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NOVEMBER 2nd & 3rd, 2019


Chapter 8 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom

Interview with Carol Robertson, Ph.D.

Carol Robertson is the founder of Psychosensory Academy, based in Ediburgh, U.K.

Harry: Carol, how did you first discover Havening?

Carol: I learnt about Havening when I attended a training given by Paul McKenna PhD and Richard Bandler PhD. Paul McKenna got everyone in the room using self-applied Havening Touch and the Event Havening technique. I was very intrigued at the results I experienced.


After that, I searched the web for more information and came up with a really clear article that Steven Ruden had written regarding his work with dental phobias. I used that template and my own experience with Havening to begin using it with clients immediately. Then Dr. Ronald Ruden began to offer training in the Havening Techniques, I had the right qualifications to go, so I attended the very first training in 2013.


H: Who are your typical clients? I know you work with a wide range of different kinds of issues.


C: It’s a big range. I’m on the JustBeWell team which is a fantastic international team of NLP master practitioners, trained by Richard Bandler. Through being the Scottish representative for JustBeWell I get to help a broad range of clients. I see clients across the full range of ages from very small children to very elderly people, as well as people at the end of life sometimes. And the range of issues covers all sorts of things from straightforward fears, like dealing with a recent accident, or long-term fears from sexual abuse or bullying. Or sometimes people just want to achieve more with their lives. Other times people come because they’re curious and they want to experience what a session is like.


I also do a lot of pro-bono work. I volunteer at the moment for a place called Chris’s House which focuses on suicide prevention. Here we are using Havening to help people in crisis.


H: So you work with people from every walk of life who have all sorts of different problems.


C: Yes. I have also worked with people who are long-term handicapped and have severe learning disabilities. I can’t discuss their case histories because their confidentiality is protected as they can’t give permission. I’ve been working with them using Havening in combination with horses and I’ve seen some incredible things.


H: Yes, later in the conversation I’d like to talk about Equine-assisted Havening which you’ve developed.


You already had a high level of skill, particularly in terms of NLP and hypnosis, before you learned about Havening. How has learning and using Havening transformed how you work with clients?


C: It’s been a massive transformation. When I’m working now I’m looking for very different things. I’m thinking sculpturally and I’m thinking about the science which is related to the Havening Techniques.


H: Yes. So, what you’ve learned from Havening is not simply the technique of Havening but the scientific knowledge of the entire process now informs how you work with clients in general.


C: Yes. When I say I’m thinking sculpturally, I mean I am thinking about the shape of their neurology. And I am thinking how the alterations that they make in their neurology will result in changes in the chemical response that they experience when they are triggered (for example, by a sunny day, a piece of music, a program on the TV, a thought about something, their own breathing, posture or movement). So I’m very careful and very aware. I think one of the other things I’ve learned is that this kind of biological change is very, very fast. And the history taking, getting them on board, helping them to understand what they’re going to do (because it’s their brain that’s going to change) takes time. So I think of sculpting the neurology as having both fast and slow activities.


H: Yes. Sometimes the history taking and the rapport building and the exploring and explaining take a lot more time than the actual depotentiation.


C: Yes, because the depotentiation’s fast. I also think of how you can use Havening to build. So when I say sculpture, I really mean that. The person is taking something away in order to liberate themselves. Other times they’re adding something. And I see that as an ongoing, even daily process. Once people realize that they’re building their own neurology, you know, it’s both fast and slow.


H: Exactly.


C: It might not take you long, but you might just do a little bit every day, when you’re in the shower or when you notice yourself being triggered. For example, I remember we were going over to pick up a car in the north of Scotland and we went over a bridge on the way up there. I thought to myself, ‘That’s gonna be horrible on the way back down in the snow, in the dark, in the strange car that we just bought. And then I thought, “That’s really interesting, I wonder when was the first time I got scared of that bridge.”


