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Chapter 16 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom

Interview with Elizabeth White

Dr. Elizabeth White is an experienced therapist, speaker, trainer, coach and author with a private practice in Manchester, United Kingdom.

H: Elizabeth, how did you first learn about Havening?

 

E: I was introduced to Havening by my old friend Paul McKenna, who is a well-known self-help guru. I trained with Paul and Richard Bandler in NLP more than a decade ago.

 

I saw that Paul was presenting the first workshop in London about Havening in early 2013. Unfortunately, I missed out on that one. I attended the second training they held which was later that same year. Many of the people who are now well-known in the Havening movement also attended that same training.

 

I was most interested to learn more, because like most people, I'm skeptical about new stuff. It sounded a bit too good to be true. Especially since it was addressing a lot of the same kinds of issues I was already helping my clients to address: post-traumatic stress, anxiety, phobias, and so on.

 

H: Your description of how you found out about Havening reveals some common strands that I’ve noticed. A number of people, who as you mentioned, are predominant in the Havening community now, came out of an NLP background and/or came out of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. One thing I’ve noticed in the people I've known who have trained in those areas is that they possess what I would call open-minded skepticism. They have a willingness to try things, and if something works, they don’t hesitate to adapt and use it. What matters is whether or not it works.

 

Coming into Havening from this extensive background in therapy, in NLP, and in other modalities, what did you find most interesting about Havening?

 

E: I was very interested in working with specific traumatic events. When I first found out about Havening, the primary focus was Event Havening. And that was my area of interest. I work a lot with sexual abuse, with adults who were abused when they were younger. At the time, Havening was specifically focused on treating traumatic events, phobias, and other types of anxieties.

 

I thought, "If this is what I think it is, and it works like it says it does, this could transform what I do." Obviously, I was intrigued by the issue of touch, which in most other modalities, we don't use, even though touch has always been used as a way to comfort and support people. The other thing that shocked me about Havening was the speed and effectiveness.

 

H: You're sharing some very common perceptions. The speed with which it occurs, the practically instantaneous change, the significant physiological change that you see in people. They look younger. They're more relaxed. They have this look that's become familiar to me. It's the what-just-happened-to-me look.

 

E: Absolutely. It's almost shock, isn't it? They're looking around for the thing they've just lost, even though they don't want it back. That’s the way I would describe it, when everything works well.

 

The most wonderful thing about it is we're talking sometimes about a 50-year-old problem being gone in just 20 minutes of actual Havening. The session might last an hour because you've got to do some history taking, and some digging to find out what's going on, but, on average the actual Havening session can be as little as 20 minutes. Then they sit there looking incredulous.  They're looking up and down. They're looking under the chair that they're sitting on, wondering, where is it? What's happened? What's wrong?

 

Sitting there in amazement. Sometimes they're crying tears of joy. They're laughing and joking and hugging you. The results you get can be incredible. And the amazing thing is so far it appears to be permanent, which was another thing that didn't happen before.

 

H: Yes. It's interesting. What I've discovered is sometimes when someone really releases a core memory, experience, or emotional pattern that has become part of their identity, it can be a little bit disorienting. You really have to work with them to make sure that they can adjust and reintegrate, and that they've dealt with secondary gains, for example.

 

E: Absolutely.

 

H: Because it is so rapid, and so fast. It really represents a paradigm shift in how we think about and approach traumatic experiences.

 

E: That's right. And you've got to follow through beyond that initial sense of  relief, the sense of freedom. You can also get abreactions to this sort of treatment. The beauty of Havening is that you can bolt it on to almost any other therapy or modality very well. As long as it's in good hands, experienced hands, I think it can integrate very well with almost anything. Then it can be so effective, and so fast. And, you can maintain that progress, keep building resilience, and teach them self-havening.

 

H: Elizabeth, it sounds as though Havening has taken a pretty major role in your full array of tools and interventions. Do you use it with most of your clients now?

