This page seeks to explain in very simple terms what happens neurologically when we use Havening ADT to take away all unnecessary fear. There are a few technical terms but you do not need to remember or even necessarily understand these to get the gist of this. For a simple description of the benefits of Havening ADT follow the link to When the Fear Goes Away.
Havening ADT is an exciting new technique for resolving traumatized fear developed by Dr Ronal A. Ruden. It is also proving to have some promising applications in coaching and in combination with other therapies including hypnotherapy. ADT stands for ‘amygdala depotentiation technique’.
Let us first distinguish between necessary an unnecessary fear.
Necessary fear is what keeps us alive. It is what allowed our species to survive long enough to evolve larger brains and to become the dominate species on the planet. If we were fearless in the face of a sabre toothed tiger or when we spotted a car heading for us at speed then we would not be here. Something else would be running the planet.
Unnecessary fear can be just as uncomfortable. Unnecessary fear is any fear which becomes attached to something which is not actually threatening. We experience the same uncomfortable physical sensations. It does not make any difference that we know, rationally, that our fear is misplaced. No-one has died as a direct consequence of public speaking or seeing a jar of buttons. No-one has ever been eaten by an exam paper. I did once run away from an Institute of Directors meeting but they probably would not have killed me if I had stayed and I doubt even that I would have actually died of boredom. In spite of this it is still possible to become trapped in a fear of the situation or stimulus. If we perceive the situation to be one in which we have no escape we fix (traumatize) the fear, permanently associating it with the object of our fear.
Fear produces the familiar ‘flight or fight’ feelings and biochemical changes which we experience when our life or limbs are being threatened, whether the threat is real or imagined. Heart rate and respiration increase, body temperature goes up, we tense up and often get an unpleasant sensation in our stomachs. We are getting ready to fight or run away. Whether the fear is necessary and useful in terms of survival or unnecessary and simply based on a misinterpretation of threat makes little difference.
The more extreme types of fear become traumatized. This simply means they get stuck. Where does the fear get stuck and what exactly gets stuck? An enzyme, possibly one called PKM zeta which is a Phosphokinase, sticks phosphor based molecules onto AMPA receptors in the Amygdala. They become phosphorylated. These phosphorylated receptors can, as a consequence of the fear, which is transmitted via electrochemical signals throughout the nervous system and brain, become permanently locked open.
This allows for the rapid conduction of information (packaged in electrochemical format) along the pathways that the original trauma created. It explains why, when you have been traumatized by an event, any element of the content or the context of the event can re-trigger the whole experience as if it is happening again now.
It is as though someone left a video with added emotional sensations playing on a loop and all we have to do is be exposed to anything even remotely similar to any part of the video and… BANG we are right back there in the video living it and experiencing it as if for the first time.
The precise process in which lesser fears are learnt and attached to a wide range of triggers and events may vary and may not always be locked in as is the case with traumatized fear, but the fundamental point is that there is a direct pathway which is left open and which makes it difficult (and in traumatized fear impossible) for us not to experience the same responses emotionally, in our thoughts, in our body and in our behavioural responses, time and time again. And of course each time this process repeats we get better and better at repeating it. The fear becomes more and more hard-wired.
So what is Havening ADT and how does it work?
A haven is a safe place.
In traumatized fear, the fear becomes locked in and is constantly being re-accessed. This is a consequence of four basic conditions. First there has to be an event. It does not necessarily have to be one which we would all agree is traumatic such as a road traffic accident. It could be something which many of us would find trivial but for the individual it becomes traumatized, that is, locked in and attached to extreme fear and all the physical, cognitive and emotional distress that this entails.
A second condition for traumatization is a perception of inescapability. When the car crashes, in the moment there is no escape. As above the inescapability does not have to be real though; it is the perception of inescapability that locks in the traumatized fear
Havening ADT is actually a process of providing an escape at a neurological level. Once this is done, the phosphorylated receptors which were anchored to the surface of the relevant synapses become phosphotased. They are destroyed.
These receptors are literally wiped out never to return. This is truly remarkable. It means that all the symptoms of the fear are completely eliminated. It is not just a bit better or a bit more comfortable; the fear is completely eliminated.
The other two conditions for traumatization are a predisposition of the landscape of the individual’s brain which is usually a consequence of previous traumas although it may also be communicated genetically to some extent. The fourth condition is that the individual creates a meaning for the event. They interpret the event to mean there is a real threat to life and limb at some level, usually far below conscious awareness.
There seems to be a similar effect in havening away lesser fears, those that are not locked in traumatically. I am talking here of the kind of fears which have become part of a pattern that results in me running away from an Institute of Directors meeting or a client of mine freaking out at the thought of public speaking.
Havening works by firstly opening up the neurological pathways to the phosphorylated receptors. We use a very specific form of touch to generate a delta wave similar to the delta wave people experience in the deepest stage of sleep, known as SWS or slow wave sleep. We also disrupt working memory through the use of eye movements. As a consequence the receptors on the synapse in the amygdala are phosphotased. They are stripped away, permanently. The individual may still recall the event itself but they can no longer access the traumatized emotion. The consequences are dramatic and enduring. People find themselves free from fear for the first time, often in years, or even decades. If you want to find out what it is like when the fear goes away follow the link here.
For a more detailed research supporting Havening ADT read When the Past is Always Present by Dr Ronald A. Ruden