ACCREDITED TRAINING IN THE
NOVEMBER 2nd & 3rd, 2019
CURIOSITY, PATIENCE, PERSISTENCE
Chapter 34 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom
Interview with Dr. Ronald Ruden
Dr. Ronald Ruden, M.D., Ph.D., is a primary
care physician practicing in New York City.
He is developer of the Havening Techniques®
Harry: Dr. Ruden, I’d like for you to share the story behind Havening’s discovery. How did you get interested in this subject in the first place, and what specifically awakened you to the possibility that has now become the Havening Techniques®?
Ron: Back in 2001, my colleague and friend Paul McKenna was visiting me in New York. We were walking along Central Park West. He asked me if I had heard of a technique called tapping, whereby you tap on acupoints. I had not, but was curious. The technique was described in the book, Tapping The Healer Within, written by Roger Callahan. I bought the book, read it, and I thought, “This is a bunch of silliness. How could tapping on someone’s face produce a change in the brain?” It made no sense to me.
I decided to experiment. I had a doctor in my practice who had a severe phobia of cats. I showed her the book; I showed her the algorithm which Callahan described for this phobia, and I said, “Okay. Let’s do this. There’s nothing to lose. I’m just curious. I don’t think it’s going to work.” So, we performed the technique described by Dr. Callahan. Lo and behold, her ability to bring up a fear response when thinking about cats completely disappeared, literally within minutes. That was really interesting to me.
Over the next week or so, I asked every patient who walked in the door, “Do you have a phobia?” And about five people had significant phobias. I used the same algorithm, and sure enough, I cured every one of them.
I decided that there may be something here, but the model that Dr. Callahan had put forth was based on an Eastern model of the flow of energy through meridians. According to this model, illness occurs because these meridians are blocked, producing what he called a perturbation in the brain, in what he described as the thought field.
I’m an allopathic physician. I wanted to see if there’s actually a neuroscientific point of view which we could use to explain what’s going on, because I was fascinated by how rapidly and completely these simple phobias were removed and dissolved. You have to understand, I had absolutely no idea how this could possibly work; this idea that tapping fingers on your forehead or under your armpit after the person had activated the thought process could cure the phobia.
Around the same time, there was work coming out of Joseph LeDoux’s research lab here in New York City by a Dr. Nader. Dr. Nader found that encoded trauma could be dissolved by interfering with protein synthesis after activating the memory of that fear. And he called this inhibition of reconsolidation. A whole new field opened up, exploring the mechanisms by which reconsolidation could be blocked by using specific chemicals or drugs like Anisomycin, which inhibits protein synthesis.
I got really excited, thinking, “That’s how this must work! We must be interfering with protein synthesis.” I spent the next two years reading every article there was, (and there were lots of them) on inhibition of reconsolidation. And, I kept on conducting, in my office, phobia treatments.
H: Continuing to use the same tapping protocols?
R: Yes, the same protocols, with a modification. By that time, Gary Craig had recognized that the wide variety of specialized protocols Dr. Callahan put together were unnecessary. Craig found that one simple protocol could be used to fit the full range of the various conditions. Yet he still worked from the same underlying model, this idea that tapping on the acupoints allowed the chi to flow more properly through the meridians and thereby would remove the thought field perturbation. I still couldn’t wrap my brain around exactly how that would work. So I’m getting excited about this concept of inhibiting protein synthesis, thinking that this must be the answer.
Then I made an observation. One of the papers I read noted that the removal of the reconsolidation took about six hours. For example, suppose you set out to train an animal to fear something. Let’s say you associated a light and a shock. You show them the light and then give them a shock. They freeze. Show them a light, give them a shock, they freeze. Do it a couple of times, show them the light, then they freeze, in a typical Pavlovian model. Next, you show them the light and then inject a protein synthesis inhibitor like Anisomycin. Sure enough, when retested, researchers found that the previous response to the light no longer existed. However, it took six hours for this thing to kick in.
I realized, of course, that when using this tapping protocol, the tapping instantaneously removed the response to the stimulus. There was a six-hour delay by using protein synthesis, and essentially no delay by using the tapping protocol. So, the whole idea of inhibition of protein synthesis to reconsolidate the memory was obviously incorrect, in terms of how tapping worked.
I broke out in a sweat. I thought to myself, okay. I have two choices. I can throw up my hands and go, “Oops,” or I can realize that this is an opportunity. There must be another mechanism by which this works, because the results were so clear.
So I went back to the literature. I needed something that could be very rapid, and the only thing that could be this rapid based on my reading of the literature was synaptic depotentiation; the removal of receptors on the post-synaptic neuron.
In this model, when a signal would come through, there would be no receptors on that neuron to propagate the signal, so that signal — stimulus — would no longer produce a response. And, of course, that was my ‘aha’ moment.
