Forgiveness can be a powerful catalyst for change, benefiting anyone who hopes to let go of the past.
Experts at the Hoffman Institute believe they have a unique take on personal development. At the Institute, staff provide an eight-day intensive residential course of self-help workshops in which participants are “skillfully and compassionately shown how to let go of the past, release pent-up stress, self-limiting behaviors and resentments, and start creating the future they desire.”
The process has been used over the last 40 years by an estimated 70,000 people wanting to improve their relationships, communication skills and personal strength. The approach was originally developed by Bob Hoffman, and refined by other health professionals and therapists.
Tim Laurence, founder of the Hoffman Institute in the UK, strongly believes that forgiveness is an essential part of healing. Over the past 15 years, he has been amazed by the courage he has witnessed as people let go of anger and pain.
“I have seen people whose lives have been determined by a grievance that has affected not only themselves, but also generations after them. To then see that person forgive and be able to move on in their lives is like watching them unlocking the door to their own prison and stepping out into freedom,” Laurence said.
The Hoffman Process claims to be suitable for people who are just starting, or have been on a path to self discovery for a long time. It is described by Patrick Holford, author of the Optimum Nutrition Bible, as “a psychological detox.”
The Hoffman Process
During the first half of the course, the layers of ‘scar tissue’ created by past experiences are stripped away, in sessions with individual therapists and in groups of other students (usually about twenty per course). Methods include visualization, where students are asked to picture past experiences and relive them, and externalizing emotions by shouting, punching cushions, and letting off steam. Students are asked to produce written accounts of their childhoods.
In the second half of the course, students are encouraged to forgive their parents by methods such as holding imaginary conversations with them. The spiritual dimension also is vital at this point, a reconnection with a level of existence which we all have, but which modern life distances us from.
Relationships within the group also are very important. Revealing oneself to others and hearing their stories is cathartic but enduring mutual support is provided through regular get-togethers, telephone and email after the course ends.
Why Let Go?
Holding on to anger or resentment can trigger a sense of strength and righteousness. It can feel good to blame someone else, but it leaves us on shaky ground. Ultimately, who wants to have a life defined by anger, pain or suffering? However, there’s an important distinction to bear in mind with forgiving. You can still condemn the act whole forgiving the person. It can’t be forced, but if you’re open to the possibility, it will come at the right time and the right place. You might wake up one morning and think “Now is the time to move on since my relationship break-up” or “I’m fed up blaming my parents.”
There are many benefits to acknowledging our mistakes, learning from them and moving on. If the first step is to forgive others, the next has to be to turn that forgiveness toward ourselves. Self-acceptance brings peace of mind, relief from guilt and shame. Forgiveness is a “spiritual transformation,” Laurence said, leading us to a larger self and a change of perspective toward a position of wisdom and generosity.
A Clinical Psychologist’s View
Oliver James, the clinical psychologist and author of “Affluenza: How to Be Successful and Stay Sane,” is a firm believer in the Hoffman process.
“In making referrals for patients, I have come to favour it over the alternatives,” James said. “It is the most systematic method I know for properly exploring the role of childhood as well as offering a motorway back from the past.” While many of the techniques employed by the Hoffman process are not in themselves original, the specific combination used is original, as is the fact that therapy is conducted as an eight-day residential course.