TRE: Tension/Trauma Release Experience
Osaka area and Enoshima, Japan
March/ April 2015
In all my years working somatically with people, TRE is the most effective practice I’ve come across. It’s important for health and a sense of wellbeing that we understand the impact of stress, tension and trauma on the body/mind of individuals and humanity. TRE offers a unique self-care method designed to release deep chronic tension directly through the body experience. It’s an easy to learn, simple series of physical exercises that activate the release from the Central Nervous System making it very effective. Such a practice is invaluable and empowering to people who are otherwise suffering to some degree or another. TRE can be learned in a class or a private session.
Go to the bottom of this page to view Tremors: A Documentary Film About TRE in NZ
The words stress, tension and trauma are all referring to varying degrees of excitation in the body as a person becomes overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings about circumstances, perceives a threat or experiences injury. Humans and other mammals have the natural capacity to release accumulated tension/trauma from the body/mind; this is a survival skill and an evolutionary process. Whereas other mammals do this instinctively, humans have typically been conditioned to shut down the physical ability to release and in doing so the skills lay dormant within us.
When a threat is perceived or a trauma encountered, the brain energizes the body through activation of the Sympathetic Division of the Autonomic Nervous System, a process that is called the fight/flight response or stress response. The limbic system of the brain automatically takes charge, signaling the release of hormones from the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. The body produces chemicals, pumping them into the muscles to reinforce our ability to defend ourselves. Being a primitive survival instinct, all logic is suspended. The flexor muscles on the anterior side of the body contract, bringing the extremities together to protect the vital organs, genitals and head, priming the body for fight, flight or freeze. For other mammals, once the danger has passed, they will enter the discharge phase of the stress response, which brings the organism back to homeostasis or balance. This phase produces Neurogenic Movements (trembling and shaking) as the body releases the high levels of adrenalin and cortisol out of the muscles.
The difference between the human brain and other mammals is our neocortex where resides the ego, our ability to reflect and to be logical. Humans judge the tremoring and shaking of the release phase as weakness or being out of control. We resist our body’s instinct to heal. Prolonged exposure to stress/trauma alters the body chemistry to such an extent that it resets the baseline production of these substances to higher levels. We become addicted to our own elevated body chemistry and our unconscious continues to operate as if we are still in danger. Our physiology becomes set on 911.
Chronic stress or unresolved trauma will impact physical vitality and health. The bracing of the muscles will develop into chronic tension patterns causing pain commonly in the neck/shoulder and lower back regions. The adrenal glands become exhausted which in turn inhibits the immune system. The Autonomic Nervous System is out of balance having been hijacked by the Sympathetic Division; the body never gets to rest and restore itself through the normal activity of the Parasympathetic Division. The endocrine system is disrupted causing imbalance of growth hormones and reproductive hormones. The digestive system is shut down during the stress response and remains impaired. The body PH becomes acidic which sets up an internal climate for inflammation. All of this leads to a variety of secondary illnesses. These include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal problems to name a few. Stress may also increase frequency and intensity of headaches and asthma.
What happens with the body has its counterpart in the psyche. Chronic stress can cause fatigue, anxiety, irritability and other symptoms. People suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder develop a variety of symptoms ranging from depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, repetitive compulsive behavior, insomnia, nightmares, high startle response, irritability and emotional outbursts. The body is stuck in a chronic state of protection and defense. People who seek professional help are most commonly offered drugs and/or verbal therapy. This approach has limited value in resolving the underlying source of the suffering, which is lodged in the physiology of the body. Individuals may turn to abusing alcohol and/or drugs to numb themselves from the psychological or physical pain but they are also numbing their ability to feel the natural pulsation of life in the body. Doctors and mental health professionals tend to believe that PTSD is a “life sentence.” TRE and other somatic practices are proving this to be a myth.
In the midst of the mundane stresses of life, a perceived threat to the ego can produce the same physiological response as a threat to the body. In the workplace a lack of trust and fear of conflict interfere with how a group of people work together. Each individual brings his or her personal unconscious tension/trauma experience into the group experience. The same applies to any relationship. David Berceli, PHD, creator of TRE, talks about his mediation work in the Middle East with a group of Palestinians and Israelis who desired to work together for peace but had come to an impasse. Dr. Berceli believed that their personal unresolved trauma was affecting their thinking and interfering with their ability to work cooperatively. He led them through the TRE experience and educated them to the affects of trauma on behavior. After sharing the TRE process, the group members having experienced the personally benefits were able to feel a sense of connection, caring, and safety amongst themselves. Once they refocused on their work together they were surprised how much had changed for the better.
Trauma can have an impact on one’s religious beliefs, bringing about a crisis of faith, or if consciously worked through, a spiritual unfolding. We are asked to consciously embrace trauma as a normal part of life and recognize its purpose in our evolution. It provides us with an opportunity for transformation of self. Society teaches us to disregard our gut feelings and to suppress emotions and behavior that is deemed weak. Religious beliefs teach us that people get what they deserve, be good, do good and nothing bad will happen to you. Often the illusion is broken by a life crisis or traumatic experiences, causing us to question our beliefs, our very existence. It can be a time of reevaluation of one’s place in the world, relationship to self and to spirit. Reflection, forgiveness and compassion are steps on the healing journey as is self-empowerment. The TRE experience offers us a self-care practice to heal our suffering and grow into our whole being.