 

E: I would say the majority of clients, yes, absolutely. Primarily in my therapy work. I don't do a huge amount of coaching, and I do use it with my coaching clients. I also use it personally. I've helped my family and friends with it.

It's evolved into being part of my everyday life. Yes, it has sneaked into almost everything I do in some way or other.

 

H: That's wonderful. One of the distinctions that Tony Burgess helped me understand is that Havening is a tool, not a therapy.

 

As a tool, it can be integrated into virtually any therapeutic approach, or even non-therapeutic approaches. A friend of mine is a havening practitioner in the US, and she has several grandchildren. The six-year-olds haven each other. One of the six-year-olds havens the three-year-old.

 

E: Absolutely. Actually, if you think about what Havening is, most of us have been doing a bit of it all our lives. If you think about most greetings and how we comfort people, what do we use? We use touch, hugs, strokes. We use it anyway from when we're born, so what's not to like, or enjoy about it? It’s so simple to blend that into your everyday life.

 

H: And the full range of human experience, from positive to negative, is encapsulated in touch. Whether it's affection, whether it's sexuality, whether it's physical violence or abuse. It seems that all of the most direct means of impacting the human emotional system, for better or worse, involve touch.

 

E: Quite right. That's what I realized. That we were using touch anyway, to some extent. Emotionally, many of the things that we care most about and how we address those situations and people, involve touch.

 

H: Yes. My sense of the real innovation and genius of what Dr. Ruden has produced is the synthesis and integration of these three components: touch, focused attention, and imagination.

 

All three components have been part of many modes of healing for a very long time. Whether it's massage, Reiki, yoga, meditation, creative imagination, hypnosis, NLP, guided imagery, attention, mindfulness, mental rehearsal. All three of those elements have been around for thousands of years, but they've never been combined in this unique way.

 

E: That's the thing. He has managed to consciously understand what they're doing and bring them all together.

 

And with the equipment that we have now and the ways that we can prove this, scientifically, there's no reason why it can't end up as part of the mainstream. Particularly in the UK, in the health service, because it's so much better, more effective, faster, and more efficient than what we presently have.

 

H: I believe that we are on the threshold of an astonishing transformation. We have these powerful tools plus our emerging scientific, research-based understanding of the brain. We have tools and techniques like Havening, which is fairly new. We have tools and techniques like meditation and yoga, which are thousands of years old. And, we now have the capacity to look inside the brain and actually see and understand how these different interventions work on a neurobiological level. This has only been possible for the past few years.

 

E: Yes. Even ten years ago, we weren't able to do some of this stuff. We didn't know or understand it properly. We had ideas of what we thought was going on. We guessed a lot. A lot of the time we were right about it. Also, we saw and understood the results. We just weren't sure what went on in the middle to get us to the results.

 

Now we understand, not totally, but we have a much better idea of what's really going on. And in our society, we’ve got to have evidence before people are willing to risk trying something out.

 

H: One of my case studies, for my practitioner certification, involved my Havening a person who is very, very successful in the health field. It was a remarkable experience. We did the Havening, and the person released something that had troubled them for many years.  Afterwards, they looked at me with this really quizzical face, which I'm sure you've seen many times. They said, "OK. What just happened and how?”

 

So I took a few minutes to explain the science, traumatic encoding, the depotentiation process, the delta waves, the AMPA receptors, the calcineurin. They sighed a sigh of relief and said, "OK. I feel better now." It was the cognitive understanding of what happened that helped them feel safer with the whole process.

 

E: That's right. Because, again, it's evidence. They understand that. And it's wonderful afterwards, when you ask them to try and get their experience of that trauma back. You say, "Come on, really try. Try hard to get that back, that feeling back."

 

They're sometimes a bit frustrated, because they can't believe they can't get it back. I've been asked many times, "Are you sure this won't come back? Will it be back tomorrow?" They don't actually believe that it's permanent, and it's gone. It's too good to be true, almost. Although they're thrilled, they're a little bit nervous. They think, "Tomorrow morning, when I wake up, will it all come back again?"

