What Is TRE And Will It Alleviate My Pain Now?
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.
So, who am I and why did I choose to do a TRE session?
I am an MSW student and therapist in training with a passion for somatic interventions. Like many, I have tension in my body and experience disconnection from my body. I have had Lyme disease for most of my life; it causes chronic pain and difficulties in movement. It is my deep desire to connect with my body, and both TRE and somatics seemed like interesting ways to start safely exploring connection.
Because of my chronic pain, it was of the utmost importance to find a TRE provider who could guide me and not trigger more pain. Fortunately, I came across Ellen who is well versed in working with clients with chronic illness and pain. In our session, Ellen used some exercises that are common to TRE along with somatic exercises she chose specifically to help support my body.
What is TRE?
TRE® is a simple technique that uses exercises and neurogenic tremoring to release stress or tension from the body that accumulates from everyday circumstances of life, difficult situations, immediate or prolonged stressful situations, or traumatic life experiences (i.e., natural disasters, high stress, social or domestic violence).
All mammals will naturally tremor after experiencing a stressor and/or trauma. Because humans have a unique capacity for social conditioning, we tend to repress this natural shaking mechanism. Dr. David Berceli, a PhD Social Worker and trauma expert, created TRE as a way of reintroducing and renormalizing the natural tremoring process to humans.
Developing a regular TRE practice can empower us to release trauma and tension, gain resilience, and achieve a state of calm.
What was the first part of the session like?
At the beginning of the session we discussed my history and my connection to my body. Ellen invited me to ask questions and share my hopes and concerns about the session.
After our discussion, Ellen then walked me through some gentle exercises that introduced some mild fatigue and stretch to my tissues. Even though our session was over Zoom, Ellen was able to track what was happening in my body and offer me some modifications to make sure I felt comfortable and safe throughout the session.
She empowered me by letting me choose from a couple different stretches. She trusted me to know what was best for my body. In addition to this, Ellen also occasionally reminded me that I could take breaks. This helped me to fully embody my capacity for self-determination. This was monumental! The pauses gave me the space to assess, honor my body’s boundaries, and not overextend myself.
One way we worked with boundaries was by only fatiguing my tissues to a level seven out of ten. A seven is defined as the sweet spot where your body is warmed up and just beginning to feel tired, but not in pain or discomfort. I found that it was difficult for me to stop at seven at first because I am habituated to pushing my body despite pain. Ellen normalized this for me and invited me to be curious about where the seven is for me. This felt like a really useful experiment.
Because I deal with chronic pain on a daily basis, I have a difficult time identifying when I am approaching pain. Pain is my normal. Overtime, I was able to feel into my body and identify when I was at level seven. The exercises Ellen led me through helped me tune into my body and work with it.
How were the somatic exercises conducted?
After a few of the TRE exercises we shifted to the floor for some somatics. I profoundly benefited from the somatic exercises Ellen guided me through. I felt a deep sense of calm and connection to my body as we walked through the exercises.
Ellen verbally guided me through a few exercises. She never rushed me and empowered me to move at my pace. During the exercises Ellen would periodically ask me what I was feeling in my body. Initially I had a difficult time feeling, I recognized a deep disconnect in the parts of my body that experience chronic pain.
Ellen offered me multiple tools that helped me start connecting with those body parts. First, she had me place my hands on my back as I went through the movements. Adding the sense of touch allowed me to feel more into my back and the effects the movement had on me.
I informed Ellen that my pelvic floor is often tight throughout the day. For example, my buttock muscles tend to hold tension. I frequently check in with those muscles and release them throughout the day. Ellen followed my body awareness and then introduced an exercise that helped me to work with those muscles.
She walked me through exercises that helped me become more in tune with my pelvic floor. She asked me to hold tension at 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, and then 0%. 100% is the most tension and 0% is no tension at all. This taught my pelvic floor that it has the choice to come out of tension.
How did Ellen use co-regulation during the TRE session?
Co-regulation occurs when two or more nervous systems come into connection and influence each other's state of regulation. An example is a mother cooing and swaying to soothe her baby. She is using her calm and grounded nervous system to influence the baby’s nervous system. We are social creatures that thrive on co-regulation.
Throughout our session Ellen exuded compassion, empathy and interest in my experience. That allowed me to feel seen and invited my nervous system to match her grounded state. Her regulated nervous system supported me in regulating my own during the process. An example of a technique she used to further the co-regulation was to invite me to take deep breaths with her. She led the breathing practice which invited my body to track hers, allowing it to settle and relax.
What impact did the tremors have?
When it was time to tremor, Ellen demonstrated the process so that my body knew what to expect. She then helped me find a comfortable position and verbally guided me through the process she had demonstrated. She checked in with me regularly as we were inducing the tremors and offered some tips for finding them.
Initially, I was having a difficult time experiencing any tremoring. Ellen did not rush me and remained calm, which helped me not get anxious. She normalized my experience and asked me if I had any idea why my body wasn’t tremoring. I thought for a few moments and identified a possible reason.
Ellen suggested that I take a few deep breaths, and if it felt right, tell my body that it is safe and that it is OK to tremor. I did, and in doing so my body began to tremble immediately. Ellen celebrated with me and encouraged me to keep relaxing into that permission to tremor. She also invited me to make minor adjustments to my body that helped me feel them even more clearly. My curiosity expanded as I explored how to induce the tremors more.
Achieving peace and connection through somatic exercises
What felt most interesting was that I could feel my accumulated anxiety and stress dissipate with the process. In connecting with my body, I felt this deep level of compassion for it and the desire to take care of it. I felt a kind of euphoria that I have not felt in years.
What happened after the session and what results did you notice?
After the session I felt a wave of calm for most of the day. Additionally, my back, which usually has high levels of pain, was in considerably less pain.
I did have some aches that were most likely caused by initial fatiguing beyond a seven. As I continue clarifying my body’s boundaries, I believe that future sessions will have ache-free results.
Red Beard Somatic Therapy has a team of trauma informed therapists that specialize in applying TRE to support your health and well-being.
At Red Beard Somatic Therapy we will create a safe holding space for you to connect with your body and release tension with TRE. Our TRE providers are dedicated to helping you calm your body and release tension, stress, and trauma. Book with us now to begin your healing journey.