How to do TRE and the polyvagal theory support my well-being?
Written by Kianna Morgan, a therapist in training and MSW student. Kianna is passionate about trauma-informed practices and enjoys writing as a way to share empowering information with people suffering from trauma and chronic stress.
What is TRE?
Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) were created by Dr. David Berceli, a PhD Social Worker and expert in the field of trauma. TRE is a series of exercises that assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma through neurogenic tremors. Yes, trembling can help us release the pent up energy that is caused by experiencing trauma and stress!
Because stress is such a normal part of our lives, we are often unaware of how much tension our bodies hold. A regular TRE practice helps us get in touch with the accumulated tension and release it so that we can be more resilient as we move through our lives.
We are here to help introduce you to your body’s natural tremoring process and support you moving towards a more regulated nervous system.
So, where do the tremors come from?
Dr. David Berceli determined that tremors are a natural process in animals and humans following stress. Often, animals will face a stressor and fight, flight, or freeze. Afterwards, the animal will go to a safe place and tremor to release all of the energy that was stored in their bodies following the stressful event.
Interestingly, Dr. Berceli noticed that human adults don’t react the same way. Instead, we tend to stop the tremors before they happen because we don’t want to show weakness or feel embarrassed. Repressing the tremors and holding in that pent up energy comes with a price. Living in a chronically dysregulated state can lead to compromised immunity, poor sleep patterns, challenged digestion, difficulty concentrating, strained relationships and more.
Do you ever feel as if you are on edge and almost as if the pent-up energy from stressors are always there? TRE provides us with body-based exercises that empower us with the ability to release tension and trauma through doing what our body is meant to do. Learning TRE can put you on a path to healing.
So, what does the polyvagal theory have to do with TRE?
Much like Somatic Experiencing, TRE is informed by the polyvagal theory. According to the polyvagal theory, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the vagus nerve drive our behaviors, frame our experiences, and determine what we experience as trauma.
Dr. Stephen Porges, the creator of the polyvagal theory, states that the vagus nerve contains two branches, one of which is called the ventral vagal complex (VVC). The VVC is what allows us to feel connected to ourselves and others. Interestingly, the VVC is only available when we feel safe, and yet connection is also a way we create safety.
By working with a TRE provider you can safely learn TRE, which will help you have greater access to your VVC in your daily life! Who knew that through tremoring you can feel safer in yourself and find greater connection with friends, family and lovers.
How can TRE get me out of sympathetic activation?
Do you find yourself scanning your environment for threats when you are sitting with friends? Do you feel like you live in anxiety and hyperarousal? Maybe you are experiencing physical bodily sensations such as heart palpitations, muscle pain, headaches, and stomach pain. All of this points to being stuck in sympathetic activation. In essence, your body is perceiving a threat, and so can not relax.
By working with a TRE provider you can start to send your body signals of safety through two interrelated means. One, safe connection with one of our trauma-informed providers. Two, using the neurogenic tremors to discharge the physiological manifestation of sympathetic charge. Calm your nervous system, let go sympathetic activation and grasp onto social engagement through TRE!
How do I do TRE in a way that helps me stop freezing and dissociating?
An ancient part of the vagus nerve, called the dorsal vagal complex (DVC), is wired to help us survive when fight or flight cannot. Have you ever felt paralyzed with fear or found yourself disconnecting during a stressful experience? This is your DVC in action.
While it normally activates when a sympathetic response is deemed insufficient, some nervous
systems are primed to rely on the DVC because of previous and/or childhood trauma.
Fortunately, our providers can help you learn TRE in a safe space and support you as you climb back to social engagement and connect with others. Through tremoring you can reconnect with your body, others and remain present in your daily life!
Red Beard Bodywork has a team of trauma informed therapists that specialize in applying interventions based on the polyvagal theory and are dedicated to supporting you on your journey to well-being.
At Red Beard Bodywork we will create a safe holding space for you to connect with your body and release tension with TRE. Our team is dedicated to helping you calm your body and release tension, stress, and trauma. We will teach you tools to calm your nervous system and connect with others on a deeper level. Our trauma informed therapists would be honored to help you turn the page. Book with us now to begin your healing journey.
Book a Free consult here