The Hoffman Process: Seven Days to Change a Lifetime

In 1967, Bob Hoffman developed a journey of self-discovery designed to help us detect negative patterns of behavior, break them, and to become the person we truly are. The Hoffman Process, which includes a 7-day retreat, is based on the idea that our parents form a big part of our personality, because as children we perceive them as almighty and believe that whatever they do, they do out of unconditional love. Consequently, we think that we are at fault whenever a conflict arises and develop patterns of behavior to please our parents and minimize any friction. Unfortunately, these patterns can lead to a personality that is misaligned with its true spiritual self. And so, we grow into adults that behave in ways that make us sad. 

Special thanks to our co-author, Elke Menzel, coach and the director of the Hoffmann Institute Germany. Read more about her work at elkemenzel.de and hoffman-institut.de

The Full Story

Our parents form a big part of our personality during the time when we completely depend on their care. This happens because as young children we perceive them as almighty, endlessly wise, and flawless.

We also believe that whatever they do, literally – whatever – they – do, they do out of unconditional love. And because we think they are infallible and full of love, we consequently think that we are at fault whenever a conflict arises. 

In order to reduce any kind of conflict, we develop patterns of behavior, feelings, and thinking designed to please our parents and minimise any friction. Unfortunately, these patterns can lead to a personality that is misaligned with its true spiritual self. And so, we grow into adults that behave in ways that make us sad.

How it works

The Hoffman Process was designed to help us detect negative patterns of behavior, break them and to become the person we really are.

To condense a lifetime of analysis into seven days, the process is highly structured, very intense, and applies a multitude of techniques.  Afterwards, participants often understand why they are the way they are and learn to let go of the negative sides of their personality.

To understand how the process works, let us look at three types of people who on the outside, look just fine, but on the inside, deeply struggle.

Eva, Jay, and Tom

Eva is 27, a university graduate, and she has just started her first job. She’s unable to trust men and is at a loss when it comes to forming healthy relationships.

Jay is 51, an overachiever, and a respected CEO. However, his marriage is broken and his two adult children hardly ever call. He asks himself if that’s really all that life has to offer?

Tom is 45, married with one child, but he’s got no friends. He lives with his family far outside town and signs up for the process when he realizes that his daughter also has problems making friends.

Through the process Eva will realise that, when her dad left when she was 4, and her mother then struggled as a single mom and a lonely woman, it had a big impact on her. Over the years her own relationship with her father became broken and she learned that men couldn’t be trusted.

Jay will learn that his life was going great up until his little brother was born — a funny, extraverted, and bright boy. Afterwards, Jay was hardly ever noticed. Jay soon realizes that his parents would only pay attention to him if he excelled in school or sports, causing him to grow into an adult who tries to be the best in everything, in order to get the love he seeks. 

Tom will realize that he was an accident — born to a young couple who had just begun dating. As a young boy, he was often neglected because their life was difficult. His parents who were overwhelmed by the situation would often snap at him over the smallest thing. Little Tom began to think that he was the cause of all misery — he should never have been born.

Preparing for the process

The process begins with a phone call from a designated therapist. This is followed by a 50-page questionnaire that helps their client to reflect on their lives. Going through the questions, the participants identify particular patterns in behavior and link them to their parents. Once returned, the therapist uses the questionnaire to understand the underlying issues.

Day 1

On day 1, all three arrive at the retreat, a place isolated from the outside world. They hand over their phones and any books to ensure there are no distractions. Tom then meets his therapist for an in-depth conversation. Afterwards, he gets to know the other 17 participants and learns that everyone carries within them an inner child that manages their expectations, thoughts, and feelings. 

Day 2

On day 2, Jay and the others learn more about their parents and how their behavioral patterns have formed out of love for their father and mother.

Jay, who only got real attention when he impressed his parents, could never be good enough to get all the love he needed.

Such conditional love is negative because subconsciously Jay takes on the blame for this disjunction and develops a ‘core shame belief’ — he begins to think something is inherently wrong with himself.

And so, even after 50 years of trying so hard to be the best, his inner child is still looking for the unconditional love he got so little of.

Day 3

On day 3, Eva realizes how the patterns she established as a young girl subconsciously project into her adult relationships — anyone who reminds Eva of her father, can’t be trusted. 

Through a group game later that day, she experiences that there are men she can rely on. 

Eva then accuses her parents of making her the victim of their broken relationship – this is important because this way she can retrace her negative pattern back to her parents.

Afterwards, she learns to understand their story, because they too were once children, with parents who had their own issues.

This is important because then she can understand their situation and realizes that the way she was brought up was all her parents were able to provide.

Now she can make peace with her past, and her mistrust of men begins to wither.

Day 4

On day 4, participants say goodbye to their parents and their childhood and ask themselves:

  • Where am I from?
  • What injuries do I bring along from my mother and father?
  • How have these injuries impacted my life?
  • What strategies have I developed to compensate for these injuries so far?

Jay, who didn’t want to be reminded of the painful thought that he’s not worthy of his parents’ unconditional love, compensated by only contacting them when he had outstanding news, such as another promotion. Knowing that they would then surely listen and act predictably, he reduces the risk of feeling hurt.

After this realization, Jay creates a development plan to follow his vision for life after the process.

Day 5

Day 5 is about our vindictiveness. Tom, who didn’t want to be reminded that he is the root of all problems, compensated for the pain he experienced by hiding himself. At a young age, children keep their honor by thinking of how to, one day, pay their parents back for the misery they caused them.

As we mature, such vindictive thoughts move into the subconscious and by the time he is a teenager, Tom begins to pay back. First by breaking the law, then by breaking all contacts with his friends and family.

On this day, Tom stops feeling vindictive and makes peace with his parents. His inner child regains his honor and grows in strength. Grown-up Tom can now leave his hiding place and finally enjoy meeting other people.

Day 6

On day 6 the participants get to know the saboteur, the inner voice that warns us of any change in order to keep us in the safe old world we know so well. Eva hears the voice, whenever she opens up to the opposite sex — it whispers “remember, you can’t trust men”. Tom hears it when he enters a group of people — “you are not welcome here”. Whenever Jay tries to relax and be himself, the saboteur says “Don’t just do nothing! You are better than this!”

After getting to know this evil agent, they learn how to deal with this enemy of our progress. Then the group recaps the entire process and celebrates their newfound selves.

Day 7

On day 7 they learn practical tools on how to cope with the change they will face when they go back into their lives. Finally, they go home to their parents, to complete what they have started, end their old lives and begin afresh.

The Hoffman Process

The Hoffman Process was developed in 1967 by Bob Hoffman. Today the process is being offered in over 16 countries and over 100,000 people have gone through this intense journey of self-discovery — including Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.

Because of the inner transformation, the participants undergo during this process, they are advised not to make any dramatic lifestyle changes in the first 3 months following their graduation from the program.

To learn more about the Hoffman process, or to read the research on it by the Harvard Center for Public Leadership, check out the descriptions below. Prior to creating this channel, our founder went through the Hoffman Process and it had a profound effect on his life.

Sources

Dig deeper

Still curious about the Hoffman Process? Check out this personal account by journalist Janine di Giovanni or read about how Katy Perry and Justin Bieber experienced the process.