In part 1 of this article we looked briefly at the beginnings of Havening.
Here we’ll attempt to describe how it works and a little bit of the processes behind it.
Why is physical touch involved?
Because your body is an electrical-chemical organ. ANY sensory input — anything you see, hear, smell, taste or feel — is transduced into an electrical/chemical signal to be sent to the brain in order to be perceived.
The electrical part of that signal can be measured in frequencies. Different frequencies cause the body to release different chemicals.
As an example, very fast frequencies (30–100Hz) are classified as gamma waves and the chemicals the body releases because of them are stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. Very slow frequencies (5-4 Hz) are called Delta waves and the chemicals the body releases are very different. These are relaxation response chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine.
This is why the Havening Techniques employ touch. Studies show that when touch is applied to certain areas of the body, the body creates Delta waves. (Harper, M. (2012). Taming the amygdala: An EEG analysis of exposure therapy for the traumatized. Traumatology, 18 (2), 61–74.doi:10.1006/ccog.1999.0393)
This is the secret behind Havening. It is also behind all other psycho-sensory therapies, however most of them don’t know that.
In devising the Havening touch, Dr. Ronald Ruden utilized the findings from Harper’s study and created a method that takes some of the methodologies of the earlier psycho-sensory therapies and strips out the parts that don’t work. Notably, the Harper study shows that tapping on meridian points or the gamut point, essential parts of the tapping systems, has no advantage so Ruden left that out of the Havening protocols. Why does Havening use stroking? It works better for most people because it is subjectively more soothing and reassuring feeling than tapping.
The results are remarkable. And, let’s take a look a little deeper as to why.
If a person experiences a traumatic event a small, almond-shaped part of the brain called the amygdala takes over operational control of the brain to ensure your survival.
When that happens, particular glutamate receptors called AMPA receptors become potentiated on the post synaptic surface of the lateral amygdala and you go into full fight or flight mode. That’s where you will run like crazy or fight like a demon in order to survive.
AND what makes a traumatic memory unique is its permanence. Dr. Ruden believes this is caused at the moment of traumatization by the activation of a PKMzeta- like enzyme that phosphorylates those AMPA receptors, permanently anchoring them into place.
This is why anything that reminds us of the event will trigger this encoded neurobiological pathway and produce those flashbacks and anxieties. It also explains why traditional therapies do little or nothing to remove or heal the trauma… talking about it sometimes can even make it worse.
So how is Havening different? How does it get in there to alter this seemingly permanent condition?
As mentioned, the low-frequency Delta Waves created by the Havening touch cause various chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, GABA and dopamine to be produced in the brain. Those “electroceuticals” are a pleasant enough experience, but Havening doesn’t stop there.
The Delta waves also cause voltage-sensitive calcium channels to open on the amygdala neurons allowing calcium to enter the cells. This leads to the activation of an enzyme called calcineurin, a phosphatase which removes the PKM zeta like phosphate from the AMPA receptors.
In other words, the calcineurin basically dissolves the glue which holds the AMPA receptors in place, and they become depotentiated, meaning that they are reabsorbed back into the neuron and no longer able to transmit – permanently.
So the formerly traumatized individual can often still remember THAT the event happened but it has no emotional content anymore to stop them from living a full life.
I’m sure you will agree that this is a huge step forward in the treatment of trauma and phobias. In the hands of a skilled professional the changes can be profound.
And, for me, the fact that it works is very much equalled by Dr. Ruden’s comprehensive research and explication of why it works. I’ll explain more of why that is SO important to me in the next part of this article.