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NOVEMBER 2nd & 3rd, 2019

Dissolving the Chains of Addition

Chapter 5 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom

Interview with Ross Hyslop

Ross Hyslop is director of Synaptein Coaching & Neurofeedback Services in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Harry: Ross, how did you first discover Havening?


Ross: I was aware of Dr. Ruden through reading his book, The Craving Brain, at least a decade previously. I then heard his name mentioned in connection to Havening and my ears perked up. When I made the connection with the book, this book I had read that was collecting dust on my shelf, I e-mailed him directly in New York and expressed my interest in his techniques, his findings, and their application. I also had a desire to train in the model.


I was actually a bit of a pioneer, because my e-mail with Dr. Ruden at the very early stages of this work ignited his interest in possibly coming to the UK. He realized that there was a group of people who would be interested in training. When there was a sufficient number, Dr. Ruden came over and worked with us. That was the first training in the UK and that’s how I came into the world of Havening.


H: So you were one of the people who helped inspire Dr. Ruden to share this in a broader sense in the first place.


R: I believe so. I only became aware of that very recently in a recent conference call with Steven Ruden. He said, “You were the first person who e-mailed and said that you wanted to train in this.”


H: Wow. Your initiative has borne very rich fruitage so far. There are over 150 certified practitioners in 16 countries, 22 trainers, and many thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of people who are benefitting from Havening. So, thank you for sending that email!

Ross, I’d like to know more about your own practice. You are one of the people Dr. Steven Ruden recommended to me with great enthusiasm, specifically in the context of your work with addiction. Who are your typical clients?


R: First of all, I had an awakening to myself and my own behavior patterns over two decades ago. When I was fourteen years old, I went out to a party. That party didn’t stop until I was twenty. In 1993 I got sober. As I look back, although I didn’t know it at the time, I was preparing myself for working with addiction as a result of somehow healing myself.


I went into therapy. I committed to a three-year program and was in therapy from the age of twenty to the age of twenty-three. I then went to India for a year, studying Ayurvedic medicine and body psychotherapy, looking at different ways of releasing trauma.


Then in 2006 I went to university and got a post graduate certification in counseling and psychotherapy. I’ve also studied a number of additional modalities as a way of attempting to cure my own ills, and I’ve been sober 23 years now. My work and practice now is predominantly in the field of neurofeedback and brain-based biofeedback coaching and counseling.


I prefer the word coaching because it’s much more solution oriented. My client base varies widely, from primary school children, where I am doing play and art therapy with minors age four to nine; to secondary school aged young people, to working with teenagers, to adults dealing with bereavement. However, the majority of my work is with substance misusers or drug and alcohol misusers.


From my perspective, drugs and alcohol are a way of self-soothing the trauma, another survival coping mechanism. So I choose not to label myself a drug and alcohol counselor, but I’m always working with trauma.

H: I appreciate your commentary about the craving for drug/alcohol/whatever, simply being an attempt to medicate and deal with the trauma itself. Considering that perspective, how has Havening transformed your practice and the work you do with your clients?


R: Havening speeds up the process. It’s very difficult for someone who’s in a trauma to take accountability and acknowledge that they’re getting some unconscious needs met out of having that trauma. Through the use of Havening you’re able to depotentiate the actual traumatic memories. This then makes it much more acceptable for the client to see how that trauma was affecting their day to day interactions.


Economically driven symptom reduction approaches to psychotherapy work with verbal techniques and check lists at a level that has little impact on the core feelings about the self. My experience with clients suggest that Havening is effective for a deeper level of the psyche, one I believe has neurological correlates in the midbrain.


Havening also allows us to go beyond the mind and cut through the cognition — the story — which is associated with the perceived trauma. As Einstein beautifully put it, “You will never solve a problem from the same level of mind that created it.”


H: What place does Havening occupy in the larger repertoire of tools that you might draw upon in a client interaction?


R: Well the depotentiation that Havening brings, brings with it a freedom to move with more ease to a shift of perception. Then the client has the ability to look at the secondary gains that they were getting out of having that trauma dominate their mind.


When you are able to use the gift of Havening in a way that breaks down or resolves or changes the perception that the mind holds about the traumatic experience, which is a relative truth, then the client’s much more able to talk about those secondary gains and coach their way into a better way of being and managing and navigating their world and their environment.


H: Yes. So one result of the depotentiation is that it dissolves some degree of defensiveness that would get in way of owning the secondary gains. Once a person owns and acknowledges their secondary gains, they are liberated to live more fully in the present instead of living in some projection of the past.