The issue did not involve protein synthesis. In fact, it rather involved synaptic depotentiation of the post-synaptic neurons along what we call the thalamo-amygdala pathway. So, the thalamus would send the signal to the amygdala, and on the amygdala side, which is the post-synaptic side, the receptor would then be depotentiated, which means that it is removed from the surface and then internalized, so that when the signal from the thalamus came along, there was nothing available to propagate the signal.
From there, I began to look at different ways tapping could produce a signal to depotentiate these receptors. This was a big mystery. I initially thought that it was serotonergic. In fact, in the first paper I wrote, published in 2005, the metaphor I used was that activation of the memory by imaginal recall was like opening up a pathway — imagine a pathway comprised of indentations — holes — on a beach. And then, as a result of the tapping, a wave of serotonin comes in and fills the holes so that the pathway is no longer visible. The holes represent the receptors which have now been removed from the surface of the post-synaptic neuron, no longer available to propagate the signal.
As it turns out, that simplistic metaphor was correct. We now know, from the research, that it is the AMPA receptors which are the transmission process by which an intermittent stimulus is transmitted from the pre- to the post-synaptic receptors, which allow for the signal to be converted into a response.
Once I had this fundamental idea that AMPA receptors were needed, then I had to figure out the details of the mechanism by which touch produced the depotentiation. This led to about a decade’s more literature review and experimentation, eventually leading to the current thinking about how this works.
I began to look at Mel Harper’s work. He also looked at this process of synaptic depotentiation, and his idea was that a delta wave, which he was able to generate in the brain by using vibrating pads on people’s hands, could depotentiate the AMPA receptors on the post-synaptic neuron of the amygdala. I wondered if there was a better way of generating delta waves. Harper had studied this. He put vibrating pads on the cheeks, on the palms, on the arms. Then by measuring simple EEG, he was able to see how it increased the delta waves.
I didn’t have that equipment, so I decided, instead of tapping, to use simple soothing touch. I also looked at the work of Tiffany Field. Working in the area of massage therapy, of touch therapy, she showed that both serotonin and dopamine went up and cortisol went down by using therapeutic massage.
And so, I began to think that maybe a specific stroking used in therapeutic massage, called effleurage, which is a soft, gentle stroking, might work instead of having to apply electrical stimulation via vibrating pads to the face, to the arms, or to the palms. I began to look at this as a possibility, and to explore this hypothesis with hundreds and hundreds of patients, experimenting with exactly where and how to apply the touch.
I noticed over time that this simple stroking of the arms, under the eyes, the forehead, and the palms was very effective. I am now convinced that this manner of touch generates significant delta wave production in the brain, and that this, now referred to as Havening Touch®, is what allows us to depotentiate the post-synaptic neuron.
As I continued to look at how delta waves in different parts of the brain interact differently with memory systems, I, along with my team of early collaborators, eventually produced a systematic process, not only encompassing the removal of an unwanted emotional experience, but also the introduction and incorporation of a desired emotional state.
As I began to search out the mechanism by which positive outcomes could be enhanced, it became clear that, during slow-wave sleep, the memories of the day are consolidated into the brain. During daytime, when you’re awake, delta waves do not normally occur. So, it was obviously a paradox that although we were awake, the brain perceived us as being asleep and thereby was open for consolidation of new memories.
Once we understood the role of delta waves in these various neurobiological processes, we were able to produce a comprehensive, system that we now call Havening Techniques®.
Beginning with Event Havening, the system now includes Transpirational Havening, which helps to clear the traumatic encoding of entire memory networks, organized around the experience of a specific emotion, such as fear, anger, sadness, or rage; Outcome Havening, which helps the client to actually change their memory of a traumatic event so that they can experience a feeling of empowerment instead of victimization; Affirmational and Iffirmational Havening, which activate and install positive patterns of thinking and feeling; and Role Havening, which allows for an internal experience of resolution of relationships that have previously triggered emotional distress. There are also numerous variations on these core components that are used for building resilience.
H: Thank you. Would you speak a little bit to your discoveries as a physician in relationship to the mind-body connection? That is, how something presenting as disease or chronic pain, could actually be connected to a traumatically-encoded memory?
R: That was another one of the surprises. Robert Scaer, one of my colleagues, had written a book, The Body Bears the Burden. He noticed that even simple, minor injuries could produce pain far out of proportion to the event, and he concluded that this had to happen in the brain. He recognized that there had to be a place in the brain where these things were stored so that stimuli that would, on a subconscious level, activate the memory when the pain occurred, would then produce the pain response. And, in fact, that’s exactly the case.
My first example of this—I remember it vividly—was a woman who came in presenting with pain in her right hand. 100% of my colleagues would have sent her for an MRI, or sent her to a hand surgeon. They would have not known what to do. But, using the model that this pain may have been encoded during trauma, in my history taking I asked the question, “Did you ever injure your hand?” This was because when you looked at her hand, there was no obvious source of the cause of the pain. And she told me her story. Fifteen years ago, she had traveled to London, where she was in a cab accident. The cab flipped over and her hand slammed against the door. I said, “Well, you said the pain began three months ago. What happened three months ago?” She responded that three months ago, she decided to return to London. Interesting. So, I said, “Do you still remember the car accident?” She says, “Like it was yesterday.” I said, “Bring it up.” We brought up the event. We applied Havening touch to the event and brought the SUD (Subjective Unit of Distress) down to zero, and instantaneously, the pain and the problem disappeared, never to return.
