Praktijk Blessed Be – Pepine van den Berg

TRE: How shaking can help release stress and tension

Have you ever experienced mild shaking or trembling when you had to speak in public, or before an exam, or when you were cold? Or perhaps violently after an accident or after giving birth for example?

Shaking is a natural way to release built up tension inside your body after a traumatic or stressful event.

It is not always perceived this way. It is more common to think of shaking as a sign of weakness. Something we desperately want to supress in order to hide our nervousness of discomfort. Instead of allowing ourselves to shake, we tend to numb our senses. Sometimes by taking substances or seeking all sorts of distractions. Just to get away from feeling horrible after experiencing a stressful event.

Because of this we have forgotten to use our natural resource of relieving stress whenever we need. Only very small children and animals do not suppress their natural shaking mechanism and shake whenever necessary to release tension.

As a body worker, doing energy work and cranio sacral therapy amongst other modalities I often noticed that clients started to shake or move involuntarily once they started to relax. A common reaction to this shaking response was anxiety. Usually they wanted me to stop doing what I was doing and explain to them what was going on.

I had no idea at the time.

And, on the other hand, there were clients who were less afraid, and they said that afterwards they felt very relaxed and calm as if they had let go of lot of tension.

So, I desperately wanted to know and find out what was going on with this shaking and moving etc.

First, someone talked to me about Peter Levine’s book in 2012 and I read “Waking the tiger, Healing trauma”.

But then I encountered the work of David Berceli, the founder of TRE, the tension and trauma releasing exercises.

I read his book: “The revolutionary trauma release process”. And what made it so interesting for me was that he talked about the shaking mechanism as a release process. And that, of course, had triggered my search to find out why some people were shaking and moving during my sessions in the first place.

David Berceli was a humanitarian relief worker in many war-torn countries. And he noticed that when he and his colleagues from many countries around the world hid from shell fire, they all acted in the same way once a shell hit the building. They shrank immediately as in a reflex. Because that is what you do when you are in danger, you tense all your muscles to protect yourself.

When there were very small children around and he protected a child, he could feel it tremble underneath his hands. He didn’t notice any shaking or trembling in the older children or adults. When he asked why, they said that they didn’t want to frighten the children. So, they supressed the shaking.

And this is an important factor to keep in mind. We can override this mechanism with our thinking brain. And this is what first responders, police, firefighters etc. do. They override this response in order to be able to help.

So, when we are in mortal danger, we tense all our muscles and roll up into a ball. We have a set of muscles to help us do this and they are the psoas muscles.

The psoas muscles are our core muscles and they connect our legs to our spine. When we feel that we are in danger they automatically contract.

So how do we automatically relax our psoas muscles to release the tension?

By letting the psoas muscles mildly shake or vibrate. No need for someone to do it for you, or to first talk about your experiences. By doing a set of 7 exercises you can do this on your own. For the rest of your life. Wow!

I was very enthusiastic of course! And not only for my clients but also for myself, because I had experienced trauma as premature baby and as a result, I was highly sensitive, always tired and never really at peace. I too definitely needed a tool to regulate my nervous system.

So, I read his book, came to the exercise section and had no idea how to do these exercises. O no, now what?

And again, very coincidentally someone told me that she knew a provider who did TRE workshops in the Netherlands. I immediately signed up for his workshop in the beginning of 2013, and everything fell into place for me. That same year I did certification training level 1 and in 2014 I went to Austria to do level 2 with David Berceli. In 2018 I did an Advanced training with him in Amsterdam.

As a body worker with over ten years of experience doing my own body work, I was able to self-regulate my experiences during the TRE sessions I did on my own and together with my providers, during my TRE certification training.

Self-regulation is a key-word in doing TRE.

It is very easy to activate the tremor-mechanism. But to have a safe experience and to make your trauma shift, it is best to learn the exercises from a provider. He or she can guide you safely through the exercises and co-regulate with you and teach you how to self-regulate your experience.

It is important to know what you are doing and why. To know some of the basic neuro-psychology. I always recommend people to read David Berceli’s book. I always hand out a small booklet with a concise explanation and emphasize on self-regulation during the sessions I give.

And when this is all set into place you can use your natural shaking mechanism to release tension and trauma. You can do it three times a week, some people do it every day over time, or only when you feel you need it. You’ll also stop supressing your shaking hands, or chattering jaw, or trembling legs. It will be a sign of your body that it just wants to release tension and not that you are weak.

Doing the exercises since the beginning of 2013 has been very helpful for me. It has helped me regulate my over-sensitive nervous system. I sleep better, I am more resilient, have more energy and bounce back a lot quicker after a stressful event.

Pepine van den Berg, TRE Provider, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

If you want to learn TRE, you’ll find information and providers all over the world at:

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