The stress and tension from trauma can kill. We know this fact because of the volumes of research that have been done on the subject. Not only can stress and tension be fatal, but they also can be the root cause of self-deregulation leaving survivors struggling in their relationships and lives.
Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE®) can lower your stress level by inducing the release of the body tension that has built up because of trauma. In this article, we shall examine how TRE® helps a survivor to self-regulate and feel better.
Emotional Self-Regulation and Trauma
Emotional self-regulation is one’s ability to respond to ongoing demands from experiences with a range of socially tolerable emotions but allow for spontaneous reactions that are appropriate. Emotional self-regulation is part of a more comprehensive set of emotional regulatory processes, including regulating one’s feelings and interpreting plus reacting to those of others.
Emotional regulation is a complex process involving inhibiting, modulating, or initiating a behavior in each situation. Emotional regulation can also refer to the process of focusing one’s attention on a task using the ability to suppress inappropriate behavior.
Trauma interrupts the development of self-regulation by affecting how our brain functions.
When we are cold and begin to shiver, the brain adapts to protect itself by turning off some bodily functions such as digestion. The same is true of a brain that is or has experienced trauma. The brain will change to protect itself from the stress that trauma causes.
Because the brain turns off some of its functions, certain parts are put on high alert while others are less active. This changing of functions in the brain causes children, and later adults, to have problems regulating their emotions and be impulsive, leading to fewer healthy adult relationships and increased illness.
The resulting lack of self-regulation also causes a person to react poorly to ordinary events like going to the store or having a family dinner. These mundane tasks and events become extraordinarily difficult for the survivor.
The Premise of TRE®
Trauma-Releasing Exercises or TRE® is a set of exercises that assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of tension, stress, and trauma. The whole of TRE® is centered around Dr. Berceli’s observations that the body of humans often tremors during or after a stressful event. The vibration mechanism is natural for the human body to allow the autonomic nervous system to calm itself.
The premise of TRE® is that these tremors represent the deliberate activation of the autonomic nervous system during an overexcited state as a natural neurophysiological response to the body to release stress and restore a feeling of well-being.
People who have experienced trauma can become highly dysregulated in their autonomic nervous system reacting to triggers they encounter in disproportionate fashions that are not compatible with healthy relationships with oneself or others.
Trauma releasing exercises use induced vibrations and shaking of the body to enhance one’s ability to self-regulate their emotions by releasing tension from stress bottled up in the body. With the extra tension and stress released, it is easier to face triggers and manage one’s response.
Self-regulation is the ability to tolerate and control your emotions, feelings, and thoughts; however, a self-regulatory collapse occurs when you can no longer control these sensations.
TRE® allows one to reconnect with their body and eliminate pent-up emotions through a series of shaking and tremoring exercises usually done in the presence of a trained TRE® professional. Trauma-Releasing Exercises work because, as cognitive neuroscience research suggests, self-regulation is a top-down prefrontal cortex event that occurs over several subcortical regions involved in survival and emotion.
Trauma-Releasing Exercises Guidelines
While trauma-related exercises may sound easy to perform (they are), there are some basic guidelines that one should practice for safety and effectiveness.
For one, TREs should be done only if you feel safe and grounded. If you begin to experience pain, it is necessary to adjust your position or modify the speed and intensity of the exercise to relieve that pain. If the pain continues, stop, and take a break. The point of TRE® is to relax your autonomic nervous system, not to rev it up.
If you become overwhelmed emotionally, such as have a flashback or become upset emotionally, slow down or stop the TRE® exercises until you feel safe and grounded once more. Take a break and allow your body to return to a baseline state.
If one is doing TRE® for the first time, it is recommended that you only tremor for a maximum of fifteen minutes three or four times per week. It is vital that one only perform trauma-releasing exercises in the presence of a trained TRE® provider, as you can become highly overwhelmed by long-forgotten emotions and events that may bubble to the surface during them.
The exercises of TRE® activate the muscles to relax through a shaking mechanism. Relaxing tense muscles can reduce stress in the spine, neck, pelvis, and shoulders. When the tension is released, the brain registers a reduction in pain, producing new hormones to promote healing.
How TRE® Helps Adult Trauma Survivors Self-Regulate
Complex trauma can rule and ruin a person’s life if it is untreated and allowed reign. That statement is true whether what one has experienced was decades ago as a child or more recent from rape or assault. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are caused by trauma, with the prior is from repeated traumatic experiences, and the latter is from a single event type of traumatic event.
People who have been traumatized have a diminished ability to self-regulate and need something to help them release their pent-up emotions.
Once one has released the stress they have been harboring in their body for perhaps years, they are in a much better position to learn how to regulate their emotional responses to circumstances and themselves.
TRE® goes around the conscious part of the brain and instead works with the subconscious activities to defeat anxiety, stress, and trauma. TRE® takes advantage of the fact that our bodies are constantly responding to increased stress levels by contracting our muscles to help us get through the problem. We seldom recognize our muscle contractions until we experience illness or pain but
TRE® allows us to release this tension in a constructive and controlled manner.
Once the tension is released, we feel more relaxed and in control leading to better self-regulation.
TRE® compliments other exercise workouts such as yoga, reducing the impact of stress, reducing muscle tension, and increasing strength and flexibility. TRE® also uncovers a tension at a deep level causing greater mental flexibility at a deep level, increasing awareness of a more profound sense of self. Once there is a deeper sense of oneself, one experiences a deeper sense of connection and belonging, helping to increase self-regulation.
A human adult must learn to control our responses to whatever life throws our way. Emotional self-regulation is the ability to manage one’s emotional responses.
Almost all people are living with the effects of complex trauma experience some level of self-regulation, which is vital to be successful adults. A person who can take charge of their emotions instead of becoming overpowered by them will be more in tune with their feelings, exercise greater control, and adjust their emotional control when necessary.
Without self-regulation, we are left to being overreactive, simmering, timebombs ready to spew our anger or grief on anyone who gets in our way, leaving us isolated and alone.
TRE® allows one to release tension and stress in a constructive and well-controlled manner by rewiring the brain and regulating our emotional responses.
Montroy, J. J., Bowles, R. P., Skibbe, L. E., McClelland, M. M., & Morrison, F. J. (2016). The development of self-regulation across early childhood. Developmental psychology, 52(11), 1744.
TRE® for All, Inc. Retrieved from: https://traumaprevention.com/what-is-tre/
Tjasa, S., TRE® for athletes. School of Advanced Social Studies, Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Retrieved from: https://traumaprevention.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/TRE-FOR-ATHLETES-gimslo.pdf
What is emotional regulation? (2020). Mightier.com. Retrieved from: https://www.mightier.com/articles/what-is-emotional-regulation/
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My name is Shirley Davis and I am a freelance writer with over 40-years- experience writing short stories and poetry. Living as I do among the corn and bean fields of Illinois (USA), working from home using the Internet has become the best way to communicate with the world. My interests are wide and varied. I love any kind of science and read several research papers per week to satisfy my curiosity. I have earned an Associate Degree in Psychology and enjoy writing books on the subjects that most interest me.