I am always trying to find new ways of helping myself, and this time I have discovered probably the weirdest but most fabulous self-help method you have ever heard of. It’s called TRE, or “Tension & Trauma Release Exercises” and was developed by David Berceli, Ph.D. It may look like exorcism because it involves a lot of uncontrollable shaking, but read on:
TRE is a simple technique that uses exercises to release stress or tension from the body that accumulate from every day circumstances of life, from difficult situations, immediate or prolonged stressful situations, or traumatic life experiences (i.e., natural disasters, social or domestic violence). TRE is a set of six exercises that help to release deep tension from the body by evoking a self-controlled muscular shaking process in the body called neurogenic muscle tremors.
(Taken from the TRE website)
To put it more simply: You do a series of physical exercises that cause your body to tremble and shake, sometimes mildly, sometimes wildly. It’s not you who does the shaking, it’s your body. This makes this technique so fascinating to me – when I do the last TRE exercise which you do lying down, my hips sometimes shake so intensely that it feels like driving on a pot-holed road or dancing samba involuntarily. (I watched some videos on YouTube about TRE and saw that people in TRE workshops shake all over their bodies, which I haven’t experienced yet.)
What I find most fascinating is that developed this method from the knowledge that mammals have a natural way of releasing trauma and tension by letting their bodies shake after a stressful event, and that humans must have this mechanism, too. This means that humans don’t actually have to suffer from the consequences of trauma and stress for the rest of their lives, but that we are born with a natural physical process that helps us get over trauma. In his book (see below), Berceli writes that during an attack in one of the war zones he lived in, he noticed that the children around him were shaking all over, while the adults weren’t. They later admitted they had suppressed the shaking in order not to let the children know they were afraid and scare them evon more. He concludes that we are socialized out of letting the natural shaking mechanism happen.
2 and 1/2 weeks of TRE: My personal experience
I had read and watched some fantastic testimonials about TRE by people who had been scarred by war, either as army veterans or civilians, and reported almost immediate relief, so I hoped that it would be the “magic cure” for me, as well. It wasn’t quite like that, but still worth it. Here’s my conclusion after two and a half weeks of guinea-pigging myself with TRE:
I feel much lighter in my hips and legs, and I can move much more smoothly, flexibly and beautifully. During the first week of TRE I also took part in a dance workshop and noticed these improvements in my moving every day. Once or twice, I felt also happy and relieved emotionally after a session, but mostly it was just a physical experience, so that on a few days, I felt bored and actually read or watched TV while I let my body do its thing!
The week after, I noticed feeling more volatile than usual. I was also frustrated that the shaking wasn’t reaching my chest and throat, where I have felt a heavy weight for years, in connection with feelings of hopelessness, life being pointless, and all my efforts, my life and the world going down the drain. This stayed the same, while my lower body became lighter and “smoother”, which was a very strange mix of sensations.
In the last few days, I tried relaxing more and allowing the shaking to come into my upper body. Relaxing my muscles and breathing deeply helped, so that yesterday I suddenly felt like it was okay and safe to let go of control over my body, and a sensation of well-being arose. When I woke up today, I was simply content, with a warm feeling inside my chest. I enjoyed watching the wind move the trees and grass, and for once I didn’t feel pessimistic or slightly depressed. It wasn’t a great euphoria, but simply a good feeling, and I thought: This is so wonderful. Money can’t buy this. And: I’m looking forward to my next TRE session! Yippee!
David Berceli has developed this method to help masses of people affected by traumatic events like war or natural catastrophes who don’t have the means to seek psychotherapy. It’s being used more and more widely by individuals with other types of trauma and stress, too, and the greatest thing about it is that it’s quite simple, you can learn it from a book and do it by yourself without professional help. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?
The website: www.traumaprevention.com