R: Absolutely, very well put. Thank you for translating my answer.


H: Thank you for this clarification because the perspective that you’re holding around the place that Havening holds in the larger picture is very significant. It’s not simply about depotentiating the trauma so you feel better. You’re saying, “Let’s depotentiate the trauma so you can see how to become more present and take responsibility for what this is gaining you.”


R: Exactly. Beautifully put.


H: In my experience it’s only that level of radical self-responsibility, where we can actually be present to what is in front of us, that allows healing to occur. It peels away another layer of the multiple layers of projection that we tend to live inside of. What I love about what you’re saying is that you’re framing the entire process, including the tools of Havening, within this larger context of radical self-responsibility.


I can see how particularly if you’re working with someone who is in the throes of some kind of addiction, whether it’s an addiction to drugs or smoking or food or sex or work or addiction to being a “good person”, whatever the addiction is, that you’re using the Havening process as a tool to unlock the defensive walls that keep us from owning our own lives.


R: Exactly. Those defending walls are keeping out the immigrants of acceptance because once you allow the immigrant of acceptance to infiltrate your country it then dissolves many walls within walls.


H: That’s particularly important right now in our conversation because we’re speaking on November 13th, 2016, and your country just went through Brexit, here in the USA we just went through the election of Donald Trump, both which were actualized in part by communicating to the public the fear of the other — the ‘immigrant’.


R: Yes.


H: And it’s only when we resolve the inner fear of the other inside us that we can hope to resolve the outer fear of the other out there.


R: Yes, exactly because it’s the judgment that keeps the behavior perpetuating. The only thing ‘demonic’ forces ever want is to go back to the light. If we judge them, then we keep them suspended in some place of purgatory. Whereas, if we’re able to look at them without any judgment, we then allow that behavior to go back to a place where it wants to be.


That’s why everybody wants to get caught. A schoolchild stealing a chocolate bar in a shop is being driven by a deep sense of wanting to be seen, recognized, accepted and caught. The behavior wants to be caught, but then when we catch the behavior we reprimand the behavior and throw it and incarcerate it into jail, which then only imbeds the trauma deeper into the psyche.


How many people come out of prison and reoffend? They reoffend immediately because they believe the trauma that put them there in the first place is somehow going to release them from the compulsion. If we were to look at it from the perception which you’ve offered to us here about Brexit and Trump, then if we saw it with no judgment, then we’re looking at it through the eyes of innocence and there’s no room for guilt or shame or indeed any other neural imbalance to hang upon.


H: I find that remarkable and relevant to working with clients. What I notice is that as I’ve done my own inner work around clearing my own traumatic encoding, it allows me to be in front of the person in front of me with more freedom of judgment.  And, the less judgment that I hold about the person in front of me and their past and their experiences, it seems the easier the process of healing becomes.


R: Of course.


H: You said it so beautifully: my judgments keep the shadow from ever going to the light because my judgments are locking it in place. If I can release the hold of my judgments then that energy needed to transform them is released.


This also brings me back to my interpretation of your use of Havening. As I see it, you’re using the tool of Havening to depotentiate the locks that we place within ourselves when we have some kind of traumatic experience. You’re using the tool of Havening to help us bring more light, more ease and more acceptance to these shadows, these pains, these traumas.


R: And of course the shadow is neurochemical! My experience and my work over the last twenty-three years has brought me to this belief system. This is not from reading or research, this is from my experience.


The judgment that we’re speaking about is a three way process as I understand it. You know in the UK when we’re sitting for a driving test it’s a three way process: mirror, signal, maneuver. You look in the mirror, you make sure there’s nothing coming up your blind side, you put on your signal to make sure the road users know where you’re going and you make the movement.


That’s exactly the same as in judgment, because anywhere there’s judgment, there’s attack. Anywhere there’s judgment, there’s attack on the other which fundamentally leads back to the fractured mirror which points back at us.


And unless you’re a sociopath, anywhere there’s attack, there’s guilt. The judgment equals attack. Attack equals guilt. Guilt keeps us perpetuating the behavior which we describe with a word which I wish could be taken away, and that’s the word addiction. I would absolve it completely because it’s outdated nonsense. It’s the guilt of the behavior that actually perpetuates the “addiction”.