 

In the past, they might have solved the problem, to some extent, or improved by disassociating themselves from the problem over time. Then, suddenly, something's triggered the feelings again, which we know often happens.

 

H: Yes. Perhaps, that really is another aspect of the genius of what Dr. Ruden has discovered. Havening works on the synaptic level. When you have havened away the traumatic encoding of a memory, you are physically different. Your cells don't have those receptor sites. They're not going to grow back.

 

E: Exactly. That's what we're changing. We're making epigenetic changes.  This is something that, obviously, we can explore in the future. We are only just beginning to look at epigenetic changes. We are physically and genetically different after Havening. That's what's so exciting when you think about it on a deeper level.

 

The other thing about Havening is that we can use it for our own self-care, to maintain our health and equilibrium, build resilience and to look after ourselves and our loved ones. I've experimented with this quite a bit, personally, having had a few health issues in the last 18 months.

 

Here’s a little story for you.

 

Last year, I went into the hospital, just for a day, for a small procedure. I had a blocked salivary gland, which is just under your tongue. They do something called a marsupialization. Basically, they open the duct up by stretching it open. This is done under general anesthetic because of the location — otherwise it would be rather uncomfortable.

 

It's a very quick procedure, about 20 minutes. They cauterize it as it goes, but, as you can imagine, if you're stretching and ripping something open slightly, and cauterizing, it's going to be sore afterwards.

 

The anesthesiologist comes to me in the recovery room, and asks about my pain level. I thought about it and it was pretty sore. He asked me if I would like some pain relief, some opiates. I said, "No, I don't want it." He said, “Why not?" "Because, I'm going to deal with it naturally, in my own way."

 

I decided to do some Havening for the pain. I thought, "What's to lose? Try it.” I'm sitting in my recovery bed, with my blood pressure monitor on, and I start doing my Havening.  Within 10 minutes of Havening my pain had gone completely. And I was actually just stroking anywhere I could find, since I was attached to all these monitors.

 

The relief lasted about 20, 25 minutes. Then it started stinging and burning again. I havened again and the pain was gone. I was blown away. I went home later that day. The only time it bothered me was when I was doing the statutory mouthwashes that you have to do for 48 hours afterwards. It stung as you would expect. Otherwise, no pain.

 

Here’s another example. And for this one, I had two (previously skeptical) witnesses.

 

I had some dental work done in the area of my upper jaw. The whole of my face, from just below my eyes to my lower jaw was anesthetized.  As that started to wear off, I started to get some serious pain.

 

I sat in my office, two or three hours later, as this is happening, just around the time where I'm thinking of making the evening meal, and my niece and my husband are with me. I say, "I don't think I can eat, this is hurting so much."

 

My husband says, "Why don't you take something?” Just as he said that, I decided to do some Havening. I did it in front of them on purpose. It was really painful. I’ve got quite a good pain threshold, I believe, but I would say the intensity was an eight or a nine. Again, I timed it. It took fourteen minutes to go to a zero and I had no more pain. I ate my evening meal. I went home. I went to bed. I took no pain medication.

 

Over the following couple of days, all that I had was tenderness on the upper gum, where all the injections had been, from the actual anesthetic for the treatment. My husband said if he hadn't have seen it for himself, he would not have believed what he saw. There's a perfect example of using Havening to address physical pain.

 

H: Thank you for sharing your own personal example. I, too, have a number of stories of my own application of Havening for boosting resilience, lifting my mood, reducing pain, and more. I think many of us have been experimenting and discovering how, through the use of this tool, not only can we release what is in the past, we can empower ourselves to create a new future in a really beautiful way.

 

E: Absolutely.

 

H: Any considerations regarding when not to use Havening?

 

E: Used appropriately, and in the right hands, it's very safe. I've heard a lot of people ask, "Is it dangerous?" And, "When shouldn't you use it?" Often, the worst that can happen is nothing. It doesn't work and there's a number of reasons for that.

 

I think the only time that you've got to be on your guard is, if somebody is under the influence of substances, chemical substances, or having a psychotic episode. And, even then, I have actually used Havening touch to help settle and calm things down.

