as well as help you adjust to the fast-paced world outside the retreat venue. If you have travelled from overseas, we recommend that you don’t fly back home until at least one day following the Process where possible. It will also help you to integrate what you have learnt and to finish any assignments, if applicable.
Q. Can I speak to my children or contact work during the Process?
A. We ask you to refrain from any contact with the world outside in any way during the Process. This includes phone calls, email, social media, newsfeeds etc. This is to help you focus on the work that you are doing. If it is imperative that you make contact with your children or work during the week, this is sometimes possible by pre-arrangement on Tuesday evening, but will ultimately be at the discretion of your Process facilitator.
Q. If I am with a therapist, can I arrange for a ‘hand over’ between the Hoffman teacher and my therapist?
A. Absolutely! We fully support you remaining in contact with your therapist after the Process, and have created Hoffman Process guidelines for professionals that we can send to them in advance of you attending the course. We can also offer a ‘hand over’ from the Hoffman facilitator to your therapist, with your permission. You can read more here.
Q. Can I speak to a Hoffman teacher about specific aspects of my childhood before coming on the course?
A. If you feel that you would like extra support before the Process, we have a number of Hoffman facilitators who can offer one-to-one pre-Process support. You can also continue to have post-Process one-to-one Hoffman coaching if you feel that would help you. Fees apply, so please call the office or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.