In my experience of working with alcoholics and repeat offenders, rapists and a large spectrum of people, the same answer comes up continually for me. Someone’s been sober for twenty years, they go out and they have a drink with an old colleague, they wake up in the old colleague’s floor the next morning. What’s the very first thing they feel? Guilt. What’s the very first thing they do? Have another drink because the mind believes that the issue that put the guilt there in the first place will somehow release them from the compulsion.  But what it actually does is further embeds the trauma and guilt. That cycle is prevalent in all behavior.”


You know in the book of Genesis chapter four, “God took man and from his rib created woman. And the snake tricked her into eating from the fruit from the forbidden tree, telling her ‘you will not die, you will be like God.” She ate the fruit from the forbidden tree because the serpent told her that her eyes would be opened. Then she allowed her husband to eat some of that fruit from the forbidden tree. What was the very first thing she noticed? What was the very first thing she did? She realized she was naked and she covered her nakedness because she felt an emotion which was the birth of what? The birth of shame and guilt.


And it’s that shame and guilt that keep us perpetuating and validating an experience of existence that we believe is real. These feelings are based on running old scripts and schemas that keep us stuck in that loop of thinking, perpetuating shame and guilt.


Havening allows us to be momentarily free of all of that and look at it from an objective perspective, thereby changing that subjective experience of reality that’s been set up based on old scripts and schemas. That is my opinion, but I don’t know.


H: So what you’re doing with Havening is cleansing the doors of perception. So that the person can see with greater awareness and freedom the entire gestalt of feelings, perceptions, beliefs that continue to perpetuate whatever the so-called problem is.


What I love about this conversation and about what I understand of your work is that it’s profoundly integrative. There’s the neurobiological, psychological, spiritual, metaphysical. All of these aspects reflecting this fundamental idea that it is our sense of guilt, shame and disconnection from the fullness of our experience that is at the core of our suffering.


R: Of course.


H: And that we can bring light. Light which could look like awareness. Light which could look like depotentiating the trauma. Light which could look like recognizing the mirror aspect of our projections. Light which could look like disconnecting from the egoic nature of our perceptions. When we bring light to the so-called dark, then the so-called dark then becomes the light.


R: Of course.


H: And what I’m loving about the brilliance of your synthesis of all this is the role of traumatic depotentiation and the role of a tool like Havening to again cleanse the doors of perception so the person can be more self-responsible, more self-aware, more self-accepting. And self-responsibility, self-awareness, self-acceptance are the beginning, in my experience, of true healing.


I’m touched by your presence and your work on three levels: your head, your brilliance and synthesis of so many perspectives, models, domains; your heart, your compassion; and your hands, your commitment to doing the work.


What I sense in you just from this conversation, is your own ownership of both suffering and sobriety; all that you are. This is also my experience in my own world and my own work. Everything that I have experienced in my life, the suffering and the joy, the light and the shadow, all of it comes into play in each moment, as I am open to that.


Again, one of the greatest insights I’m gaining from our conversation around Havening specifically is the place that Havening plays in this larger understanding that you are helping your clients come to. What I’m hearing is that at the core, at the essence, you are assisting, facilitating, supporting the people who you work with to break trance, to wake up.


Waking up to the present moment. Waking up to their capacity to be. Waking up to their agency, their capacity to act, to create, to choose in every unfolding moment who they will be and how they will be.


And you use the tool of Havening and I’m sure other tools as well, to serve this process of waking up. In other words, when you use Havening it’s not just about clearing this trauma, or feeling better, or changing this memory. You are using Havening in a much larger context to help the person wake up to the role that guilt and shame and projection and perception have had in their life, so that they can access a deeper dimension of freedom.


For me, talking with you is inspiring because the place you’re coming from is this very comprehensive, multidimensional place whose goal is very simple. It is to support the full and unconditional freedom of those who you serve. Am I interpreting it correctly?


R: Yes. I certainly believe that it can be valuable to question everything about your reality. Is this real? Am I perceiving this the way it actually is or am I perceiving this experience the way I need it to be to validate a process that is much older than I could consciously understand; to keep me trapped within a perception of a world that’s keeping me small, keeping me stuck, keeping me traumatized, keeping me angry, keeping me addicted?


A decade ago I worked in a women’s refuge with women who had been battered by men. To be a man in that environment and feel the projections that were placed upon me by women was a real privilege. You get to know those women at a very intimate level. 


Often I would see that a woman had set up with an abusive, violent partner and had to move to the other side of the country and change her name and change her address and change everything about herself in order to feel that they escaped the perpetrator. And she would continually go into more experiences with other perpetrators. She’s playing a DVD in her mind that she perceives as being real or valid.