Then I remembered. It was when I was about six, in the back of my grandmother's car. She was in the front passenger seat wearing a big hat. We were having a Sunday out. The bridge was new and we drove over it. It’s a dramatic bridge over a beautiful Scottish glen.


Granny had a panic attack and started screaming. I was trapped in the back. I felt very stuck. I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t understand why she was screaming. My parents love driving. They’re calm drivers, so it seemed really odd. She must have given me a real fright and it must’ve been encoded in my amygdala. And all these years later, as we drove over the same bridge I was triggered. So I thought to myself “I must haven that either when I’m up there or when I get home,” because I was a passenger and we were going to drive back. I did a little bit of havening touch on my arms as I was thinking about it, just as I’m talking about it now.


After we came back down in the dark, and we finally arrived at home, I said to Robert, “Did we actually go over that bridge? Did we come back over the same bridge?” “Yeah.” “That’s weird, I never noticed!” He said, “But it was pitch dark and snowing!”  I said, “I know it because it makes a noise. It goes clunk clunk clunk clunk as you go over the concrete things.”


So I’d just havened that, and the response was changed. I was completely calm. And I’ve been over the bridge a few times since. I love the view.


I want my clients to have Havening as a tool and to be able to use it and understand what they’re doing on their own. That’s a massive change in my practice.  I can give my clients a really solid grasp of Havening. And my clients also have access to online support.


H: I love the framing and the words that you used in terms of building your own neurology because for me, understanding the paradigm of Havening, the neurochemistry, the neuroscience, is so vital.


I remember when I did my very first mentoring call with you and you said “Well, there’s some things that you depotentiate and other things that you potentiate,” that comment completely shifted my sense of what was possible with this tool. The idea of consciously taking control of your own neurology is so empowering and really puts the power in the hands of the client.


C: And can you imagine if we were teaching this in nursery school? It’s so empowering to realize that we are building ourselves.


H: Yes, with every thought, every relationship, every action, every interaction, every act of imagination. Every time we apply Havening touch we are literally sculpting our own brains. It’s such an empowering, inspiring, and ennobling realization.


What are some of the most remarkable and interesting things that you’ve personally observed in your application of Havening with your clients and with yourself?


C: I’ve seen all sorts of things. I’ve seen people experience changes in their attention span. They’ve moved from being in pain to feeling comfortable. Their mobility has changed. Their health has changed. Their ability to learn has changed. There’s been removal of fear. They’ve been empowered.


People in sports competitions have gotten completely rid of their nervousness. I’ve seen very interesting cases where the sporting nerves didn’t seem at all connected to the things that we havened yet the result was we got rid of the fear of doing certain things within their professional, competitive life and they’ve had huge success.


I’ve worked with people who have been told they would never achieve anything due to learning difficulties. That they would never have a relationship, that they would never have a job, or really be able to do anything or maybe go to college.


With one person, in three minutes of Havening that all changed. A three-minute Havening, because that’s about all their attention span could take. And now that person gets in touch with me frequently and says things like, “Well, my boyfriend said, “Would you marry me?’ and I said no”. And, “I’d like to do math at university” and, “I’m competing in horse riding competitions.” Just phenomenal changes that really amazed me.


H: It’s interesting because we do see these amazing changes and they’re quick and lasting. Many people are skeptical when they first hear about Havening because it seems too good to be true. Were you skeptical at first at all, and if you were, what changed your mind?


C: I was totally skeptical. I think I was fearful about the humming and the singing, about how it looked or something like that. So I wasn’t just skeptical, I was actually a bit afraid of doing it. I thought, “I’m not going to be working with these criminals in Scotland and getting them to sing Happy Birthday. No way, Jose!” I get a lot of clients sent to me by judges and they arrive saying, “Oh you’re my last chance.”


I realized this fear was connected to a past memory, so I used Havening to change my own beliefs. It was hilarious because my my perspective completely changed. I was using that event as a major story. It was building a major belief system.


I havened for 10 minutes. And almost immediately I could see that I had some responsibility in what had happened. I could see that I had built this big story. I actually started giggling. It’s been life changing.


