somatic psychotherapy

Transcript for Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) video

This video provides a bio-evolutionary background about how trauma and stress are experienced and processed by our bodies. Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE), other trauma therapies (i.e. EMDR therapy, Brainspotting, Somatic Experiencing), and other therapeutic interventions (i.e. Dance/Movement Therapy, Nature-Based therapy, Equine therapy), can help you recover from symptoms of stress or trauma. 

Here is a transcript of the video:

Meet caveman Bob. When he encountered a dinosaur in the old days, his heart would beat faster, his blood pressure would rise, his muscles would tense, his eyes would dilate, and cortisol and adrenaline would be released into his body. All to prepare his body to run away or fight for his life.  Whether he ran away from the dinosaur and got away, or whether he attacked and conquered the dinosaur, the stress chemicals in his body would be discharged and he could go about his day as normal.

Meet Berta the buck. When she encounters a lion, her body goes into fight or flight mode, with all the same physical and chemical changes in her body that cavemen Bob experienced. But sometimes, neither fight nor flight is an option for Berta. Sometimes running away and drawing attention to herself would be more dangerous; or trying to attack would be even more dangerous. She doesn’t have very sharp teeth. In these cases, her body’s nervous system goes into freeze mode to keep her safe. Because she doesn’t use the chemical to run or fight, they stay in her body. But being a wild animal, she has a natural ability to release these chemicals. When the predator leaves, her body starts tremoring, shaking, and trembling. This releases all of the pent up chemicals and muscle tension and she can go about her day as normal.

But meet Sheldon. He is confronted by modern day stresses such as unmanageable deadlines, difficult coworkers, and worries about his marriage and kids. He has psychological concerns about loss of love, status, prestige, and belonging. These are Sheldon’s dinosaurs. His body responds in the same way as if there were physical threats. His heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, muscles tense, eyes dilate, and stress hormones are released into his body. Sheldon’s dinosaurs are difficult to run away from and difficult to fight. If he has an argument with his boss, and runs away, he’ll be shown the door. And if he attacks his boss, he’ll be shown a prison cell. So, like Berta, Sheldon’s body goes into freeze mode. He becomes immobilized. His heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature decreases, and his clarity of thought decreases as part of a numbing process to avoid pain and overwhelming emotions. The same thing happened to Sheldon when he was mugged a month ago. Because fight or flight would have been too dangerous, his optimal survival response was the freeze response. The body did a good thing by going into freeze, but because Sheldon did not fight or run away, stress chemicals will not be released from his body as happened for caveman Bob. Sheldon’s body started to shake a little when he was angry with his boss and it shook a lot just after the mugging. But he told himself to “get it together” and to “calm down” and he stopped the shaking. Because he has been socially conditioned to stop his body shaking, the stress chemicals will not be released as happened for Berta; so they stay locked in his nervous system. This means that Sheldon will experience physical symptoms like tension in his muscles, headaches, and an upset stomach. He will also experience psychological symptoms like anxiety, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, depression, anger, or fear. Living in this kind of biological survival state makes him vulnerable to many diseases and psychological disorders. But if Sheldon could use the body’s natural tendency to tremor and shake after a stressful or traumatic event, he would discharge these chemicals. Sheldon’s physical symptoms would improve, his primitive brain would realize the he survived and is safe, and his cognitive brain would allow him to feel more empowered and better able to handle things in the future. Ta-da! And this is where TRE comes in.

TRE, developed by a very clever man, Dr. David Berceli, is a series of seven exercises that work on a very special muscle called the psoas muscle. These exercises evoke the body’s natural tremor response and allow the stress chemicals to be discharged. Sheldon learned that these exercises could be learned by oneself or in groups. And in four to six sessions he would be equipped to exercise them all by himself. He felt so much better after his TRE sessions that he started to tell everyone about TRE, because he wanted them to know that TRE could help them, as well. His 16-year-old daughter who was stressed from exams, his 7-year-old nephew who was being bullied at school, his colleague who had struggled with a soccer injury for many years, and his aunt who had had an operation two months earlier.
The body responds to physical and psychological stress and trauma with its innate survival response, so Sheldon knew that TRE could help all of these people in his life! In fact, he was so excited about how TRE had helped him that he just could not stop spreading the news.