Lin and Larry Pardey, in their book "Storm Tactics," talk about the almost magical ability of a hove-to boat to prevent big seas from breaking directly over it. Something about the sideways motion of the keel creating a calm area around the boat (actual physical calm, not just the emotional kind). As you might imagine they have survived some seriously huge storms at sea, partly by using this technique.
God willing, I'll never be surfing down 60' waves off Cape Horn like the Pardeys. But even on the not-so-mighty Pamlico, there have been times when I was stressed out by an unexpected crisis (caused by my own mistakes, usually) or just tired and not thinking clearly, and heaving to gave me time to rethink and regroup.
Very handy to keep a short bungee on each side of the stern rail, to lash the tiller in position when hove-to.