H: I had a similar experience about a week after I got Dr. Ruden’s book! I was going through a personal challenge related to my belief system about what was possible for me. I decided to try Havening with it. And it took about 10 - 15 minutes to completely dissolve this old belief that I thought was intractable. I had previously tried NLP and hypnosis and tapping and all these other modalities, but this one wouldn’t crack. And in 15 minutes with Havening, everything changed.


You’ve explored so many tools. What does Havening do that other modalities either can’t do or don’t do as easily or readily as Havening?


C: I understand what I’m doing now, so I can do it more deliberately. When I’m working with Havening, since I’m thinking sculpturally, I’m thinking about what’s going on with their neurology, their biochemistry, their electrochemistry. What’s happening now? What would happen if this or that changes? And I might use an NLP process and combine it with Havening process. Or I might use the fast phobia pattern along with Havening Touch. Or I might use Havening Touch so they know how to get chilled out, calm down and then maybe do a bit of trancework. I use it amongst the other things.


H: I love the metaphor of sculpting and building neurology. What do you notice as you mentor and train people in the Havening Techniques?


C: When I’m mentoring people who are training with me, I notice that Havening Techniques® are incredibly robust. People come to the trainings, amazing, brilliant people from different skill bases and backgrounds. There are doctors and psychiatrists, skilled NLPers and hypnotists, TFT and EFT practitioners, school counselors. So many different types of knowledge and so many specialties. They’re all learning Havening Touch and the various Havening processes.


They’re learning a lot of science, they’re learning a lot of techniques and they’re doing a lot of practice in the first stages. Then they send in case studies, some on video. Sometimes I’m watching and notice that they are obviously combining something that they knew before, going in a certain direction that maybe would be different from how I would do it. Then, it still works! The process is so robust.


It’s also really easy for people to learn. So easy that sometimes people think they can learn Havening on their own. They’re very skilled. They think they can learn by copying what they see in the videos. They might watch me in a video or Ron or Steve or Paul McKenna and think, ‘I can do that’. That’s how I got started. However, there’s much more to it than that.


Being part of the Havening community brings a lot more value, particularly in how you think about the science. I’ve seen people attempt to do Havening and not understand the science.


H: Yes, as have I. I did a demo the other day. The person was able to resolve the issue very powerfully. As the demo completed I had people ask questions. It was very clear to me that the external appearance of simplicity concealed a tremendous amount of refinement, sensory acuity and skill. As I was unpacking it for them they began to see “oh this is a lot more than simply activate, distract, and test”.


The process is so deceptively simple on the surface that someone might think, “Oh, I can do this!” but then they really can’t. They really need the training. They really need the certification. They really need the scientific knowledge. They really need to understand it.


C: Yes, and when they have that they’ll find they can do so much more.


H: Exactly. Thats what I enjoy about the online forum; there are so many brilliant people. Somebody posts a question, and you have 20 different people responding as to how they would approach it. And each approach can work!


C: Yes, and they’re all different and that’s what I love. It’s really, really robust.


H: What was most difficult for you, if anything, as you integrated Havening into your work?


C: The thing that I found most difficult was how it effective it was.


H: What do you mean?


C: Before I went to the Havening course, I was already quite confident using it, getting quite good results. I had read Ron’s book, so I had a pretty good idea of the science -  I thought.

Here’s an example: This woman came to see me and she was talking a lot. She was in her sixties, and her whole life was a total disaster, all blamed on a family member. Normally we have a cup of tea at first but she was really raging when she came in.


So, we did a really quick Event Havening and then I said when was the first time you realized you were afraid of this person and she went straight there — right to the memory. You could see she was accessing everything she saw, everything she heard, everything she felt, all of the sensory information. So I got her Havening and she completely transformed. She looked like a completely different person.


So then I said, ‘you have a seat and relax and I’ll go and make some tea’. I was stunned. I asked her, ‘what do you think when you think about that person now?’. And she said ‘I’m fine.’ Her perspective had completely changed.

