Here are some of the questions people have often asked me when they wanted to find out more about HAI and my answers:
Why is it so difficult to find out what exactly happens in the exercises?
Everyone who is thinking of participating in a workshop is entitled to know what exactly they are going to encounter. Who wants to know what happens at a Level 1 workshop can call the office for info or attend a mini taster workshop.
Why should I do a HAI workshop – do I need something like that at all?
No, no one needs workshops in self-exploration. It is possible to live a perfectly happy and content life without ever having taken part in anything like it. And you shouldn’t listen to anyone else saying, “You should do this or that” unless you yourself feel the clear desire for growth, self-awareness and change. Or perhaps you just feel like you’d like more joy and love in your life. Motivation for personal growth doesn’t only come from the realisation that I am lacking something in my life but often from the sheer joy of experiencing growth, commitment to self-care, or the wish to meet like-minded people.
What is the difference between self-exploration and therapy?
It is a good idea to seek therapy if you experience problems that you can’t seem to solve on your own, if you feel stuck. That’s a positive step, not something to be embarrassed about. Experienced therapists can help with a variety of issues such as sexual or physical abuse, addiction, depression, burnout, couples or sex therapy, and many more. In therapy specific methods will be used to work from a diagnosis towards a solution, usually in 1 to 1 sessions.
Self-exploration workshops such as offered by HAI are an intermediate stage between dealing with our issues on our own and seeking professional help through therapy. Many of our problems are fairly common and normal; i.e., many people experience similar issues, even though we may not be aware of that. By becoming more aware of my behaviour patterns and getting to know myself better I can try out new strategies and decide whether they might serve me better. I may be able to find solutions to my issues without needing to seek therapy. We learn through mutual exchange, support and understanding to better manage our challenges. It is also more fun. Clear communication is an important tool for dealing with most difficult situations in life and it is easier and more effective to practice communication in a group rather than in a secluded therapy session.
Therefore, HAI workshops can be a meaningful and successful complement to any form of therapy. They can be particularly helpful after a course of therapy sessions. The workshop exercises mirror real life situations and offer the opportunity to practice and deepen new behaviours in a protected space. The methods used in HAI workshops are not in conflict with any common and recognised form of therapy.
In a self-exploration workshop there is no diagnosis or a specific therapy goal – everyone is following their own chosen path in a supportive environment together with likeminded people.
Should I do this? Is HAI for me?
This is a personal decision. Some people hear about HAI and know instinctively “This is for me”. Others, myself included, will consider carefully, forget about it for a while, weigh the pros and cons, and perhaps only decide to come when a life situation or crisis eventually gives the stimulus to try it. Those who know exactly what they are looking for can simply call the Hand on Heart office and find out whether the workshop offers what they want. In the end it’s best to listen to one’s gut feeling; the gut is often cleverer than the mind. When the head says “You need to do this!” but the gut says NO, it may be best to wait a while. This is already an integral part of the workshop; what decision do you make? And is it serving you?
Could a HAI workshop affect me negatively?
In our opinion it can’t. Not as long as you are capable of making responsible and mindful choices. All exercises are to be understood as invitations. The fact that you are constantly reminded to make conscious choices and have the support of a large and dedicated team to find your Yes and No, ensures that the workshop is a very safe space for exploration. The point is to become more aware of your own boundaries and to honour them. You are supported to challenge yourself if you feel it may be beneficial to you. And you are supported to accept yourself and your decisions whatever they may be in the moment. HAI is not about pushing people; every step we take should be a conscious mindful decision to do what’s best for us.
It is possible that some of the exercises might trigger pain, sometimes old deep-seated pain. Our experience is that this is not a bad thing even though it may be painful in the moment. Letting tears flow contributes to the healing process.
Sometimes a participant becomes aware that their issues go deeper or are more persistent than they had realised. Old traumas may raise their heads and may be best dealt with through therapy. Should this be the case, we will be available to support you even after the workshop until you have found a suitable therapist.
For those with mental health problems, in medical care, or on strong medication who cannot be relied upon to act in a responsible manner, a self-exploration workshop is not a suitable place; they should seek appropriate therapy and/or medical support.
How do I know whether HAI is a sect or not?
Well, you certainly shouldn’t simply take my word for it! Any sect leader worth his money would deny it. In the beginning, I was really surprised when people asked me this question. But, if you are doubtful, it is an important question to ask.
It’s not that straightforward to recognise a sect, but these days there is plenty of information on the internet. There are many public and charitable organisations who advise on this issue and make information available. There are public listings of organisations that qualify as sects.
Once you have attended a HAI workshop yourself you’ll be certain that you haven’t ended up in a sect. Simply our premise that we don’t know what is best for you but that we will support you to find out for yourself and stay in integrity at all times is inconsistent with the way sects work. The tools we offer you to practise finding and voicing your Yes and No are supporting self-determination. You cannot know this for sure before a workshop but you can follow your instinct or, if necessary, enquire with official organisations.
When I asked a participant what made her friend think that HAI could be a sect, she explained that the fact that we ask participants not to talk about the content of the exercises after the workshop seemed suspicious. I understand that. We have created the exercises with much care and thought and we want you to experience them fresh and direct. We found that when participants talk about the exercises after the workshop in their own words, it can lead to confusion, misunderstanding and can indeed be misinterpreted. If you really want to know exactly what is going to happen, simply call the office. We will explain the exercises to you without spoiling the surprise. It’s really not that mysterious but a little like Christmas; you wouldn’t want to know what you get for a present in advance, would you?
At this point I’d like to take the opportunity to speak up in support of all those who shed light on the activities of sects and who advise and support victims and their families. I particularly would like to mention a personal heroine of mine, Frau Ursula Caberta. For over 20 years, Frau Caberta fought with a great deal of courage and conviction against Scientology in Hamburg and worldwide. In January 2013 she quit her job due to a disgraceful lack of support from her own organisation. Scientology must have been very pleased and grateful to Hamburg authorities.