The Havening technique for traumatic memories

Sometimes we have traumatic events in our past – e.g. witnessing a car accident, or discovering that your home had been broken into – and whenever something happens which reminds ourselves of them, then we may find ourselves consumed with anxiety, or low mood and feelings of helplessness, or anger.

Whilst these are the sort of thing we address in therapy, there are some techniques which can be taught to a client, for them to use on their own whenever the need arises. The Havening technique is one of these, combining some elements from EMDR and some elements from NLP. It is not something you can do in the middle of a conversation, but you can do it in quiet social situations, in addition to when you are alone.

Whenever the problem memory arrises, and the unwanted emotional reaction starts to kick in, then goal is to interrupt the the pattern with a specific arm movement – this puts the brain into a delta wave state, and generate positive neurotransmitters e.g. serotonin. You also engage in bilateral eye movements (which can be done which your eyelids closed) to engage both sides of the brain, and resets the nervous system using the vestibular system (eyes, ears). Deep breathing calms the body down, by taking in more oxygen. Finally, you can either count (which engages the left prefrontal cortex) or engage in internal positive self-talk, (e.g. “I can let this go now”, etc.) as desired.

This requires the arms crossed with your palms cupping your upper arms, so as to give your arms a hug.

  1. Notice the memory, and scale the intensity of the emotion out of 10.
  2. Clear your mind and start stroking the outside of your upper arms, essentially giving them a hug.
  3. Point your eyes upwards, with your head kept still, and then move your eyes from upper left to upper right, whilst breathing deeply. You can also start counting, or engaging in positive self-talk. Do this for 15-20 seconds.
  4. Next, move the eye movement to central-left to central-right.  Again, do this for 15-20 seconds.
  5. Finally, change the eye movement to be lower-left to lower-right. Spend another 15-20 seconds doing this.
  6. Test your state: stop and notice what is different when you think about that same memory. It may look the same, but it doesn’t feel the same, does it? What reading is it on the scale now?
  7. Repeat this if necessary, until the memory has been neutralised, and you can’t get the old emotion back.