When I went back through the room with a cup of tea, there was nothing else to be done. I had the two-hour session booked and there was nothing to be done. It actually made me panic. I knew I really needed to go to the Havening course! After that I started doing Havening at the end of my sessions. Anything I missed I would get with Havening.


H: Otherwise all your clients would be done in ten minutes!


C: I just didn’t know what to do with them at first. But now I start helping them build new possibilities, not just get rid of the old stuff. It was the strangest thing with her, because I felt I hadn’t even started!


H: Right. And the work was all done.


C: It was all done. So that’s what I found most difficult.


H: That’s a good problem to have!


C: Yes. I thought originally that the touch and the humming and so forth would be difficult. But actually people really love it.


H: Here in the US, in many of the therapeutic communities touch is frowned upon. You don’t touch patients, you don’t touch clients. I don’t know what the legislation is in Scotland, but how did you discuss this, how do you clients respond, and what have you experienced as you introduce the issue of touch?


C:  I really want my clients to be self-sufficient. I tend to explain it in a scientific way and I tend to show Havening Touch® on myself.

I have clients self-haven. I want them to self-haven because I want them at the end of the session to be really used to doing it. I want them to be going home and feeling really confident about doing it, like it’s a normal thing. We talk about how in a few years’ time everybody will be doing it.


Children often have fallen out with their families and they don’t want anybody touching them. I see a lot of kids who have been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. Working as well with a lot of mute people and disabled people, or people who are really distressed, quite often they don’t want to be touched. So I have a bunch of ways of working with it.


The way I’m thinking about it is you’re generating the delta waves and the chemical changes through the activation of the palms and the face and the outer arm. I don’t really mind how we get that.


So when somebody’s self-havening I want oxytocin as well. So I’ll get them to think about somebody they really love, or it could even be a fairytale character or a celebrity or even somebody who’s not with them anymore.


When they close their eyes and start doing the Havening touch they’re imagining it being somebody else. I might show them a few different touches. I might say this is how so and so does Havening touch and then give them a range of touch, expanding their idea of what that touch might be like.


I also use the dog and the horses. So, I’ve had clients, disabled clients, and clients with learning disabilities stroking horses with their palms and putting their face on the horse’s shoulder, standing up. That works really really well. Holding maybe the front of the horse. These horses are trained for that kind of work. So that works really well, and we’re getting the delta wave activation there.


The dogs are also really great. I have dogs that do this kind of work and allow themselves to be stroked and their faces rubbed on.


Recently I’ve developed a great teaching tool that has been a huge hit. People who have been really, really traumatized and found it quite difficult to express themselves have used it and had good success.

It is a toy monkey. A big puppet monkey with long vibrating arms, so you can wrap him around you. His whole body vibrates. He’s big. And his whole face vibrates. I have people hold him and they put their face into his face and he’s got a lovely big smiley face. So when they look up they just see this face and people love him.


H: So the embrace of the monkey becomes the same as Havening touch.


C: Yeah. At first I was getting them to use their palms on the monkey but now the monkey’s got such big arms you can wrap him right around their arms and shoulders and they can hold him on the front of them and they put their face in his face. He provides a kind of privacy for them and reminds some people of childhood pleasures.


H: How beautiful. And through all of these different things, the horses, the dogs, the monkeys, the self-havening, what they’re doing is they’re increasing the delta wave production, the serotonin, the GABA, the oxytocin.


C: Yes.


H: Which speaks to the point that you made earlier: once you really understand the science, then you can access your own creativity and find so many different ways of accomplishing these core aims of potentiating, depotentiating and sculpting the neurology.


C: Yes. I’ve also used riding the horse and have developed a very unique method, not a normal way of riding at all. I learned a lot from an amazing guy called James Shaw who's a Tai Chi master and author of  the book Ride from Within. I’ve combined a lot of what I’ve learned from James.

