by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
- Actions speak loudest, but feelings speak first
- Negative love and our family patterns
- We are what we’ve learned — but we can change that!
As women, we regularly consider our emotional needs to be last on our list of priorities — if they’re even on the list at all! And we find many logical, rational-sounding explanations for why this has to be the case. “If I didn’t have to work so much,” we say, or “If only my children weren’t sick,” or “I can’t right now because my parents need my help.” Whatever the excuse, we often put our own emotional needs to the side to plow through and get “our work” done. But as the demands pile on and time for reflection and renewal dwindles, many women suffer not only emotionally, but physically.
One method that we often suggest to women seeking a way to address emotional issues is the Hoffman Quadrinity Process. We have seen it transform the lives of women who were “stuck” on emotional issues. This program helps people integrate the four essential aspects of their being: emotions, intellect, spirit, and physical body. A 2006 study done at the University of California Davis has found that participants in the Hoffman Process have done as well or better than those using other interventions in significantly reducing depression, anxiety, interpersonal sensitivity, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, especially in the long term. This study also found significant, lasting increases in emotional intelligence, forgiveness, spirituality, energy, and vitality.
We asked the Hoffman Institute’s President, Raz Ingrasci, to summarize what the Process teaches so that women can get a better idea of what it offers for better emotional health.
Actions speak loudest, but emotions speak first
The old saw that “actions speak louder than words” is very true, but it’s only half the equation. Our actions are mostly guided by how we feel — in other words, though actions might be loudest, emotions always speak first, and they guide our actions far more than our intellect. Indeed, the emotional brain reacts at lightning speed compared to the intellectual brain. Raz suggests that we think back to the last time we felt humiliated, upset, angry, or insulted. “It takes only a millisecond,” he says, “to put us into a state of paralysis. We’re reeling, trying to come up with words to use in conversation, but we’re struck dumb.” And it’s minutes or even hours before we can articulate that feeling to someone else or even ourselves.
From the experience with 70,000+ who have attended the Hoffman Process, Raz estimates that about 80% of human behavior stems from our emotional brains, which can confuse us when we react in ways that we know, intellectually, are counterproductive. Raz suggests that one way around this dilemma is to learn to identify our emotions more readily. As he explains, “The naming of an emotion takes place in the intellectual brain, though the feeling itself exists in the emotional brain. When it is named, those two spheres are connected and you feel more whole.”
When we recognize the power of our emotions and give them due regard, our lives can improve dramatically. As Raz says, “There’s an old axiom, ’What you can feel, you can heal.’ The best way to begin dealing with an unwanted emotion is to allow yourself to experience it.” Burying our emotions only means they will arise again at another time in different circumstances, but always inconveniently. To tap into the power of emotions, Raz suggests, “the best strategy is to become aware of your feelings and move with them, allowing your body to experience your sensations and emotions.” This is how we work through problems and eventually heal. If your emotional states are overpowering or frightening to you or others, seek professional help.
Negative love and our family patterns
Once we can name our feelings, the next step is to figure out where they originated; where did I learn that feeling? We tend to reproduce the behaviors we learned from our parents as a way of earning their approval, attention, and love. Bob Hoffman, creator of the Hoffman Process, called this the Negative Love Syndrome because these behaviors are rooted in the experience of not getting enough love.
A negative pattern is…
…a reaction that is:
As humans, it’s our great fortune that any negative patterns we are capable of learning, once we become aware of them, we are also capable of unlearning.
(Adapted from The Hoffman Process, p 25.)
These behavior patterns play out in our adult lives as well. Many of us end up seeking relationships that are similar to what we saw in our parents because this is how we learned about love. How often have you, or one of your friends, lamented not only that you “married your father” but that you’re “becoming your mother”? There are good reasons why they (or you) might feel an echo of your parents in your own behavior — your parents were the people who formed your perception of how an adult behaves and what adult relationships should look like. And they, in turn, were formed by their own parents. These patterns and perceptions, whether positive or negative, can continue from generation to generation virtually unexamined.
The Hoffman Process is focused on helping you to be your true self, not the “mask” you create to meet your parents’ and society’s expectations. In order to find our authentic selves, we have to examine where our emotions and motivations stem from.
Here is a list of statements that you can review to see if the Quadrinity Process is for you:
- I feel that something is holding me back and want to take the limits off.
- I experience too much stress, and I’m not having enough fun.
- I know what I should do, but often can’t generate the will to do it.
- I often feel angry, resentful, embarrassed or depressed.
- I flip flop between dominating and intimidating people below me and avoid being dominated by people above me,
- I feel intimidated, coerced, and manipulated and can’t stand up for myself.
- I work compulsively, often to the detriment of other aspects of my life.
- Meaning is going out of my marriage, my career, or life in general. I often feel I’m just going through the motions.
- There’s a lack of intimacy in my life — I’ve been unsuccessful in creating relationships.
- I’m either unemotional and disconnected from my feelings or my feelings are running me.
- I’m in recovery from substance abuse (clean and sober for 90 days minimum) and want to deal with the original pain that led to addiction.
- I recognize that my parents were not as loving and supportive as I wanted them to be, or that bad things happened in my childhood.
- I see myself passing my own suffering on to my children.
We are what we’ve learned — but we can change that!
As children, we learn from our parents and caregivers. When a child has a negative experience with a parent, he or she typically assumes the blame for it. If a parent ignores, dismisses, or rejects a child—whether because the parent was preoccupied with work, or didn’t know how to address their feelings, or simply was out of sorts that day—the child assumes he or she was somehow “bad” or unworthy of love. This childhood feeling of being unlovable becomes an internal state and persists into adulthood. This is the underlying source the negative love syndrome.
The responses we develop as children to try to elicit the love we needed from our parents often imitate the very behaviors that made us feel so unworthy. As Bob Hoffman noted, “our unconscious reasons for adopting negative behavior patterns from our parents are:
The hope that they will love us if we are like them.
To vindictively punish our parents by reflecting their negativity back to them.
To punish ourselves for feeling unworthy and unlovable.”
Such unexamined negative love strategies persist into adulthood, causing us difficulties in our adult relationships and even affecting our physical health.
We may feel disheartened when we realize just how young we started learning our negative emotions and behavior patterns, but we can take comfort in the fact that these are learned behaviors, which we can transform with time and practice. As children we had no choice, but as adults we can choose to heal. This is the goal of the Hoffman Process for emotional healing.
“From a human doing to a human being”
Most of us simply react or do as we’ve been shown in any given situation. In his book, The Hoffman Process, Tim Laurence talks about transitioning from a human doing to a human being. The Hoffman Process helps to unwind this programmed behavior by examining all parts of the self — emotions, intellect, spirit and body — along with the patterns we have developed, so we can choose what to keep and what to change, thereby empowering us to have a more free, open, loving, spontaneous experience of life.
Though most of us have been conditioned otherwise, our emotional health deserves a place on our “to-do lists,” and it’s time we start paying attention. Women deserve to take the time and space to reflect on the negative patterns you’ve always imagined are simply a part of “who you are.” The Hoffman Institute has developed dozens of tools to help work through negative patterns and provide positive alternatives.
If you’d like to learn more about tapping into the full range of your emotional expression, visit the Hoffman Institute website. The impressive results of the UC Davis research study on the Hoffman Process can be found on their site as well.