When an old friend who also knew Hoffman read my account of his raping me, she wrote that she embraced me with “angelic frequencies to find healing for your heart.” An even closer friend here in India read it and asked, “Why did you see him after that? How could you remain his friend for more than 25 years?” I will try to answer this difficult question while being grateful for the prayer for my healing. Perhaps the two are congruous.
The first friend I mentioned said something about “victimhood.” She also emphasized forgiveness as if in my self-examination I was somehow not understanding enough of Hoffman and his predatory, abusive behavior. I know that playing the victim card is not particularly powerful or useful, so I was led to further self-examination. Playing victim is defined as “the fabrication or exaggeration of victimhood for a variety of reasons such as to justify abuse of others, to manipulate others, a coping strategy, or attention seeking.”
Let me be completely clear: I do not forgive Hoffman for his behavior. As I wrote in earlier posts, Hoffman had a professional relationship with me over 8 or 9 months, yet he stalked me, he groomed me, and then he raped me. By rape I mean uninvited, forced anal sex, outside any ethical or legal time frame for a therapist or spiritual counselor, which was the designation Hoffman used to skirt not having any professional training much less license, to be “dating" a client. Hoffman was aware of what he was doing. These are facts. I am not exaggerating or fabricating them nor am I trying to manipulate others or looking for attention. Telling my story is a coping mechanism which I own.
I met Hoffman through my work with Claudio Naranjo and, because Naranjo recommended him and supported Hoffman’s Psychic Therapy, I ignored my first impressions that Hoffman was an uneducated, unprofessional, bumbling fool. I recounted that first encounter in some detail in The Ontological Odd Couple—The Origins of the Hoffman Process. “At our group’s first meeting with Bob Hoffman, . . . it was soon obvious that he was not educated in any psychological discipline, but he dominated the room, alternatively talking then yelling in a kind of dumbed-down jargon filled with what became known as ‘Hoffmanisms.’ The paradoxical definition of ‘negative love was illogical logical and nonsensical sense,’ and if we didn’t understand that, we were just playing dumb out of negative love; if we thought he was too well dressed, it was negative transference and an indication that we didn’t love ourselves. . . . ”
The current proponents of the Hoffman Process have refined Hoffman’s double negative gibberish, but even when Hoffman’s characterization of “Negative Love” first appeared in print, “Getting Divorced from Mother and Dad,” one phrase was excised: “. . . It is illogical logic, nonsensical sense, and insane sanity, yet masochistically true or we wouldn’t behave in such a fashion.” Attributing negative behavior to masochism has been expunged, but Hoffman repeated it often and loudly.
Another Hoffmanism was “righteously indignant,” which he used to justify his anger towards clients or a staff person with whom he had an issue. He was a very angry man. He liked to say that he had “to tear down to build up.” Nearly everyone I know who was close to Hoffman would be forced to admit, if they were entirely honest, that they ran afoul of him at one point or another. Often the solution to resolving personal conflict was to force a person to redo the therapy so that the object of his displeasure could “put their awareness on their unawareness”—there was obviously something that he or she had missed. They were acting out, and Hoffman was the object of their negative behavior—it always fell to the other to assume responsibility. I personally reviewed the Process 3 times.
In a professional setting, Hoffman’s confrontational behavior towards clients was problematic. On very little evidence, just a turn of phrase or a misused word—his understanding of a Freudian slip, he would assess a person’s character, label some trait as “negative love” and go on the attack. He was relentless and often cruel. And in my case, after all the shouting accusations, I discovered that although he was accurate in pointing to my obvious homosexuality, his “clairvoyant evidence” about my Father was entirely wrong.
Another Hoffmanism, a characteristic of Negative Love, was “giving to get.” When we were in the thrall of our parents’ negative love, we were deceived into believing that if we acted like them we would get their love. “”See Mommy,” he would say, “I’m acting just like you. Now will you love me?” But Hoffman posited true love as the straightforward giving and receiving of affection without expectations. When in the early 70’s he read about the Tasaday tribe on a remote Philippines Island, who lived a simple life without anger or hoarding or amassing wealth, he thought that he’d discovered the Holy Grail. When the Tasaday turned out to be a carefully crafted hoax planted by Philippine politician Manuel Elizalde, a crony of Ferdinand Marcos, it mattered little to Hoffman. Like so many nuances, they were denied or papered over. I think that Hoffman’s understanding of love actually was no deeper than the sentimental Bing Crosby song “True Love” which used to be sung at the graduation ceremony.
The truth was that Hoffman was almost entirely motivated by money. He tried to calculate how much money Werner Erhardt made doing his est trainings. I heard him speak of Werner Erhard and Swami Muktananda in extremely deprecating terms. He had nothing but disdain for anyone he considered a cult leader. He thought of himself as the anti-guru guru. The only person whom he never talked badly about was Naranjo. Naranjo was his path to legitimizing the Process in the professional world. However, privately he thought that Claudio never really got the Process on the deep emotional level that Hoffman demanded. He told me this several times, and I was appalled.
This is the kind of behavior characteristic of cult leaders, and Hoffman, despite his protests, matches most of the criteria for a cult leader. I think that this is the place to make the notation that the current owners of Hoffman’s intellectual property and the Process teachers are often people who have history in various groups widely considered cults, from est to Life Spring and Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh’s ashrams.
To return to my friend Kumar’s question: Why did I continue to try to be his friend for nearly 25 years? He sexually abused me. He was not particularly smart or intellectually interesting and stimulating. He was an angry man and quite unrestrained in displaying his anger. He attacked anyone he considered a rival. He was self-righteous. He could be generous, but there were always expectations.
I’m sorry, Mr. Kumar, I have not answered your question, but I hope that I’ve at least laid the groundwork for a more satisfactory explanation. I’m not looking to make a compelling, water tight case for why I continued to be friends with Hoffman, but I’d like to arrive at a place that allows for some peace of mind. It seems that there are several more chapters to write.
Here are the pieces that I've written about Hoffman. Although I have tried to be objective, it is impossible to take a disinterested position with regard to the Process. Hoffman sexually abused me about 6 months after I finished my first process.
© Kenneth Ireland, 2020