James taught me a lot about how when you move the pelvis it changes what’s going on in the skull through what moves up the spine. So I created a combination of what I knew myself, what I Iearned from James, and what I learned from the Rudens.


I also do a more straightforward Havening with the horse but I also do other things that are slightly different but connected in terms of understanding the science. And I use dance as well and music.


H: This was one of the things as well that I admired so much about you when I first got involved in the Havening community. I also love to synthesize and synergize and integrate and you demonstrate that so beautifully. You’re again taking the structure, the knowledge, the basic principles that Dr. Ruden articulated, but you’re also integrating principles from Tai Chi and principles from NLP and principles from all of these other areas that you have studied.

I was talking to Ulf Sandstrom in Sweden about this as well. I asked him what he loved most about Havening? His response? The structure. As we talked about it more he explained. “I love the understanding of what’s happening neurobiologically, how that helps me integrate other kinds of tools in service of the client.”

Paradoxically, Dr. Ruden’s greatest contribution to the treatment of trauma as well as the activation of potential, may have more to do with the science behind Havening than the Havening touch itself.


C: And the beautiful thing about Havening touch is that you have it with you all the time. You don’t have monkey there or horse there or whatever, but you do have your palms and you face and your arms.

It’s so mobile and it’s free! It’s completely free and natural. And, it gives us an understanding of how we learn and how we unlearn.


I’m also fascinated how we can use it in education. One of the trickiest things that I’ve come across as an educator is how if I’m teaching an eight-year old Havening, they’ll get it just like that.

When you’re teaching somebody who knows a lot, they can find it really hard and it’s like something is blocking the new learning. So I’ve been finding that doing Havening before beginning to teach about it makes it easier to learn. Easier to teach as well, I think.


H: Yes, I do that as well. That brings me to another great point. There’s are two schools of thought around tools like Havening. On the one hand, if you think about EMDR and how EMDR was introduced, it was introduced only to psychologists and trained mental health professionals. On the other hand, many of the energy psychology tools, such as tapping and EFT were introduced to everyone. Two schools of thought around how to introduce a tool and a modality like this. What’s your perspective on who can use Havening and how they can use it in different contexts?


C: I’ve had an interesting previous experience which might relate. I think I’ll tell a little story because I find it a fascinating experience.


Before I was doing Havening I got involved in changing printmaking, which is an art form. It was developed 600 years ago as a certain way of doing things. The people who developed it were looking for materials to use, but in their time, the materials they used never really worked very well. 600 years later, along came me as a young teenager. I was learning NLP at the same time.


I noticed that the process of printmaking wasn’t working well, and I noticed that everybody pretended it was. Basically they were in a kind of trance. So I thought — this is very interesting, everybody’s hypnotized, so how can I de-hypnotize them and make them see that this doesn’t work?


So I found a way of doing it. I ended up actually working out the principles, almost a bit like Dr. Ruden did with Havening. I worked out the principles of how these things work, I got involved with a top polymer scientist and we answered those questions from 600 years ago with modern science. We created materials that worked.


However, they were different colors, you put them on in a different way, and you washed them off with water. They were completely safe. The other ones gave people cancer and central nervous system depression and all sorts of dreadful things. They were also explosive and flammable.


So this was a super change. I was very excited. I wanted to go out into the world, give everybody this great gift and share these toys. What I found was that I could teach people who were completely new to it, people coming into the art world for the first time, for two days, and in those two days they could work to a professional standard. They knew what they were doing and they were making something that looked professional.


I could take that work, show it to the top professionals in the world, and ask them, ‘What do you make of this -  can you assess this for me?’ They would say to me “Oh, this is so unfair! How’d you get all the best people coming to your studio? Where do you find them? We can’t even find them at the best colleges in the world!  Where are you finding these people?”


So I’d tell them: “This girl’s sixteen, this guy’s a plumber, this guy’s eighty-two.” The professionals were outraged.

In contrast every weekend professionals would come all from all over the world to learn and it was so difficult to teach them.


H: Yes.


