Reprogramming your mind with Havening

An intriguing technique everyone should have in their toolkit

Jo Driscoll
4 min readNov 15, 2022
Photo by Skye Studios on Unsplash

I’ve always found the power of the mind fascinating, so I jumped at the chance to experience a session of Havening with Emma from The Mind Mermaid.

Disclaimer: I received one session in return for my review. Everything I describe should not be tried without the advice of a professional — don’t try this at home, kids!

I had no idea what to expect as I’d never done anything like this before nor heard of Havening. The technique was originally developed by brothers Ronald and Steve Ruden, who started training other practitioners in 2013, so it is a relatively new technique.

This is how I understand it: memories imprint themselves onto our brains and can act as triggers for feelings and emotions connected to the original incident. These memories can be positive or negative; negative ones can range from mildly to severely traumatic.

Imagine you were bullied at school, and your bully had piercing blue eyes. From that moment on, anyone you meet with similar eyes could trigger your memories of being bullied. You might not necessarily make a conscious connection to the memories but subconsciously feel a mild hatred for anyone with piercing blue eyes.

The havening technique aims to help you unstick this association and change your thoughts and feelings about this original memory.

How my session went

With the explanation done, it was time to give it a go. I was asked to think of an unpleasant memory and to concentrate on it for around ten seconds. You don’t have to share the memory, which is reassuring if you’re incredibly private or uncomfortable divulging internal thoughts.

I focused on a sad memory of one of my cats. Asked on a scale of zero to ten, with ten being extremely traumatic, I rated my memory at four. The original incident was much higher, but time had dulled the intensity somewhat.

Now I had recalled the memory, I was told to put it aside as we moved on to the physical part — either rubbing my face, arms or hands in a certain way. I opted to rub my arms as it felt the most relaxing but also tiring after a while, and I sometimes switched to rubbing my hands. I would suggest doing this in a warm room, as my hands were slightly cold and started cramping.

Emma also performed the technique as she talked me through a task. I imagined filling up a shopping trolley with items beginning with each letter of the alphabet. The idea was to act as a distraction, and it was a banal task. I found it easy to concentrate, though finding an item for certain letters was challenging!

After completing the task, I was asked to return to my initial memory, which I found less vivid and not as easy to recall. What sorcery was this? It was as though someone had taken an eraser and made the memory fade somewhat. I was now able to rate it at a two, i.e. less traumatic than before.

We repeated the session and went through some other banal tasks. By this time, my memory was feeling harder to recall. My hands were feeling decidedly tingly!

The physical actions invoke an electrochemical response within the brain. What it’s doing is unsticking the unpleasant memory and allowing you to change how you feel about it. You have a lingering physical sensation, but it also makes your brain feel slightly fuzzy, or at least, it did for me.

A range of applications

Emma explained that the technique could help you dispel strong emotions like anger when used in a certain way.

It’s not just negative memories; Havening can also be used on positive memories. Emma explained that emotional eating can be partly down to positive memories. One of her specialities is emotional eating, where food is associated with positive memories. Eating food could be a subconscious attempt to fill a void in your life by trying to recreate the good vibes. It was fascinating to understand it further as someone guilty of this sometimes.

Concluding thoughts

I can imagine Havening is an extremely useful technique for anyone trying to come to terms with the trauma in their life. The method is especially good for anyone who finds it hard to talk about things.

My session was just a glimpse into how it all works. I don’t know how many sessions a person would need, but that would be down to each individual.

I would definitely recommend it to anyone to at least give it a go; the results are surprising.