Now if one of the those women I had spoken with had met a man who cooked them dinner, who ran them a bath when they came in from work and put lavender oil in it and rubbed her feet during a movie, it was actually more scary for them to be with that sort of man then it was to be with an unpredictable predator who might attack them at any point.


H: Yes.


R: Just watch your brain. It wants to pull up that old DVD, like the old IBM computer. It wants to run that program so that you couldn’t feel this good all the time. But the only thing that’s stopping you from accessing this feeling all the time is you. Because you want to believe in a construct of separation rather than a construct of togetherness, oneness, wholeness, and freedom. Make sense?


H: Yes. I continue to reflect as you speak on the role of a tool like Havening in this larger process. I work with clients not only on depotentiating trauma but also building the resilience of their landscape and reducing their overall stress. And when you build the resilience of the landscape, you increase access to positive emotion, and joy and gratitude and appreciation. You are helping or assisting this process of expanding the perceptual realm beyond the fight, flight, freeze of the reptile.


R: Yes.


H: I talked to Carol Robertson the other day, who’s another one of our brilliant colleagues. She said she thinks in terms of helping the client sculpt their neurology. She used the term sculpture because on the physical level you’re literally doing that, when you release that trauma.


I’m a performing musician. I used to have stage fright that was very difficult to deal with.  That became an opportunity for me to learn how to use my own mind more constructively. One of the things I learned was to use mental rehearsal a great deal, wherein you imagine yourself as the person you want to be.


Later I realized that that process of imagining yourself as the person you want to be, especially in terms of a physical act like playing the piano, or playing tennis, or playing basketball, actually builds those new brain circuits, and is literally sculpting the brain.


So when I work with clients on building resilience, the focus is on resculpting their neurology in such a way that they can more easily access what I would define or describe as their true self.


This is the self that is available to watch and to act independent of these barriers, these perceptions, these so-called addictions, these traumatic encodings. As I talk to you I’m having more of a sense of a place that Havening plays in the larger context of healing.


I keep thinking of Aldous Huxley’s phrase “to cleanse the doors of perception.”  So often Havening allows a client to glimpse this state, even if it’s just at the end of a session. I worked with somebody just yesterday who had an abusive situation with a stepparent and they were tortured, not physically, but tortured emotionally for forty, fifty years. After forty-five minutes of Havening they sat in astonishment that the old emotional pain was simply no longer there.


Because of the nature and the timing of the session I did explore with this client what I’m learning from you, which is to look at what you’ve gained from holding onto this pain for so long and look at…


R: What did you get out of it?


H: Yes. What do you want to create next from a place of freedom from this? So, what I’m appreciating about our conversation is the multiple layers and the place that you are coming from which again is focused not on the the trees but the forest.


Clearly, learning Havening along with the neurobiology behind it has impacted the work that you do. How do you see Havening impacting the care, both mental and emotional and psychological and spiritual of people into the future?


R: Well, spiritual is such a loaded word. We place so much meaning on that. We say spiritual to someone and they think of the Vatican and Christianity and things that often don’t carry any positive connotations at all.


But for me, spiritual is pretty simple. It’s having a friend, and that friend is yourself. Spiritual to me is being able to tend to my own garden and no longer requiring someone else to take care of my garden for me. Of course, you could never take care of my garden the way that I need it taken care of, and then weeks or months down the line I’m only going to blame you for not being able to tend to my garden in the way that it needs tended to.


Havening is a tool that therapists can use that allows clients to access more readily a sense of self, which is a psychological use of language to explain something that’s profoundly spiritual.


I believe that all healing modalities in the future will have to have a spiritual component.  The issue is how we dress that spiritual component up to be accepted by the masses that already have spiritual phobia because of what happened to them in their churches or beyond. And, bringing a spiritual aspect into our work is absolutely crucial. I genuinely hold the intention that therapeutic interventions in the future will bring that forth.


People even misunderstand AA, Alcoholics Anonymous. They don’t say hand it over to God. They say hand it over to your understanding of God and whatever that may mean. It’s your understanding of spirituality rather than what we put onto it.


Havening allows you even to talk about rape after you’ve worked with a rape survivor. It allows the stimuli from the word rape not to curl up the precognitive memory that’s stored and traumatically encoded in the brain that would otherwise ignite the memory within that individual. So then the system of the client is no longer triggered by its perceived environment around the word rape. That in itself is spiritual.


