The Origins of TRE® Part 1 with David Berceli, Ph.D.
In this captivating episode of the Red Beard Embodiment Podcast, host Alex Greene engages in a deep conversation with renowned psychotherapist, field traumatologist, and founder of Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE), Dr. David Berceli.
Their enlightening dialogue delves into the early days of David’s journey, exploring the influences and experiences that led him to develop his groundbreaking trauma healing work, TRE®.
Unveiling the Backstory: Influences and Early Experiences
Dr. David Berceli's journey of trauma healing and human connection is deeply rooted in his early experiences and influential encounters. Having served in the air force, David’s deployment to Japan exposed him to a different culture and broadened his understanding of the world. The diversity of human experiences fascinated him, igniting a desire to explore and immerse himself in various cultures.
Joining a Catholic missionary community focused on humanitarian work outside the United States, Dr. Berceli encountered poverty, violence, and challenging circumstances. These experiences fueled his commitment to helping others and set the stage for his later work in trauma healing.
A pivotal moment during his time in the South Bronx, where he had the opportunity to spend time with Mother Teresa and her sisters, further ignited his quest to understand how one could become a better human being, transcending boundaries of religion or belief systems.
Overseas Missions: Cultural Immersion and Muslim-Christian Dialogue
Driven by his desire to explore and learn from diverse cultures, Dr. Berceli embarked on overseas missions that allowed him to deeply immerse himself in different communities. Living in Egypt and later Yemen, he studied Arabic and Islam, connecting with locals and delving into their cultures. These immersive experiences provided profound insights into the interconnectedness of human beings, transcending superficial divisions.
The Birth of TRE: Observations and Connections
During the war in Lebanon, Dr. David Berceli experienced intense fighting and sought refuge with a group of Catholic sisters in an abandoned school. As the fighting intensified, they had to stay in the basement for months, emerging only when the shooting ceased. It was during this time that David had a significant observation:
When a mortar shell flew over them, he noticed that everyone instinctively ducked in unison, as if choreographed. This fascinated him and led him to realize that it was an instinctual response rooted in the subcortical part of the brain.
Intrigued not only by the neurological aspect but also by the physiological mechanism behind the quick reflex response he wondered which muscle group or fascia pattern was involved in creating such an immediate instinctive reaction. However, it took five years for this initial insight to connect with another story, which led David to develop TRE.
David's struggles with PTSD
After leaving the Middle East, Dr. Berceli returned to the United States. It was during this time that he began experiencing the surfacing of trauma-related issues, leading him to seek counseling and spiritual guidance.
Recognizing the need for solitude and quiet reflection, he embarked on a journey to different peaceful locations. He lived in Western Samoa, immersing himself in the simple and tranquil life of the Polynesian people while learning their ways. This experience allowed him to process and heal further.
Returning to New York, David worked as a missionary, providing support and guidance to other missionaries worldwide. He flew around the world, visiting different countries and immersing himself in various cultures.
This experience allowed him to observe the cultural differences in how trauma affects people and reinforced his belief in the separation of the physiological tremor mechanism and the psycho-emotional aspects of trauma.
Developing TRE and its Impact in Sudan:
Following his time in New Zealand, where he completed his training as a bioenergetic therapist, David was assigned to the Middle East once again, specifically the Palestinian West Bank and Israel.
David's experiences and reflections during and after the war played a pivotal role in the development of his innovative therapeutic approach known as TRE. These experiences highlighted the importance of understanding the physiological and psychological aspects of trauma and the need to adapt therapeutic methods to different cultural contexts.
Dr. Berceli realized that the tremor mechanism held tremendous potential as a self-regulating tool for stress release and trauma recovery. It was a natural response ingrained in the human organism, designed to restore calm and balance to the nervous system.
During his three-year stay in Sudan, David worked with communities ravaged by trauma, offering them a self-help technique that they could continue to use even after he left. He taught them how to activate the tremor mechanism, enabling them to calm themselves down and release stress, trauma and tension from their bodies. The results were remarkable: improved sleep, calmer minds, and a sense of empowerment through self-care.
As he traveled from village to village, he focused on teaching people how to activate the tremor mechanism, rather than delving into complex theories or scientific explanations. His approach resonated with the communities he encountered, empowering them with a practical tool they could use to address trauma independently.
Upon returning to the United States, David was urged to write a book about his experiences and the techniques he had developed. Drawing on the lessons and insights gained during his time in Sudan, he took all the butcher paper sheets he had used to explain the concepts and transformed them into chapters - his method TRE (Trauma Releasing Exercises) was born.
David Berceli's journey of trauma healing and human connection is a testament to the power of embodiment practices and the universal nature of the Tremor mechanism. Through his experiences and reflections he developed a unique and effective approach to trauma resolution that transcends cultural boundaries and provides self-help tools to individuals who may not have access to traditional therapy.
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