I’ve done my fair share of personal development. From my own training as a hypnotherapist and coach, to years of therapy, to retreats in the Amazon rainforest, I thought I’d seen and experienced it all.
So, although I was stuck and in need of help when I signed up to the Hoffman Process, part of me doubted whether it would have anything to teach me. But I’d read a blog post from someone I respected in the personal development world, and it gave me hope that this was an experience I could learn from.
I prepared myself for what I expected to be a challenging week. Despite knowing that my family could contact me if needed, the separation anxiety from handing over my phone and laptop when I arrived was palpable.
I soon discovered that being able to retreat from the outside world with no distractions was an essential aspect of the Process. Like many people, I’d been using social media and the busy-ness of everyday life to distract myself from feeling my feelings and dealing with what lay beneath the surface. When an anxious thought arose, I’d reach for my phone to check on my Instagram feed, when I was overwhelmed I’d scroll news sites in an attempt to distract myself from having to feel an uncomfortable feeling. Being free from all emails, texts and Whatsapp messages enabled me to be fully present for the experience.
In my past, I’d struggled a lot with anxiety. Perfectionism and people-pleasing had meant that I was frequently tense and worried. I felt a lot of shame and unworthiness, which meant it was hard for me to relax and be myself. I would constantly worry about what people thought of me and while I appeared calm on the outside, inside, I’d get hugely frustrated, unleashing vast amounts of anger at my partner. Despite having a daily meditation practice, exercising frequently and eating a healthy diet, I knew that there were still things in my past that hadn’t been resolved that were causing me to feel fearful, resentful and full of self-doubt.
During my Process, the presence and care expressed by the facilitators blew me away. It allowed me to dig deeper than I ever had in other forms of personal development and pull some of my issues up by the roots. I trusted the step-by-step nature of the Process, and I could see that as each day passed, I was starting to resolve some of the feelings of not being good enough, abandonment and fear that I’d experienced as a child and still carried with me. I gained a level of understanding and insight that I hadn’t had before.
One of the most profound experiences was that I could not only identify patterns that I’d taken on as a child, but I could actually remove them too. I realised there was a link between my anxiety and the feelings of anger and frustration I had inside. Keeping a lid on my feelings had made me tense. One specific example was a repeated irrational argument that I’d have with my partner – a similar argument to ones I’d observed in my parents growing up. Following the Process, I’d somehow let this go and my partner’s behaviours don’t push my buttons in the same way they used to. I also noticed that my relationship with my parents got better, as though I’d been able to release some old resentments and gain a clearer perspective.
I can now also see that a key aspect of my anxiety was shame; I felt that I was ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ and found it hard to express myself or open up to others fully. Having the chance to share openly and being met with complete acceptance was powerful for me. I left the Process a more open and authentic person, free of some of the patterns that had held me back. What I’d thought would be a gruelling experience turned out to be one of the most beautiful and transformative weeks of my life.
- Our shame dissolves when we have the chance to say things out loud and are met with acceptance.
- Keeping things inside can create a lot of anxiety and tension – feeling our feelings and releasing them leads to peace.
- Anxiety is often rooted in our childhood; working at this deeper level and pulling things up by the root, is more transformative than any superficial calming technique could ever be.
Chloe Brotheridge is a therapist and coach, as well as the author of two books – The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl
You can read Chloe’s blog and download a free ‘anxiety toolkit’ on her website: calmer-you.com