 

H: Thank you. How specifically do you see Havening and the research that's emerging from it, impacting both mental and physical healthcare into the future? 10, 20 years from now, what do you see and imagine?

 

E: In the future, when we get more research and evidence, we'll be able to prove so much more, that it will become mainstream. It will completely replace the current beliefs and therapies that we're working with.

 

Here, we tend to work with CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. That's what normally would be prescribed, medication, CBT, and now mindfulness. I think the CBT and mindfulness are connected. They're quite closely related. I think it will overtake those.

 

At some stage, we are going to be able to get this into mainstream medicine, across the world.

 

Also, to me, eventually, the obvious thing to do with it would be to get it into our education system in the long run just like they are trying to do with things like health, mental health, and nutrition. We're now building that into our curriculums in trying to educate people much sooner so that we intervene before the problems arise.

 

Imagine if we could do that with Havening. That would just be amazing. If we can get to children, if we can start this at a younger age, we can change lives right at the beginning. The sooner we can approach people, the sooner we can help them have a happier, healthier life. Things will be so different for those young people if they realize that they can use this as a resilience tool. It could also have a positive impact on any area where people are in a caring, helping, or teaching profession.

 

H: Any limits to Havening’s future, from your vantage point?

 

E: I really don't think there are any boundaries within reason as I see it. It's evolved so much, already, in these three and a half years. I'm still discovering things on a sort of weekly, monthly, basis, that I'm helping or changing with it. We can continue to evolve it and apply it in so many different ways. You could adapt it to suit almost anything. When it's done appropriately you can really make fantastic headway into so many areas.

 

H: Thank you. You are, in addition to being a Certified Havening Techniques® practitioner, also a trainer. What are you discovering as you spread the word about Havening within your professional community? How are people responding? How do you address their skepticism about something that's so new, representing such a paradigm shift?

 

E: That, sometimes, is the hardest thing, because you're dealing with old attitudes a lot of the time.

 

At the moment we're promoting Havening primarily to health professionals, first responders, doctors, nurses, and other therapists. And there is a lot of skepticism around, in certain generations of the medical profession, particularly in mental health fields. Of course, that’s where new and effective tools like Havening are most needed.

 

Often, they read up about it and think, "Sounds too good to be true. It probably is.” Or they think to themselves, ”It's so new. Let's wait until it's been around a while and they've ironed out all the glitches in it." I think the problem for a lot of health professionals is, unless they can see a white paper that explains it, they tend to be afraid of it. That's part of the problem. They're not prepared to take the risk, if you like.

 

That says a lot about the society we live and work in, doesn't it? From a business point of view as well, we've got to have proof.

 

I’ve discovered that the best way to shift those attitudes is to prove it, to show it in action so they can see it in action and experience it for themselves.

 

H: As with many innovations, it may take another generation of young people, who are growing up with this understanding. As I interact with people around Havening and we discuss this, it becomes clear to me that tools like Havening are based on an emerging, fairly recent, understanding of the brain. Most therapies, including CBT and talk therapies, are, in many ways, based on an older model of the brain.

 

E: That's the problem, absolutely, because they did their training 20, 30 years ago, and they're still stuck in this outmoded belief system.

 

 

H: It reminds me of the debates that were happening hundreds of years ago when most human beings believed the Earth was flat, or before the discovery of telescopes, and people believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth. My sense is Havening, and these discoveries connected to it, are an equally significant paradigm shift, and that's why many people don't get it — yet.

 

E: Absolutely.

 

H: One more question. What advice would you give someone who's looking into the possibility of adding Havening to their toolkit? It could be a mental health professional, it could be a coach, it could be a parent, a teacher, somebody who works with young people, just a person who'd be interested in, possibly, looking at the training. What advice would you give them?

 

E: There are so many people who should come and look at this. I would say, go for it, try it. What have you got to lose? It could be life-changing for a lot of people because they are going to be able to do their job so much more effectively and easily.

 

H: Thank you so much, Elizabeth.

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