C: Sometimes what would happen is I wouldn’t have a space available in a professionals course so I would put them into a newcomers course. Literally the newcomers would look at the professionals who are going, “Wow look at that!” and they’d think they were mad.


The newcomers actually thought the ‘professionals’ were mad.  The newcomers were just using the materials and getting results and it was safe. They weren’t going to be poisoned or anything else. The professionals were going in and saying “Well yes but that’s blue and you’re using water with it. How could that possibly work?”


I see a parallel in that now because I believe that you can teach Havening to anyone so that the person can use it safely. I think that’s true. And I think sometimes what happens with some professionals is the power of Havening makes them want to build a fence around it and say only a professional like me can use this.


H: Yes. I’ve seen that in my various conversations with people around not only the use of this tool but other tools. It’s almost as though the more knowledge that you have about something and the more fixed your paradigm of what is true, the less open you can be to new ways of thinking.


C: Yes. Now you’re touching on something that you asked early on, a question about what I had seen that was extraordinary. Here it is.


The way that the Victorians went out and categorized flowers and trees was this: they named some after whoever discovered it, others after Greek gods, others based on appearance or shape. They got all their names that way. Then quite recently geneticists analyzed the DNA of flowers. Lo and behold, they discovered that cabbages which are of the genus brassica, and roses, were actually part of the same family, with similar DNA.


H: Of course.


C: And this idea is important for the medical community, because it makes it much easier to see what the families are if you’re looking for a drug or something. So they talked to the botanists and the botanists said ‘no, let’s keep the old Victorian names’. Even though the names were only labels that didn’t express the deeper relationships.


What I’m noticing a lot is that we look at behaviors, we humans, and we label them. So if somebody’s got some problem with food we look at them and say they’re anorexic or they’re bulimic, or they’re overweight. If they’ve got some problems with some social phobia, or they are very sensitive to certain noises or color or some things like that, then we start saying they’re on the autistic spectrum.


So there are all these labels and I’m seeing them through these labels. And that’s fair enough, because that’s a way for professionals to assess if somebody’s doing this behavior and somebody’s doing that behavior. 


However, when you start really understanding the science of it and you start seeing what’s up above those labels then you realize that these behaviors are simply the result of amygdala activation, the physical traumatization in the brain. So when you apply Havening and they depotentiate the AMPA receptors related to traumatic experiences so that the neural pathway is no longer there, the behaviors stop, and somebody analyzing that person could not label them in that way anymore.


H: Exactly. And isn’t it fascinating that all these so called different pathologies could be seen as basically various expressions of potentiated traumatically encoded memories.


C: Yes.


H: I mean what if that was the key underlying all of these different labels that people have spent billions of dollars and thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of Ph.D.’s labeling?


C: But sometimes finding that trauma linkage can be the tricky thing. So I’ve seen these labels come off. I’ve seen people no longer doing their anorexia. You couldn’t put an OCD label on them, because they’re not doing it anymore.


H: Yes.


C: And that fascinates me. Obviously I’ve seen things like that in NLP and hypnosis as well, but just being able to look at this through a neuroscientific lens has changed that for me.


H: This is beautiful, Carol. I have just one more question to explore with you for now. Suppose you’re speaking with a person who’s looking into the possibility of adding Havening Techniques® to their tool kit. This person might be a counselor, therapist, mental health professional, coach, perhaps even a parent or teacher. What advice would you give somebody who’s thinking, “maybe I want to take that training”? What would you say to them?


C: Do it as soon as possible! Just do it. Really do it. Get the knowledge and get the hands-on training and become part of the community so you can ask the Rudens questions and you can ask the trainers questions. We’re there and we’re amazingly available. It’s a very generous community.


H: I can say this is the most generous, brilliant and giving professional community I’ve ever been part of. It’s remarkable. What I love about the community is that it’s filled with people who have really brilliant minds, loving hearts, plus, they are doers who get things done. For me this combination of head, heart, and hands is really very powerful.


Thank you, Carol.

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