Self-Havening - why I think it is such an important tool for recovery from trauma.

Published on 8 January 2024 at 20:03

Self-Havening - why I think it is such an important tool for recovery from trauma.

To understand the relevance of Self-Havening, I feel it is helpful to know what is happening in the brain when we experience trauma, re-experience trauma such as anxiety, fears, panic attacks, triggering, flashbacks, hypervigilance or are chronically stressed - and how Self-Havening can positively influence a dysregulated nervous system.

Our nervous system has an “everyday” functional range, often referred to as the “window of tolerance”. When we experience very stressful events, or feel threatened our brainwaves become very fast (gamma brain waves) and the nervous system goes into fight and flight mode, in order to take ourselves to safety. If we are not able to take ourselves to safety, we experience the situation as 

inescapable, and the nervous system goes into self-protection mode by shutting certain brain regions off to prevent further nervous system dysregulation. We lose our ability to think clearly and our social engagement system is shut down. If we are physically hurt, there is a massive release of opioids (pain relief). Eventually we lose our voice, our ability to move and might go into a complete freeze state. This is all very helpful when we are attacked by a wild animal or similar as it protects us from pain and distress and helps us to hide, play dead and hope there is an opportunity to eventually escape.

The Amygdala is the part of our brain that screens constantly for danger and will keep a record of all aspects of an event experienced as dangerous and inescapable. E.g. everything we see, hear, feel, smell, taste, as well as our emotions and if it detects similarities later in life, it will raise the alarm even so there is no danger. This traumatic encoded memory (held in the AMPA receptors in the neurons of the Amygdala) can cause a lot of upheaval in someone’s life, when there are repeated false alarms by this hypervigilance of the Amygdala. When we are affected by the impact of activated old trauma encoded memory, this is not helpful, as there is no danger in the present. The very mechanism that served us to find relative safety when under duress, is now causing a lot of stress and disruption in our lives.

How does Self-Havening help in this scenario?

Dr. Ronald Ruden discovered that brain wave frequency is a crucial element in encoding and also decoding of trauma memory, and overall plays an important role in nervous system regulation. He discovered how to “undo” this encoding and “reset” those receptors and the Amygdala to a “normal” healthy threshold of reactivity.

Havening Touch creates the slowest brain waves (Delta waves) and they are associated with feelings of safety, relaxation and memory consolidation. Havening Touch also triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Oxytocin, and there is also a reduction of Cortisol levels. Regular Self-Havening can disrupt this negative downwards spiral of the nervous system becoming more and more dysregulated and support a more regulated and resilient nervous system. The image that springs to my mind is bringing a wild swinging pendulum to it’s still point, over and over again.

Havening Touch is gentle, slow and is used continuously whilst Self-Havening. Havening Touch was selected based on scientific studies, that showed which areas create the most delta waves in the brain. You can use which ever touch feels best to you, and you can alternate between the different options as you wish.

Yes, I know, this sounds way too easy and simple - and it is, and it isn’t.
Havening sessions and Self-Havening are great for Amygdala based trauma symptoms, and not all symptoms of unintegrated trauma are Amygdala based. Adding other modalities can be important for overall recovery. This is especially true for people affected by early life/relational trauma.

I was very, very sceptical when I came across Havening – Initially I dismissed it, and only after Havening came up over and over again in my life, I started exploring it. I took up the free offerings of Havening Trainers, explaining the science and offering some free self-havening practices. After giving regular self-havening a go for about 6 weeks I could not deny the positive impact it has had on me. I felt much safer within my body and my nervous system resilience had improved.
Havening feels quite unconventional, and there can be a lot of resistance from our logical brain.

There are different ways to self-haven to support nervous system regulation and build nervous system resilience.
Do it regularly, every day a few minutes (I suggest at least 5+ minutes; you can’t overdo it)
- Engage in anything that makes you feel good and use Havening Touch alongside it.
e.g think of nice memories and feel how that felt in your body. This could be your favourite walk, a holiday, spending some quality time with a loved one, one of your hobbies…
- use Havening Touch with affirmations you feel aligned with, e.g. you can feel how this would feel in your body (haven and say each statement 5 times)
- if there is something you like to have in your life, but you are not feeling this yet, or think this isn’t possible for you, add “what if I could…” or “I hope” in front of it. (Again, say each statement 5 times)
- name things you are grateful for. (each 5 times, and use Havening Touch alongside it.)
-  switch on some music and dance and haven whilst dancing…

Using Self-Havening to settle yourself when feeling triggered:
This utilizes the first developed Havening Technique, called Event Havening.
If you notice you are triggered (e.g. there is no danger to you at this time, some old memories were activated, it often feels as if it is happening now. Sometimes someone does something that is not okay, and we have a reaction that is out of proportion because it also touched some old trauma memory, if you are/feel unsafe, take yourself to safety first, then haven.)
Start the self-havening touch and distract yourself.
Why distract?
Our logical brain, tries to solve problems, and the Amygdala does not respond to logic. (that’s why talk therapy often has limited results when working with trauma imprints) Our logical brain can only focus on 1 task at the time, so by giving it something different to focus on, the distractions keep the traumatic memory out of the brain’s working memory.  
How to distract yourself:
hum a song, count in multiples, forwards, backwards, spell words, make lists in alphabetical order such as names, cities, countries, artists, songs…
recite a poem, a recipe, directions to a place you go to…
make sure you speak your distractions out loud.
How long: I literally set myself an alarm clock for 7 minutes, and start havening touch and distractions. Check in, if the activation is still quite high, repeat.
What to expect: For the activation to be reduced or completely gone. (I have always experienced a reduction in activation, bringing myself back into the functional range and I have not had a client who has not experienced a reduction in activation using this technique in sessions.)

Often there are many aspects to trauma memory, so when activation is reduced, this often means that some aspects have been integrated/addressed and other aspects may need more attention, and by repeated Self-Havening using distractions when feeling activated little by little, more and more trauma memory will be decoded.
Whilst the steps for Event Havening are very simple, one must not underestimate the charge of such powerful, unprocessed memories, and the need for emotional holding and nervous system co-regulation. Havening Practitioners have other techniques at their disposal to support the integration of other aspects of trauma memory and also to support new neural connections to establish new, more helpful patterns. 

Initially, I was struggling to do self-havening when activated.
What helped me was to have a few Havening sessions. It showed me that this works, even when I was super activated. It gave me a felt sense of going through this wave of activation and trusting this process. I was amazed by how effective Havening sessions and Self-Havening are.  
The biggest gift for me was that my longstanding pattern of going very quickly into overwhelm and freeze whilst experiencing feelings of powerlessness/helplessness was finally broken. Doing self-havening when triggered has given me something meaningful to do. The feelings of helpless/powerlessness belong to my past. Self-Havening is something constructive I can do to stop and reverse the process of nervous system dysregulation.

There are plenty of you-tube clips on self-havening, and I couldn’t find access through this - and everybody has their own way of finding their self-havening practise.

If you like to find out more, you can visit  or
I offer a 20-minute free Zoom discovery call, please get in touch if this feels of interest to you.  
If you have questions about self-havening, or like to have a small guided self-havening practice, please do not hesitate to get in touch.  (+44) 07948 735 475

Go gently, Gudrun 

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