The beautiful thing about Havening for me is this. I’m very much grounded in Freudian perspectives. My first three years of personal therapy was in Jungian psychoanalysis. I then went on to study Freudian psychoanalysis and I genuinely believe that in order to understand Jung or Ernst Rossi or Wilhelm Reich or any other complex models you have to understand Freud. I know he gets bad press but I really like him. 


And Havening works across a wide spectrum from psychoanalysis through to rebirthing or hypnosis and systemic work. You can work with any model; certainly any model that I’ve trained in. It fluidly adapts and molds itself to the moment and just seems to bring with it a sense of peace. That’s the word I’ve been looking for. It brings peace.


I think it was in the book of John: “What is our work? Our work is to take love where love is not.” And Havening in a way allows you, through the depotentiation of the trauma, to then create space. When the trauma is gone and there is a space available there, how do you fill that space? You fill that space with love and with compassion.


That’s the work we do, to take love where love is not. And to assist the client in taking love to a place where there is not.


H: It makes sense. I’m reminded of a quote - I think this comes from A Course in Miracles: our only job is to remove the blocks to love’s presence.


R: Of course.


H: Love is our nature and our work. We try to manipulate in so many ways and we try to fix and repair but the essence of our work is to remove that which blocks us from experiencing the pre-existing eternal flow of love.


And what I’m gaining most from our beautiful conversation, Ross, is that depotentiating traumatically encoded memories allows us to do this. Every we release an old trigger, an old hook, an old traumatically encoded memory, we open more space in our awareness for the presence of love to enter.


R: Of course. You know it’s such a paradox that the nature of the universe, the language of God, speaks in complete paradox. Our natural state is to be present, yet the survival instinct of the brain pushes us off to not be present. Our natural state is love! But through the evolution of our survival, it’s not helpful for our survival for us to feel loved, to be present.


So our natural state on one hand is presence but the paradox of the nature of separation, or division or fall, the original fall is this:  we’re made to be present and within this existence we have to survive.


So how can you both be present and survive? Well, it’s to take that leap of faith and know that love will conquer all. I don’t know many people who have that level of faith.


H: At the same time it seems that the world, if you look at the external world and what’s happening, is calling us, individually and collectively to that degree of faith.


R: Of course.


H: So what we’re doing with Havening is that, as we release the trauma, we are Havening our way to the heaven within.


R: Of course, because it’s the traumas that are the doors that are stopping us from entering the kingdom of heaven, which you could go to whenever you want to go in. You know that place is not out there. That place is internal. What’s stopping us from entering this inner heaven has been the traumas we’ve created throughout this lifetime and also in utero (which are completely non conscious), because we came into a world which our mother was already neurologically experiencing which keeps this (really boring) trauma story going.


I also agree with you completely in that both collectively and individually we’re being called to move towards a place of greater freedom, where we can exist in our natural state. I love to speak of this.


H: I’m also thinking about one of the places you started which was the Genesis story about Eve consuming the apple given to her by the snake. From a symbolic perspective I’m seeing the apple itself as representing the process of traumatic encoding.


R: Of course! That was it.


H: The serpent then represents the reptilian brain or the amygdala and its propensity for protectiveness. So as we heal ourselves in some way transcending time and space, perhaps we can help Eve and Adam heal as well.


R: Of course, because that’s the only way that healing can occur.


H: Thank you. Ross, if you were someone who was considering training in Havening or you were talking to somebody who was considering getting involved in learning this tool, what advice would you give them?


R: You’ve really got to do it. And why? A quote came into my mind from one of my early teachers and the question we put out there was “If you knew of something that could help another individual and you didn’t use it would that be seen as unethical or indeed malpractice?”


So, we have a technique here that does work. With my limited understanding of neurobiological models I don’t know whether or not Dr. Ruden’s understandings of the mechanisms of action are completely accurate. But I know that it does work. My advice would be, as with anything, use Havening to help you do your own work. Do that and then you’ll be hooked into wanting to do it with others.


It’s not something I use every session. I’ve got a very eclectic approach to therapy and I may bring it into my second session. I may bring it in the fourth session. I may bring it into the very last session. But I integrate it with absolutely everything.


And I believe that if I’m able to do that with my limited understanding in the world, all therapists that are seeking another way of working with clients could certainly benefit from using it. It cuts to the chase.


H: Thank you so much Ross. This conversation has inspired me. I look forward to sharing your observations and perceptions with many who will become part of the Havening family and community.

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