H: What other conditions have you seen resolved and healed through proper application of Havening Techniques?
R: We’ve seen over the years, with close to 100,000 Havenings done worldwide, some astonishing results, results which were untouchable by pharmacological or psychotherapeutic means. In addition to the many examples of emotional healing that have taken place, we’ve seen removal of chronic back pain, treatment of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, removal of PTSD, treatment of what we call idiopathic neutropenia, where white count is low.
H: Dr. Ruden, please speak more about the difference between Havening and other modes of physical and emotional healing.
R: Havening represents a paradigm shift. We’re not using pharmaceuticals; we’re not using talk therapy. We’re using a delta wave, which we define as an “electro-ceutical” — using the electrical part of the brain. The advantage I think Havening has is that we have a solid neuroscientific understanding of how this works. Of course, these models and mechanisms of action remain speculative. We can’t yet get in the brain and directly observe these processes. But in vitro work in petri dishes confirms many of our hypotheses. Thus far, we have not identified a single example of something that did not fit the model we are proposing for how Havening works. Not one. So we’re pretty confident that this model accurately explains what’s going on.
So we hope that the science itself will support our commitment to move ahead. My goal is to spread the word, to get Havening to people who can use it for themselves. There are caveats to all of these things. Sometimes people have such significant traumas that self-havening may not be enough. These are concerns that we have, so when we teach self-havening, we suggest that if you have a history of trauma, that you find and engage a practitioner who can help guide you.
H: Yes. One of the conversations I’ve had with Tony Burgess, who, of course, is one of your primary trainers is that Havening is a tool, not a therapy. For example, if you think about lasers, you can use lasers for lighting at a party, or you can use lasers to help perform the most intricate surgery. The tool can be applied in a multiplicity of ways depending on the scope of practice, the ethical guidelines, the level of skill, and so forth.
R: I think that’s true. That’s why we call it Havening Techniques as opposed to Havening therapy.
Something else that is really wonderful about Havening Techniques is that the practitioner doesn’t have to know what the problem or memory is. As long as the individual can bring the emotions into awareness, we can treat them. This is completely different from existing allopathic approaches, where you have to make a diagnosis. We don’t make diagnoses. We deal with emotions and physical disturbances.
The idea that we don’t need a diagnosis; rather, we simply need to find out the root of the issue, actually comes from Freud, who looked towards hypnosis to find the origin of the individual’s problems. Although he had words that described the problems, he didn’t make diagnoses. This is another reason why I think our approach is very different from the Western psychiatric or psychological community which relies on diagnostic criteria to begin to treat the patient. And, in fact, the whole of psychopharmacology is also based on the diagnostic paradigm.
We choose not to look at it that way. We don’t like to focus exclusively on symptoms or label people diagnostically. We look at people from a different perspective, seeing them as the consequences of the events that happened in their life. Then we take those events which were encoded traumatically, and attempt to remove that encoding so that the consequences, the downstream effects of that encoding no longer cause chronic, inescapable stress. Then the brain can return back to its normal homeostasis and the body can heal.
H: Thank you. That was a beautiful summation of the process. One more question. What is it like for you to recognize that your research, discoveries, and work are poised to change the face of how we think about emotional, physical, psychological dis-ease and healing?
R: One of the advantages of being my age, nearly 70, is that there’s no need for me to look at this as a discovery which makes me feel important. I look at it as an offering to the world; a new way of looking at things. This is never going to be about myself. This about the technology which has been created.
I stand on a foundation of all the great scientific research which was done before me. This discovery was only made possible because of millions of hours of brilliant thinking, research and diligent effort which led to hard-won knowledge. I’m just another piece in the puzzle. I have a neuroscience background. I’m a physician. I have, by temperament, an intense curiosity and persistence. From my point of view, I was the right person at the right time. This work represents the sum total of the discoveries which were made beforehand. I simply put them together in a different way.
I am personally very excited. I continue to explore and learn. But Havening belongs to the world. And so we are not here to compete, we are here to share, and so if we can do that, we have accomplished what we set out to do.
H: Thank you so much. As you stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before you, many will stand on your shoulders as this discovery touches, transforms and helps to heal the world.
R: Anyone who learns and uses this technology that we call Havening Techniques is excited by its power. Previously, the ability to treat some of these conditions would take such a long time. Now, through this technology, we can rapidly alleviate suffering that in many cases, has been considered untouchable.
What makes me happiest is the fact that other people have joined us in this work. Not only have they joined; they are engaged, they’ve contributed ideas, they’ve created new techniques. This is probably the thing I am the most proud of, that this technology now inspires people to find new ways of using it. You are correct: people will stand on my shoulders and create new ways to help others along the way.
H: Thank you.